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A Tale for the Time Being: A Novel by Ruth…
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A Tale for the Time Being: A Novel

by Ruth L. Ozeki

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,2831502,795 (4.06)1 / 299
  1. 20
    To the Bright Edge of the World: A Novel by Eowyn Ivey (pamelahuffman)
    pamelahuffman: In both books there are people in the present trying to make sense of journals and artifacts from the past. Loved both books.
  2. 20
    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (bibliothequaire)
  3. 00
    Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto (susanbooks)
    susanbooks: Ozeki' s novel and Rizzuto's memoir are about daughters of Japanese mothers & American fathers who are trying to come to terms with world war 2 in the aftermath of 9/11. They're very different books, but both explore issues of mothering, memory, and loss.… (more)
  4. 02
    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (urban_lenny)
    urban_lenny: Similar concepts of multiple worlds
  5. 04
    Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (tobiejonzarelli)
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English (145)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  All (149)
Showing 1-5 of 145 (next | show all)
3,5 stars

What a book.

A Tale for the Time Being is:

1) Enriching: This novel has two main settings - Tokyo, Japan and Desolation Sound, British Columbia - and honestly, both were so rich and atmospheric and new. Personally, I haven't read many novels set in Japan, so to learn so much about Japanese culture and history and life was enlightening, to say the least. You also get to learn a lot about Buddhism, primarily through the character of Jiko, who is oh so wonderful and wise. As someone who's been steeped in North American culture for almost my whole life, escaping it for a while and being immersed in a setting so foreign to me was definitely a learning experience. Also, this book incorporates countless famous works, including those of Proust, Dōgen and Schrödinger, just to name a few, which helped make it all the more enriching.

2) Character-driven: This story is nothing without its characters. To me, A Tale for the Time Being was, first and foremost, about Nao, whom I loved. Ozeki did a great job making Nao sound appropriately teenager-y (whatever that means) without crossing the line and making her seem too bratty or stuck-up. Nao was extremely flawed, no doubt about it, but she's also a character whom you're willing to forgive, if only because her life is so tumultuous. Ruth's perspective I also found interesting, although admittedly I wasn't as invested in her story. Nevertheless, I think Ruth's narrative made Nao's so much richer, especially towards the end.

3) Meta: As as I was reading this book, I was struck by how meta everything was. In the book, you go back and forth between two perspectives: Nao's, a girl in Japan who's written a journal, and Ruth, a woman living on a remote island who happens to stumble across this very journal. Upon discovering it, Ruth starts reading the journal's contents and tries to translate some passages that were in French, Japanese, etc. Her work manifests as footnotes sprinkled throughout Nao's excerpts, which was so clever on Ozeki's part. As I was reading, I felt like I was Ruth, a reader who was trying to put together the story of this 16 year old girl living in Tokyo. I felt like the you that Nao addresses her reader with in the journal was referring to me as much as it was to Ruth.

4) Philosophical/Existential: This book raises so many questions about so many topics. Death, morality, conscience, knowledge, identity, war. I feel the urge to read it again and again, if only to explicate it and attempt to understand its profound messages better (re: #5).

5) Thought-provoking: You can't have so much philosophy in a book and not be prompted to at least reconsider the way you think about certain things. This book made me think, which is, in my opinion, a telltale sign of a truly fantastic book.

Now for some tiny criticisms. I had some problems with this book's writing style, especially in Ruth's perspective. I don't mind when books have elevated vocabulary, I'm always in for learning new words, but I feel like Ozeki's writing got to be convoluted at times. It seemed as if she was using "fancy" words for the sake of using "fancy" words, which really irked me. I guess it might be because Ruth is a novelist so she'd be more knowledgeable about that stuff, but still the writing struck me as really distant and not personal enough to evoke any emotion from me. (Having said that, I still really enjoyed Ruth and Oliver - and Pesto the cat! hehe.)

Would definitely recommend this! Very inspirational read. ( )
  fatmashahin | Sep 23, 2017 |
I was underwhelmed by this book. Sure, Nao's life is a difficult one, with all the moving, bullying, a hikikkomori father. But somewhere along this tale of wretchedness, she lost my attention. I wasn't shocked by things that I should be shocked with, or be happy at a revelation (actual motivation behind Nao's dad's actions). It just felt banal.

Jiko on the other hand was a brilliant character. Her way of life, her philosophies are absolutely mind blowing. I should say I expected more from this book, which is why my disappointment. ( )
  Crontab_e | Sep 19, 2017 |
Such a clever novel, full of questions and answers about the nature of time and relationships. I loved the multiple perspectives: Nao, suffering all sorts of teenage hell in Japan in the early 2000s; Ruth, facing challenges of her own in her island life in British Columbia; and Haruki #1, whose transition from philosophy student to kamikaze pilot really puts all of our modern irritations into perspective. I tried to ration myself with reading, to slow down my progress, but I gobbled up the last 200 pages like an addict. A really enjoyable read. ( )
  AJBraithwaite | Aug 14, 2017 |
Every once in a while a book takes you totally by surprise and that's what happened for me with this book. I really didn't know much about this book except that it was on the list CBC put together of 100 Novels that Make you Proud to be Canadian. When I saw that the audiobook was read by the author I decided that would be how I would "read" it. Listening to this book added a dimension that would be missed in reading it because there are so many words and phrases in Japanese. Although they are almost always translated I know from reading other books with Japanese words that I stumble over them because I am not sure how to pronounce them. At the end Ozeki says each version (print and audio) bring something different to the experience so maybe I'll have to read it too.

Ruth (the fictional Ruth but also the author Ruth) lives on an island off the coast of BC with her husband and their cat. She is out walking the beach one day after a storm and finds a package containing a Hello Kitty lunchbox with a collection of artifacts inside. This is a few years after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that decimated a large section of Japan and caused the nuclear power plant at Fukushima to fail. At first Ruth thinks the package might be debris from the tsunami. As she starts to read the journal which is one of the things inside the lunchbox she wonders if it might have been cast deliberately into the ocean by the teenage writer of the journal. Nao, although Japanese by birth, lived most of her life in California where her father worked in the computer industry. Then her father lost his job and they had to move back to Tokyo where Nao is an outsider. She is bullied and harrassed and abused by the others at school and she is deeply unhappy. On top of this her father, who has not been able to find a job, is suicidal. Nao writes that she is going to commit suicide as well but she wants to write her life story first. In fact, she really wants to write the story of her great-grandmother, Jiko, a Buddhist nun who has witnessed much horror in her 104 years but who still reveres life. Nao spent one summer with Jiko and she learned a lot from her but it still didn't change the decision to commit suicide.

As Nao's journal is revealed we also learn about Ruth who is a writer with a serious writer's block. Is she using Nao's journal to distract herself from the block or is it helping her face her own demons. Ruth is also Japanese-American and knows the feeling of not being part of either culture. At one point as she is reading the journal she discovers that the last pages are blank although when she first looked through the book the writing went all the way to the last page. There is a little bit of magical realism used to solve this quandary. Normally I am not a fan of that writing style but it works here and gave the book an added depth.

A truly fascinating book. ( )
1 vote gypsysmom | Aug 1, 2017 |
Like some other reviewers, I really enjoyed this novel and found myself very involved with both main characters (and I almost never read novels) until the dream sequence towards the end. I wish author Ozaki had found another way to successfully round off her tale. Supernatural interventions are not to my taste and are best left for childrens' literature. I've just abandoned reading Alice Hoffman's The Ice Queen for the same reason.
( )
  pbjwelch | Jul 25, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 145 (next | show all)
In clever and deeply affecting ways, Ruth Ozeki’s luminous new novel explores notions of duality, causation, honour, and time. ... Though [the character] Ruth is clearly intended as a semi-autobiographical portrait of the author, it’s the character of Nao, in all her angsty adolescent dismissiveness, that Ozeki truly pulls off (here’s an author who should be writing YA novels).
 
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is expansive, provocative and sometimes rather confusing. But that’s okay. It’s supposed to be....It can leave you scratching your head – for starters, the main character of the novel seems to be Ruth Ozeki herself, or at least, a fairly obvious facsimile of her – but ultimately, the effect of such riddles is charming, earnest and very much a departure from your typical literary novel....Like them, Ozeki manages to turn existential conundrums into a playful, joyful and pleasantly mind-bending dialogue between reader and writer. Here’s hoping that this book will find its way to an audience just as excited to participate in it.
added by zhejw | editGlobe and Mail, Lucy Silag (Mar 29, 2013)
 
"A Tale for the Time Being"... is an exquisite novel: funny, tragic, hard-edged and ethereal at once.

[It's] heady stuff, but it hangs together for a couple of reasons — the exuberance of Ozeki's writing, the engaging nature of her characters and, not least, her scrupulous insistence that it doesn't have to hang together, that even as she ties up loose ends, others come unbound.
added by zhejw | editLos Angeles Times, David Ulin (Mar 21, 2013)
 
Seen from space, or from the vantage point of those conversant with Zen principles, A Tale for the Time Being is probably a deep and illuminating piece of work, with thoughtful things to say about the slipperiness of time. But for those positioned lower in the planet's stratosphere, Ozeki's novel often feels more like the great Pacific gyre it frequently evokes: a vast, churning basin of mental flotsam in which Schrödinger's cat, quantum mechanics, Japanese funeral rituals, crow species, fetish cafes, the anatomy of barnacles, 163 footnotes and six appendices all jostle for attention. It's an impressive amount of stuff.

One version of you might be intrigued. Another might pray it doesn't land on your shore.
added by zhejw | editThe Guardian, Liz Jensen (Mar 15, 2013)
 
If you’re a fan of the metaphysician Martin Heidegger, or the physicist Erwin Schrödinger, you will be pleased at the novel’s tip of the hat to their abstruse notions of time and sub-atomic space. There’s even an appendix to the novel explaining the “thought experiment” known to the world as “Schrödinger’s cat...But the novel suffers from a tinge of self satisfaction. It pits sensitive souls like the involuntary kamikaze pilot who loves French literature against brutal army officers, and it’s not a fair fight. The fight becomes Us — readers who derive spiritual sustenance from Marcel Proust, and appreciate “the value of kindness, of education, of independent thinking and liberal ideals” — versus Them, who are sheer brutes.
 
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Original title
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People/Characters
Important places
Important events
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Masako,
for now and forever.
First words
Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you.
Quotations
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Een oude boeddha zei eens:

In de tijd, staan op de hoogste bergtop,
In de tijd, afdalen naar de bodem van de diepste zee,
In de tijd, een duivel met drie koppen en acht armen,
In de tijd, een vijf meter hoge boeddha van goud,
In de tijd, een monniksstaf of de vliegenmepper van een meester,
In de tijd, een pilaar of een lantaarn,
In de tijd, Jan en alleman,
In de tijd, de hele aarde en de eindeloze hemel.

- Dõgen Zenji, Bestaan in de tijd'
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
Depui un bar à hotêsses de Tokyo , Nao raconte de histoires : la sienne , ado déracinée , martyrisée par es camarades ; celle de sa fascinante aïeule , nonne zen de cent quatre ans ; de son grand-oncle kamikaze , passionné de poésie ; de son père qui cherche sur le net la recette du suicide parfait . Des intants de vie qu'elle veut confier avant de disparaître . Ruth s'interroge : et si elle , romancière en mal d'inspiration , avait le pouvoir de réécrire le destin de Nao , Serait il possible alors d'unir le passé et le présent ? La terre et le ciel ?
Haiku summary
Schoolgirls, Buddhist nuns
tsunami brings quantum gifts
From Japan to here
(pickupsticks)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670026638, Hardcover)

A brilliant, unforgettable, and long-awaited novel from bestselling author Ruth Ozeki

“A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.

Full of Ozeki’s signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.  


(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:21 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

""A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be." In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there's only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates' bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who's lived more than a century. A diary is Nao's only solace--and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox--possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao's drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future. Full of Ozeki's signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home"--… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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