The Past and Future of Nao: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki



     Schroedinger’s Cat.  Kamikaze pilots.  Buddhist nuns.  An agricultural installation artist.  A writer with writer’s block who has the same name as the author of the novel you are reading who is reading a journal written inside a copy of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time a decade ago that disappears and reappears while she is reading it.  British Columbia.  Japan.  Philosophy.  Science.  Time.

    Nao, a teenager living in Japan, begins the novel by defining a time being.  “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.  As for me, right now I am sitting in a French maid cafe in Akiba Electricity Town, listening to a sad chanson that is playing sometime in your past, which is also my present, writing this and wondering about you, somewhere in my future.  And if you’re reading this, then maybe by now you’re wondering about me, too.”

   This book is remarkably layered.  In essence there are three concrete time and geographical zones represented, plus one rather hazy one.  The life of a young man forced to become a Kamikaze pilot who keeps a secret diary in French.  The young man’s great-niece Nao, who lives in Tokyo and has written her diary inside the altered Proust novel.  And Ruth, the writer, who finds Nao’s diary and the Kamikaze’s letters and diary inside a Hello, Kitty lunchbox washed up on the beach in a very remote, often electricity-free, island in Canada.   As Ruth reads Nao’s diary and Nao reads pilot Haruki’s words, the lives of all three become entwined and influenced in a way that my limited experience would say is physically impossible.  Of course, science has a way of explaining it, which Ruth’s  Image

husband explains is called “universal wave function.”  WARNING:  I am now going to try to explain this theory.  Again I say WARNING.  So Hugh Everett, noted scientist, posited that essentially, every time you make a choice, one part of you makes the opposite choice and exists in another world so that every one of you exists within some parallel universe.  Ever see Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow?  Kinda like that.

  And Schrodinger’s Cat has something to do with it too.  Or not.  Maybe Schrodinger’s Cat is just thrown in there as a way of tying together Ruth’s cat Pesto and the Hello, Kitty lunchbox from which Nao’s world appeared.  Not to mention the “tale.”Image


      The Washington Post included A Tale for the Time Being on its list of the 50 Best Fiction books of 2013 and it was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize of 2013.

     Book Club Menu

    Sushi — Unless you are a pro, pick up an order to go from your favorite sushi vendor


    Fresh oysters

    Clam Chowder.  Here’s a recipe for Clam Chowder Canadian Military Style:

1/2 cup butter
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/4-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams,
drained with juice reserved
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large saucepan over medium high heat, combine the butter, celery and onion. Saute for about 3 minutes, add the flour and stir well to make a dry roux. Add the reserved clam juice to make a paste, then slowly add enough cold water to reach the desired thickness.
2. Add the potatoes, milk, thyme and salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and allow soup to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add the clams and allow to heat throug

   For dessert:  Melty Kisses were Old Jiko’s favorite chocolate and I found them for sale on Amazon.  Or just chocolate, I’m sure Old Jiko will appreciate any effort.


  How about a mix tape of songs about time?
Time Is on my Side, The Rolling Stones

Time in a Bottle, Jim Croce

Yesterday, the Beatles

Time after Time, Cyndi Lauper

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Roberta Flack

Rock Around the Clock, Bill Haley & The Comets (OK, that one’s a little hokey)

I’m not going to cast this movie because I think my knowledge would be too-limited.  I’d love to hear your thoughts though.

In the words of Ruth Ozeki, ” I bow to you all.”  Happy Reading.




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