Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall, By Kazuo Ishiguro

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The Independent Culture

If time is the true subject matter of any fiction writer – how time changes, or fails to change us – few novelists can make it the subject matter itself without slipping into cliché. But time has always been Kazuo Ishiguro's forte. Most revered for The Remains of the Day, he plays with time exquisitely; past, present, future are his key notes, which he rearranges at will. These "quintets" read like the wise novelist having fun in experimentation.

In "Crooner", a non-Italian guitarist attempts to find harmony on a piazza in Venice; the collection then hops to a Hollywood hotel before returning to Italy. But always its most vivid place is the mind itself, struggling to rise above its neuroses. The stories illustrate beautifully the aesthetic connection between music and nightfall: the sense of wistfulness at moments passing, the yearning to cling on to what was best before it slips away.

Ishiguro's style remains plain and pared back, as if there is no time for stylistic frivolity, only a determination to get to the very heart of the matter.