But lately I've been easing my brain out of hibernation. In the process, I've read two wonderful books that made me think. I even read some interviews with the authors after I finished the last pages. Pretty incredible, I know.
"Klara and the Sun" by Kazuo Ishiguro tells the story of Klara, an artificial friend, and Josie, the young girl who adopts her. That premise alone drew me in, and as I was reading, my vision of Klara alternated between one of the robots in the tv show "Humans" and Rosie the Robot from "The Jetsons." (For the record, neither of those shows was on my pandemic watch list.)
In Ishiguro's world, AFs have achieved consciousness. Klara does a lot of thinking, especially about emotions. Take, for instance, Klara's internal commentary when she's on display in the store window with her fellow AF Rosa and notices other AFs walking by. "When AFs did go by us they almost always acted oddly, speeding up their walk and keeping their faces turned away. I wondered then if perhaps we - the whole store - were an embarrassment to them. I wonder if Rosa and I, once we'd found our homes, would feel an awkwardness to be reminded that we hadn't always lived with our children, but in a store." Later, Klara responds to a comment by Josie's mother that it must be nice not to have any feelings by saying, "I believe I have many feelings. The more I observe, the more feelings become available to me."
Klara soon learns that Josie suffers from a mysterious illness that leaves her bedridden much of the time. Klara's job is to be a companion for Josie, and she takes this responsibility very seriously. She helps Josie navigate her relationships with her mother, a complicated character whom I have decidedly mixed feelings about, and Rick, the boy next door who's Josie's only friend. Klara's goal ultimately becomes saving Josie from the disease that threatens her life.
|Sir Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of |
the Nobel Prize Award
in Literature and four
Man Booker Prizes
I'll leave you with a couple of surprising tidbits about the prize-winning author. First, Ishiguro started his career as a storyteller through music. He was a singer-songwriter from a young age and still considers music his first love. Since 2002, he has written the occasional set of lyrics for jazz singer Stacey Kent. (They met after he chose her recording of "You Can't Take That Away from Me" in an edition of Desert Island Discs.)
Second, he conceived of Klara's story as a children's picture book. The idea of a non-human narrator is consistent with the genre -- think Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin -- and he could see the colorful illustrations in his mind. When he ran the idea by his daughter, she told him he was crazy and that the concept would traumatize kids. He quickly pivoted to an adult novel. To listen to a short interview with Ishiguro about the book and his original concept, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GJ7mrqo9nQ I am eager to read more of this brilliant author's work.
Next up: "Homeland Elegies" by Ayad Akhtar