Glass act bites back
Since capturing the imagination of the film world with the screen
v adpatation of his novel Remains of the Day, Kazuo lshiguro has been in the spotlight. He speaks to David Harris about his new book The Uneonso/ed.
Life. as John Lennon noted. is what happens to you while you're making plans. a truism that echoes through the serpentine tale of Kazuo lsbiguro‘s fotiith novel The L'nt'onso/ed.
invited to perform in an unnamed European town. renowned conceit pianist Ryder soon discovers he's expected to do more than just tickle the iymies. Willi the town in the thioes of a major crisis and its inhabitants appreheiisiye and distraught. Ryder is regarded as a prospective saviour who will untangle all civic and personal problems There's one minor hitch: he hasnt the faintest idea what's going on.
Not. it seems. do some critics. among whom the novel is already being spoken of as ‘baflling‘ and ‘a disastcr‘. probably the same people w ho think the pleasant linglish novel is being ruined by any clever dicks. lsliieui'o is a little bemused by the pre- publication notices. although he admits the Booker success oi 'lhe It’emains of the Day makes a high proﬁle iiic‘-. itable. ‘And.’ he adds with characteristic baziness. ‘there was that movie and stuff.‘
While he has no complaints about the attention. he
Kazuo lsbiguro: trying to wing it
is wary ofchurning out critic-fodder. ‘lt's essential
that you continue to produce a voice that's sincere and authentic. and one way to stop doing that is to stick to what used to be sincere and authentic.‘ he says. "l‘liis is what happens with some rock
. musicians: after they've become middle-aged
millionaires. they're still playing out of the territory
they explored so well when they were poor and
hungry and young. They can still go through the licks. but something's gone.‘
The elegant prose style is still evident. with lshiguro subtly mingling dream and reality as Ryder projects his own memories and worries onto the people he encounters. ‘Tbis is what we do in our dreams and to an extent in our waking lives.‘ he suggests. "l‘herc is a need to see cer ain people in a certain way because you w ish to orchestrate something about your own life to yourself. and this is part of the reason why our
relationships are sometimes a mess.‘
In this intricate metaphor illustrating life‘s arbitrariness. ftill of thwarted objectives and sublimated failures. Ryder feigns expeitise for so long that he comes to believe he's in control, when in fact he is at the mercy of other people's agendas.
Citing Robert hrlcNamara's recent rccanting over Vietnam as evidence that Ryder‘s plight may be
universal. the author has his own theories about
personal ambition. ‘Part of the thesis of The Ullt‘ttll.\'()/(’(l is that people take on these roles because
they‘re trying to fix something very personal in
1; themselves. and by acquiring some prowess they think they‘ll somehow heal this. The book is about - someone coming to realise that this can‘t be done.
You can build relationships with people. you can even find happiness. btit sometimes that can still only be a consolation for something fundamental that's been lost.‘ Although Ryder remains unconsoled. the novel is not as bleak as it sounds. if its arbitrariness and ‘lt’s essential that you continue to produce a voice that’s sincere and authentic, and one way to stop doing that is to stick to what used to be sincere and authentic.’
frustration are reminiscent of Kaika's The Castle. it also has that novel‘s absurd humour and bittersweet
' mystery. Not all the subtleties can be grasped on a cursory reading. but. typically. lsliiguro questions his
execution. ‘lt‘s part of the fact that l‘ve approached
this whole area for the first time. and perhaps it could
be more polished . . . l was just trying to wing it really.‘ Ignore the modesty. And the grapevine. The Uttt'onSo/ed is another virtuoso performance from a consistently class act.
The Ll'tlt‘onsnled by Kazuo Is/iiguro is published by Faber at £15.99. The author will be reading and signing copies at John Smith & Son. 57 St Vincent Street. Glasgoii' at 6.30pm on 24 May and Waterstones. 83 George Street. Edinburgh at 7.30pm on 25 May.
mim— ; Starburst
William Burroughs on John Giorno: ‘His Iitanies irom the underworld oi the mind reverberate in your head, and they get right into your non-dominant brain hemisphere . . . and ventriloquise your own thoughts.
llo mean praise irom the literary Grandpa irom Hell who has seen, done and dropped it all in his craggy days. Burroughs is only one oi the New York art scene luminaries to be mentioned in perionnance poet John Giorno’s latest outpourings, You Got To Burn To Shine. This collection oi new and selected writings is deeply personal, intensely sexual and often writhineg ugly in tone - train a description oi his anonymous sexual encounter with Keith Haring in a subway toilet, to his
John Giomo: ‘litanies iron the underworld oi the mind
philosophical slant on a Buddhist understanding oi death in the age oi
llow aged 58, Giorno made his iirst ioray into the perionnance poetry circuit in the early 60s when buddies Andy Warhol, John Gage, Merce Cunningham and Jasper Johns were still riding the subway. ‘At that time all the visual artists, painters, sculptors and musicians were doing new and dynamic work,’ recalls Giorno at customary breakneck speed. ‘I thought to myseli, it they can do it, why can’t I? Why does poetry have to be boring and old-iashioned?’
Thus, the one-man spinning dervish oi revolutionary perionnance poetry went into battle aiter realising that ‘a poet can connect with an audience using all the entertainment oi ordinary liie’. Under the giant umbrella oi Giorno Poetry Systems, a thousand protects sprang into Iiie: records, Gus, iilms, videopacks, beneiits, printed
suriace poems on everyday objects, the innovative Dial-A-Poem and the establishment oi the AIDS Treatment Project. Between breaths, Giomo has managed to squeeze in collaborations with prime-movers Sonic Youth, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson and Mr Burroughs among others.
As Giomo states in the book’s epilogue his poetry is not written to be read while wistiully looking yonder over a Hampstead meadow. It is written with verve, sweat and ultimate consummation in mind. ‘Spoken word, using breath and heat, pitch and volume, and the melodies inherent in the language, risking technology and music, and a deep connection with an audience, is the iuliillment oi a poem.’ (Ann Donald)
You Got To Burn To Shine by John Giomo is published by Serpent’s Tail at £8.99. Giorno appears at the GGA on Wed 10 at 1pm. tickets are 22m.
“The List 5-l8 May 1995