- Paperback: 432 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; 978-0-670-02663-0 edition (December 31, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0143124870
- ISBN-13: 978-0143124870
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,320 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Tale for the Time Being: A Novel Paperback – December 31, 2013
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“An exquisite novel: funny, tragic, hard-edged and ethereal at once.”
—David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
“As contemporary as a Japanese teenager’s slang but as ageless as a Zen koan, Ruth Ozeki’s new novel combines great storytelling with a probing investigation into the purpose of existence. . . . She plunges us into a tantalizing narration that brandishes mysteries to be solved and ideas to be explored. . . . Ozeki’s profound affection for her characters makes A Tale for the Time Being as emotionally engaging as it is intellectually provocative.”
—The Washington Post
“A delightful yet sometimes harrowing novel . . . Many of the elements of Nao’s story—schoolgirl bullying, unemployed suicidal ‘salarymen,’ kamikaze pilots—are among a Western reader’s most familiar images of Japan, but in Nao’s telling, refracted through Ruth’s musings, they become fresh and immediate, occasionally searingly painful. Ozeki takes on big themes . . . all drawn into the stories of two ‘time beings,’ Ruth and Nao, whose own fates are inextricably bound.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Sixteen-year-old schoolgirl Nao Yasutani’s voice is the heart and soul of this very satisfying book. . . . The contemporary Japanese style and use of magical realism are reminiscent of author Haruki Murakami.”
“A terrific novel full of breakthroughs both personal and literary. . . . Ozeki revels in Tokyo teen culture—this goes far beyond Hello Kitty—and explores quantum physics, military applications of computer video games, Internet bullying, and Marcel Proust, all while creating a vulnerable and unique voice for the sixteen-year-old girl at its center. . . . Ozeki has produced a dazzling and humorous work of literary origami. . . . Nao’s voice—funny, profane and deep—is stirring and unforgettable as she ponders the meaning of her life.”
—The Seattle Times
“Beautifully written, intensely readable and richly layered . . . one of the best books of the year so far.”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Masterfully woven . . . Entwining Japanese language with WWII history, pop culture with Proust, Zen with quantum mechanics, Ozeki alternates between the voices of two women to produce a spellbinding tale.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“Forget the proverbial message in a bottle: This Tale fractures clichés as it affirms the lifesaving power of words. . . . As Ozeki explores the ties between reader and writer, she offers a lesson in redemption that reinforces the pricelessness of the here and now.”
“A powerful yarn of fate and parallel lives.”
“Ozeki weaves together Nao’s adolescent yearnings with Ruth’s contemplative digressions, adding bits of Zen wisdom, as well as questions about agency, creativity, life, death, and human connections along the way. A Tale for the Time Being is a dreamy, spiritual investigation of how to gracefully meet the waves of time, which, in the end, come for us all.”
—The Daily Beast
“As we read Nao’s story and the story of Ozeki’s reading of it, as we go back and forth between the text and the notes, time expands for us. It opens up onto something resembling narrative eternity . . . page after page, slowly unfolding. And what a beautiful effect that is for a novel to create.”
—Alan Cheuse, NPR’s All Things Considered
“Superb . . . her best and most adventurous novel to date . . . likely to leave readers feeling its emotional impact for a long time to come.”
“Magnificent . . . brings together a Japanese girl’s diary and a transplanted American novelist to meditate on everything from bullying to the nature of conscience and the meaning of life. . . . The novel’s seamless web of language, metaphor, and meaning can’t be disentangled from its powerful emotional impact: These are characters we care for deeply, imparting vital life lessons through the magic of storytelling. A masterpiece, pure and simple.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“An intriguing, even beautiful narrative remarkable for its unusual but attentively structured plot. . . . We go from one story line to the other, back and forth across the Pacific, but the reader never loses place or interest.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Ozeki’s absorbing novel is an extended meditation on writing, time, and people in time. . . . The characters’ lives are finely drawn, from Ruth’s rustic lifestyle to the Yasutani family’s straitened existence after moving from Sunnyvale, California, to Tokyo. Nao’s winsome voice contrasts with Ruth’s intellectual ponderings to make up a lyrical disquisition on writing’s power to transcend time and place. This tale from Ozeki, a Zen Buddhist priest, is sure to please anyone who values a good story broadened with intellectual vigor.”
“An extraordinary novel about a courageous young woman, riven by loneliness, by time, and (ultimately) by tsunami. Nao is an inspired narrator and her quest to tell her great grandmother’s story, to connect with her past and with the larger world is both aching and true. Ozeki is one of my favorite novelists and here she is at her absolute best—bewitching, intelligent, hilarious, and heartbreaking, often on the same page.”
—Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of This Is How You Lose Her
“A beautifully interwoven novel about magic and loss and the incomprehensible threads that connect our lives. I loved it.”
—Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love
“A Tale for the Time Being is a timeless story. Ruth Ozeki beautifully renders not only the devastation of the collision between man and the natural world, but also its often miraculous results.”
—Alice Sebold, bestselling author of The Lovely Bones
“Ingenious and touching. . . . I read it with great pleasure.”
—Philip Pullman, award-winning author of The Golden Compass
“One of the most deeply moving and thought-provoking novels I have read in a long time. In precise and luminous prose, Ozeki captures both the sweep and detail of our shared humanity. The result is gripping, fearless, inspiring and true.”
—Madeline Miller, author of the Orange Prize winner The Song of Achilles
“A Tale for the Time Being is equal parts mystery and meditation. The mystery is a compulsive, gritty page-turner. The meditation—on time and memory, on the oceanic movement of history, on impermanence and uncertainty, but also resilience and bravery—is deep and gorgeous and wise. A completely satisfying, continually surprising, wholly remarkable achievement.”
—Karen Joy Fowler, bestselling author of The Jane Austen Book Club
“A great achievement, and the work of a writer at the height of her powers. Ruth Ozeki has not only reinvigorated the novel itself, the form, but she’s given us the tried and true, deep and essential pleasure of characters we love and who matter.”
—Jane Hamilton, bestselling author of A Map of the World
“Profoundly original, with authentic, touching characters and grand, encompassing themes, Ruth Ozeki’s novel proves that truly great stories—like this one—can both deepen our understanding of self and remind us of our shared humanity.”
—Deborah Harkness, bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night
“I’ve long been an admirer of Ruth Ozeki’s work, and her exquisite, richly textured novel, A Tale for the Time Being, marks the stunning return of a writer at the height of her powers. Seamlessly weaving together tales of the past and present that are equally magical and heartbreaking, she transports us to the worlds of Nao and Jiko, in Japan, and Ruth, on a remote island in British Columbia, where their worlds collide as they reach across time to find the meaning of life and home. . . . A wise and wonderfully inventive story that will resonate through time.”
—Gail Tsukiyama, bestselling author of The Samurai’s Garden
About the Author
Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest. She is the award-winning author of three novels, My Year of Meats, All Over Creation, and A Tale for the Time Being, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her critically acclaimed independent films, including Halving the Bones, have been screened at Sundance and aired on PBS. She is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She lives in British Columbia and New York City.
Visit www.ruthozeki.com and follow @ozekiland on Twitter.
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One day a Hello Kitty lunchbox washes up on shore, possibly from the 2011 tsunami. It contains a collection of artifacts, and an account of Nao's life. With Ruth, we are drawn more and more into Nao's story.
I am stingy with my stars, but I am awarding this one five stars. Both stories are enchanting, and we care as much for one as the other.
Nao defines a time being as “. . . someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”
It is a book that will stick in you memory for a long time. I plan to reread it in a year or so.
Time is defined as "the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole." But a definition cannot begin to capture what time feels when you have to live through it. Through this PhD program I have wrestled with the concept of time. There is never enough of it. It either passes too fast, or too slow. Reading this book was extremely lethargic, for the main characters, speak of time often.
Nao, the sixteen-year-old girl who's diary is the center of this story, explores what time means and how frustrating it can be. Her diary is for a time being, "...someone who lives in time..."; this book is meant to be read, for we readers are time beings. It is not often that you find a narrative that looks to explore this conception of time and does it so well. I have to say though, the plot line is heavy and it took me awhile to finish reading this story. And by awhile, I mean several months. It is not a book that one devours, just like Ruth (the other main character) did not devour Nao's diary in just one sitting.
In A Tale for Time Being, there are two stories being told side by side, with one narrative's character addressing the other one. Nao writes her diary addressing the person who will find it and speaks to them as if they were already a part her life. At some points you aren't sure who needs the other more, is the writer needing the reader, or is the reader needing the writer?
The juxtaposition of reading both the perspective of the writer and the reader, while yourself being an additional reader is trippy. It plays well into the themes brought up throughout the book, particularly the theme of time. Because time passes by differently for the writer, the reader of the diary, and then you the reader of the book. There are three different timelines, but everyone is centered on Nao's story.
I was most stricken by Nao's definition of "now". Nao explains "now" as: "...in the time it takes to say now, now is already over. It’s already then. Then is the opposite of now. So saying now obliterates its meaning, turning it into exactly what it isn’t. It’s like the word is committing suicide or something." This blew me away because she's hitting the nail on the head. Can we ever capture the now? As I am typing now, it is already then. Is it futile to attempt to capture the now, when it will always be the then? Is even trying to capture the now not allowing you to experience the now?
The theme of exploring the conception of time resonated with me. Time is as elusive as the wind. You can feel it happening, but you can neither touch or see it. However, both wind and time can have physical effects on the world, and you can feel them both passing by. Time is also something that we all have to experience, regardless of how short or long we remain on this earth. However, it is not often enough that we appreciate time for what it is. Our time is limited; we only have so many heartbeats to be had, so spend them wisely.
"In reality, every reader, while he is reading, is the reader of his own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument, which he offers to the reader to permit him to discern what, without the book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself. The reader’s recognition in his own self of what the book says is the proof of its truth." —Marcel Proust, Le temps retrouvé