Tonight I had the great fun of taking myself on a date. I went to Pastini Pastaria and had gluten-free pasta and read a book. All by myself.
Then I went to Powell’s for a reading by Ruth Ozeki, whose recently published novel, A Tale for the Time Being, is wonderful, lyrical and timely. And now that I’ve heard her read from it, I might need to re-“read” it on audiobook as she herself reads it. Her voice is like my mother’s at bedtime. I didn’t want it to stop! (Side note: Ruth said publishers don’t normally allow authors to read their own books for the audio version. Ruth’s trick: load it up with enough Japanese that it’s too hard to find another reader!)
Ruth immediately made herself loved by the entire audience by saying, “Powell’s is like Mecca for writers.”
She briefly told the story of how this novel came to be: In 2006, she was inspired to write in the voice of Japanese school girl who happened to be writing a diary in English. She decided to insert the character of Ruth, herself, because it made sense that she was Nao’s reader. In fact, she rewrote the book 4 or 5 times with different readers but it was a different book. It wasn’t until Ruth became the reader that the book really worked.
While this book is a novel and there is a facade of fiction, through the autobiography Ruth was able to react to what was happening in Japan during the tsunami.
Ruth says a failed memoir is fiction. Because she inserted herself into this book, it wad a way of resolving the unfinished memoir about her mother’s Alzheimer’s.