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As Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go appears in the U.K., the Guardian offers a profile that encapsulates critic James Wood’s wildly divergent reviews of two Ishiguro novels:

In the 16 years since The Remains of the Day he has produced only three novels. And when The Unconsoled finally appeared in 1995, its 500-plus pages about the dream-like peregrinations of a concert pianist around a hazy Mitteleuropa left readers and reviewers baffled and occasionally angry. Critic James Wood went so far as to claim the book had “invented its own category of badness”.

However, almost as soon as the critical storm broke, it abated. Anita Brookner, an early critic, asked to re-review the book and declared: “I can’t see how he could have got it more right.” And Wood, in reviewing Ishiguro’s next book, When We Were Orphans (2000), about a British private detective in 1930s Shanghai, returned to his dismissal of The Unconsoled to note that if Ishiguro hadn’t written it he might have been condemned to become a novelist whose work was “as similar as postage stamps”. Wood then praised Orphans, claiming it “invents its own category of goodness”.

As if the profile weren’t incentive enough, this interview makes me wish for a 24-hour bookstore so I could go out and buy the book and read it right now.


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