Friday, 22 May 2015

"A Tale for The Time Being" by Ruth Ozeki

    I met Ruth Ozeki in 2011 at the Kootenay Book Weekend in Nelson, British Columbia.  Ruth is a novelist, filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest.  She was born in the U.S. but now lives on Cortes Island, British Columbia, also spending time in New York City.
  We read her first two books for this book experience: "My Year of Meats" and "All Over Creation".  Her books are easy to read, but much more difficult to understand.
  I found her to be gentle and fascinating.  She began one morning with a meditation.  It was beautiful!

   This novel is about a diary washed up on an island off British Columbia.  Ruth, a writer, finds the diary and tries to piece together the life of Nao, a 16-year-old girl in Japan.  Ruth presumes that the diary was swept away by the tsunami of 2011 and she searches the internet to find any information on this young girl.
   The story is simple BUT..... 
There are many references to Marcel Proust's "In Search of Lost Time".
Japanese words are used and explained in footnotes at the bottom of the page (sometimes half a page of footnotes).
There is great use of the words and philosophy of Zen Master Eihei Gogen.
   The reading is easy, the concepts are complex-e.g. "Think not-thinking.  How do you think not-thinking? Nonthinking.  This is the essential art of zazen". (Zen master Dogen)

"Both life and death manifest in every moment of existence.  Our human body appears and disappears moment by moment, without cease, and this ceaseless arising and passing away is what we experience as time and being.  They are not separate.  They are one thing, and in even a fraction of a second, we have the opportunity to choose, and to turn the course of our action either toward the attainment of truth or away from it.  Each instant is utterly critical to the whole world."

  Glenda Martin, an editor of Bookwomen, is expert at leading book groups.  She recently had seven groups discussing this book in Arizona.  She said, "In my almost 30 years of facilitating book groups, there has never been such depth of reaction to a book".
  Her groups read aloud together the words of both Dogen and Proust.
Oh, and I forgot to add that there are many references to quantum physics in this novel.
  Glenda has read this book three times.  I think I will just accept that it is over my head and go on to other authors.  Love Glenda, love Ruth Ozeki, but I'm not in their league.

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