Ruth Ozeki (2013) A Tale For The Time Being.

Sometimes you pick a book and sometimes a book picks you. I’d looked at this book, read a little and put it down again, read a little and put it down again. It looked to be one of those books I tend to specialise in writing that nobody ever reads and fades from memory quicker than a cuttlefish. You might not know what a cuttlefish is and neither might I, but somewhere in the world someone does, and that’s enough guff. The sign of a good book is that you imagine it has been wrote for you. A diary, letters and a package are washed up on a beach. Would you read it? Thought so. I would too. If it begins ‘Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment I will tell you.’ If you’re like me that would be enough and you’d put the book down, or would you say, ‘fuck that’ and fling it back into the sea, but that would be your mistake and your loss, because there is wisdom buried here. Did you, for example, know ‘A moment is a very small particle of time. It is so small that one day is made up of 6 400 099 980 moments’? Zen Master Dogen wrote that and, in the washed up diary, 104 year old bald Zen nun Jiko Yastanui tells her granddaughter Nao this. I’ve got my own theory of time, of course, that when you’re a child it’s a forest, as you get older it’s a tree and as you get even older it becomes a leaf falling from a tree, to lie on the forest floor, but this is not incompatible with either of these Zen masters. A good book makes you smarter. There are entanglements. The bundle of washed up letters and a ticking sky soldier watch are from Jiko’s son Haruki who, not much older than Nao, was forced to leave his studies and commit hari-kari by joining the imperial Japanese Air Force and fly his plane at American naval force off the coast of Japan during the Second World War. Nao meets with Haruki in the grounds of Jiko’s temple grounds, because, although he is dead, the past is always present. Nao and her father, also called Haruki, also plan to kill themselves, and the latter becomes obsessed with the fate of the falling man in the suicide bombing of the twin towers in New York. Their fate is in the hands of the reader of the diaries, Ruth, who like any good reader is determined to find out what happens next, but the text keeps changing, and she enters into the story by warning Nao’s father of her daughter's plan and changing their destiny, or at least one version of their destiny, for in time all things remain is, was and ever shall be. But Nao is enough for Now.   


I'd fling it and suffer a loss. But I'll read this. Your time thory  interested me more than Zen's baffling time fact though.


It's a wonderful book Vera. I think the only other book with Zen I've read is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Wow. Need to read that again. Prisig's classic.


I shall give this book a try as I have trusted your blogs before and been satisfied with the books you recommend. I have read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in 1976 ( it was very 'in' then) and I liked the way the philosophy was sewn in with the road odyssey of father and son. The only thing I know about cuttlefish is that they spurt ink so they have been a girft to writers!    Elsie

BTW If you want to try a book I like that was very 'in' a couple of years ago - A visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. THe goon squad is time, the characters are all loosely linked to the music industry and the book is well charactered and brilliantly structured.

thanks Elsie, I'll stick it on my should- read list, but I've also got a must-read list and a you stupid- plonker list. I've made a start on Millet's The Loony Bin Trip and am very impressed with her descriptive powers. Look forward to reading some more.

Cuttle fish are good if you're stuck on a beach and need to write something in the sand.


Sorry to pop up. Millet's Loony Bin Trip is astounding. She knows about sense and social regimes through and through. Will look out eagerly for your blog.