Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Tale for the Time Being

What is going on Japan? I mean, I know living on an island makes for some weird culture, England has its mastery of fart jokes, Iceland has Bjork and Australia has hideous, hideous boots. C'mon Japan, why are all your female characters in distress?  Is this like, a thing? I guess it is because Tale of Genji was published about 1000 years ago. I noticed Japan likes cats on the internet--can the next 1000 years ring in a Japanese internet cat millennium instead? (I think it's started).

A Tale for Time Being is a frame story about one character, an author named Ruth (whose life seems just like the real author named Ruth, except a slightly more boring version), who finds a Japanese girl's dairy washed up on the beach on a small Canadian island in the Pacific. Our Japanese girl, Nao, wrote a diary that is interesting but disturbing. She's a suicidal victim of extreme bullying (and other tragedies).  Ruth Ozeki is a Canadian-American author who lived in Japan for a while. She picked up some Murakami style weirdness while she was there.  There is less spaghetti cooking in this book. There is beer and coffee drinking though, so partial credit.

This book has a lot of different stuff, Zen Buddhist nuns, kamikaze pilots, Alzheimer's, the 2011 tsunami, dream traveling, quantum physics, multiple universes and some clam digging. Clam digging is not a euphemism, real clam digging. I picked this for my book club, the subject matter may make the discussion more serious than I anticipated.  My hope is that when you have a situation (or person) that is a comedy black hole, sometimes, just sometimes, you get a gamma ray burst of hilarity.  Fingers crossed.

At the risk of being a bit "on-the-nose" why not drink with a Japanese Cocktail?  Seriously, there is a classic cocktail with that name (it's from a famous olden times cocktail book) it does sound pretty yummy:  2 ounces brandy, 1/2 ounce orgeat, 2 dashes Angostura bitters.  Stir with ice, strain and garnish with a lemon twist.  What the heck is orgeat you ask?  It's an fancy almond syrup.  It can be hard to find a decent version but its one of those things you can make on your own.  Serious eats has a recipe:

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