By Ari Laurel, CutBank Fiction Editor
The last book I read that really took me by surprise was Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. It's been months since I finished it, but it's one of those stories that will stick with me in the way of its writing. I consume stories in a ton of different ways, so it happened that I was first introduced to Ishiguro's work through a podcast when I heard Ben Marcus read his short story "A Village After Dark." Usually I listen to podcasts to get to sleep, half listening, sometimes laughing alone to myself if there's something funny, but eventually letting the voices become white noise. But even though "A Village After Dark" was its own dreamscape, I couldn't sleep on it. There is just something about Ishiguro's writing that both guides and disorients, and sometimes disturbs readers.
The narrator in Never Let Me Go, who is both so earnest and trustworthy, but at the same time unreliable and naive, would guide me along by saying things like, "I guess I said this cruel thing to her now because of what had happened before," and I, the kind of person who can't help but want to be in the loop, could only turn the page and ask, "Well, what happened before?" Her voice, her slow reveal of Ishiguro's mystery, waiting for every piece of the puzzle to be contextualized and cleaving to each crumb like its own reward, is part of the suspense.
I also credit Ishiguro for reigniting my love of science fiction, long condemned in the MFA under the flag of "genre," even if there was always a part of me who was thrilled to queue that kind of thing up on Netflix--whether it was a Japanese anime about cyberpunk crime or an episode of the ever-optimistic Star Trek: TNG. Ishiguro let me sit in the weirdness and witness the way things naturally unfold, how people inevitably behave, when the surroundings are too unnatural. And I can sit in that world, listening, reading, writing it, for hours.
"Editors' Bookshelf" asks the editorial staff of CutBank to expound on a book or books that have meant something to them, either recently or in the past. These posts take a look at our editors' bookshelves and nightstands, allowing readers a glimpse into what most intrigues our staff.
About the Author:
Ari Laurel grew up in Oakland, CA, and has lived near the ocean for most of her life. Her work has appeared in Bitch Media, The Toast, Riding Light, Quartz, Hyphen magazine, and Kweli Journal. She was a 2012 finalist for the PEN Center Emerging Voices Fellowship. She is currently earning her MFA in Fiction at the University of Montana, in the beautiful landlocked city of Missoula.