A Tale for the Time Being: A Fellowship of the Worms Discussion

September 4, 2015 Book Club 6

Konichiwa Bookworms!

smarty-mcwordypants-199x300It’s time that time again, y’all! The Fellowship of the Worms is in session! Today we’re going to be discussing the heart wrenching novel, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. WARNING: We will be discussing the WHOLE book. This will no doubt include SPOILERS. If you did not read the book and would like to participate, pick up a copy of A Tale for the Time Being and give it a read. This post will be here waiting for you when you finish. Now that the particulars are out of the way, I’ll remind you of the premise here. I’ll pose questions in bold and answer them in regular type.  If you don’t want your opinions influenced by my rantings, stick to the bold first. Feel free to answer questions in the comments, or if you’re so inclined, leave a comment linking to your review or discussion of A Tale for the Time Being on your own blog! I fully encourage shameless self promotion, so don’t hesitate to get your link on. Let’s do this!

  1. One of the things that struck me about this novel was how quickly Ruth became attached to Nao through her writing. Have you ever found yourself becoming attached to someone you don’t actually know through their writing? Have I ever! Some of my blog friends I feel as close to as anyone I’ve ever met in real life. Heck, there’s usually even a period before I pluck up the courage to “talk” to a blogger I admire where I feel like I know them only to realize they literally have no idea I exist. And still I care about them. Worry about them. Want to know that things turn out okay. I totally get Ruth’s predicament!

2. How much did you love Old Jiko? Do any of you have an impossibly wise older relative who has shaped who you became? I don’t know that I could say that I’ve ever had a relationship with a relative the way Nao bonds with Jiko, but reading about Jiko’s life in the temple, I couldn’t help but think of my great aunt. She was a Catholic nun and lived in a convent. People (myself included most of the time) tend to imagine that those who devote themselves entirely to religious pursuits tend to by stodgy and out of touch. That certainly wasn’t the case with Jiko and it definitely wasn’t true of Sister ataleforthetimebeingBernard either. While she never left me with cryptic words of wisdom, but she used to send THE BEST mail. That’s partially why I’m so fond of greeting cards. And stickers. A number of you have received mail from me, and I’d be willing to bet that there was at least one fun sticker on it. Sis used to include sheets of stickers in my birthday cards. She was pretty much the best, much like Jiko.

3. Did any of y’all break down when reading about the bullying Nao went through at school? Um, are you kidding me? I might have started crying a bit when Nao’s mom discovered her physical injuries, but hearing Nao describe her OWN FUNERAL and thinking that everyone pretending she was dead was an improvement in her situation? Why are people so awful? Whyyyyyyyy??? And that teacher. I can’t even. I literally can’t even. FICTIONAL RAGE PUNCHES ALL AROUND!

4. I feel like we can’t actually discuss this novel without addressing the elephant in the room, suicide. Despite Haruki #1’s kamikaze mission, Haruki #2’s failed suicide attempts, and Nao’s suicidal thoughts, the overall tone remains hopeful. How do you think Ozeki pulled that off? I am of the opinion that Ruth Ozeki is of Japanese, American, and unicorn descent. That magical gift had to come from somewhere, and my money is on unicorn. Don’t ask me how that works, I have no answer. I think that this book that the potential to be the most depressing book in the history of ever, but I think the humor injected into Nao’s narrative helped to lighten the mood. That and Jiko. Have I mentioned how much I love Jiko? “Up, down. Same thing.”

5. Nao’s narrative finding Ruth is pretty much the ultimate message-in-a-bottle scenario. Have you ever fantasized about leaving your story for an unknown reader to discover? What would you tell them? Sometimes I daydream about this sort of thing. I blog about books, and though I often discuss my personal life, I’m not really interested in publicly airing my dirty laundry, so to speak. I think the idea of a full Nao-style confessional document thrown out into the world for posterity is appealing, but I don’t think I could ever do it. I’m afraid that even if I made an attempt, I’d end up presenting something less than true and very tainted by my mood of the day. I mean, how often does something drive you ABSOLUTELY BONKERS when in hindsight it really wasn’t that big a deal? I’d be worried my mythical reader would think I was a whiny brat. I recognize my privilege and all, but those first world problems, man.

Sound off, Bookworms! I want to know your what you thought of A Tale for the Time Being. Tackle some of the questions in the comments, or if you’ve written a post on your own blog (discussion or review, anything goes!) LINK IT UP! 

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6 Responses to “A Tale for the Time Being: A Fellowship of the Worms Discussion”

  1. Nish

    I think the biggest shocker for me when reading the book was googling and finding out that the “funeral” was actually a real-life incident and that such terrible bullying is endemic in Japan, and a huge problem.

  2. Becca

    That’s a good point in #4 about how the book revolves a lot around suicide yet the book remains hopeful. I read the book last year and reviewed it. I put it in the link-up, just in case you wanted to read it.

  3. Jenny @ Reading the End

    Aw, Jiko. I get sniffly just thinking about her. My absolute favorite moment in the book is when Jiko’s asking Nao if she’s angry, and Nao says OF COURSE, and Jiko tells her that she asked that question so that Nao could hear the answer. Grade-A grandparenting right there.

Talk to me, Bookworms!