Books: Nocturnes

James McNeill Whistler, Bridge Amsterdam, 1889. Etching and drypoint

What a delight and what cause for remembrance is Christopher Hitchens review of Kazuo Ishiguro's short stories, "Noctures."

Why delight? What memory?

I was in high school--a boring experiment in educating the masses, me-thought, and so, I couldn't wait for the bigger, brighter sunbeams that streamed outside my window like university and life. Instead of waiting out the final chapter, I rushed headlong into summer school, a way to shorten the sacrifices of arriving at five minutes before eight (7.55am) each morning and sitting in crowded classrooms.

With these abbreviated summer courses we had the same curriculum, but only 4 weeks to accomplish what regularly scheduled classes would cover in approximately 4 months, and so I sought equally foolproof short cuts.

In order to get that treasured "A" with a big capital letter, I read the New York Times Book Review as if it had biblical implications, using its format and fervor to write my essays for my Advanced English class. I frolicked around unpronounceable and little used words and sprinkled them judiciously throughout my writing, somewhat like this review by the formidable Mr. Hitchens.

I got my "A" and as a bonus, I admirably got a perfect score in the vocabulary section of that year's hated and heated compulsory English Regents.

In the end, it may best to avoid reading Mr. Ishiguro's short stories and instead treasure this unflattering review. After all, a review that can encompass Whistler, Hegel, Debussy and mythology in poetic English is worth savouring more than once.

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