Let Me Go
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But the dilemmas of our age are not really those of Ishiguro's dystopia: vainglorious science, meddling with the moral structure of life, is a kind of B-list spook whose antics have yet to offer any substantial intellectual or practical challenge to the populace. In any case, the "scientific" basis of the novel is vague: it is the emotional world of the clones themselves that Ishiguro is interested in, for these are children without parents, children who lack the psychological burden of childhood that Ishiguro so painstakingly articulated in The Unconsoled.
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And what he concludes is that a child without parents has no defence against death; that its body is not sacred, that it is a force of pure mortality. The parent is a kind of god, sanctifying and redeeming the child: as in Cormac McCarthy's The Road , the novel's horrific imaginings almost become a perverse kind of sentimentality, as though these male writers are unable entirely to distinguish between imagination and fear.
The parent imagines the gruesome things that could happen to his child if he, the parent, weren't there to protect him; and the novelist tries to translate those imaginings into the empirical evidence valued by male literary culture. He creates a "reality" out of them, with every ghoulish component unrelentingly worked out and provided; a high-caste version of the tabloid newspaper's loving exposition of gory detail.
The Road has also been a popular success: readers seem to find the depressiveness of these novels exhilarating.
In Ishiguro's case the "gory details" of organ donation and human exploitation are further freighted with the artistic scruples of the impersonator. The prose is locked tight with the inescapable repetitions of reminiscence: "There's an instance I can remember from when we were about eleven. We were in Room 7 on a sunny winter's morning.
We'd just finished Mr Roger's class, and a few of us had stayed on to chat with him. But his simultaneous need to manipulate, to dramatise his own concerns, pulls the story in the opposite direction. He gives the world of Hailsham a dominant characteristic: the belief in, indeed the worshipping of, creativity. The Hailsham children are indoctrinated in — and, one suspects as the narrative progresses, deliberately blinded by — the belief that their personal worth and the meaningfulness of their lives resides entirely in their ability to create art. From their earliest years they paint and sculpt and write poetry; they "sell" their work to one another at passionate auctions known as "Exchanges"; the cream of the school's production is selected to be sent to "the Gallery", by a woman known as Madame, who comes two or three times a year in her smart clothes to make her choices.
Kathy's friend Tommy, though highly talented at sport, is bullied and ostracised for being bad at art; when he tells her that one of the guardians has privately suggested to him that his artistic failure doesn't matter, she hears this as the cataclysm of heresy.
Let Me Go (Ft. Florida Georgia Line & WATT)
On one level Ishiguro seems to be saying that art is a con-trick, like religion; that it obscures from us the knowledge or awareness of our own mortality, knowledge that in the case of the Hailsham children is brutally withheld. We believe that art is immortal, and so we represent creativity as an absolute good; but in making this representation to children, are we interfering with their right to know about and accept death? At one point Kathy remembers the way poems were treated as equivalent to paintings or sculptures at the Exchanges: it seems strange to her now that it should have been so.
If we were so keen on a person's poetry, why didn't we just borrow it and copy it down ourselves any old afternoon?
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Is he suggesting that this is what the culture does? Or is it the reverse, a further piece of evidence of the inside-out, perverted values of the novel's world? Never Let Me Go , like the clones it portrays, has in the end something of a double nature, for it both attracts and annihilates. Or perhaps it is a book that requires two readers, the reader who can be blind to its ugly visage, and the reader who can see into its delicately conflicted soul.
For those who perceive the latter, the novel's bleak horror will leave a bruise on the mind, a fetter on the heart. Topics Books Rereading.
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