One Book, One Mesa County: Author gives character a voice
“My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you.”
Author Ruth Ozeki’s voice pitched a little higher as she read the words, more appropriate to the 15-year-old girl speaking them.
“A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”
Ozeki paused before drifting back down into her own voice and explaining to the audience of several hundred gathered in the auditorium of Grand Junction High School Saturday night how the voice of Nao — pronounced “now” — had first come to her.
Ozeki, author of the 2014 One Book, One Mesa County selection “A Tale for the Time Being,” began writing the novel in 2006, with a loose idea about exploring the relationship between a writer and a reader. What grew from that notion is a novel about ocean gyres and Buddhism, the worth of life and Japanese pop culture, meditation and the quiet mind, the ravens of Tokyo, life and death and the nature of time.
Relating a quantum mechanic interpretation of time alluded to in the novel with the relationship between writer and reader, Ozeki said, “To me, there are as many books out there as there are people who’ve read it. A book is simply an array of all its possibilities.”
From is origin in 2006, Ozeki said, and with Nao as a constant, it grew through several iterations, as Ozeki tried different readers for the diary Nao was writing. By the beginning of 2011 she had a finished draft, but then the March 11 earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan
“I realized the book I had written was irrelevant now,” she said. “Japan was no longer the same place, the world was no longer the same place. I had written a pre-Fukushima book and we were living in a post-Fukushima world.”
In the new version that she finished by November 2011, the reader of Nao’s diary was a novelist named Ruth (like Ozeki) who has a husband named Oliver (also like Ozeki) and lives on an isolated island in British Columbia (ditto), struggling to write a memoir about the time spent caring for mother with Alzheimer’s.
Ruth in the book discovers a diary inside a lunch box washed up onshore — Nao’s diary — and what follows is, well, worth the read.
Ozeki, who began her presentation by guiding audience members though a gentle Zen meditation, said she hesitates to say what the novel is “about,” when one of its themes is not knowing. It does, however, emphasize the co-creation between writer and reader, she said, “this idea that together we’ll make magic.”