Thursday, February 12, 2015

Time Well Spent

A group of us went to see novelist Ruth Ozeki speak last night at the Rackham Auditorium.  Ruth Ozeki's novel, A Tale For The Time Being, was chose as the winner of Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads program.  Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads program is a community initiative to promote reading and civic dialogue through the shared experience of reading and discussing a common book.  

Like many of the goings on in Ann Arbor (and there are a lot of them, which is SO great!) my mother-in-law, Lesli, told me about this book and invited me to join her and her friends.  As I am always interested in a good read, I accepted the invitation and read the book, finishing just a few days before the big event.  It was a good read!  I was so curious the whole time, where is this author going?  The two protagonists, Nao and Ruth (fictional Ruth based off of the Novelist Ruth), traded off narrating the book.  Nao in the past and Ruth in the present.  A story intricately woven in time.  Lots of topics that I don't often think about or have never thought about.  Also, I love the idea of bringing a community together by sharing a reading experience.  It was really fun to all get a good chuckle when Ruth (the Novelist) said she wants to talk about Supapowa - an 'inside joke' we're all in on.

I met Lesli and four of her friends at celebrity Chef Takashi Yagihashi's reknowned Slurping Turtle noodle shop, to get into the spirit of the book.  The menu - French-inspired Japanese food and Japanese-inspired French food - was perfect for the occasion and had lots of delicious offerings to choose from.

I ordered the Tan Tan Men Ramen - homemade ramen noodles, pork meatballs, pork chashu, pork miso, bok choy, bean sprouts.  Ooo baby, it's spicy!  The good spicy.  A 5-out-10 spice level and it got hotter as I ate on.  I paired it with a Syrah Blend from the Languedoc Roussillon region in France.  It was smooth, rich and fruity.  I loved it.

Tan Tan Men Ramen

A few others ordered this delectable plate:  Duck Fat Fried Chicken.  You heard me.  Duck fat.  They devoured it, then raved about it and I will make sure to get this with my Tan Tan Men Ramen next time.

Duck Fat Fried Chicken
Beautiful books!

I wish the iPhone camera did this place justice, but it just doesn't!  It is a beautiful auditorium and even though I've lived in Ann Arbor for 8 years, I've never been here until now.

Rackham Auditorium

Ruth did something really interesting before the Q&A session.  She led us in a Zen Buddhist group seated meditation.  A zazen.  It was wonderful and I hope that it wasn't my first and last time doing it.  She said it was the one thing we'll all remember from this event and she's right that it is not easy to forget!

A Tale For The Time Being covered a lot of different topics.  Here are a few excerpts from a New York Times article written about the book that describes the book and the reading experience (yes, it is an experience!) much better than I can.

"Nao, a 16-year-old schoolgirl, is in a cafe in Tokyo, writing in her diary. She is, she declares, a “time being,” with all the ambiguity that phrase implies. Many months later, after Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, a Japanese-American novelist named Ruth, living on an island off the coast of British Columbia, finds a barnacle-encrusted freezer bag washed up on the beach. It contains, it appears, a copy of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” and a broken watch, along with some letters. But Proust’s book is no more than a cover. Inside is Nao’s diary, written in purple ink." 

"Many of the elements of Nao’s story — schoolgirl bullying, unemployed suicidal “salarymen,” kamikaze pilots — are among a Western reader’s most familiar images of Japan, but in Nao’s telling, refracted through Ruth’s musings, they become fresh and immediate, occasionally searingly painful. Ozeki takes on big themes in “A Tale for the Time Being” — not just the death of individuals but also the death of the planet. In doing so, she ranges widely, drawing in everything from quantum mechanics and the theory of infinite possibilities in an infinite number of universes to the teachings of the 13th-century Zen master Dogen Zenji. There’s even a crow with possibly magical powers. All are drawn into the stories of two “time beings,” Ruth and Nao, whose own fates are inextricably bound." 

Ruth Ozeki has such a nice voice!  It was peaceful and pleasant and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her talk about her book.  Also, she was lucky enough to be allowed to read her book for the audio version, you can have a listen here.  Even if you don't plan to read this book, you should take a minute or two and have a listen.  Try to make it to the end, she reads the beginning of the novel.

Lesli & Charlie under the dim lights in Rackham

What a fun and memorable evening!  What books do you have on your reading list?  I'm looking for my next adventure with Lady Kindy...

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