By Hana Zittel
Published Issue 095, November 2021
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (2021)
Nobel prize winning Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel is a heartbreaking and emotional journey through the essence of human experience disguised as dystopian science fiction. Set in the near future, Klara and the Sun centers on Klara, a solar powered Artificial Friend or AF designed to accompany and care for the children of the future.
On display in a shopfront window, Klara’s world centers on the rising and the setting of the sun, as she watches the world unfold learning more and more about her existence and her destined role. When Josie, a young and persistently ill girl sees Klara, she knows at first sight that this is the right AF for her.
Klara is shipped to the girl’s home where she tries to find a place in a complicated family dynamic marred Josie’s persistent illness and the passing of her older sister. The AF is charged with the responsibility of Josie’s well-being, and though by all appearances Klara behaves, learns and feels like a normal child, the swirling social world she has entered never lets her forget her subordinate place or the inability to achieve full emotional recognition by her family.
Kazuo Ishiguro has built a subtle work that muses on the fragility of life, complexity of love, and how class and privilege so deeply alter our existence and interactions. Klara observes people with a closeness that allows her to gain wisdom and understanding of their behavior, but still at a distance that lets her see the deeper undercurrents in each interaction and relationship. She bares witness to the charades humans put on for each other and the deep loneliness that haunts us through our temporary existence.
This novel is a gentle dystopia displaying that even with stark technical advancements humanity still falls prey to our most insular urges and destructive social structures and instincts.
The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us From the Void by Jackie Wang (2021)
Presented as a collection of dreams, Jackie Wang’s debut poetry collection presents poems with incredibly intricate and absurd journeys through her consciousness and perception of the world around her. Wang moves poems in and out of the dream state, some with omnipresent symbolism and imagery on the topics of capitalism, climate change, the apocalypse, performance and queer beauty.
In An Inventory of Scenes From Oneirogenic Herb Dream (a poem preceded by An Inventory of Oneirogenic Herbs and Substances), Wang lists her dream scenes as, “The blood clot on the floor / Guarding the door, trying to protect the blood clot, Screaming GET OUT to the person trying to come into the bathroom / Not having a tampon / Blood dripping down my leg / The window and its terrible translucency / The police officer outside the window.”
In Waiting for Godel, Wang starts with the line, “First of all nobody will survive money,” and goes on to describe a dream where she is taking a test without someone to administer the test, in the cold desert and at a vacant rodeo. Wang moves on to finish the poem:
But I truly believe we’re not waiting to become our better selves, that
we’re already so great as it is. We are aureoled beings doing our being
It’s not so easy being alive
This I know
But sometimes the moon is such that you just kind of slide into the glory
hole that is your life, the brave freewheeling musicality of existence.
Scattered throughout are black and white, rough, and seemingly scribbled drawings done by Kalan Sherrard highlighting lines and scenes from these dream poems. Jackie Wang’s poetry collection feels like an assemblage of beautiful puzzles full of story and symbolism, some to be sifted through for meaning and some to be digested and read for their absurd excellence alone. The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us From the Void has been selected as a finalist for the National Book Award for poetry in 2021.
Hana Zittel is a librarian at the Denver Public Library in addition to being a librarian at the Denver Zine Librarian. She grew up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and pretty much just likes being outside with her pup when she has some free time, and reading, that might have been assumed though.
Check out Hana’s October Birdy installation of Book Club, featuring Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peter and Seeing the Body by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Head to our Explore section for more of her reviews.