What’s Nocturne all about?:
Nocturne explores how physical appearance can be everything to be noticed in the Hollywood celebrity world. Our main character, Steve, is a talented saxophonist who has never made it big musically speaking until he is told that it is due to the way he looks.
What did I think?:
Nocturne could quite possibly be my favourite story in this collection. The theme surrounding all these tales appears to involve music and the jaded aspirations of the characters that feel that they have never really achieved their dream. Take our main character Steve, a brilliant saxophonist who has played with several bands and discovers real beauty in his music, yet according to his agent and soon to be ex-wife, it is because he is not blessed with the “movie-star looks,” that seem to be crucial to securing fame and fortune in the fickle Hollywood world. For example, in the words of his painfully honest agent:
“Billy’s ugly all right. But he’s sexy, bad guy ugly. You, Steve, you’re… Well, you’re dull, loser ugly. The wrong kind of ugly.”
Charming right? Steve does not even find comfort from his wife, who is leaving him for a guy she has held a torch for for many years. She embraces him, steps back regarding him deeply and considers, then actually agrees with his agent! But all is not lost – the man she is leaving him for feels bad about the whole situation (stealing his wife etc) and has offered to pay for him to have a full facial transformation under the best plastic surgeon that money can buy, a Dr Boris, surgeon to the stars who lets his patients recover on a special floor of an exclusive hotel where the press hounds cannot get to them. At first, Steve is appalled by the idea of changing his face to kick-start his career, but eventually he gives in and finds himself in the hotel, neighbour to no less than Lindy Gardner, a notorious celebrity who has a fabulous career, fantastic bank balance, a fresh face every so often and a few divorces under her belt. Steve’s agent is practically salivating when he finds out and insists that he remains on friendly terms with Lindy, as she could do so much for his career. I particularly love this quote from Steve which I find incredibly poignant regarding today’s celebrity culture:
“The week before, I’d been a jazz musician. Now I was just another pathetic hustler, getting my face fixed in a bid to crawl after the Lindy Gardners of this world into vacuous celebrity.”
They do become friends of sorts, and have a few interesting conversations about the celebrity world. Steve even gets the confirmation he has always dreamed of when Lindy listens to one of his CD’s and pronounces him “a genius.” The rest of the story is hilarious in parts, as the two set off on adventures around the hotel yet also bitter sweet as it comes near the time when the bandages are due to come off. For me, it was a beautiful and funny account of what one man will do to achieve his lifelong ambition. I felt myself switching from different emotions while reading it – some parts made me quite cross, others quite sad and others I just had to laugh at! Wonderful writing style as always with Kazuo Ishiguro who continues to surprise me with every story I read.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter by Angela Slatter from the collection A Book Of Horrors