Today’s post may make more sense if you read this one first. Then again, it may not…
[The camera fades in from black to reveal a quiet restaurant; not full, not empty. A few people are standing chatting at the bar over drinks – dinner jackets and cocktail dresses aplenty. We start to zoom in gently to the entrance, on the left of our picture. Tony is walking into the restaurant, chatting to a middle-aged man of Asian appearance as they make their way to a table in the corner. From the right, a tall, gaunt waiter approaches unhurriedly and elegantly, carrying two burgundy leather-bound menus with Fusion Lit Bistro written on the front in gold script. The name tag on his jacket is, as always, blank. He stops neatly at Tony’s table and offers the menu to the newly-arrived guests.
Waiter: [Bowing] Good evening, sir. Nice to see you here again.
Tony: Thank you! [Smiles] I had such an enjoyable meal last time that…
Waiter: [Addressing Tony’s companion] Yes, always nice to have you here Mr. Ishiguro. Our guests do so enjoy your creations – delectable one and all.
[He hands the menu to Ishiguro, who opens it and peruses the offerings. Tony goes to take the other menu, only for the waiter to absent-mindedly swap it to his other hand and tuck it under his arm, causing Tony to overbalance slightly and bang his elbow on the table.]
Ishiguro: [Handing the menu back to the waiter] I think, on the whole, as it is the reason we are meeting, I would like to try The Unconsoled here. Lightly poached, please. [He nods to the waiter.] Thank you, Stevens.
Waiter: [Bows] An excellent choice sir.
Tony: [Rubbing his elbow with barely concealed irritation] I’ll have The Unconsoled too, Stevens, medium-rare please…
Waiter: [With a look of great disdain] That doesn’t surprise me at all… And no.
Tony: But, but… he… [Pointing to Ishiguro, who is casually surveying the restaurant’s interior] …he called you Stevens.
Waiter: A man of Mr. Ishiguro’s talents can call me what he wants. If he so desires, I’m happy to answer to Betty. [Tony opens his mouth to speak.] Don’t. Even. Think. About. It. [Tony slumps back in his seat, slightly abashed.]
[The waiter strides off into the distance carrying the two menus, muttering something to himself which could be construed as ‘imbecile bloggers’. Tony sits in his place, apparently counting to ten under his breath, then turns to his dinner partner.]
Tony: So, tell me a little about today’s choice then, it sounds rather intriguing…
Ishiguro: [Smiling] Well, it is rather different from my usual fare, a little more surreal, one might say. Eastern European undertones, a man not quite sure why he is where he is, dream-like excursions through the chill night… I rather think it’s one to be judged on reflection, as a whole, not evaluated in a single mouthful, as it were…
[He is interrupted by the return of the waiter, who carefully lays down two objects on the table.]
Waiter: I thought, sir, that these amuse-bouches would complement your choice…
Tony: [Peering across] What have you brought us this time, Gustav? [The waiter glares at Tony, who sits back in his seat and suddenly finds the need to examine his nails in minute detail.]
Waiter: [To Ishiguro] A pair of minor delights, A Family Supper and A Village after Dark – these should whet the appetite. [He bows and then strides off, glancing once, disdainfully, over his shoulder at Tony as he leaves.]
Ishiguro: Please try these. They’re not high-class creations, but I’m fairly happy with them. A Village after Dark is a sort of preparation for the main course, an interim stage towards creating The Unconsoled. A Family Supper, on the other hand is a little Japanese something I whipped up.
[Tony tries the two items carefully.]
Tony: Mmm, very nice. Delicate and yet unmistakeably from the same creator. [He looks to one side as if thinking.] Definitely a hint of seafood in A Family Supper – perhaps…
[Tony gags momentarily, before recovering and taking a sip of water. The waiter returns with the main course, and the two men set to their task in silence. Later, the waiter returns to take the remnants away, and the two diners sit back in their chairs.]
Ishiguro: So, what did you think?
It was wonderful! As you said, very complex, not one for the casual diner. From the first mouthful, there were strong undertones of Kafka, especially The Castle
, but the more you allow it to linger on the taste-buds, the more original and bolder it becomes. Definitely hints of dream analysis there, lots of Freudian touches, sublimation and condensation and all that – intriguing use of location, allowing our friend Ryder to move from one building to another easily, even when they are apparently miles away.
Ishiguro: And what did you think of the family element?
Tony: [Enthusiastically] Oh, I loved that, I loved the way that the whole thing read like a session of psycho-analysis for Ryder. You could see the various characters and families as different aspects of Ryder himself, trying to work through his family issues, step-fathers, alcoholism. Really excellent! But…
Tony: Well… [Pauses] Don’t you think it’s a little… at times, I mean… all a little too…
Ishiguro: [Leaning forward] Yes?
[Ishiguro leans back, a frown settling upon his hitherto placid features. Tony waits nervously, the fear of having offended his companion written all over his furrowed brow. Ishiguro finally sighs and gestures at the restaurant around him.]
Ishiguro: So, you’re discussing a novel in an imaginary restaurant – with a writer you’ve never met – just to avoid writing a proper review? And I’m the ‘gimmicky’ one?
[He stands up, nods curtly, and disappears in the direction of the exit. Tony sighs and slumps back in his chair. Moments later, the waiter walks up to the table. He takes a leather folder and places it abruptly on the table.]
Tony: [Roused from his stupor] What, sorry, what’s this?
Waiter: The bill. [Raises one eyebrow] Sir.
Tony: [Confused] But.. but, I thought this was on Mr. Ishiguro…
Waiter: Apparently, he has changed his mind. [Smiles] Although if money is a problem, we do have a lot of dishes waiting to be washed…
Tony: [Standing up] Come on then, Brodsky, let’s get this over with.
Waiter: As you wish, sir. [Scowls] And not even close.
[They walk towards the kitchen – Tony appears to be throwing more and more names at the irritated waiter as the screen fades to black…]