In her blog post on the titular story from Yoko Ogawa's collection of novellas, Amber Qureshi discusses the author's unique use of rhythm and imagery and posits some questions for discussion. For links to other essays in this book club series, go to the bottom of the page, and do feel free to join in with your comments about reading Ogawa.—Editors
I'm fascinated by Yoko Ogawa's brilliant use of rhythm in her writing, a talent that Stephen Snyder has done a fine job of preserving in translation. There is a haunting and elegant cadence in such descriptions as follows: “The coffee cups were lined up neatly in the cupboard. The white dish towels were drying on the rack. A patch of frozen blue sky was visible through the window,” in “Pregnancy Diary”; “I attempted analogies [to describe a sound]: the icy murmur of a fountain in winter when a coin sinks to the bottom; the quaking of the fluid in the inner ear as you get off a merry-go-round; the sound of the night passing through the palm of your hand still gripping the phone after your lover hangs up,” in “Dormitory”; “I flipped through the dictionary at random, studying the…illustrations: an albatross, a still, a wood box, a waffle iron,” in “The Diving Pool”. Nowhere is this attention to timing more evident and appropriate than in the story “The Diving Pool,” in which style and form follow narrative function in a manner as seamless and organic as, well, a medal-winning plunge off an Olympic springboard.
How does Ogawa use language to convey emotion in this story? Why does the narrator, Aya, take so much comfort in the actions and movements of Jun, and, in contrast, how is the behavior of little Rie, Reiko, or Aya's mother described through Aya's eyes? How do you think Jun feels about Aya, and how aware do you think he is of her feelings for him? From your sense of his life, why do you think Jun exhibits so much loyalty, patience and dedication to his own passions and to the Light House that raised him? Having grown up in the same place, why do you think Aya has such a different attitude? A related question: Jun clearly derives a great deal of faith and stability from his routines—why does Aya seem to derive so much insecurity and fear from the same lifestyle? Aya's appreciation for sheer aesthetics, the “line of beauty” as Alan Hollinghurst has popularized in allusion to Hogarth, in Jun's diving, is profound and eloquent and, again, beautifully expressed by Ogawa in the choreography of her narrative; does this appreciation extend to other aspects of Aya's life? Why or why not? Do you think that Jun will forgive Aya for what she did to Rie? Do you think that Aya will forgive herself? Feel free to discuss these and other topics to continue our discussion of The Diving Pool.
Previous posts in this series:
Allison Powell talks about The Diving Pool
Amber Qureshi's introduction to Yoko Ogawa
Stephen Snyder's interview with Amber Qureshi
The video from the Idlewild discussion of The Diving Pool
Austin Woerner blogs about the Idlewild discussion.
Amber Qureshi discusses “Pregnancy Diary” in her second post for our online book club.