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Old 09-19-2018, 02:04 AM   #61
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@Bookworm_Girl. This is the only book by Ishiguro I have read, and quite possibly the only one I ever will read. Personally I didn't see memory as a major theme. To me, memory was the device used to tell the "story", such as it was, but not a major theme in itself. Perhaps I would see things differently had I read some of his other works? But if this work is intended as a stand-alone novel yet a major theme is not apparent from the novel alone, then has the novel failed to at least some extent? Or is memory a major theme of the authors work as opposed to any particular book?
Tonight is the first chance I've had to respond to your questions. Memory is Ishiguro's big subject matter that is prevalent in his works. Because of his awards and decades-long career, there are numerous interviews and videos available to browse. He is very open and so much is out there in "his own words" about the meanings behind his works. I can't "unread" the other books of his (or the interviews that I read in the past) so that influenced how I read Never Let Me Go for sure.

This book was published in the middle of the other books that I have read, which makes it interesting to compare the progression of memory as a subject matter. His earlier works were elderly narrators looking back on their lives with a self-deception and regret about what led them to where they are (unreliable narrators).

I think this book is interesting because it opens with a young women (30-ish) reflecting on school and early adult memories. When you start reading the book, you know that she is transitioning from being a carer, but you don't know all the details. As you discover the details that have been concealed, you realize that although she is young she is reflecting on her memories as she is facing the transition from carer to donor and completion (death). Rather than being remorseful like Ishiguro's other novels, Kathy's memories as she is facing mortality (and the end of her life span) are more comforting. She is reliving her memories of the people closest to her who have left this world before her. Looking at her hanging on to these memories from this perspective gives another meaning to the title "Never Let Me Go." While the clones are outsiders to the rest of their normal world, they do have feelings of friendship and love for each other, even if they have also hurt each other in the past. That's the nature of relationships that there will be positive and negative feelings at times.

In his most recent book, The Buried Giant Ishiguro again focused on an elderly couple. However in this book, he addressed the collective memories of an entire nation and how they may bury the past. As a result, this book switched from first-person to third-person narration.
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Old 09-19-2018, 02:43 AM   #62
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With mortality being one of the themes of this work, I was doing a bit of hunting around for information about life expectancy and came across the Glasgow effect.

First there is the obvious thing (quoted from here): "In Glasgow, the disparity is amongst the highest in the world: life expectancy for males in the heavily deprived Calton area stands at 54, which is 28 years less than in the affluent area of Lenzie, which is only 8 km away."

Notice that the difference is about the expected life span of one of our clones.

There is also (from the first link): "The city's mortality gap was not apparent until 1950 and seems to have widened since the 1970s", which struck me as conveniently in synchronisation with the alternative history of our story. Catlady asked why our protagonists didn't just drive way, we might well ask some Glaswegians the same question. Escape seems obvious to outsiders, it's not so obvious when it's the world you live in.

What I'm getting at here is that Ishiguro constructed a situation in which the protagonists mortality and passivity have been exaggerated so that it seems overtly unfair - and even unreasonable - to the reader, but for all that I keep finding examples that make his story seem less of exaggeration than we might assume.

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Old 09-19-2018, 07:56 AM   #63
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My own thought was why go through the cycles of donations? Not only is that far more expensive, a clone who dies early in the donation cycle is a loss. Why not harvest everything at one fell swoop?
I assume because the clone's organs are only being donated to the person they were cloned from, as needed.

As I said, I didn't re-read it so I can't remember if this is made explicit in this book - probably not given how vague most of the tech stuff is. I certainly inferred that at the time, but that may have been because I'd read things like Michael Marshall Smith's Spares or seen the movie The Island both of which cover similar ground and are much more explicit on the process.
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Old 09-19-2018, 08:04 AM   #64
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In the same way that we breed animals to be passive, perhaps the clones were "bred" to be so.
I assumed this too. It would have been nice to have a line or two to hang it on though

Going back to that interview and how clear Ishiguro is that he wanted to use this as a device to talk about mortality, it becomes obviously necessary that they are passive in the face of their fate, because for the most part we are too*. But that should come out in the text itself and I'm mystified as to why he didn't make the very small effort it would have taken to make this stuff clear.

*the opposite of passivity in this case I think would not just be "raging against the dying of the light" but actively pursuing longevity - which very few people do and those that do are seen as a bit eccentric.
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Old 09-19-2018, 08:44 AM   #65
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I assume because the clone's organs are only being donated to the person they were cloned from, as needed.
My own opinion is that the story doesn't support this, as once the donation cycle starts the clone is on a fast track to completion, it seems, and most recipients won't require a lot of organs. Also, the point is made about how many diseases have been conquered by use of clone donors and not everyone's got a clone (as Dazrin pointed out above).

But you're saying that has recalled to me that the clones seem to understand on some level that they've been cloned from human "trash," so to speak, in the morality of the universe. Whores, thieves, and so forth. Yet another passing suggestion of underlying issues, since it shows that cloning, while accepted, is still found to be somewhat morally dubious. "Good people" don't have clones and the dross of humanity can be assumed to have either compromised souls or have lost them, I suppose.

Since the clones seem to have a good interior understanding of their situation even when not openly acknowledged, I have no reason to suspect that they've got this wrong. Ruth's "possible" was seen as wishful thinking, but that's the point of "wishful."
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:04 AM   #66
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I haven't watched the Ishiguro video yet and I may not. I don't care what an author thinks of his work or what he was trying to convey. If he has to spell it out, then it was a failure (for me, obviously, and maybe I was just obtuse). I'm a staunch adherent of the school that says that a work has to stand on its own merits.

That said, if I liked and/or valued a work, I'm generally interested in an author's take on it and perhaps it will deepen my understanding of it. But the author's comments won't change a book I didn't like into one I do.
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:10 AM   #67
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This discussion about lack of credibility in the donation process is illustrative of one of the books biggest weaknesses, or from a different perspective one of its biggest strengths. The book is not about the cloning process or the science. The world in which it is set is probably one of the most sketchy dystopian worlds I have ever come across. But I don't believe that the author was lazy. It was quite deliberate. The author clearly wanted to write about particular things, and that's what he did. Personally I don't think it worked very well, but opinions differ.

The author left us to fill in the details ourselves almost completely. How we did so is a big factor in whether we found the book at all realistic. I think if we look to the actual state of medical science the organ donation is a nonsense. In the real world organs are essentially used for one thing. Transplant directly from a donor to a recipient. Organ transplants do not cure cancer or other diseases unconnected with the organs function. Nor can organs be used to create miracle cures. This effectively blows criticisms of the credibility of the donation process out of the water. Our science does not apply. In the book organs are harvested for research. They are harvested for miracle cures, perhaps for use in drug production. We just don't know. We do know that they are needed to cure otherwise incurable diseases in some unexplained manner. We simply don't know whether there is some medical reason for the donation process. It is not hard to imagine such reasons. The author just wanted to tell a particular story.
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:14 AM   #68
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I haven't watched the Ishiguro video yet and I may not. I don't care what an author thinks of his work or what he was trying to convey. If he has to spell it out, then it was a failure (for me, obviously, and maybe I was just obtuse). I'm a staunch adherent of the school that says that a work has to stand on its own merits.

That said, if I liked and/or valued a work, I'm generally interested in an author's take on it and perhaps it will deepen my understanding of it. But the author's comments won't change a book I didn't like into one I do.
Personally I couldn't agree more, though others do take a different view. I did watch the video well after I read the book, and quite frankly I don't think the author achieved what he set out to do.
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Old 09-19-2018, 09:17 AM   #69
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I didn't need to find the book realistic, necessarily, but I thought the background to this was too nebulous. It's a delicate balance; I'm also not fond of books where the author spells out everything, seemingly not confident of the reader's ability to flesh things out. The author needs to have a thorough understanding of his world and then convey enough to suggest a coherent and consistent universe and no more. Implication and indirect are what I look for.

In fact, Ishiguro blew it both ways, AFAIC. Too slight a framework for the issues he wanted to suggest, and then that horrible info dump at the end.
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Old 09-19-2018, 10:13 AM   #70
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My own opinion is that the story doesn't support this, as once the donation cycle starts the clone is on a fast track to completion, it seems, and most recipients won't require a lot of organs. Also, the point is made about how many diseases have been conquered by use of clone donors and not everyone's got a clone (as Dazrin pointed out above).
Fair enough. As I say I haven't read it recently and my memory is infected with other sources.

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I haven't watched the Ishiguro video yet and I may not. I don't care what an author thinks of his work or what he was trying to convey.
I tend to agree but it's sometimes interesting to compare an author's intent with the result. And especially here where the author is being very clear that he cares about some things and not others.

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If he has to spell it out, then it was a failure (for me, obviously, and maybe I was just obtuse). I'm a staunch adherent of the school that says that a work has to stand on its own merits.
Agree.

Never Let Me Go definitely works for me as whole, but that side of it detracts a little.
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Old 09-19-2018, 10:21 AM   #71
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I did feel that the explanations provided by Miss Emily were the worst part of the book (but not bad enough to spoil it for me). There was not enough information in there to satisfy those seeking the sorts of detail we see in this thread, and there was more than was really needed by those content to accept the world as presented. I had been fascinated by the way Ishiguro had revealed the world prior to this, simply but so effectively that by the time we were seated in front of Miss Emily I was trying to work out what we were doing there; what could she possibly say - that actually mattered - that we didn't already know? I say "we" because as far as I can tell the protagonists felt the same way: all Miss Emily did was confirm what we'd already surmised. I think this may have been why the explanations exist, not to tell us anything new, but to highlight the futility of the explanations.

And remember that our protagonists are only looking for a delay. They are not expecting or asking for a total reprieve from their fate. That they got nothing came as no surprise to anyone. It didn't seem sad as such, not when it was only what had been expected, but I could appreciate the inarticulate rage expressed by Tommy after this meeting.

Tommy's rages reminded me of the screaming on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album. For so much of the book they're sort of distant, background noises, something we're told about rather than witnessing, and it's only after the meeting with Miss Emily that it comes into full voice - but still inarticulate; there seems nowhere he can direct this rage, and never has been.
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Old 09-19-2018, 10:28 AM   #72
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Fair enough. As I say I haven't read it recently and my memory is infected with other sources.
I was glad you made the comment, because it got me thinking about how the "possibles" were already seen as the dross of society. Thus the clones were part of a continuum of humanity and not just an "other."

Then one can wonder what made people become possibles? Coercion? Part of the punishment inflicted by society for their crimes? Payment? All of the above?
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Old 09-19-2018, 10:50 AM   #73
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But how would they live? They haven’t been trained to do anything in order to earn a living. They have been kept, like farm animals. I don’t think they had any real options, as they wouldn’t have anyone to help them.

If they tried to get some sort of job, it would probably become clear very quickly from their inability to do anything, that they were clones, and they would have been handed over to the authorities.
They can drive. As carers, they've been in the real world and should have acquired basic real-world skills--handling money, cooking, whatever. They can read and write. They've been taught to "pass" and apparently do.

There's no suggestion that ANY clone has ever tried to leave and been dragged back and punished for it, providing some deterrent for the others. We do know that couples keep trying to get the imaginary deferrals, and the belief in those deferrals continues, which indicates a desire to escape their fate. Yet none of those disappointed couples ever try to run away?

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@Catlady. My reaction to the book was very similar to yours. Though I was able to suspend my disbelief I found the lack of background and detail and the deliberate vagueness very frustrating. And the essential lack of plot. It was just about everything I hate in a lot of literary fiction. Ironically, your objections on the basis of credibility are the same objections that many lovers of Science Fiction would have. I'm most impressed that you got through it.
In terms of plot, I would have preferred a story about a clone and a "normal" person falling in love and trying to escape--hardly original, but still a structure to allow a consideration of whatever themes the author wanted to explore.

I was especially annoyed with the information dump--the whole find-and-talk-to-Madame scenario raised my expectations of a significant reveal in the offing. But it was a whole lot of nothing.

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With mortality being one of the themes of this work, I was doing a bit of hunting around for information about life expectancy and came across the Glasgow effect.
<snip>
Catlady asked why our protagonists didn't just drive way, we might well ask some Glaswegians the same question. Escape seems obvious to outsiders, it's not so obvious when it's the world you live in.

What I'm getting at here is that Ishiguro constructed a situation in which the protagonists mortality and passivity have been exaggerated so that it seems overtly unfair - and even unreasonable - to the reader, but for all that I keep finding examples that make his story seem less of exaggeration than we might assume.
Interesting, but I don't find it analogous. There's a huge difference between living somewhere with an average low life expectancy, and, in our book, knowing you are going to be chopped up on an operating table and die because of it. One is a maybe, the other is a certainty. And I'm sure that some people do move out of Glasgow; none of the clones try to escape.

Rather than passivity, I would have liked to see in the clones an exaggerated sense of altruism. Suppose they'd been taught to be self-sacrificing and noble, to feel they were performing a great service to humanity--which they are. I think that would have been a lot more interesting, but there's nothing to support it in the novel.
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:03 AM   #74
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In terms of plot, I would have preferred a story about a clone and a "normal" person falling in love and trying to escape--hardly original, but still a structure to allow a consideration of whatever themes the author wanted to explore.
I assumed that the distances between the carers' patients and the time the carers spent on the road was to limit the opportunities for relationships with "normals," particularly those involved in the donor business. Similarly, the role of the carer also was to limit that possibility, but in the other direction - limiting the contact of the "normals" with the donators. But:

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I think that would have been a lot more interesting, but there's nothing to support it in the novel.
This is the problem of the book for me in a nutshell. There's not much in the book to support any sustained thesis at all.
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:18 AM   #75
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Originally Posted by issybird View Post
... the clones seem to understand on some level that they've been cloned from human "trash," so to speak, in the morality of the universe. Whores, thieves, and so forth. Yet another passing suggestion of underlying issues, since it shows that cloning, while accepted, is still found to be somewhat morally dubious. "Good people" don't have clones and the dross of humanity can be assumed to have either compromised souls or have lost them, I suppose.
Cloning the "trash" didn't make much sense to me--in the unethical society the author has created, why not just use the existing trashy members as the donors; why waste time and effort to grow clones of these dregs of society?

It seems more realistic for rich people to have clones--so that if they need a new organ, they've got a perfect match in reserve. They pay for the cloning and the housing of the clone till needed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by darryl View Post
In the real world organs are essentially used for one thing. Transplant directly from a donor to a recipient. Organ transplants do not cure cancer or other diseases unconnected with the organs function. Nor can organs be used to create miracle cures. This effectively blows criticisms of the credibility of the donation process out of the water. Our science does not apply. In the book organs are harvested for research. They are harvested for miracle cures, perhaps for use in drug production. We just don't know. We do know that they are needed to cure otherwise incurable diseases in some unexplained manner. We simply don't know whether there is some medical reason for the donation process. It is not hard to imagine such reasons. The author just wanted to tell a particular story.
Fine, but then why not dump the donation business and say the clones are used for scientific research or drug experiments? Why use the concept of organ donation that simply doesn't fit the scenario and only muddies the waters?
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