A Badger Tale

Go Big Read novel spans the globe via two characters.

A Tale for the Time Being is the powerful story of the right book falling into the right readers’ hands.

Ruth Ozeki’s novel hooked Go Big Read selection committee members with an inventive narrative that alternates between two characters: a Canadian novelist and a Japanese teenager. Now on its fifth book, UW–Madison’s common-reading program this year is focused on a theme of global connections, and A Tale for the Time Being seemed a perfect fit.

The story begins when a diary washes up on a remote Canadian island following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Ozeki, who is also a documentary filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest, draws on history, myth, quantum physics, and Zen philosophy as the diary’s author and its reader try to find meaning in their lives.

Ozeki relied on the work of UW anthropology professor Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney to help create one of her characters, a kamikaze pilot who is the great uncle of the book’s teenage narrator. Ohnuki-Tierney has written two books about the letters and diaries of the kamikaze pilots who were conscripted from Japan’s top universities to fight in World War II.

Author Ruth Ozeki’s father attended the UW in the 1940s. Photo: Penguin Group.

The author, who visited campus in October to meet with students and give a public talk, has another connection to Madison that she says made the selection of her novel this year “extra special.”

Her father, Floyd Lounsbury ’41, MA’46, was a linguist who studied at the UW before and after serving in World War II. He led a research effort funded by the Work Projects Administration that produced detailed accounts of Oneida life and developed a nineteen-letter written alphabet of the tribe’s language.

Published in the Winter 2013 issue


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