I’ve now read all of David Mitchell’s novels and I can comfortably say Slade House is the worst.* (I’ve read all of Mitchell’s books because he is a giant of excellence and incredible and even though this book isn’t great you should read all of his books and that’s that.) At first blush a spooky haunted house story, the novel takes a strange – and not well executed – turn when it wraps everything up in the neat mythology of the (exceptional and genius) The Bone Clocks. Continue reading
Tag Archives: David Mitchell
I know I rave about books all the time. I’ve been called out more than once by N. for overselling a book that’s only really good. Not the case with David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. This novel is genius. Extraordinary in so many ways: in its approach to genre, to plot, to character.In its hyper-imaginative renderings of the near future world and of the past. It’s a book that asks about mortality, familial-responsibility, ecological-responsibility, identity and grief. It’s a book that gives the finger to genre tick-boxes and plots made-for-movies. It revels in the brilliant beauty of its own writing without being showy. It’s exuberant in the possibilities for the novel as a form and for readers as enthusiastic consumers of imagined worlds and people. Continue reading
Away for work with no laptop, and so a proper post is impossible at the moment, but I wanted to get down a few thoughts about David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas before I forget (for those counting I only have one Mitchell novel left, which I may save for the day i recognize as the worst day of my life so that I might have something to live for/look forward to. He is so. Brilliant. I like just knowing there is
more of his genius for me to discover. that promise (both the potential and the guarantee) – withheld – makes my life more livable).
I want to remember the form – a mess of genres, narrative points of view and forms. The theme of servitude: to ideals, people, corporations, history (but not love). The idea of ascension – that we (people, characters) might be evolving in a way that keeps us the same even while we strive to be/do better. The idea of reliance, that if we are to make it/survive it will only be after trusting in someone else, knowing we will be betrayed, but in the time before betrayal that we might make/do something great or lasting. That we lose ourselves in moments of beauty – that in reading this book we find ourselves presented with one such moment – a space to forget the petty, insular problems of a particular time and place, and transcend form, genre, and *self* in a way that allows the briefest recognition of beauty. That is what the characters do, and that is what Mitchell offers his readers. And we rely on him to take us somewhere higher then we had been before. And he, unlike his characters, doesn’t betray that faith, but really did leave this reader with a greater expectation for what is beautiful, for what great art can do.
So normally I’m not so interested in dream sequences in books. I find them distracting, or a sort of discount warehouse for the novel’s symbols. But the opening dream sequences of David Mitchell’s number9dream, and every dream sequence that follows, so blurs the line between dream-reality and so thoughtfully provokes questions about the purpose of dreams in our lives (dreams here as both our aspirations and our night time wanderings) that rather than sighing and soldiering through the sequences I found myself relishing them.
Our protagonist’s – Eiji – quest to find and meet his father ostensibly structures the book in a quest narrative that involves the usual host of demons to slay (in this case those in the Japanese mafia), helpful collaborators, and distracting side-adventures. While I’d rather not give much away in terms of the climax, I will say that it is not – as one might realize early on in the novel – a climax of plot, and more a climax of character, as Eiji comes to realize what is expected of him as a son, a brother, a lover, a man.
On this subject – the slippery roles of Eiji-as-man – I issue one of my few complaints about this book, and that is that intimate relationships aren’t consummated in a described physical encounter. The long anticipated reunion with Eiji’s mother, for instance, is only narrated after the fact (and briefly) in a way that makes this reader wonder whether it ever happened. And the intimate – or potentially intimate – relationship between Eiji and Ai is similarly evanescent. So in writing this complaint I realize that it should perhaps be better put as praise, as once again Mitchell adds a layer to the question of what we can know for sure in this text – what we can know for sure in our lives and relationships. Are these ephemeral relationships not the perfect representation of how we know and interact with one another? through declarations, through descriptions and narrations of the story of our relationships – the story of our lives – and perhaps only ever in the remembrance of the physical, the memory of once having touched. Hmm.
So my other minor complaint (which I am happy to have resolved by a more attentive reader): what’s the deal with the computer virus/mafia organ/corruption plot line?
As for the ubiquity of the number 9 in the text – it really is everywhere – and its supposed ‘unluckiness’ (wikipedia tells me that it is unlucky because of its similarity to ‘pain’ or ‘distress’) I can’t say that 9 operates consistently as an either lucky or unlucky symbol, more as a kind of anchor that reminds the reader both to pay attention, and that these kinds of superstitious or serendipitous (so much of the plot relies on unlikely encounters) may be all that can be relied upon in a reality as slippery and unpredictable as ours.
So the first book of 2012 is a triumph of gorgeous language: Mitchell consistently delivers beautiful writing that really does make this reader feel X – nope, just feel. number9dream reads, as a whole, like a dream itself – the unexpectedness of events, the sharpness of some details and the opacity of other major events, the acceptance of the illogical without demand or want of explanation, the fleeting appearance of characters, the lingering feeling on waking – or closing the book – that something significant just transpired, but the reluctance to say just (or only) what.