I’m breaking up with post-modern writers. At least for a while. It’s too exhausting reading their prose and trying to figure out their plots.
I finally finished reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. It took me almost a month to finish this book partly because it was so laborious and partly because it was rather dull. I’m completely OVER the meta-narrative.
From the New Yorker:
“Mitchell’s virtuosic novel presents six narratives that evoke an array of genres, from Melvillean high-seas drama to California noir and dystopian fantasy. There is a naïve clerk on a nineteenth-century Polynesian voyage; an aspiring composer who insinuates himself into the home of a syphilitic genius; a journalist investigating a nuclear plant; a publisher with a dangerous best-seller on his hands; and a cloned human being created for slave labor. These five stories are bisected and arranged around a sixth, the oral history of a post-apocalyptic island, which forms the heart of the novel. Only after this do the second halves of the stories fall into place, pulling the novel’s themes into focus: the ease with which one group enslaves another, and the constant rewriting of the past by those who control the present. Against such forces, Mitchell’s characters reveal a quiet tenacity. When the clerk is told that his life amounts to ‘no more than one drop in a limitless ocean,’ he asks, ‘Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?'”
I think I’d sum up this book with one word: exhausting. Mitchell tried too hard. Yes, he’s a ventriloquist, and often, impressively so. But, as my friend Sally always says, it’s like he’s saying “Look, Mom. I can write!”
In fact, one of his characters, the aspiring composer, decided to write a symphony that resembles the plot outline of the book, and even he says: “Spent the fortnight gone in the music room reworking my year’s fragments into a ‘sextet for overlapping soloists’: piano, clarinet, ‘cello, flute, oboe, and violin, each in its own language of key, scale, and color. In the first set, each solo is interrupted by its successor; in the second, each interruption is recontinued, in order. Revolutionary or gimmicky? Shan’t know until it’s finished, and by then it’ll be too late.”
Well written Mitchell. And yes, it is gimmicky.
Dammit. I feel like I just wasted a month of my life. But I’m thankful I’m finally DONE.
I can’t take that month back, but I am NOT reading another post-modern novel for a long time.
Rather, I’m going to saturate my brain with what I’ve been hearing about for years and never picked up to read: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.Good time ahead, I’m sure.