Sunday, December 16, 2012

Incomplete: Reading log: David Mitchell's _Cloud Atlas_

I am proud to say that, despite my failure to make headway in Heilbron's biography of Galileo (the first 50-some pages of so I've found quite interesting in fact), I am 47% of the way through David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (according to Kindle's wonky pagination--that is a total peeve of mine, but don't get me started).

I read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet earlier this year and enjoyed it, yet I wouldn't say it was a transformative experience, of the like of The Kindly Ones (and yes, I know that I am a broken record about it ... I just really was impressed by that book). Mitchell's characters are always quite interesting, quite real. To use a poor analogy, frequently when I read books the characters I imagine are cartoons, and this to me speaks of a lack of realism in the book. But that is not so with Mitchell's books.   In fact, they seem quite real. These are real persons. And I think that is important.

I do not think that all fiction or all narrative must comply or even should comply with the demand to be "real", and I am not sure what make them real. Certainly it should not be that photographs appear when I read, for then I would be submitting fiction to a visual demand. Or worse, some kind of cinematic demand, but this book would especially deny this.  So realism in this case would require some excess beyond the photographic or cinematic. 

Cloud Atlas is a collection of interweaving narratives, as far as I can tell, in which each new narrative includes references to the previous, as the character or narrator mentions reading the former. I have read to the center narrative, which is apparently the farthest into the future, in some post-apocalyptic time, whereas the others are from the 18th century, the 1930s, the 1970s, present day, and sometime in the 21st century.  After this post-apocalyptic narrative (the phrase used by the Aleksander Hemon in an article in the New Yorker on the Wachowskis' film production of the same), the book returns to each of the previous narratives in counter-chronological order.  And each of the narratives ended, with only a couple of exceptions, at a critical, fatal point.

So this might prove difficult for a film version. In fact, I dread the idea of the Wachowskis' making this film.

And that is all there was of this post.  I offer it for my reader's voracious wants. Not out of completedness.

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