Wednesday, July 07, 2004


The fourth section of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas reads like a lost chapter from Martin Amis's The Information. I'm not sure whether to be aghast at the sheer gall of Mitchell to steal from The Amis in such a blatant fashion, or to wonder if he is intentionally taking liberties for reasons that are to become apparent once all the disparate sections of the book start to meld and provide further insight. I'm going to lean toward the presumption that it is an intentional device, if only to give the benefit of the doubt to Mitchell, whose latest offering is at once confusing and enthralling. However, it becomes less confusing after peeking at the cataloguing-in-publication data, where one can see that the assigned subject headings are 'Fate & Fatalism--Fiction' and 'Reincarnation--Fiction'. Mysterious no more, I am suddenly positive that all of these separate lives and times will lose their disconnected nature if I persevere.

I must admit that the book had me in its clutches by the second chapter, wherein the letter-writing protagonist stumbles upon the century-old journal of the first chapter's protagonist. For reasons unknown, this kind of stuff makes me weak in the knees. It must have something to do with the private nature of letters and journals, and how their potentially sensitive content is suddenly revealed, along with any secrets that we may also hope to find.

Speaking of secrets, I won't reveal any more arising from this book, unless you insist, in which case I can direct you to A.S. Byatt's review at The Guardian.

*O.S.E., not to be confused with B.S.E., is the scientific name applied to the syndrome wherein creatures of the ovine** persuasion begin to unthinkingly behave as other ovines do, resulting in little original thought.

**Thanks to The Amis for an introduction to this multilaterally capable and fine word.

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