Monday, May 21, 2007

I should definitely be reading this more carefully.

Today I bought 3 books from The Strand for a little over $17. I am pleased with myself.

Anyway, I started Ghostwritten a couple of days ago. Cloud Atlas is the award-winning one, but I've been meaning to pick this one up for awhile, so I decided to go with this one first. So far I'm finding it enjoyable enough. I like multiple narratives, and it's kind of fun to try to fit the narratives together, see how they're linked, considering they are all very separate stories. I just got through the "Holy Mountain" narrative, and so far, that one and the Tokyo narrative are my favorites.

But okay, let's go through narrative by narrative, for the sake of me remembering my own thoughts.

Okinawa. Creepy. Creepy creepy creepy is all I can say. I wasn't so into this, and even though the mind of the cult dude is somewhat compelling, I think it could have been done a little less robotically. It blends too much with the other narratives, despite his distinct use of creepy ideas and words and thoughts. I do like the moment where he contemplates this baby and mother that he sees on the train before he lets out the gas though. This glimpse of remorse. Like maybe he hopes the baby made it. But if I were someone who didn't force myself through books, I might have stopped early because of this narrative. I don't know. I just didn't like it all that much. Maybe it was a little too weird to just start off on.

Tokyo. Loved this. Loved the way music (and, because I'm muscially stunted in my growth, I didn't know a lot of the artists) is woven into the narrative to demonstrate his state of mind. I'm sure it would mean more to me if I knew all of the artists, but anyway. The books. His little world of records. The other characters, and their stories. The people in his life, the surrogate family.

And I love his relationship with this girl. Love the passage when he sees the girl, the way he mentally hopes she'll turn around and look at him. How he thinks she pulses, "invisibly, like a quasar." The details of the short time he spends with this girl that lives in his memory, the way he remembers them so vividly. The way he won't have sex with her just yet, because "we could have done it", because "sex would have closed an entrance behind us and opened an exit ahead of us." How wonderful and innocent and fragile, this love. "If not love, then what?" he asks.

And I really like this passage about cherry blossoms:
"The last of the cherry blossom. On the tree, it turns ever more perfect. And when it's perfect, it falls. And then of course once it hits the ground it gets all mushed up. So it's only absolutely perfect when it's falling through the air, this way and that, for the briefest time..."
--[pg. 59, Ghostwritten]

Something very honest and true about this, about how perfection is so shortlived, but the beauty is in that single moment.

In any case, I loved this narrative.

Hong Kong. Strange British dude with a lot of problems, including a ghost problem and a disturbing affair with a maid. For the most part, I wasn't too fond of this section, only because I thought the guy was crazy and I wasn't having the best time following all his craziness. I did, however, like this one little bit here:

"The garbage man growled, and repeated the same words, slowly, and louder, at me.
"What's he saying?"
"He's begging."
How much does he want?" A stupid question.
"He's not begging for money."
"What's he begging for?"
"He's begging for time."
"Why does he do that?"
"He thinks you're wasting yours, so you must have plenty to spare."
--[pg. 95, Ghostwritten]

What a wonderful little piece of dialogue. I can just see this rich HK banker, being told by a bum that he's wasting what's given to him.

Holy Mountain. This I loved. Because instead of a little snippet, it followed this woman through her whole life, almost dreamily, through all the tragedy of the turmoil China was going through at the time, and how it affected her even though she was in this remote area so far away from everything that was going on. And yet it kept coming to her doorstep, bringing her tragedy again and again and again. The poetry of it is really beautiful, the way she keeps rebuilding everything, how she stays strong throughout. The dreamy bookending of her as a girl, seeing an old woman through the mist, and her as an old woman, seeing a young girl through the mist. The way events are explained so matter-of-factly, and yet with so much beauty and lyricism and magic. I don't remember a particular passage that I wanted to highlight in particular, but a lot of it is really nicely written. It also makes me hate that era of China so much, the things that happened then. But really, a very nicely done narrative here.


So I like what I'm reading so far - I think there's multiple layers in his writing, things that you could pick at if you took the time to read everything carefully. I feel like it warrants a much more careful reading than I am giving it, and I'm probably skipping or missing a lot of things, but even on the surface, it smacks of something intricate and intelligent. A complaint I have is that while the passages are distinct, they're not as completely distinct as I would like. Maybe that's the David Mitchell underlying voice he can't get away from, but the whole time I am very aware of his style that doesn't change that much despite the shift in voice. I would have liked it to be much more distinct. However, I do feel that this book has just a lot to it, little pieces of puzzle, little lines to ponder over. If only I were being more careful in my reading. I really do want to see how everything fits together eventually though. It's been pretty fun in just finding the one little link that matches all of them, but I'd like to see how it all ties together in the end.

Okay, enough book talk for one night. Time to sleep!

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