Friday, February 15, 2008

How good is David Mitchell?!

I observed back when I read Black Swan Green that David Mitchell appeared to be a prodigiously talented writer. Now that I've read Cloud Atlas I can safely say that my original assessment was a massive understatement and I did Mitchell a great disservice. I don't even know where to begin to describe the masterful tapestry that he has woven, so I won't.

It shall have to suffice to say that he has got to be one of, if not the, most innately talented authors I have ever come across. His mastery of each of the half-dozen completely different voices that he adopts is quite incredible, and the only reason it took me more than one night to read the book was the fact that I had to get up early each morning to drive down to the WACA for the small matter of a Test match.

One contrarian caveat that I must throw in here for clarification. The book itself I found to be excellent, but I'm not sure it's really an all-time-great novel in my own estimation. It's up there near the top of modern literature to be sure, but I'm not sure I'd even rate it above one of my other recent reads, The Time Traveler's Wife.

Perhaps it wasn't wise to read For One More Day right after Cloud Atlas, but in any case, I'm simply glad that I didn't actually spend money on this book. There's nothing egregiously bad about it, but it didn't particularly have anything going for it either. Repetitive and thus predictable, it smacks of a short story masquerading as a novel. An author can pull that off, if he has the sort of literary skills that Mitchell possesses. I suspect even Mitch Albom fans would struggle to say this was a really great piece of work.

The Inheritance of Loss was an interesting read, mostly in that I really struggled to figure out where the author was coming from. Astonishingly, there wasn't a single positive character in the book. Every one of them was in some way a pathetic caricature, and I use that word to emphasise the lack of depth that often existed. Oddly, I found myself wanting to skip chunks of text, and yet continue reading - perhaps an indication that Ms Desai's writing didn't resonate with me, but that the story that might have been told, did? Again, nothing terrible about the book, but not one I'd particularly recommend, and I am stunned that it won the Booker prize! An almost very good book that didn't quite make it.

Jasper Fforde, take a bow. I've been wanting to try Fforde out for a long time, and I finally took the plunge. The Eyre Affair is outrageous stuff, and pure entertainment, but in a quality, rather than cheap way. Light, yet sumptuous, and oestensibly trite, yet captivatingly brilliant. No question I'll be reading his entire collection now, and if you are into your literature, but also enjoy suspending disbelief, then I have little doubt that you will love the neither utopian nor dystopian world that Fforde has created.

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