Monday 4 August 2008

David Mitchell is so dreamy

One of the questions my Reading Lamp subjects are able to choose from addresses who their literary boyfriend or girlfriend is - this person can be either real or a character - and if real, either dead or alive.

Renaissance playwright, poet, and general bad boy Christopher Marlowe used to be my boyfriend. When I was introduced to David Mitchell, however, I let Marlowe down as gently as I could and immediately shacked up with Mitchell. So far, he's been a model partner, unlike Marlowe who was in the bad habit of getting into bar brawls which culminated in his knife being sheathed in his own eye.

I think Mitchell is by far one of the best writers working in English right now and it's a bloody crime that he hasn't won the Booker yet. I might respect the Booker a little more if it was capable of appreciating and rewarding Mitchell's genius. (I also want him to get the money so he can keep writing like crazy, and go on research trips to Japan, or wherever else he might need to go.)

But about number9dream. I've had this book for quite some time but was rationing it. I'd already read Mitchell's three other novels and know his new one won't be out until 2009 sometime. I was trying to keep it in reserve so that I wouldn't have to wait too long between Mitchell reads - even though now, having read number9dream, I'll be waiting 2-3 years between Mitchell reads. Le gigantic sigh.

number9dream is Mitchell's second novel and I've gotten two clashing reviews from two other Mitchell freaks I know. V. said she wasn't as wowed by number9dream as she was by his other novels, while K. forcefully and wistfully (because, having read it already, she no longer has it to look forward to) asserted that number9dream was Mitchell's best.

I'm not sure I can make such judgments. Mitchell's genius manifests so differently in each book that I feel unable to compare them. Cloud Atlas may be my favourite only because it was the first of his works I read. Part of why Mitchell is my literary boyfriend is that he shocks and awes me every time I read his stuff.

I find myself wondering how the person who wrote Cloud Atlas could possibly have written number9dream AND Black Swan Green. Mitchell is the master of creating wildly different narrative voices both within and across his novels, and if he weren't too good for it by far I'd say he should have written World War Z.

I think I won't give a plot summary of number9dream for two reasons. 1) I won't do it justice. It seems on the surface (or, more accurately, in the back cover copy) like a pretty straightforward coming of age story but it's so, so much more than that. 2) Just read it, dammit, and find out what happens! How Mitchell writes what happens is as important as what happens. Unlike so many writers, he provides the complete package - substance and style (or "sentence and solaas", in venerable Chaucer's words).


Anonymous said...

Oh, I am so happy to find another Mitchell lover... I am lucky enough to still have Ghostwritten unread and I am very much looking forward to it. Like you I read Cloudatlas first followed by Black Swan Green - I did not know that 2009 is the ETA for his next book...can hardly wait.

Bookphilia said...

I'm also happy to find another Mitchell lover AND to be able to be the bearer of good news! I'm not a fan of hardcover books but I'll stand in line, if necessary, to get his new one the day it's released!

Unknown said...

Yay! Brilliant book (although a certain part involving blood left me faint and sweating on my sofa...).