02 May 2005

David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas

First off, one sentence:

Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms round the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.

Next, a short scene from the Tim Cavendish segment:

I groped my way to the ammonia-smelling gents’, where a joker had stolen the bulb. I had just unzipped myself when a voice arose from the shadows. “Hey, mistah, got a light of sumfink?” Steadying my cardiac arrest, I fumbled for my lighter. The flame conjured a Rastafarian in Holbein embers, just a few inches away, a cigar held in his thick lips. “Fanks,” whispered my black Virgil, inclining his head to bring the tip into the flame.

“You’re, erm, most welcome, quite,” I said.

His wide, flat nose twitched. “So, where you heading, man?”

My hand checked my wallet was still there. “Hull . . . ” A witless fib ran wild. “To return a novel. To a librarian who works there. A very famous poet. At the university. It’s in my bag. It’s called Half-Lives.” The Rastafarian’s cigar smelt of compost. I can never guess what they’re thinking. Not that I’ve really ever known any. I’m not a racialist, but I do believe the ingredients in so-called melting pots take generations to melt. “Mistah,” the Rastafarian told me,” you need”—and I flinched—“some o’ this.” I obeyed his offer and sucked on his turd-thick cigar.

Ruddy hell! “What is this stuff?”

He made a noise like a didgeridoo at the root of his throat. “That don’t grow in Marlboro Country.” My head enlarged itself by a magnitude of many hundreds, Alice-style, and became a multi-story car park wherein dwelt a thousand and one operatic Citroens. “My word, you can say that again,” mouthed the Man Formerly Known as Tim Cavendish.

Wow. Chris Duncan, you should read this.


  1. The comment I left here this morning is gone! blogspot's got some problems, methinks. I can't open my own blog at the moment.

    Anyway, I just bought this book, just so you know. :-)

  2. It's a wild book for sure. Being a Koreaphile, I loved the weird future Korea stuff, and understood the Korean words he threw in, untranslated. Definitely a fun read. Did you know there was another Cloud Atlas published last year? That one is by Liam Callanan, who read from it at Sewanee . . . I bet he got a nice confused burst in sales.