Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was written in six voices, and two of them were very hard to read, which made the book difficult to get through.
The six voices were very distinct, and for the most part interesting and well-written. The story-line of the book, however, is not that compelling...it feels a little like the story functioned as the backdrop the experiment of writing a novel with so many distinct voices, and then weaving them together in tenuous ways. Some of the relationships are clear, while others require the reader to make assumptions and jumps of logic.
That being said, there were some lines that struck me as being brilliant:
p. 34: To fool a judge, feign fascination, but to bamboozle the whole court, feign boredom.
p. 49: Implausible truth can serve one better than plausible fiction.
p. 54: An idler and a sluggard are as different as a gourmand and a glutton.
p. 63, regarding a teenage girl: her hobbies are pouting and looking martyred.
p. 64: a half-read book is a half-finished love affair.
pp. 81-82: Composers are merely scribblers of cave paintings. One writes music because winter is eternal and because, if one didn't, the wolves and blizzards would be at one's throat all the sooner.
p. 95: "...Hitchcock's Buenas Yerbas remark puts me in mind of John F. Kennedy's observation about New York. Do you know it? 'Most cities are nouns, but New York is a verb.'"
p. 136, after eating lobster: Crustacean shrapnel is piled high.
p.167: My room had high windows with blinds I couldn't lower because I am not twelve feet tall.
p. 168: Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms round the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage.
p. 169: Despondency makes one hanker after lives one never led.
p. 170: The cold sank its fangs into my exposed neck and frisked me for uninsulated patches.
p. 370: Poor England. Too much history for its acreage. Years grow inwards here, like my toenails.
p. 460: Boundaries between noise and sound are conventions, I see now. All boundaries are conventions, national ones too. One may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so.
pp. 469-470: Knew I'd never see my twenty-fifth birthday. Am early for once. The lovelorn, the cry-for-helpers, all mawkish tragedians who give suicide a bad name are the idiots who rush it, like amateur conductors. A true suicide is a paced, disciplined certainty. People pontificate, "Suicide is selfishness." Career churchmen like Pater go a step further and call it a cowardly assault on the living. Oafs argue this specious line for varying reasons: to evade fingers of blame, to impress one's audience with one's mental fiber, to vent anger, or just because one lacks the necessary suffering to sympathize. Cowardice is nothing to do with it--suicide takes considerable courage. Japanese have the right idea. No, what's selfish is to demand another to endure an intolerable existence, just to spare families, friends, and enemies a bit of soul-searching. The only selfishness lies in ruining strangers' days by forcing 'em to witness a grotesqueness. So I'll make a thick turban from several towels to muffle the shot and soak up the blood, and do it in the bathtub, so it shouldn't stain any carpets. Last night I left a letter under the manager's day-office door--he'll find it at eight a.m. tomorrow--informing him of the change in my existential status, so with luck an innocent chambermaid will be spared an unpleasant surprise. See, I do think of the little people.
p. 471: Strip back the beliefs pasted on by governesses, schools, and states, you find indelible truths at one's core. Rome'll decline and fall again, Cortes'll lay Tenochtitlan to waste again, you and I'll sleep under Corsican stars again, I'll come to Bruges again, fall in and out of love with Eva again, you'll read this letter again, the sun'll grow cold again. Nietzsche's gramophone record. Wen it ends, the Old One plays it again, for an eternity of eternities. Time cannot permeate this sabbatical. We do not stay dead long. Once my Luger lets me go, my birth, next time around, will be upon me in a heartbeat. Thirteen years from now we'll meet again at Gresham, ten years later I'll be back in this same room, holding this same gun, composing this same letter, my resolution as perfect as my many-headed sextet. Such elegant certainties comfort me at this quiet hour.
p. 482: "An idea of Father Upward's, at the Tahitian Mission. You must understand, sir, your typical Polynesian spurns industry because he's got no reason to value money. 'If I hungry,' says he, 'I go pick me some, or catch me some. If I cold, I tell woman, "Weave!'" Idle hands, Mr. Ewing, & we both know what work the Devil finds for them. But by instilling in the slothful so-an'-sos a gentle craving for this harmless leaf, we give him an incentive to earn money, so he can buy his baccy--not liquor, mind, just baccy--from the Mission trading post. Ingenious, wouldn't you say?"
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