Friday, February 15, 2008

Ghostwritten - David Mitchell

This is probably THE worst book to read the way that I did, by which I mean over the course of almost a week, and with whole days going by between readings, and while writing several papers, and while reading another book. By which I mean it's complicated.

Besides being complicated, it's not even that good. And it's long. I'm sorry, David Mitchell. I loved Cloud Atlas, and after Black Swan Green, you could do no wrong by me. You were my literary Jake Gyllenhaal - quirky, interesting, unconventionally appealing...but then I read Ghostwritten. And I know it's your first book, and that's why I'm willing to go on loving you like I do, but I'm going to have to pretend that you didn't write this, or that I didn't read it.

Ghostwritten seems like Mitchell's first attempt at writing Cloud Atlas, a book with several unrelated stories that kind of flow into each other. Except that where Cloud Atlas is tight and polished, Ghostwritten is loose and rambly. Cloud Atlas has four stories, and each of them is visited twice, Ghostwritten has NINE, and just pounds them out one after the other, never to be seen again. So you have to be reading closely and carefully, otherwise you'll miss the Mongolian reference, or forget that Katy Forbes is the guy's girlfriend from the second chapter, and nothing will make sense to you ever again.

On top of that, it's poorly written, with stilted dialogue and too many metaphors that don't work and clumsy set-ups to jokes that aren't funny. Again, first book, so fine. Everyone has to write shitty things at first, it's just a rum deal when yours actually get published. And since Black Swan Green is nearly flawless, you've obviously learned from your mistakes, and I will definitely read anything you write from here on in. But I might not read number9dream unless I'm desperate. Life is just too short.

Five caterpillars.

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