Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Head In The Clouds

More about Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell must be the smartest guy on this or any other planet - his books are amazing. Cloud Atlas. Fragments of :- a Melvillian historical curiosity, an Isherwood-like epistolary piece, a Ludlum-ite crime-thriller, a numinous Sci-Fi philosophical story on cloning and what is means to be human, a Gene Wolfian future/past fantasy-world... and then all that again in reverse order!

I read the dreamlike Number9 Dream quite a few years ago and was astounded then by the near seamless mix of fantasy and reality and so I had bought *this* book eagerly, just after its Booker nomination. But for some reason (daunted?) I never got around to reading it. Then there was a terrific piece on Mitchell in the NYT/IHT magazine last month which I dare you to read and not rabidly hunger for anything he has written, from laundry lists on up! So I bought The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and then I remembered that I hadn't read Atlas yet...


SO I was sitting in the chill outside Amalfi's pizza restaurant in Adelaide nursing a Coonawarra Cab Sav...

After initially admiring the cleavage (on display thanks to her wider and lower cut than necessary black uniform - black is the new black here in wintry Adelaide) on the waitress who had taken my table reservation at 7pm - "come back about 8;30" - I was a bit cheesed. Not her fault that's pizzas are great on a cold night I guess. In order to kill some time I wandered down Rundle St, wondered where all the people were, where all the pubs were. Australia just shuts down at sunset. Finally found a quiet ale-house after the mall had had petered out, one with a delicious leather chesterfield or three, all free. There I nursed a metabolic syndrome friendly Pure Blonde and went back into my book - Cloud Atlas.

In good time to make it back, I left that comfy spot and retraced my steps to Frome St. 8;30 - still nothing free. Takes a while to eat a pizza here. I ordered a glass of Cab Sav to warm my bones and perched my self at a small table on the footpath outside. There, stung on my freshly hair-trimmed neck by the chill winder wind until, smart me, I turned up my Drizabone jacket's collar. I took a sip of the wine that the obviously gay waiter (hey, this is Adelaide and hey, he's a waiter) had brought out, and I read another great chunk and forgot about the cold, forgot about everything.

I had nearly finished the glass of wine when another waitress came out, a younger girl, no cleavage on display as her top was much more practical for this weather. She said, "You can come in and thaw out now. We have a table for you." I laughed politely - it was a good line, even if she had used it before.

I rejected Gay Waiter's suggestion - pineapple(!?) - and ordered a spinach, chili and salami (?!) pizza. When it came it was way too much in every way - certainly size, but also with density of ingredients which I am no longer familiar with. Such monsters are apparently popular in this neck of the woods if full tables are anything to go by.

As I ran out of steam with a third of the pizza to go and half of my third wine left, I put in my new Shure head-phones, listened to Powderfinger again, called for a latte and buried my head back in the book. I love reading in... in fact I *prefer* reading in a crowded place, noise and confusion all around - I enjoy ignoring people. Their movement and clattering create a white noise around me that fills any silence and stymies any desire to step out of the world of the book. I can concentrate so much better when there are distractions.

Too soon, coffee done, wine empty, empty tables being wiped, chairs tidied up and it was 10. I called for the bill. Cleavage came over and placed the folder next to me, then she dashed off to look in the mirror in case her nipples had popped back in.

I put $50 in the folder and kept reading.

There was a presence at my shoulder. Someone was talking to me. I un-plugged one of the triple coned ear-raper plugs. "Do you like that book?" It was Thaw-out girl. She was quite young, early 20's perhaps, with clear, post-teenage, pre-Raphaelite skin on a small face perched on a tall body. Her eyes were the brightest blue and her unpretentious smile told me that her interest in the book was real.

"It's amazing," I flubbered. "He's the most brilliant guy ever."

"Yes, I loved it too," she said. "I got the new one but haven't finished it."

I nodded. She was gorgeous (or maybe her enthusiasm for Mitchell made her seem more so). How to keep her near me? Straw, grasp. "What else do you like to read?"

She mentioned Peter Carey ("but not the Kelly book"), Tim Winton ("he's Australian, too"). She picked up the bill folder.

"Did you study literature at school?" I pressed on, despite the Winton-is-an-Aussie clunker. (Well, du'h!)

She nodded. "I did two years at Uni, but now I'm working here because [here she shrugged her narrow shoulders, her black fabric top riding up just a bit more, apologetic for the coming cliche] I want to go overseas."

I nodded. She opened the bill folder and looked at the money.

"That's nice," she said as she held the note up to the lights and looked at it more carefully, "but we don't take Singapore money here." She handed it back and asked, " Are those monkeys?"

... Do'h!

Pay attention



savannah said...

check this out:
Killer Thrillers: Vote For The 100 Best Ever

now, i'll go write down your suggestions! (meet cute story, btw) xoxoxox

Dick Headley said...

Gotta say I was a little disappointed with The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. It's brilliantly imaginative but Mitchell seems to have got caught up in his own virtuosity. Amazing writing nevertheless. The East meets West stuff is great.

Unknown said...

I forgot about the number9 dream and how I enjoyed it - thanks! I think I'll be making some book orders shortly... :-)

expat@large said...

Sav: I have only read about 10 of those!

DH: some of he other reviews have not been kind. A matter of setting expectations? What if it had been a first novel?

Miyu: you're welcome.

Maybe I should put up a friends of Amazon link and get a cut for each book ordered from people coming off my website!

Dick Headley said...

It's terrific writing but maybe not enough story there to sustain the linear narrative? I suppose people were expecting another Cloud Atlas. Wonder what he'll do next?

expat@large said...

Dick: ah, such criticism from a close friend of the man who wrote "Losing The Plot" - hahahahha.

(Hey, no offense intended of course. Just a gentle dig in the ribs - with a 12inch carving knife, and then a twist? Ow!!)

rockstar69 said...

No. Adelaide shuts down at sunset, and Perth as you'll discover soon enough. Pick u up in the Merc around 11am :-)))

Dick Headley said...

Ooops sorry. I guess self-publishing a minor piece of literary flotsam means I can't have an opinion about David Mitchell.

expat@large said...

Rocky: I don't get in to Perth till after 1 and I have my own car. Or do you mean Sunday?

Dick: exactly. NOT having "published" anything except this forgotten blog since 2004 makes ME qualified to pontificate like an authority on EVERYTHING. But only on this blog*, sadly. Because no-one, except you and a handful of other patient and faithful peoples, is still listening!!!!

*or at Iguanas on Sunday afternoons, if I can get a word in.

p.s I've been swearing to myself to stay away from whatever is the newest brightest thing in contemporary fiction firmament for several New Years Res's now. I don't why I allow myself to fall for it each time. My Bolano - unread. My Franzen - unread. My Tim Winton - unread. My (who else is new?) - unread. I'm sticking to the classics (some of them read) from now on. Unless a good buddy writes/publishes something of course.

expat@large said...

Maybe it (is) because (I) keep leaving words out (of) my sentences for the (last) few years.

[I kid you not: even typing that (last) sentence I left four words out. Somebody shoot (me).]

I'm giving up on writing, blogging, talking. My mind has

knobby said...

your eat-up-word syndrome isn't that bad actually. my father has been writing emails for years with words like "not" omitted :) and therefore saying exactly the opposite of what he means. your sentences are easily deciperable in comparison.

knobby said...

your eat-up-word syndrome isn't that bad actually. my father has been writing emails for years with words like "not" omitted :) and therefore saying exactly the opposite of what he means. your sentences are easily deciperable in comparison.

expat@large said...

Knob: often I put up a post and then edit it four and five times to fix my ellipses.

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