Reading this book is a MASSIVE undertaking, but worth it. It didn't change my life or anything, but it was a trippy (and really, "trippy" is probablyReading this book is a MASSIVE undertaking, but worth it. It didn't change my life or anything, but it was a trippy (and really, "trippy" is probably the best way to describe it. Maybe "surreal," but I don't think that fully illustrates how... crazy, wild, unimaginable, and ... trippy the book is) fantasy that was worth my time. The prose (whether this is more about Murakami or the translator, I don't know) is often beautiful and poetic, and the imagery and similes are astounding.
The story--In short, a crazy, twisted fairy tale about a guy, a gal, secret religions, an older woman who's a do-gooder, a teenage girl, a mysterious novella, assassinations, and how all of these things/people end up being connected--is told from the viewpoints of a few different characters, one main character per chapter. At times (I noticed it more toward the end of the book), this made it confusing because we'd be with one person Saturday through Monday, for example, and then the next chapter would be someone else, but on Sunday. It was hard sometimes to keep the timeline straight since there was a fair amount of bouncing back and forth, but nothing that wasn't solvable.
Part of me wants this to be made into a movie. It might be 15 hours long (or the text would need some major cuts), but ... intrigue! murder! mystery! a chase! writers' lives! another world! unusual creatures! a math teacher! extra celestial bodies! This would be a GREAT movie! :)...more
As Wikipedia puts it, Cloud Atlas "consists of six nested stories, whereof each is read (or observed) by a main character of the next. The first fiveAs Wikipedia puts it, Cloud Atlas "consists of six nested stories, whereof each is read (or observed) by a main character of the next. The first five stories are each interrupted at a pivotal moment. After the sixth story, the other five stories are closed, in reverse chronological order, and each ends with the main character reading or observing the chronologically previous work in the chain." (This reminded me of If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, so I was particularly looking forward to it.) I kept thinking how talented Mitchell is (or at least seems to me) to be able to change the tone so many times within one book.
With that comes comparisons to other works (whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I don't know): Ewing's journal-on-a-ship story (the first and eleventh chapters) reminded me of Melville's Typee (which is even referred to towards the end of the second part of this narrative), and the dystopian world of "An Orison of Sonmi~451" (chapters five and seven) reminded me of The Giver.
I loved Robert Frobisher's letters in the second/tenth story. I loved the epistolary style for the narrative, as well as Frobisher's style of writing, using musical language to describe the world around him. Towards the end (or maybe middle) of the first go-round with this particular story, I started to dislike Frobisher a bit: he is a scoundrel! He's dishonest and sleeps around, and yet I still overall liked the character, scoundrelines and all. I did wonder, though, how we were able to read the letters *he* wrote to Sixsmith, but never the letters Sixsmith wrote back to him. In the next story, of course, we find out it's because (view spoiler)[we meet Sixsmith later in his life, and he has all of the letters Frobisher wrote to him, much like the way we know about Ewing's journal is because Frobisher read it at Zedelghem. I said to myself, "Ah, now I see the nesting of the stories!" (hide spoiler)].
I also enjoyed the Luisa Rey story. I liked the intrigue of (view spoiler)[the whistle-blower trying to get his information to the reporter, and whether the reporter would be able to tell the story (hide spoiler)]. That one definitely kept me turning the pages, and even gasping out loud a few times!
The Timothy Cavendish chapters (4 & 8) weren't bad, but they weren't great. The second time we visit him was better for me than the first time. I liked when we first meet him and find out his background, but once he's (view spoiler)[in the nursing home (hide spoiler)], I stopped caring as much. But when we return to the story after going through the other stories, the plot picks up again and, like the Luisa Rey story, even had me gasping out loud or giggling.
The middle story, "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After," was hit-and-miss for me. I didn't like the first part, with the exception of finding out how this story related to the story before it ("An Orison of Sonmi~451"), but the second part picked up.
Overall, it was a good book. It wasn't as deep and profound and difficult as I thought it would be, but I mostly enjoyed the six different stories. I also liked trying to figure out how the stories related to each other, and the commonalities, such as the ship Prophetess, which Adam Ewing travels on in the first/eleventh chapters, and Luisa Rey sees in the marina as an example of a well-restored ship in the ninth chapter.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
So... premise of the story: Guy watches a five-year-old movie, sees bit actor who looks exactly like he did five years ago; guy becomes obsessed withSo... premise of the story: Guy watches a five-year-old movie, sees bit actor who looks exactly like he did five years ago; guy becomes obsessed with actor and finding out more about him, mostly who he is and whether he looks like guy looks now; guy becomes *really* obsessed with actor. Honestly, as the plot was picking up (mostly still in the "Hey, that guy in that movie looks like me!" phase of the story), I kept thinking of the episode of Scrubs that talks about The Janitor being in The Fugitive. hehe.
I really liked this book. It was hard to get into at first--no quotation marks makes it difficult to tell who's speaking, and most of the punctuation used was commas. Commas to separate speakers, commas to separate quotes from narration, commas to separate sentences and thoughts--but once I got used to the style and was able to find my way through it, I was off and running. At times, the style of the narration reminded me of If On a Winter's Night a Traveler, with the narrator speaking directly to the reader.
The story is great, and the twists of the last few chapters were completely unexpected. The struggle with the style in the beginning was well worth it.
"Reading is probably another way of being in a place" (76)
"the right we all have to say over and over where the pain is" (96)
"we pile up words, words, and more words, the very words we talked about elsewhere, a personal pronoun, an adverb, a verb, an adjective, and, however we try, however hard we struggle, we always find ourselves outside the feelings we so ingenuously hoped to describe" (97)
"Chaos is merely order waiting to be deciphered" (98)
"looking back brings with it terrible risks" (100)
"once a person starts falsifying things there's no telling where it will end" (122)
"we are all more or less public figures, it's only the number of spectators that varies" (177)
"Despite no longer being driven by irresistible hereditary instincts, the actions of human beings are repeated with such startling regularity that we believe it would be permissible, without stretching a point, to hypothesize the slow but steady formation of a new kind of instinct, perhaps 'sociocultural' would be the right word, which, based on variants of repeated tropisms and in response, of course, to identical stimuli, would mean that any idea that had occurred to one person would, necessarily, occur to someone else." (189-190)
"what will be has been" (193)
"enemies are born not out of our will to have them but out of their irresistible desire to have us" (229)
"these four-legged creatures who run, sniff, and scratch their fleas and who, as is only natural in a friend, occasionally bite. Tomarctus [Tertuliano's dog:] has not come to stay for very long, he will sleep for a few minutes curled at the foot of the bed, then he will get up and take a turn about the house to see if everything is in order, and then, for the rest of the night, will be the watchful companion of his constant mistress, apart from the odd sortie into the yard to bark and, while he's there, drink some water from his bowl and lift his leg against the bed of geraniums or the rosemary bush. He will return to Tertuliano Maximo Afonso's bedroom at first light to check that nothing has moved on this side of the earth either, for what dogs most want in life is for no one to go away." (233-234)
"the possibility of a petition going around, inside and outside the company, throughout the country, demanding equality and justice for supporting actors, there would be a revolution in the industry, and imagine what would happen if the demand was taken up by the lower orders, by the supporting players in society as a whole" (242)
"The proof that the universe was not as well-thought-out as it should have been lies in the fact that the Creator ordered the star that illumines us to be called the sun. Had the king of the stars borne the name Common Sense, imagine how enlightened the human spirit would be now, both by day and night, because, as everyone knows, the light we call moonlight comes not from the moon but always and solely from the sun." (253)...more
After Reta's daughter, Norah, is seen on the street wearing a sign that says "GOODNESS," Reta begins to question what "goodness" means. She4.5 stars.
After Reta's daughter, Norah, is seen on the street wearing a sign that says "GOODNESS," Reta begins to question what "goodness" means. She becomes even more aware of and frustrated by the way women are represented (or more correctly, *aren't* represented) in culture, from being seen as the more fragile sex to being left off of lists of influential authors, and she worries that that depiction of women's lack of a place in the world is what drove her daughter to despair.
Unlike some of the other reviewers, I really liked this book. But I think that while most of the reviewers disliked the book because of Reta's views (possibly seen as diatribes) about feminism and the unfair representation of women versus the positive representation of men, I liked the book because of the writing. I liked Shields' style (this is the first of her books that I've read), and the flow and movement of the words. The story was fine and lovely, and I could see how the character of Reta might worry that the portrayal of women is what threw her daughter over an edge (even though that felt like an overly-forced aspect of the story to me), but what I really liked was the style of the writing. I was immediately sucked in to the story, and even though I didn't wholly believe Reta's connection between the portrayals of women and Norah's quest of goodness, the writing kept me hooked....more
"Life is fury. Fury-sexual, Oedipal, political, magical, brutal-drives us to our finest heights and coarsest depths. This is what we are, what we civi"Life is fury. Fury-sexual, Oedipal, political, magical, brutal-drives us to our finest heights and coarsest depths. This is what we are, what we civilize ourselves to disguise-the terrifying human animal in us, the exalted, transcendent, self-destructive, untrammeled lord of creation. We raise each other to the heights of joy. We tear each other limb from bloody limb." Malik Solanka, historian of ideas and dollmaker extraordinaire, steps out of his life one day, abandons his family without a word of explanation, and flees London for New York. There's a fury within him, and he fears he has become dangerous to those he loves.
And boy, ain't that fury furious. Solanka, who has a good job, a successful invention, and a loving family, one day finds that he's about to do something out of fury, without realizing he's about to do it. He hightails it to America to get away from this furious act, and America makes him furious, too. Its consumerism, commercialism, fakeness all make him furious.
This book, I've inferred, is set in 2000 in New York (we know it's New York; I'm guessing it's 2000), and one thing I love about Salman Rushdie is how he uses pop culture references as metaphors and implicit setting: Bush/Gore, Springsteen, Barbie dolls, Ricki Lake/Jerry Springer, Elian Gonzalez, etc., etc., etc. For the most part, he doesn't *say* "The Springsteen concert just happened here in New York where he's touring for such-and-such album, therefore I'm hinting it's the year 2000"; and even when he *does* say things like mentioning that a billboard advertises Ellen DeGeneres' upcoming appearance (which could be fact-checked and is a very real world thing, not an I'm-reading-a-fiction-book-which-means-these-events-are-made-up), it's along with the hypocrisy of someone publicly wanting to go through a "private" life choice. The references not only set the timeframe of the novel, they also push that fury-at-American-consumerism-and-commercialism-and-fakeness one more level. And that's all in addition to the plot of "How's this guy going to get rid of his anger? Is he always going to be furious? And who's the behatted murderer?"
The final storyline (as in the last, or maybe the next-to-last, storyline introduced, and the one the book ends on) made the book lose a little greatness in my head. It felt superfluous and unnecessary, and drew away from the meat of the book. (It was another storyline of fury, though.)...more
This was ... REALLY GOOD. It has many different threads (some I didn't even fully pick up on until I read the book's description on GR), but it seemedThis was ... REALLY GOOD. It has many different threads (some I didn't even fully pick up on until I read the book's description on GR), but it seemed to me that the main one was the story of Thomas Pemberton, a priest in New York City. From there, the story branches out into the stories of Joshua and Sarah (Blumenthal) Gruen, rabbis of Evolutionary Judaism in New York City; Everett, the author who writes mystery stories based on Pemberton; the workings of Everett's mind, including possible movie and book plots; Everett's father's and brother's actions in World War I and World War II, respectively; and a Jewish ghetto in WWII, which housed Sarah's father in his pre-teens.
The storylines that I liked the best were the ones about Pemberton, the ones about the rabbis, and Sarah's father's story. I also liked one of Everett's movie plots, about a man and woman having an affair (the man becomes controlling, and eventually takes over the woman's husband's life).
I think what I really, really liked about the book was the bit about the movie about the affair, and the thread about Sarah's father's life in the ghetto. The movie plotline reminded me of Jose Saramago's The Double, so that was the first thing that really sparked my attention. Also, the Jewish ghetto story, with the hiding from the Nazis and pretending you're someone you're not, reminded me of a grown-up version of Lois Lowry's Number the Stars. ...more