It took me awhile to get into this. I've been in a reading malaise this summer, and I nearly put the book down while reading the first quarter. It's sIt took me awhile to get into this. I've been in a reading malaise this summer, and I nearly put the book down while reading the first quarter. It's straight Mad Man territory, full of delusional drunk sexist assholes who aren't nearly as self-aware as they think they are. The main protagonist is a philandering salaryman with an outsized sense of self-worth.
But then there's a death. And an investigation. And our asshole salaryman protagonist is now heading up a sham investigation whose prime purpose is to frame him as The Killer! From there the book became impossible to put down, and until I finished it, I stopped everything.
I don't want to say too much, except: Go read it if you like noir.
The ending is abrupt and a bit slapdash, but the structure of the book is fantastic (we quickly expand our points of view from the protagonist's to several other supporting characters, all of whom are interesting, and all of whom talk shit about the other characters; shit that is usually astute and cutting). The writing is damn good, and the vicious insight into corporate culture, the artistic world, and capitalism in general is devastating....more
Before O'Hara, my favorite poets were largely depressing goths, wallowing in booze, despair, and self-hatred. And then I read O'Hara! Joy and a love tBefore O'Hara, my favorite poets were largely depressing goths, wallowing in booze, despair, and self-hatred. And then I read O'Hara! Joy and a love that's not in the abstract, but in the concrete everyday that brings about joy and love in me. He captures the pleasure of walking with someone you love and you notice a magazine cover in a window and the way the light plays through the nearby leaves and how, damn, it's pretty amazing to be walking with you right now. In short, he captures joy. He captures falling in love, or being in love, not just with a person, but with the moment, or with the word, or with the world. It's a rare thing for a writer to capture without feeling false or schmaltzy. And perhaps more amazingly, there's a blazing intellect beneath it all; an intellect focusing on the ephemeral and quotidian, and making it profound and timeless. It's all great, but here's a quick sample:
It's my lunch hour, so I go for a walk among the hum-colored cabs. First, down the sidewalk where laborers feed their dirty glistening torsos sandwiches and Cocoa-Cola, with yellow helmets on. They protect them from falling bricks, I guss. Then onto the avenue where skirts are flipping above heels and blow up over grates. The sun is hot, but the cabs stir up the air. I look at bargain in wristwatches. There are cats playing in sawdust. .......more
Lately, when I can read, I mainly read escapist fantasy. So when an advance copy of The Bone Clocks came into my book store I snatched it up.
MitchellLately, when I can read, I mainly read escapist fantasy. So when an advance copy of The Bone Clocks came into my book store I snatched it up.
Mitchell is a fine writer of wondrous imagination, so I expected wild and literary fantasy, like Neil Gaimen or China Miéville, but better. And since I enjoyed Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, I figured outright fantasy and Mitchell are a perfect match. Hell, there were always aspects of the fantastic in Mitchell’s books, so it seemed a logical progression to bring it to the forefront.
But The Bone Clocks was disappointing. It was well written, sure. But fantasy is for me about wild leaps of imagination veering into territory I never thought of. It’s magical thinking extruded into text; that is, metaphorical leaps that connect disparate things in surprising chthonic ways; weird paths and odd connections that tie together the bubbling fears and dreams that we’re not quite aware of. Something like Gogol’s disappearing nose reappearing wearing an officer’s uniform and riding a stagecoach, or Burroughs’ Mugwump juice, talking assholes, and debased Tangiers, or Miéville’s origami magic, a living tattoo face, and underground fiefdoms. But The Bone Clocks’ fantasy, when it appears, is remarkably mundane, and frankly, boring. Magic may be the driving force of the plot, but it is nearly a MacGuffin, and it is not Mitchell’s strength as a writer. What is great in The Bone Clocks is what is great in Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, that is, quick in depth character studies, beautiful turns of phrase, and succinct and deft descriptions. His rehashings of genre tropes (post-apocalypse, hard science futureworld, etc.) are about as quickly and lazily sketched as his general period pieces (here The Talking Heads and some clothes mark the 80s, now the same for the 90s, and here's the same for the 00s, etc.). He’s good at settings grounded by tropes we recognize, but his ability to conjure up new settings is cobbled together from reams of predecessors, and in this case, that’s not a compliment.
Last, there's a long naval-graving passage about an asshole formerly famous writer; a l'enfant terrible who is simply annoying. I'm sick of passages about writers "exploring" the craft and culture of writing in a story that doesn't need the character nor the explorations. The character was route and cliche, and like the formerly boring trope of Connecticut Thanksgivings, not something I ever want to read about again. A LOT of writers have written about this crap. Writers, please, let it die....more