Yeah, yeah, David Mitchell is a genius. I know. I've heard. But there are writers whose sentences and paragraphs make you want to read what comes next...moreYeah, yeah, David Mitchell is a genius. I know. I've heard. But there are writers whose sentences and paragraphs make you want to read what comes next; Mitchell is not one of them. Each page is more of a chore than the last. I'm on page 218 of this book, but I'm not reading any more of it. I don't see why I should be expected to carry on reading if after 218 pages I haven't been convinced yet and I have to force myself to keep going. I have yet to find a sentence or description I'll remember. And even if I did, it would be a Mitchell sentence, and not one in a believable voice of a character. And that is a bigger problem. For all his genius you never are allowed to forget that you are reading a novel or even to pretend otherwise. If you are going to write a book in the form of letters, a diary, an interview, then you have a high but not unreasonable bar to clear. Your letters have to sound like letters, your diary has to sound like a diary and your interview has to seem a plausible interview. Ishiguro's butler's memoir in The Remains of the Day, for example, rings true. Mitchell's don't, not any of them. In no case does he actually project the voice of anyone but David Mitchell. What letters or journals cannot sound like--even though, and really because, this is what they are--is a device by which the author can hide information from the reader. And yes, it's true, Mitchell knows this is an issue, so when Frobisher picks up Ewing's diary, he questions its authenticity. The Luisa Rey manuscript is for a novel. Clevah, very clevah! But acknowledging an issue isn't the same as addressing it and I see even less reason to read an uncompelling badly fabricated badly fabricated diary than I do an uncompelling badly fabricated one. The promised reward of an ingenious payoff four hundred boring pages later is not one that tempts me. It takes a lot to make me put a novel down after 218 pages out of more than 500. But remember, Mitchell's a genius.
UPDATE: Tried to keep reading. Got as far as the second page of the post-apocalyptic noble savage world or whatever. I really don't care about any of the stories or characters, and I don't find any of them convincing expressions of anything except Mitchell's ego. So why I should care about how the six of them link up or what those links "mean" remains beyond my power to comprehend. In general I react badly to artists praised as the messiah. But I genuinely dislike the act of reading this book. Sorry. But not too sorry.(less)
This book is devastating. I read it in two days. I couldn't put it down, and I'm still dreaming about it.
There is the occasional overwrought metaphor...moreThis book is devastating. I read it in two days. I couldn't put it down, and I'm still dreaming about it.
There is the occasional overwrought metaphor but for the most part the writing is clear and crisp. And when he wants to, Marlantes can overwhelm you with fear or sadness or terror.
The acronyms and military jargon and technical terms (PRC-25 and that sort of thing) can seem Tom Clancy-ish but they're not. I think they're meant to convey how a soldier thinks; if an actual soldier wants to correct me, feel free.(less)
It's wonderful writing as always and he clearly loves this forgotten little corner of Greece. But it doesn't have the drive of his walk through Europe...moreIt's wonderful writing as always and he clearly loves this forgotten little corner of Greece. But it doesn't have the drive of his walk through Europe, in a few ways. Most obviously it lacks the sense of direction, literally, that Fermor conveyed with his journey from Holland to Istanbul. That kept the book moving, it kept Fermor moving, and it gave the whole enterprise a sense of urgency. The best parts and the worst parts of the book are his long (and I mean very long) digressions on some unearthed story of Byzantine history, which I at least knew nothing about. When he meets a drunk fisherman who may be the last descendant of the Emperors, and imagines returning to Constantinople in triumph, it's pretty thrilling. At other points the flurry of Greek and Turkish names is just too much to follow or care about. This is related to the issue that Fermor seems to be if anything too comfortable with the locality. Part of what made the Europe books so fun, somewhat oddly, was that he couldn't speak German or Hungarian, so he had to bond with his hosts and newfound friends through alcohol and smiles and adventure. But by this point he speaks Greek fluently and knows a ton of Greece's history, so he's telling us about the place--in the other books it was his hosts and companions who told him, and us, about where he had been and where he was going. Travel books are best, I think, when it's a journey for the traveler as well as the reader.(less)