Sayingst's Reviews > Ghostwritten

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell
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U 50x66
's review
Apr 11, 2012

did not like it

This book is bad. Wow. It's really bad. Mitchell's description of a fly as "a Gothic tricycle" will be forever burned into my mind. There are so many reviews here stating something along the lines of "his prose is lyric and great, and he has such a knack for storytelling". I'll give him credit for the plot; it's dense and it appears that he put a little time into linking up all of the loose ends. But complexity =/= virtuosity, and the book suffers from terrible, terrible prose and poor characterizations. His women are completely unbelievable as women; from 'Holy Mountain' ("I am a girl.") to 'Petersburg' ("When I want something from a woman, I get angry. When I want something from a man, I pout.") Seriously? From the way he writes, it would seem that David Mitchell has never really talked to a woman. He's also never had a hangover ("I felt my hangover being shooed away", before which coffee is described as "magic brew"), nor has he ever been involved with music ("I wanted to add a distorted bass, maybe a snare drum," concerning a Vaughn Williams record). The flat fakeness of his characters is insulting, but his prose is even worse. "The shower deluged my head." He's just going nuts with the thesaurus. So is a young girl from 'Mongolia': "You are so facile!" Every metaphor is ridiculous and corny: during a sex scene with a rotten old man, there's something about the guy '[groaning] like a kid on an out of control go cart speeding down a hill'; a honking van is described as an 'angry muppet' (Mitchell uses the 'beepy' muppet thing a second time too).

It's his first novel. That's cool. For that I can forgive clumsiness with language and storytelling. That's what the book is, really, an exercise in clumsiness, right down to the weird interjection of a consciousness-jumping-noncorporeal-entity and the sudden "surprise, gotcha" quantum-cognition plotline in the end (wikipedia says that Mitchell 'hints' at Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics, but it feels like he read "I, Robot" before finishing Ghostwritten and thought: "oh man, I gotta work that in somehow!!") But what's unforgiveable is the fact that somehow, there was no editor around to fix this hot, hamfisted mess.

If things truly do happen for some 'reason' that runs interconnected between humans worldwide, I wish it would have planted some seed that kept this thing from being published. I therefore would not have spent thirteen or so dollars on it. Those thirteen dollars would have gone to a grocery purchase which could have directly lined the pocket of a greasy cashier. That cashier might have been crossing the road after work with the cash in hand to buy beer, not seeing the car in the intersection swerving right into him! He might have died, and the money may have been blown to the wind. A homeless man might have picked up the money and used it to buy a corn dog and a stack of porno mags. He might have discarded the corn dog stick off the pier of a major river or lake, and what if that stick were picked up by a bird, a mind controlled robot bird? Maybe that bird flew North, along the coast, and dropped the stick onto a shipping freighter bound for Japan? And what if that stick had a joke on it, and when the ship arrived in the harbor in Japan, it was swept off onto the pier where it was picked up by a dockworker who took it home to his teenaged daughter who was trying to learn English, and she read the joke but didn't understand the meaning of it? She might have taken her inability to read the joke as a message that she must learn English, lest the world mock her forever with its unreadable stick jokes. She might have gotten so good at English that she could eventually write a better book than Ghostwritten, one with correct punctuation and believeable characters. But none of that happened. So thanks, David Mitchell. I spent 13 dollars on this book.
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04/14 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Lydia I actually find his prose the best I've ever read. It's like poetry to me only without the okay-please-stop-using-the-thesaurus-now-feeling. But It's interesting to see how different opinions people have on this kind of thing!

message 2: by B.B. (new) - added it

B.B. Shepherd I'm actually a little curious to read it because of your critique compared to most of the others. I loved your last paragraph!

message 3: by John (new) - added it

John I wish I had read your review before I started this terrible book but I am now 200 pages into it so must finish. Hate it so much.

Marcelina Omg how I hate this book! I got to page 200 and he introduces yet another character, and at that point I start thinking about all the characters I have had to trudge through to get to this point, when it dawns on me "I don't care about any of the characters". I will not finish this awful book, nor read anything else from him...

June Your long detailed analysis is entertaining! I think you at least enjoyed the book. I'm 3/4 through, will pick up another one written by him, all borrowed from the local library, btw.

Marie-Eve Omg your review is like a ray of sunshine in my day. I pretty much forced myself to finish this book because 90% of the reviews were saying that it was amazing, it changed people's lives and i'm here wondering if i'm dumb because i kind of hate it. I was hoping there would be at least a bigger link between the characters or that it would end in a bang, but no.

message 7: by Jaksen (new)

Jaksen Agreed. I don't get it. Seriously over-hyped, over-rated writer.

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