Jenn(ifer)'s Reviews > Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
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Sep 24, 12

bookshelves: read-in-2012, gr-group-coreads, my-reviews-that-dont-suck
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: they didn't
Recommended for: i wouldn't
Read from September 15 to 23, 2012


Dear David Mitchell,
I’ve been trying to figure out the nicest possible way to tell you what I’m about to tell you. I sort of feel like I’ve failed you as a reader, but I just couldn’t suspend my critical mind for long enough to enjoy your book (“how I envied my uncritical…sisters” – I hate it when my own words come back to bite me in the ass, don’t you?). Don’t take it personally though. I’m the girl who didn't like The Matrix. I know, right? How could anyone dislike The Matrix? All of the neat-o keen-o special effects, the super cool concept of the world actually being run by sentient machines, the homage to Baudrillard (If you haven’t read Simulacra & Simulation, read it. It’ll blow your mind.)(By the way, Baudrillard said the siblings Wachowski completely misinterpreted his work, but I digress), and the kick-ass soundtrack (okay so it wasn’t really all that kick ass). Unfortunately at the end of the day, Keanu Reeves can’t act his way out of a paper bag, and this girl just couldn’t get past that fact.
 
For the first half of the novel, I kept trying to psych myself up by reminding myself how much I disliked the first four episodes of season one of The Wire: “This is just another contrived crime drama!” “Dominic West really needs to work on his American accent." "Not enough Idris Elba.” Then we meet Omar Little and BAM! It all starts to click. (Don’t you just love Omar?)(shhhh, no spoilers, I’m only on season three). I kept waiting for that BAM! moment, but it just never came. Instead I found myself more and more frustrated, finding fault with every gimmick. E.g., If language has devolved in the future, you really need to commit to your chosen alterations. If you decide flight will be ‘flite’ then sight should be ‘site,’ etc. Go all the way, I say! Oh what, you think that would be too annoying? Ur rite. It would b. So y chanj da spelng at al? It just ends up being distracting. Think of another way to say "THIS IS THE FUTURE!!!" without being so obvious about it. Similarly, when you wanted the audience to know it was the 70's, you could have found a more subtle way of doing it than saying "THEY'RE AT A PARTY LISTENING TO DISCO AND DOING COCAINE!" It's the 70's man, I get it.

It seemed to me like you didn’t have enough faith in the intelligence of your audience to get the gist without spoon-feeding it to us. If the reader didn’t pick up on the “nested dolls” analogy all by themselves (or by having Chabon tell them on the back cover) you make sure Grimaldi spells it out for us: ‘One model of time: an infinite matryoshka doll of painted moments, each “shell” (the present) encased inside a nest of “shells” (previous presents) I call the actual past but which we perceive as the virtual past.” Etc. “Revolutionary or gimmicky?” I’ll take gimmicky for 1000, Alex (damned if your words don’t keep biting you in the ass, eh Davey boy?).

If you’ve read the book, than you know that each chapter or story is in some way “read” by a character in another story (journals, letters, film). A clever idea for sure. The thing about clever ideas is this, you really need to trust that your reader is as clever as you! We can pick these things up without you telling us. I mean come on (view spoiler) the look of disgust on my face must have been a sight to see.

Let's talk about the Sloosha chapter for a moment (but just for a moment because I’m trying to repress the memory). I'm sure you were going for something really important and profound there, but it was completely lost on me because that 'style' you came up with was ridiculously irritating. I was unable to become emotionally invested in the relationship between Zachry & Meronym in the slightest. It’s the fall of humanity for chrissakes and I could not have given a shit less.
 
At least you have a sense of humor about it all, right pal? You saw the criticisms coming, and you gave them a swift kick in the ass (well, your character did, literally) right from the get-go. "The Ghost of Sir Felix Finch whines, “But it’s been done a hundred times before!” – as if there could be anything not done a hundred thousand times between Aristophanes and Andrew Void[sic]-Webber! As if Art is the What, not the How!” Oh man, you said it. Art is not the what, it’s the how; and in this instance, for me, the how is, well, not great. From the Mrs. Robinson romps to the three stooges escape hijinx, and let’s not forget the lovable Erin Brockovich Luisa Rey chapters. If you were experimenting with genres, take note, pulp is not your thing. I could go on and on (honestly I could) but I really don’t think it matters.

Anyway, I’m sure one little dissenter doesn’t matter much, right? Millions of people love this book, just like Dan Brown’s! Hey, they even got the same actor to star in the film! AND you got Wachowski directing (isn’t it serendipitous how my Matrix side story is actually relevant now?). You’re going to rack in the Euros buddy. If it means anything, I thought Black Swan Green was ace in the face!

Hug?
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Reading Progress

09/16/2012 page 30
5.0% "D-Mitch, why are you boring me so? I'm struggling hard to get into this" 22 comments
09/17/2012 page 65
12.0% "A half-read book is a half-finished love affair."
09/17/2012 page 90
17.0% "If one of Renwicks's Austrian doctors opened up her head, a whole beehive of neuroses would swarm out." 5 comments
09/17/2012 page 145
28.0% "Oh D.Mitch, do you see this face? This is not a happy face." 6 comments
09/18/2012 page 185
36.0% "much better, DMitch. Did you have some student of yours write chapter 3? Cos that was crap. I almost gave up on you there buddy boy. I no longer have the urge to punch your book in the face." 16 comments
09/18/2012 page 200
39.0% "I don't get it. Can they not spell in the future?" 16 comments
09/19/2012 page 215
42.0% "Ah, I envied my uncritical, unthinking sisters...

That is not quite the same as wishing to be one." 20 comments
09/19/2012 page 250
49.0% "does anyone want to translate the Sloosha chapter for me? just give me the quick and dirty synopsis cos this shit is making my head hurt." 5 comments
09/20/2012 page 270
53.0% "I got no time for the jibba-jabba, fool!"
09/20/2012 page 313
61.0% "thank Papa Song that chapter is over" 19 comments
09/21/2012 page 360
70.0% "Books don't offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw."
09/22/2012 page 425
83.0% "am I really still reading this?!?" 5 comments
09/23/2012 page 475
93.0% "last verse, same as the first" 3 comments
09/23/2012 page 509
100.0% "hey DD, if you'r reading this... I literally threw this book across the room when I reached the end and it fell pretty good. Cathartic even." 4 comments

Comments (showing 1-50 of 227) (227 new)


Madeleine It looks like today's just gonna be a whole lot of YES READ THIS YESTERDAY comments....


Madeleine (But yes. DO IT!)


Jason stop

STOP EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING. And go read Cloud Atlas.

(Is that what you meant, Madeleine?)


s.penkevich Finally!


Jenn(ifer) I thought I had it on the list already! Mary & I are going to read this next (side read of IJ -- what am I getting myself into?)


Madeleine Jenn(ifer) wrote: "what am I getting myself into?"
Something magical!

Not gonna lie, I'm starting to fear IJ.


Mary Madeleine don't worry, we have Kris in that group, remember? Kris knows all.


Jenn(ifer) No need to fear IJ. It's a beast, but the lovable kind!


Madeleine Mary wrote: "Madeleine don't worry, we have Kris in that group, remember? Kris knows all."
Has a truer comment ever been made? I think not!

Jenn(ifer) wrote: "No need to fear IJ. It's a beast, but the lovable kind!"
Does it sing and dance? Will it show me its onanistic library?

Thanks for the reassurance, guys! I just started having flashbacks to how stupid "Gravity's Rainbow" made me feel in 20 pages and the fear came on fast.


Jenn(ifer) IJ isn't nearly as confusing. Or it's confusing in a different way. Or something. But we're talking about two of my most favorite books of life, so maybe I just enjoy being confused?


Madeleine I figured there won't be any mind-boggling physics equations or obscure '40s references in IJ, which was a relief.

Your love for both IJ and GR makes me feel better. GR was my true gateway drug to Pynchon and I did mostly love it but.... gah, I think it's the "confusing in a different way" prospect that has me a little intimidated. That, and my terminal inferiority complex just has me worried that I'll be the idiot at the smart kids' table.


Jenn(ifer) No way, you could never be that! Seriously, it's not "what the fuck just happened here" confusing or "what the fuck is he talking about" confusing... it's just a LOT of characters, and the timeline is weird, and the footnotes, my GOD the footnotes! But you'll love it. You will! I insist!

I probably didn't understand half of Gravity's Rainbow, but it was just so funny and amazing that in the end, I really didn't care.


message 13: by Mary (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mary Madeleine wrote: "That, and my terminal inferiority complex just has me worried that I'll be the idiot at the smart kids' table."
That seat's taken by me lol did you not see me in the TM&M group?


message 14: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark ...she says as she penned one of the best reviews in the group!


message 15: by Mary (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mary oh hush!


s.penkevich Jason wrote: "

STOP EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING. And go read Cloud Atlas.

(Is that what you meant, Madeleine?)"


Listen to Jason. He speaks the truth.


message 17: by Madeleine (last edited Sep 12, 2012 12:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Madeleine Jenn(ifer) wrote: "No way, you could never be that!"
Aw, thanks! :)

Seriously, it's not "what the fuck just happened here" confusing or "what the fuck is he talking about" confusing... it's just a LOT of characters, and the timeline is weird, and the footnotes, my GOD the footnotes! But you'll love it. You will! I insist!
Since you insist, I guess I'll just resign myself to loving it, confusion be damned!

Seriously, you've made me feel a lot better about IJ. I've wanted to love it ever since all 35 pounds of it landed on my porch but feel like I should fear it. Your comments have gone a long way in staving off my readerly anxiety, so thank you and thank you again for that.

I probably didn't understand half of Gravity's Rainbow, but it was just so funny and amazing that in the end, I really didn't care.
.... and you just perfectly described my relationship with that book. There were times I'd read a passage over and over again and NOT be frustrated because rereading always unearthed something new and wonderful and mind-mushing to make me fall even harder for Pynchon's ridiculous brain.

Mary wrote: "That seat's taken by me lol did you not see me in the TM&M group?"
Quiet, you! The beginning of your review is hacking away at my resolve to not read the group's thoughts on the book 'til I'm done. You're a smart cookie made of awesome and we all know it.


message 18: by Nick (new) - rated it 1 star

Nick Madeleine wrote: ".... and you just perfectly described my relationship with that book. There were times I'd read a passage over and over again and NOT be frustrated because rereading always unearthed something new and wonderful and mind-mushing to make me fall even harder for Pynchon's ridiculous brain."

GR is certainly one of those you need to read more than once, and not just re-reading the same passage three or four times in a row. There is so much packed into the novel that it is pretty much impossible to catch it all the first time. Infinite Jest is similar in that way.


Markus The movie is coming out. That should be interesting. I really liked this book btw. Oh and speaking of movies, go see The Master.


Jenn(ifer) Markus wrote: "The movie is coming out. That should be interesting. I really liked this book btw. Oh and speaking of movies, go see The Master."

don't tell me what to do!

(p.s., did you like it from the beginning? cos I gotta say, i'm not loving it right now)


Jason I definitely didn't not like it from the beginning. But for me, Sloosha's Crossin' is what cemented my love for this book.


Jason Btw, this is freaking hilarious: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


Markus No , i didnt like the 1st section at all until the dude started getting sick. wait til you see how that turns out.


s.penkevich Jason wrote: "Btw, this is freaking hilarious: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/..."

Amazing!


Markus holy confusing. so which book is the movie coming out for?


Jenn(ifer) This one. With f-ing Tom Hanks. I hate Tom Hanks.


Markus You obv never watched Bachelor Party.


Jason Tom Hanks is awful.


Markus Hanks Haters!


Jenn(ifer) Markus wrote: "You obv never watched Bachelor Party."

No way Tom Hanks could have gotten Tawny Kitean!


Jenn(ifer) It was that god awful movie with the volleyball that did him in.


Markus He bangs anything and everything he wants. Thats why he got the aids in your city.


Jenn(ifer) Ha!!!!!!! Knocked that one out of the park mgk


message 34: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Boooooo, The Burbs is the best movie, ever!!!


s.penkevich The Burbs. Mark wins todays cool points.
Aaaaaand the Cohen's Ladykillers


message 36: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Thanks, Penk! We love, love, love that movie!

Ladykillers was so strange, haha. That sniveling laugh Hanks would do. Eek!


s.penkevich Exactly! That was a weird one, but I liked Hanks in it, he charmed me! I might add Volunteers to the list, but that was more because of John Candy that Hanks.


message 38: by Mark (new) - added it

Mark Bruce Dern's character in The Burbs was jacked up. One of the oddest characters I believe I've ever seen. He made the Klopeks look normal!

Volunteers. Can't remember that one. But I looooove John Candy!! Great Outdoors for him and Dan Ackroyd both. Perfect 80s movie-makin!


message 39: by Rod (new)

Rod Ouch! No love for this one, huh? Waiting for the outraged cries of "Heretic!" Personally, I have no opinion, not having read it.


Jason Heretic!

(first)


message 41: by Nick (new) - rated it 1 star

Nick Love it!


message 42: by Stephen M (last edited Sep 23, 2012 04:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Stephen M Damn, same as Dan Brown? Ouch.

The rest is fair.

I'll be back when I reread.


Jenn(ifer) Rod wrote: "Ouch! No love for this one, huh? Waiting for the outraged cries of "Heretic!" Personally, I have no opinion, not having read it."

you're a lucky man


Jenn(ifer) Jason wrote: "Heretic!

(first)"


ha!


Jenn(ifer) Nick wrote: "Love it!"

thanks Nick!


message 46: by Mary (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mary +1


message 47: by Nick (new) - rated it 1 star

Nick Jenn(ifer) wrote: "Nick wrote: "Love it!"

thanks Nick!"


I'm sorry that it didn't work out for you; I know your pain.


Chamberk black swan green was really awesome.

also Hanks is apparently a cool dude and says that the nicest thing about being thought of as the nicest guy in hollywood is that no one finds any of the rotting bodies in your basement


Jason oh no you di'int just compare this book to a dan brown novel! <z-snap>

I just finished reading this review and it's so funny because when you got to the whole actual past vs. virtual past thing, I honestly started to reflect back on how cool that whole concept was to me, as well as that of the actual vs. virtual future.

This virtual future may influence the actual future, as in a self-fulfilling prophesy, but the actual future will eclipse our virtual one as surely as tomorrow eclipses today.


Jenn(ifer) Stephen M wrote: "Damn, same as Dan Brown? Ouch.

The rest is fair.

I'll be back when I reread."


That was a mean little jab, I know, but it was all in good fun. I love DMitch; just didn't like this book. He can definitely write (as evidenced by BSG), but this one didn't work for me.


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