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)[when Cavendish reads the Luisa Rey story and remarks about ‘the insinuation that Luisa Rey is this Frobisher chap reincarnated’ (hide 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
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!