Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reading Notes on Cloud Atlas, Pt. 2: A Quick Conclusion


I finished it, all 509 pages. It only took me an absurd ten or so days. My process of reading this book can best be illustrated by two different graphs:

A) Reading speed in relation to pages read
B) Interest level in relation to pages read
It was that dead zone in the middle there, which you may recall consisted of dystopian and post-apolyptic sci-fi, that killed me. However, quickly after I got past page 326, I was into it again and finished the rest of the book in a night. I most enjoyed stories 2, 3, and 4. Number 3—”Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery”—was a thriller that kept me interested just by the fact that it was a thriller. Number 4—”The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish”—involved a crazy old man and his escape from a nursing home, so that was just humorously entertaining. The author from story number 2—”Letters from Zedelghem”—amused me. The picture in my head was of Tom Hulce’s bat-crazy Amadeus from the 1984 movie of the same title.
Once the sixth story—”Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After”—ends, Mitchell goes back through the other five stories and wraps each of them up with a pretty little bow.
[That’s not sarcasm; he actually does conclude each of them to my satisfaction.]
The intent of all these stories, I think, is to say something to the effect that souls pass through time, and all of these characters are linked, both physically (as I discussed earlier in telling how the stories link together) and metaphysically. Though, Mitchell does tell these stories as a storyteller, and you’re kinda (or at least I was kinda) left trying to rummage through all you’ve learned and figure out what was fact and what was fiction.
The final pages of “The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing” are actually pretty poignant, and I think get Mitchell’s entire point across—Human nature doesn’t change, and we can only take things so far before they explode and we have to start all over again. Like, we started out as lawless primitives and eventually we’ll drive ourselves to that again (?).
Who knows. That’s what I got from it. Once we discuss in book club, I’m certain my thoughts will be much better articulated.
But until then, there were a couple passages that both seemed important and that I enjoyed:

“Oh, once you’ve been initiated into the Elderly, the world doesn’t want you back…We—by whom I mean anyone over sixty—commit two offenses just by existing. One is Lack of Velocity. We drive too slowly, walk too slowly, talk too slowly. The world will do business with dictators, perverts, and drug barons of all stripes, but being slowed down it cannot abide. Our second offence is being Everyman’s memento mori. The world can only get comfy in shiny-eyed denial if we are out of sight” (p. 361).

“Exposition: the workings of the actual past + the virtual past may be illustrated by an event well known to collective history, such as the sinking of the Titanic. The disaster as it actually occurred descends into obscurity as its eyewitnesses die off, documents perish + the wreck of the ship dissolves in its Atlantic grave. Yet a virtual sinking of the Titanic

[Go back to Part 1 of my Cloud Atlas journey or continue to Part 3.]


softdrink said…

Okay, I'll keep it on the shelf, but I'm not promising to give it another try anytime soon.

Steph said…

I didn't take much more away from this novel than you did either; I think the message at its core is pretty basic, and I wound up enjoying it more for the prose and the plot. I wound up thinking it was fun, which is pretty much all I was hoping for!

Salvatore said…

Nice graphs!

I really want to read this in order to make my own.

Kari said…

Well you need to give it a try sometime and then we can discuss! Trust me, you get way more out of it from discussion!

Kari said…

It is sort of "fun" to read just because the prose and plot and format are so unusual and unique. I think it has a LOT of basic themes in it. I'll be posting my concluding thoughts from book club discussion in the next couple of days.

Kari said…

Ha, I really want to see how yours compare to mine.

Care said…

Most definitely a book that once read allows you into the 'club' of having read it.  It was fun!  If not for all the many amazing dialects and genre crossing across similar themes.