David Mitchell is a writer of depth, a storyteller whose stories contain layers and profundities. He is the author of The Bone Clocks, and The Thousand Autums of Jacob de Zoet, which I talked about here on the blog, and of No 9 Dream and Cloud Atlas, which I have yet to read. Don’t rush me, I’m getting there.
Ghostwritten is a really interesting book, written in a very interesting manner. It’s tagline is: A novel in Nine Parts. It has nine chapters, each set in a different city and country, and featuring a different protagonist and storyline. I was fascinated to see just how it would all come together, and ….. guess what. It doesn’t actually all come together in the way you might expect. The chapter/stories are all joined through seemingly coincidental events, sometimes with only a passing reference to a character or event in another chapter, sometimes being affected by an event or person from another chapter.
It does all come together in the next to final chapter in a way that is surprising, and yet, when you think back over the storylines, not surprising at all.
The novel has two basic ideas underpinning it; one is of the interconnectivity of all life and of all matter, (“matter is thought, and thought is matter. Nothing exists that cannot be synthesized.”) and “Phenomena are interconnected regardless of distance, in a holistic ocean more voodoo than Newton.”), and the other is the notion of random chance vs. synchronicity.
One of the chapters is about a young man who works as a ghostwriter in London, who says
The act of memory is an act of ghostwriting.
The book is just riddled with great quotables:
- The double-crossed, might-have-been history of my country is not the study of what actually took place here: it’s the study of historians’ studies.
– He spoke with the leisure of a never-interrupted man.
– The universe is the shape of a doughnut, and if you had a powerful enough telescope you would see the tip of your tail.
– Pastoral in E minor by Fettuccine.
– Even time is not immune to time.
– The most malicious god is the god of the counted chicken.
But what is the book about? Ummm, erm, I don’t know. Exactly. About what is real and what is delusion and what is hallucination? Maybe. You will have to read it yourself and let me know what you think it is about.