Dueling mini-reviews of Cloud Atlas (courtesy of Kevin Wignall and Ed) pulled from Tingle Alley’s backblog:
KW: David Mitchell is, I’m told, a lovely person, but he represents everything I detest in fiction. I’ve tried to read both Number 9 Dream and Cloud Atlas and found both of them messy, too in love with themselves, and wilfully complacent about the need to tell a story in a compelling way. I’d be happy for Ed to try and put me straight – I remain open-minded – but if the argument is, “sometimes you have to work hard to appreciate a great work of art”, I’m sorry, it doesn’t wash. I’ve said the same about David Peace. The difficulty of a story should be in the content, not in the telling. We are in the business of entertaining people, and any writer who forgets that, no matter what the subject matter, deserves not to be read.
EC: It may be a difference of sensibilities. Even so, “Cloud Atlas” is such a rich, goofy, operatic and downright kickass work that hits so many fantastic tones (satire, pathos, pulp, nostalgia, concern for humanity, futuristic argot, surrealism, light pomo) that I just can’t see why anyone looking for a bracing literary ride wouldn’t love it. It does require a dictionary. It does require looking up arcane references. And, yes, it’s a showboat. But the plots are so entertaining, the prose so invigorating, and the five puzzling plots much fun to pick through (although admittedly the book loses steam near the end) that why would anyone possibly care? Hell, you could argue that Faulkner, Joyce, Gaddis, Barth or Pynchon are “complacent” to some extent. But then, for me, plunging into arcana is what makes literature worthwhile.
I know where I stand on this one, but what say you, EdHeads and David Mitchell fans/detractors? Is Mitchell generally making his readers work too hard or is this just a case of to-ma-to/to-mah-to?