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Thursday, October 1, 2020

My Cloud Atlas Walkabout

I've recently spent a good chunk of time roaming around on Cloud Atlas

Based on its reputation, before even diving into the text of David Mitchell's 2004 blockbuster, I first examined the architecture of his novel. Via the page headers for the eleven sections, Mitchell's intriguing nesting scheme was easy to discern. Sections one and eleven have the same title, as do sections two and ten, three and nine, four and eight, five and seven. Only section six - dead center - has a unique title.  With no idea how this format would play out in the narrative flow - and not caring how long it would take to complete the book - I impulsively decided to read just one section each day, regardless of length. Thus began my eleven day walkabout, which ended about 3:15 a.m. yesterday. 

Cloud Atlas is now the most marked-up book in my bulging collection, surpassing another out-of-the-park winner I finished a few months back, Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life. But, aside from the excessive underlining, numerous folded-down pages, and crazy amount of writing in the margins and elsewhere, these two cherished friends in my book collection have little in common. I'm hard-pressed to name any book that has much in common with Cloud Atlas. It's a mystery, a philosophical tract, a literary marvel. 

Even after finishing the book, writing a brief "review" on Goodreads, and trying to further prolong the glow by capturing some of the essence of this modern-day masterpiece into my book journal, I still wasn't ready to leave Mitchell's mind-blowing universe. At about midnight - book in hand - I journeyed downstairs to spend three more hours watching the 2012 film, scribbling still more notes into my book. Though I was enthralled, I suspect many people would be confused, at best, and more likely frustrated by the film adaptation. But given the serpentine nature of the novel, the three co-screenwriting directors deserve kudos for trying. And, if a film - no matter how flawed - brings more attention to Mitchell's tour-de-force, all is well.          

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