Milchtoast

Chronicles of a writer abroad


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An evening without Alice Munro

A funny thing happened when a friend and I went to an Alice Munro reading yesterday evening: Alice Munro wasn’t there.

Looking back on it now, it maybe was a little too good to be true. In the past year in Zürich, I’ve attended readings by JM Coetzee and John Irving, and now Alice Munro was coming to town. These are not authors that I just kinda-sorta like; it was starting to seem eerie how tailored to my taste these author appearances were.

Yes: I’m aware that Alice Munro is 81 years old.  And yes, I’m aware that she, having lived her life in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, probably speaks no German, unlike Coetzee and Irving, who both speak enough to be comfortable at bilingual events.

But at 81 Munro does have a new book of stories out, entitled Dear Life. It was easy for me, then, to spin a mental yarn in which she decided to do a European tour, and opted to include in it our klein aber fein city – hadn’t its beauty dazzled me on my walk to the venue?  The lit-up churches and the fairy-light-garlanded trees standing out against the black sky…the swans bobbing serenely on the dark river, the glow of these lights reflected dimly in their breasts…who wouldn’t want to visit Zürich near Christmastime?

Admittedly, there were clues that Alice Munro wasn’t coming to the Literaturhaus’ “Alice-Munro Abend” (translated in my head as “An Evening with Alice Munro”). Though the event was advertised using a picture of Munro, the names of two other, local female writers were on the bill. But recall that John Irving’s reading involved someone helping out with reading the German bits — wasn’t it plausible that that’s what those women would be there for? Or else, the three were planning to have a conversation about writing?

When the event began, however, there was a table with only two chairs on stage…and both chairs were occupied by these women. Where would Alice sit? A third woman came on stage to welcome us all to the event, and she began to talk about Alice, in German. As my friend later noted, she talked about her in a somewhat indelicate manner (“Alice is not young; it’s difficult for her to travel”) but as always when German is being spoken quickly, the meaning fades in and out for me, so all I noticed is that she didn’t look at anyone in particular, as you typically do look at someone when speaking about them in their presence.

Next the two authors began to talk about her life and work, and went on to read from some of her stories, all in German. Surely it isn’t polite to alienate her with all this German? I thought. To make her wait so long for her turn to speak/read? And where indeed was she waiting — in the audience? The bubble of my illusion was being stretched further and further…until they played a tinny audio recording of Alice speaking at a true public reading, and it popped.

It turns out that we non-native German speakers may have been foiled by one little word in the advertisement for this event: widmen. It apparently signalled that this was an evening dedicated to, and not with, the writer. However, a German-speaking couple sitting in front of us walked out partway through, presumably after realizing that Alice Munro wasn’t coming, so I think there might still have been cross-lingual confusion.

After the event, my friend and I ran into a fellow expat writer who at first looked absolutely stricken by what had taken place – she loves Alice Munro; she’d brought a book to be signed – but then, as we headed for the drinks table, pooling our embarrassment, began to laugh until tears stood out in her eyes.

That’s when it occurred to me how much this event had succeeded in capturing the spirit of Alice Munro’s writing. What I think most of us cherish about her fiction are its moments of raw and blemished humanity: moments of awkwardness, embarrassment, anger, and yes…disappointment, too.

In her stories, Munro gives us the moment in which one woman calmly but furiously cleans her kitchen while another confesses to an affair with her husband. She gives us the moment when an older woman who has opened her home in kindness to a stranger realizes that her life is in jeopardy. She gives us the confusion of a man upon finding out that his wife, institutionalized with Alzheimer’s disease, has taken a new boyfriend. And – perhaps most salient for me – she gives us the moment of revealing oneself as a writer:

 …here comes the disclosure which is not easy for me: I am a writer. That does not sound right. Too presumptuous; phony, or at least unconvincing. Try again. I write. Is that better? I try to write. That makes it worse. Hypocritical humility. Well then?

 It doesn’t matter. However I put it, the words create their space of silence, the delicate moment of exposure. But people are kind, the silence is quickly absorbed by the solicitude of friendly voices, crying variously, how wonderful, and good for you, and well, that is intriguing. And what do you write, they inquire with spirit. Fiction, I reply, bearing my humiliation by this time with ease, even a suggestion of flippancy, which was not always mine, and again, again, the perceptible circles of dismay are smoothed out by such ready and tactful voices–which have however exhausted their stock of consolatory phrases, and can say only, ‘Ah!'”

– From the story “The Office”

 I feel sure that if Alice Munro had lived as an expat, she would have brilliantly captured the moments of delight and confusion and embarrassment and sorrow that accompany this experience, too.

In the end I’m grateful to Zürich’s “Alice Munro-Abend” for reminding me that I can visit with Munro, in my home and in the original language, any time I wish. In her perfectly-crafted stories, which now fill thirteen volumes, she has never once failed to show up.

But I can’t help wishing that Alice Munro the person – who ironically at this moment is probably at her home in Ontario, only a few hundred kilometres from my hometown, from my family – will have a holiday season as beautiful as the one we enjoy here in Zürich.

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Book recommendation: The God of Small Things

In a good year, I read 40-50 books (this figure includes audiobooks), but my list of all-time favourites doesn’t often change — this is either because I read good books early on, or because those I read first imprinted themselves deeply on my psyche while I was young and impressionable and just discovering the joy of novels. Maybe it’s a mix of both. But what I want to share with you now is a book that, from its first page, began its slow and steady creep into my top ten list.

The downside of being a reader and an aspiring writer is that the kind of books that thrill me most as a reader are the same books that most pain me as a writer. While I’m happy that writing of such high calibre exists, I’m sad that I don’t possess the ability to write this well. While I’m engrossed in the plot, I’m also trying to stand outside of the plot so that I can see how it’s constructed. If the book it is really good, I’ll nod off at my analysis post because I’m so taken with the story, and that leaves me delighted and also annoyed.

It can get to the point where I find myself flinging a book down in exasperation after reading an especially beautiful passage, and storming to my computer where I begin googling the author to learn how long it took the author to write it, how old he or she was when it was published, and so on, because Answers, dammit! I need answers!

Later I’ll calm down. I’ll return to the book and it will soothe me with its beautiful story, its impeccable prose.

It’s an agony-and-ecstasy sort of thing.

Here’s what I learned about Arundhati Roy during my anguished research. It took her a respectable four years to write The God of Small Things, her first novel. She wrote it thinking that it would never be read outside of India. After it was published —  and after it won international acclaim and the Booker Prize for 1997 — she declared herself finished with novel-writing and moved on to political activism, in the service of which she has authored several books of nonfiction. Like Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, she’s bestowed just one perfect novel on the world (though she did announce in 2007 that she intended to write another).

Turning to the book itself: it deals with issues of caste and forbidden love in Indian society. To borrow from a New Yorker review by John Updike, it builds a “massive interlocking structure.” It’s said that good fiction relies heavily on consequence — it gives us pleasure as readers to see one thing leading to another, to have a sense that things are not happening randomly but inexorably. The events in Roy’s book, while not simply told, are (when you think about them later) as neatly causal as a chain of dominoes. Everything that happens — even the horrible things, and there are several — has a sense of inevitability.

It is also written in a nonlinear fashion that is brilliant in how it evokes the state of mind of the main characters — a boy-girl pair of “two-egg twins,” eight years old when the main action takes place. In the beginning the action has already occurred, but the reader is as clueless as the children about why. These details are backfilled and the reader’s understanding grows to the book’s ending, which is also arguably its climax. It’s a beautiful subverting of the typical novel structure.

Finally, the writing is awfully good. The attention to language is like what you’d find in a poem, and it’s amazing that so much care was taken with an entire novel. The rendering of childlike thoughts and forms of speech is perfect and hilarious:

‘Where d’you think people are sent to Jolly Well Behave?’ Estha asked Rahel in a whisper.

‘To the government,’ Rahel whispered back, because she knew.

Finally, it’s a joy to experience India’s sights, sounds and smells painted in vibrant colours, as here, in the book’s first paragraph:

May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.

Read this…it is likely, for one reason or another, to break your heart. But in that way of really good books, it will also feed you.


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The audiobook version

How do you feel about audiobooks?

I used to be pretty staunchly against them. If I was going to consume a book, then by golly I was going to read it, not listen to it.

Then a few things happened…I became addicted to talk radio (or at least one talk radio show, This American Life), and I realized that audiobooks would not be a huge leap from my beloved hour-long podcast episodes. I also joined the Zürich library system and found that a surprising number of English books were offered in audiobook format. It wasn’t long before I was carting home stacks of plastic boxes filled with CDs, and feeding them one by one into my computer.

Now that I’m a convert, I still read as many physical books as ever, but I’ve found that audiobooks have several distinct advantages. First, unlike library books that have to be returned, the audiobooks I get to keep — in digital form, anyway — because I import them into iTunes before transferring them to my device. Second, a big stack of them weighs nothing on my MP3 player, making them great for travel (though you could say the same about Kindle books) and third, I can listen to them while walking or running, which I really enjoy. The book Eat Pray Love, for example, was helpful in getting me through long training runs in the cold winter months — I’d forget my dreary surroundings and become engrossed in the author’s descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells of Italy, India and Indonesia.

There are also pitfalls, however, the main one being that a bad narrator can ruin even a good book. Actors are often used as audiobook narrators, and sometimes they go overboard in their attempts to make the voices for each character very unique, which can distract the listener. I was so irritated by the voice that one male narrator gave to a female main character, for example, that I had to stop listening to the book, even though it was one I’d been looking forward to.

The treasures in audiobook-land are those books read by the authors themselves. What could be better than hearing the book exactly as it sounded in the head of the person who wrote it? They know how the characters’ voices should sound, what should be emphasized, which tone to adopt for each scene.

Of all the audiobooks I’ve listened to so far, my hands-down favourites have been those by David Sedaris. I’d heard the buzz about Sedaris’ books (Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, When You Are Engulfed in Flames) in recent years, but I never got around to reading them. But when I saw an audiobook at the library with that precious “read by the author” label on it, I snatched it up. A few hours later I was out walking and unable to stop myself from bouts of laughter, even in the vicinity of other people. And I don’t laugh out loud often — almost never when reading — but the combination of his funny prose and his style of narration was just too much.

Sedaris, who lived for some years as an expat in Paris, describes in one chapter/audio segment of When You Are Engulfed In Flames how, after he’d given up on French lessons, he took to saying “d’accord” (“okay”) to anything that was said to him…and he underwent a number of frightening, disgusting, and hilarious experiences as a result. His descriptions of the behaviour of many other people — his longtime partner, Hugh, his former landlady, his siblings — are so outrageous that I suspect they are sometimes embellished, but this doesn’t stop them from being very funny. (Note: Sedaris is not recommended if you offend easily!).

Well, that’s the public service announcement I wanted to make before I head out for a run with a new book. Consider the convenience and enjoyment of reading while running, while walking, while commuting! And please do let me know if you have any good audiobook recommendations.


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Book recommendation: Middlesex

I feel a bit silly recommending Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex to you, seeing as it was published a full decade ago, and most people I’ve talked to about it have read it already. Having recently finished this book, however, I feel the need to spread the word about how good it is, on the off-chance that you haven’t read it either and I might induce you to.

What kept me from reading Middlesex all these years was my understanding that it was an “intergenerational saga,” which is not typically what I go for in a novel. I enjoy books which allow me to get to know a few characters really well, as opposed to books in which I have to continually meet and adjust to new characters. I think this mirrors my real-life preference to spend time with a smaller group of people that I know well rather than a larger group that I’m acquainted with on a more casual basis.

It turns out, however, that despite being an intergenerational saga, Middlesex is exactly my kind of book. The book’s main concern is the formation of one individual’s identity (their gender identity, in particular) but in order to fully appreciate this character’s situation, you have to understand things that happened in the previous generations of that individual’s family. You could make this argument for any character in any book, I suppose, but I’d say that the family history is especially important here.

I’ve been in awe of Jeffrey Eugenides since I read his first novel, The Virgin Suicides, in which he pioneered a new kind of point-of-view, which was first-person plural. If you haven’t read the book, that means that it is narrated not as an “I”, but as a “we” (it’s a group of boys telling a story about a family of five girls with whom they were obsessed). In Middlesex, Eugenides again plays with point-of-view in a way that would make any writer jealous: though narrating in first-person, his main character has firsthand access to things that happened decades before they were born. Odd and seemingly wrong when you stop to think about it, but it’s so well-done that as you’re reading, you never doubt the source or question the authenticity for a moment. This is one sign that you’re in the hands of a truly skilled writer.

In addition to enjoying great writing, you will not have read many books that grapple with the sorts of questions that Middlesex does, though the questions are important and fundamental. Questions like how do we come to identify with one gender over the other? and what are the relative contributions of genes and environment to that process? Perhaps it’s the former psychology student in me that finds these issues very compelling, but I’d submit that we’d all do well to think about them a little bit.

If you haven’t read it, I think all I have to do in order to get you immediately hooked and committed to reading the novel’s 530 pages, as I was, is to give you its first sentence:

“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

Has your curiosity been piqued?

A final note: as suggested by the title and my description, the book does contain descriptions of genitalia and sexual encounters, but none of it ever struck me as gratuitous.

Have I convinced you to read this yet? If you’ve already read the book, what did you think of it?


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Recent adventures in reading

It hit me that I haven’t bored you to tears blogged about books in a while. And since I went through quite a few this summer, here are my thoughts on a few of them…

First up: Moby Dick, by Herman Melville.

When I discussed David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, I cautioned that reading it entailed an investment of time and effort. Well, this is true of Moby Dick to a further degree. This novel numbers 822 pages – it’s the kind of book that begins to cut off the circulation to your hands as you’re holding it up while reading in bed (can anyone else relate to this problem?).

To be fair, though, the version of Moby Dick that I checked out of the library is, as I mentioned once before, replete with delightful illustrations. The last books that I can recall having elements illustrated for me were in the (much beloved by me) Nancy Drew mystery series.

However, even with the illustrations, the book could stand to lose some weight. I can only imagine what a modern day literary agent or editor would tell Melville: “Love the story, but you’ve got to trim the fat!” I feel for Melville; editing down words eked out over weeks and months is painful. But revisions would have done it some good, I think. The book’s architecture often differs from that of a novel – Melville is too methodical sometimes, as if he’s writing a manual rather than a story. For example, chapter 21 is spent not at all advancing the plot, but merely introducing a character and telling you all about him. Chapter 22 is devoted to a second character, and Chapter 23 to a third. Modern-day authors can’t get away with this – they have to weave character development and action together.

Melville, thinly disguised as Ishmael, his protagonist, also gives a 27-page treatise on whale classification, which made me forget I was reading a novel and begin to wonder why I was spending my evening poring over the minutiae of cetology.

Confession: I didn’t finish the book. But I had fun wading around in it, and I may try it again someday, so that I can absorb more beautiful and true sentences like this one: “In this world, shipmates, sin that pays its way can travel freely, and without a passport, whereas virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all frontiers.”

Next, I read Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. This, too, is a tome — five hundred and some pages, but I lapped it all up eagerly. Franzen is an author that not everyone enjoys; some find him too preachy, others think him too cruel, still others are annoyed by the fact that he always writes about the American midwest.

But I adore him. I love hearing his biting and sarcastic voice in my head as I read. He does pick things and people apart pretty brutally, but he so often gives me that click of recognition. “Her drawers were unopenably stuffed,” he writes, and I feel as though he might be one of the people who lives across the street and is able to see into my apartment. He’s writing about me! I think. Or someone very real and flawed like me, anyway.

And check out these powers of description as he paints a scene in New York:

“A pair of fur-coated ladies ballsily appropriating a cab that Casey had hailed outside Bloomingdale’s. Tres hot middle-school girls wearing jeans under their miniskirts and slouching on the subway with their legs wide open. Cornrowed ghetto kids in ominous jumbo parkas, National Guard troops patrolling Grand Central with highly advanced weapons. And the Chinese grandmother hawking DVDs of films that hadn’t even opened yet, the break-dancer who ripped a muscle or a tendon and sat rocking in pain on the floor of the 6 train, the insistent saxophone player to whom Joey gave five dollars to help him get to his gig, despite Casey’s warning that he was being conned: each encounter was like a poem he instantly memorized.”

But back to the preachy thing — Freedom is, at its core, an argument about overpopulation and its effects on the environment. Some will find it too dogmatic. It was okay for me – I enjoyed the pull of the polemic and the need to keep my intellectual defences up as I read. If you haven’t read Franzen previously, though, may I suggest that you begin with The Corrections — it is equally long, but its theme of family life in the late-20th century is more universally relatable and probably not so divisive. But you still might find him mean-spirited and insulting, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And one more: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, by Michael Chabon

This is Chabon’s first book, written in 1988 (he’s since gone on to win a Pulitzer and a number of other prestigious awards for his later works). I read an interview in which he said that Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was a strong influence on the book. And it is apparent: as in Gatsby, the book also takes place over the course of the summer, and it deals with the way in which people are mythologized in the eyes of their friends and enemies. It also seems something of a love letter to Pittsburgh, a city I once contemplated living in, and I love books that make me feel almost as though I’ve been to the city. On the whole, though, I suggest you read or re-read Gatsby before reading this.

What have you been reading lately?


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Book Recommendation: Room

As promised, I am recommending a recent book. Room, written by Irish author Emma Donoghue, was published in 2010 — in this selfsame decade!

And it’s an incredible book. Incredible, firstly, in the literal sense of the word: it teeters on the edge of unbelievability because its subject matter — its concept — is pretty extreme. In the hands of another author, it might not have worked. But Donoghue makes it work. Room is also incredible in the other sense of the word — when you are finished reading it, you feel as though you have just experienced something pretty extraordinary.

Room is narrated by a boy named Jack, and the book opens on his fifth birthday. Like most children, Jack has been taught to distinguish between things that are “real” and things that are “only on TV” — except in Jack’s case, the latter category includes things like dogs and oceans and forests. This is because Jack has spent his entire life in a room that measures 11 feet by 11 feet. At the book’s opening, Jack is an unwitting captive who lives with his mother, who has been imprisoned since before his birth.

In Room, the author has done an excellent job with a very limited point of view — a five-year old’s understanding and perspective are wildly different from an adult’s, but Donoghue writes Jack’s voice and thoughts in such a convincing way that I believed I was in the mind of a child, except for a few occasions where a turn of phrase or insight would strike me as unbelievable. I cringed, for instance, when Jack dismissed one of his mother’s explanations, saying “that’s crazy math,” or when he described himself as feeling “giddy” — I have trouble believing that even a precocious five year-old could make such a judgment or grasp such a concept. But happily, I found these moments of incongruity to be few and far between.

I’m tempted to say a lot more about this book, but I think I risk lessening your enjoyment of it if I do; if you choose to read it, I think you should go in as I did, without knowing much. One caveat: there is a fair share of disturbing material in here, given the subject matter. Now that you know that, let me do this one final pitch: this book is unputdownable. The plot is riveting. The characters (especially the narrating protagonist) are fully-fleshed and endearing. The dialogue is entirely believable (one of my pet peeves as a reader is cheesy or artificial-sounding dialogue). This is definitely worth the few days that you’ll spend reading it…that is, if you can bear to have it spread out over a few days. Really, it’s that compelling a story — at least, it was for me.

Any thoughts about Room? Comments on the book or alternate recommendations are welcome!


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Book Discussion: Cloud Atlas

We are riding a heat wave here in Zürich. It’s our third day of temperatures above 30. My brain is a little scrambled, it feels as though an oven door is being opened in your face whenever you step out into the sun, and — horror of horrors — the chocolate is melting! I cannot abide chocolate-melting weather.

On the upside, though, our city has a lake that is clean enough to swim in (what a concept!), and this provides some relief. We were in it yesterday, and will probably be in it again soon. Today (she said with a grimace), we run instead.

But…I came here to talk about something else, didn’t I? Oh, right — Cloud Atlas. Notice I didn’t call this post a book recommendation, but instead a book discussion. The fact is, I do recommend this book, but only if you answer “yes” to the following criteria:

– you’re willing to invest a significant chunk of time in reading a sprawling, 526-page novel

– you’re not bothered by a novel containing six different stories told by six different narrators

-you think it’s worth reading a work that occasionally rambles if the author is an incomparable stylist (i.e., he can write like nobody’s business)

Intrigued? Then I’ll tell you a little more. Cloud Atlas, written by British author David Mitchell and published in 2004, is a Russian doll of sorts. It begins in the mid-19th century, with a young man embarking on a journey from the South Pacific to Hawaii by ship. Just as Adam Ewing’s story starts to gain momentum, it cuts off literally in mid-sentence, and we are launched into an epistolary tale — another young man named Robert Frobisher has come to Belgium in the 1930s, fleeing a previous life in which he ran into some kind of money trouble and was disowned by his father. A fledgling composer, he manages to obtain work as an amanuensis for an ailing idol of his; he writes letters to his lover, a man named Sixsmith, describing his experience working and living in the composer’s chateau. Interrupting Frobisher’s story is one about a reporter named Luisa Rey who works to expose the danger of a new nuclear facility in the U.S. circa 1970. Her tale is then occluded by that of Timothy Cavendish, who lives in present-day Britain, and has been consigned to a nursing home, he feels, as a result of a joke. He battles to convince the staff and fellow patients of this; when he cannot, his mind becomes fixed on escape. Cavendish’s ordeal is then  overlapped by the testimony of Sonmi~451, a “server fabricant,” or  humanlike but “soulless” organism genomed to fit the precise needs of a fast-food corporation in a dystopic future Korea. Finally, before we can hear all that Sonmi has to say, her story is cut off by Zachry, who is one of several surviving human tribes living in post-apocalyptic Hawaii. We get to hear his whole story at once, before the dolls are nestled back in again…the reader is led back to Sonmi, Timothy, Luisa, Robert, and finally, Adam, the seafarer, as each of their stories is put to bed in turn.

This book reminded me very much of a workout I used to do on the treadmill. I realize this is a strange thing to say, but it’s true. My former workout consisted of increasing the treadmill’s speed from 7.0 to 8.0 — every 2 minutes, I would increase by an increment of 0.1 (to 7.1, 7.2, etc.), and after running 8.0 for 2 minutes, I’d start reversing back to 7.0 using the same increments of 0.1. I’d get up and back down in 42 minutes. I hated it and loved it.

This book has the same structure, and I hated and loved it in the same ways. In the first half, I was annoyed whenever the level changed — it seemed like I was just getting comfortable where I was. And what I hated most were the minutes spent at the top — Zachry’s story, in this case, which was the only one presented in complete form (this character, who narrates in some kind of futuristic yokel language, is singlehandedly responsible for causing me to spend a month reading this book — I kept putting it down during his part). But then, when the other stories started to close up, I felt like I was flying through them — each seemed almost more enjoyable than the last.

So, the book drags in places — at least it did for me. I did not love all of the characters equally, though I think the book is worth a read purely for the two that I really fell in love with (Frobisher and Cavendish). What is to be admired is how the author creates so many different “main” characters with such distinct voices. See if these don’t hook you:

Adam Ewing: “Occasionally, I glimpse a truer Truth, hiding in imperfect simulacrums of itself, but as I approach, it bestirs itself & moves deeper into the thorny swamp of dissent.”

Robert Frobisher: “One can spot a fellow musician in any context, even among policemen. The craziest-eyed, unruliest-haired  one, either hungry-skinny or jovial portly.”

Timothy Cavendish: “You can see it, can’t you, dear Reader? I was a man in a horror B-movie asylum. The more I ranted and raged, the more I proved that I was exactly where I should be.”

Luisa Rey: “Where there’s bluster, thinks Luisa, there’s duplicity.”

Sonmi~451: “I have no earliest memories, Archivist. Every day of my life in Papa Song’s was as uniform as the fries that we vended.”

Zachry: “I creeped slywise’n’speedy but late I was, yay, way too late.”

I also enjoyed the author’s cleverness in mirroring his own story within his story (a meta-narrative of sorts). Frobisher, for example, describes his grand idea for a symphony, which sounds eerily familiar, thusly:

“In the 1st set, each solo is interrupted by its successor: in the 2nd, each interruption is recontinued, in order. Revolutionary or gimmicky? Shan’t know until it’s finished…”

I think I’ve now said enough about the book to either have turned you onto or put you off of the idea of it. The one question you may still be asking is whether the sundry characters of the novel are linked in some way. The answer: of course. But you’ll have to read it to find out how.

Have you read Cloud Atlas? If so, I’d love to hear your impressions! And, as always, please feel free to make your own book recommendations below.