Saturday, October 4, 2014

In Adam's Fall

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

I have been staying up late at night reading, and reading desperately in carpool line, and reading distractedly at gas station pumps -- the picture of the undisciplined, novel-engrossed housewife someone might have written a cautionary tale about in 1890. (Well, minus the carpool lines and gas station pumps.) Thanks a lot, David Mitchell.

Paul Simon was the only living boy in New York, and I suspect I am the only living English major to discover Mitchell just last week. By the time I hear about The Next Big Thing it is usually The Last Big Thing. That said:

Starting with the gradual decline (and final redemption) of the ship bound Adam Ewing, the novel is a tight, satisfying story compiled of tight, satisfying stories, a walk through time and the human condition via reincarnation (or perhaps it is generations): racism, courage, liberation, political economy, stewardship of the earth, and, ultimately, human nature.

Reformed friends, we may reject Buddhist and hyper-feminist notions, but if you want a moving picture of both original sin and human potential, this novel is that. Consciously or unconsciously, it is also profoundly pro-life, especially the story of Sonmi. (Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is even more starkly pro-life.)

Maybe you are just interested in reading a good story? Cloud Atlas is a novel and also a collection of several stories in different genres -- the journal travelogue, the letter, the spy thriller, the humorous narrative, the sci-fi novella. His characters are full but his language is efficient.

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