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Author Topic: David Mitchell's new novel
Pants
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I'm really excited about David Mitchell's new novel, Black Swan Green which is out in the States now (and in the UK on 8 May). There's an excellent review in this week's New Yorker (only in the magazine, not on the website for some reason). Sounds like he's put the structural pyrotechnics to one side for this one - though the idea of covering 13 months of a 13-year old's life through 13 self-contained chapters/stories does sound intriguing. The New Yorker piece compares the structure to the television series My So-Called Life - the epsiodic nature of the book enables Mitchell to alternate between drama and humour. I read a couple of reviews which mention that this kind of semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story is usually first novel territory: having flown out the traps into really unconventional ways of telling stories with his first three books, it'll be really interesting to see what Mitchell does in this more conventional area.
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Inca
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quote:
There's an excellent review in this week's New Yorker (only in the magazine, not on the website for some reason)
The New Yorker only makes a portion of the magazine available online.

Strange that it's out here first before the UK...he must be getting more attention in the US than I thought.

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Pants
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The New Yorker piece makes the point that Mitchell's a big star in the UK but relatively unknown so far in the US. The reviewer - Daniel Zalewski - posits the idea that Mitchell's narratives perhaps "come together too seamlessly" for an American audience, who prefer them to "dangle dismally, in proper postmodern fashion." I'm not sure about that but I know Mitchell is very much influenced by Don DeLillo and I think it's only a matter of time before he becomes a world star.
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Pants
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He's doing a signing at Waterstones in Gower Street at 12.30 on Tuesday 9 May. Anyone work nearby and fancy hooking up for this, then grabbing lunch - kind of a mini lunchtime OTF-athon?
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Lardinho
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I work about 3 minutes walk from there.
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Duncan Gardner
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I work there. Not the same Davie Mitchell that played for Chelsea, I suppose?
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Ginger Yellow
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To be honest and selfish, I'd like to see Mitchell write some conventional sci-fi. I wasn't all that impressed with the structure of Cloud Atlas, apart from enjoying the nod to Calvino, but a lot of the "individual" stories were really good. In particular I loved the the Somni story.
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Pants
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Duncan - you actually work at Waterstones on Gower Street?

I know what you mean about selfishly wanting Mitchell to stick to your favourite genre, GY. The publisher Timothy Cavendish only had a cameo in Ghostwritten but he was one of my favourite characters in the book. So when he got his own section in Cloud Atlas I was well chuffed.

Anyway, I'm going to be at the signing people, so if anyone fancies joining me, just bung me a PM on the day.

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Duncan Gardner
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Pants- aye. See you on the day, all being well.
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Ginger Yellow
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It's not so much that it's my favourite genre, it's just that I don't think the structure added all that much. I'd like to see either a full length narrative or lots of short stories.
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Pants
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Oh, I'm not sure I get you then, GY, when you say you "wasn't impressed with the structure of 'Cloud Atlas'." To my mind, the structure wasn't there to impress or not impress or to add or take away - it was simply the way Mitchell decided to tell the story. Isn't that a bit like saying you weren't impressed with the way Ian McEwan set 'Saturday' over a single day? And isn't that kind of not the point?

Mitchell's obviously far from the first novelist to employ a Russian doll structure, so I'm not sure what you mean. If you said you didn't like the structure, I could see what you meant - although personally, I think it worked brilliantly in this case.

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Not me
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Yeah, I didn't think the structure was tricksy or distracting at all. It links the themes and narratives more effectively than a set of separate short stories would, and travelling forward and then back in time gives it a scale and sense of completion which you wouldn't get with one full length narrative.
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Pants
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I saw David Mitchell speak at the Bloomsbury Theatre last night. He's a lovely bloke: intelligent, funny and self-deprecating. Not very confident in the conventional sense of the term, but somehow ultra-confident - especially when talking about writing/art/ideas. Great at dealing with curveball questions, too.

Ginger Yellow, you'll be pleased to hear that he's writing a science fiction book, “after I finish the book I'm working on now”. However, his take on it is “I understand that the commercial market needs to put things into boxes like sci-fi/romance/whatever, but poetry doesn't really recognize those labels/boundaries. Yes, it'll be set in the future - because that opens up all kinds of possibilities for me - but I hope it'll simply be good writing. Although, it'd be brilliant to have one of those sci-fi cover designs with the big gold block type and weird illustration style.”

He talked a lot about the stammer he had growing up and his continuing speech problems - the central theme of 'Black Swan Green'. This was really thought-provoking and quite moving.

Asked about whether he has to discipline himself to get writing done, he said that he has to discipline himself to stop writing - there's nothing else he ever wants to be doing. He forgot to pick up his daughter from playgroup last week because he'd got so into what he was doing!

Great evening, really inspirational stuff.

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Mat Pereira
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I'm avoiding this thread until i've actually read 'Cloud Atlas'. I still have the copy I bought when I was Christmas shopping - 3 for the price of 2 see, not that i'm a cheapskate or anything - sitting on my shelf waiting to be read.
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Ginger Yellow
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Pants, what I meant was I thought the structure didn't add much to the individual narratives. While the overarching premise of civilisation/humanity not being a whiggish arrow of progress worked okay, it's hardly an original or particularly insightful one, nor is it really explored that much through the details of the structure. If you're going to do something like a matrioshka structure, I'd like to see stronger connections between the narratives - a la Calvino. They seemed kind of throwaway - just a line or two about how "I found a letter among a pile of stuff" or something similar in each story. It felt like there was no real motivation for the links.
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