Saturday, May 02, 2015

David Mitchell offers an amusing little critique of his own writing

David Mitchell
Illustration by Sachin Teng

The illustration above by Sachin Teng is borrowed from James Wood's plot-spoiler review in the New Yorker (September 8, 2014) of David Mitchell's most recent literary work, The Bone Clocks: A Novel (September 2, 2014).

In Bone Clocks, Mitchell creates a writer, Crispin Hershey, who has written a novel titled Echo Must Die and whose literary style is modeled after Mitchell's . . . or rather that Mitchell creates a literary critic named Richard Cheeseman who parodies Hershey's style, by which the critic's writing is therefore a parody of Mitchell's style:
"So why is Echo Must Die such a decomposing hog? One: Hershey is so bent on avoiding cliché that each sentence is as tortured as an American whistleblower. Two: The fantasy subplot clashes so violently with the book's State of the World pretensions, I cannot bear to look. Three: What surer sign is there that the creative aquifers are dry than a writer creating a writer-character?" (Mitchell, The Bone Clocks: A Novel, 294)
I read these words on my iPad around 5:20 Thursday morning as I stood on the platform at Mangu Station on the Jungang Line waiting for the subway train to Wangsimni Station. Why do I cite this so specifically? Because I want a precise record of the moment I noted this self-referencing moment in Mitchell's most recent novel. Why do I want that? I don't know. I'm a mystery to myself.

Self-parody aside, Mitchell's literary style skillfully avoids cliché, easily carries along an intriguing fantasy subplot, and creatively offers a well-rounded writer-character . . .

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At 6:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff, CPH here. I also liked "Bone Clocks", though my high-water mark for him remains "Cloud Atlas", I have to say (heck, I even liked the much-reviled movie). Note, peer Neal Stephenson is about to get another out, hopefully good as well (H.W.M. there for me being the pretty astounding "Cryptonomicon"...) Final quick note, E.Catton's "The Luminaries", beats them both currently IMHO. Darn near Pynchon-level, in the spirit of "Mason/Dixon", and my all-time lifetime novel fave until further notice and/or reading something better, "Against the Day". Over and out--

At 7:27 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the recommendations. I know next to nothing about Neal Stephenson and E. Catton.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, Neal is a superstar in the cyberpunk sorta vein (right up there with William Gibson); tho "Crypto" is far more than that in my opinion, just a superb novel all the way around. Elizabeth Catton is new-ish, "Luminaries" being her 2nd novel. It is quite something, you should check it out.--btw reading "Lila" now by Marilyn Robinson, and there's NO way you wouldn't love that book. It's killing me, and I'm a frickin agnostic!

At 7:27 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The reading list never ends - I'll never be a literate fellow . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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