“Cloud Atlas” (Post 3/3)

cloud-atlas-1

[Explanation of Reading Journal/Ratings]

Post 1/3

Post 2/3


 

STORY B: Letters From Zedelghem (2/2)

[99] Frobisher, earlier in the book, caught on that Ewing was being fleeced by Dr. Henry Goose (Post 1, note [24]). Now, he says, regarding doctors:

Never met a quack whom I didn’t half-suspect of plotting to do me in as expensively as he could contrive.

(p.439)

[100] Vocabulary:

Mrs. Willems brought me some kedgeree.

(p.440)

In the West, Kedgeree is a dish consisted of cooked, flaked fish (traditionally smoked haddock), boiled rice, parsley, hard-boiled eggs, curry powder, butter or cream and occasionally sultanas (golden raisins).

[101] Reference:

Maybe Froames asked Adrian for a light one tired evening, or cowered with him as bombs rained down, or shared a Bovril.

(p.441)

Bovril is the trademarked name of a thick, salty meat extract, developed in the 1870s by John Lawson Johnston. Bovril can be made into a drink by diluting with hot water. It can be used as a flavoring for soups, stews or porridge, or spread on bread.

Continue reading

“Cloud Atlas” (Post 2/3)

cloud-atlas-2

[Explanation of Reading Journal/Ratings]

Post 1/1

Post 3/3


 

STORY D: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (1/2)

Told by Cavendish in first person as a memoir/manuscript.

Cavendish and Frobisher are both British men with the tendency to complain and make snide observations about the world. But while Frobisher’s charm maintains goodwill, Cavendish is an unlikable, spineless whiner. His “ordeal” is a comedy of errors. The humor in his story isn’t intended by Cavendish; he’s not trying to make jokes. We see it as funny because he’s so indignant and sure of his invisible audience’s agreement with his every complaint.

I can’t emphasize enough the incredible range Mitchell displays in this book. These characters are so distinct and realized. I’m in awe of what he’s done here.

[47]

Finch wouldn’t have been a critic if he didn’t love unearned attention.

(p.149)

[48]

You’ll notice, I am always attacked in threes.

(p.153)

Continue reading

Anna von Hausswolff – Ceremony (2013)

ceremony

4.5 out of 5 stars.

The second studio album by Swedish musician Anna von Hausswolff.

Von Hausswolff has an amazing, strange, strong voice (a bit of Kate Bush, but mostly all her own). Her voice isn’t the focus here, though. It’s simply another instrument; sometimes central, sometimes used for accent, sometimes not used at all. Vocals don’t even enter Ceremony until we’re ten minutes in.

The musical sensibility here is insane. The care put into mix, dynamics, structure, ebb and flow makes for a hugely rewarding listening experience.

Ceremony ranges from deliberately structured instrumentals (“Epitaph of Theodor,” “Epitaph of Daniel”) to radio-ready three-minute pop (“Mountains Crave”). Each song is a journey with every step building logically on the last.

The organ stands beautifully in the forefront with the occasional complementary guitar, reminiscent of Rick Wright and David Gilmour at their best. It’s stunning. I’ve been listening to Ceremony on repeat for weeks and I’m still getting chills.

Standout Tracks: Deathbed, Mountains Crave, Red Sun, Ocean

——

Anna von Hausswolff’s site

“Cloud Atlas” (Post 1/3)

cloud-atlas-3

[Explanation of Reading Journal/Ratings]

Post 2/3

Post 3/3


 

David Mitchell’s ambitious 2004 novel, combining six unique stories into one overarching plot. I borrowed it from the library, then promptly went out and bought a copy for myself.

5 out of 5 stars.

I avoided Cloud Atlas for years because every description was so reliant on the gimmick (the nested stories) that I assumed the content would be weak in comparison (or Infinite Jest-ly dense). Cloud Atlas sounded like a book to be endured and not enjoyed.

Sometimes it’s very nice to be wrong.

This is not a hard book to read as far as language or plot is concerned (except for “Sloosha’s Crossin’,” Post 2, note [68]). Mitchell is not showing off or elevating himself above the average reader; he’s using his tools to tell each story the way it needs to be told, the characters always coming first. Cloud Atlas has emotional resonance without ever feeling like its pushing an agenda.

It’s a magic trick. And, like the best magicians, Mitchell makes it look effortless.

Continue reading

“The Neverending Story”

neverending-story

[Explanation of Reading Journal/Ratings]

Michael Ende’s 1979 fantasy novel (English translation by Ralph Manheim in 1983); made into a classic fantasy film in 1984. I borrowed a hardcover edition from the library.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

The plot: Bastian Balthazar Bux is an unpopular, lonely boy who has recently lost his mother. After swiping an intriguing book while escaping a group of bullies, he skips school to read it. The book (called The Neverending Story) tells the tale of an incredible land called Fantastica which will be doomed unless a mortal from Earth intervenes.

The biggest surprise in reading The Neverending Story after watching the film is finding that Bastian saving Fantastica is only an extended prologue to the real story. For the majority of the book, we follow Bastian in his travels through Fantastica, watching as he wishes for greater things while losing more of himself.

The edition I read had some nice touches: the text was printed in two colors (reddish while the action was on Earth, green while in Fantastica); each of the twenty-six chapters opened with a full page illustration of the first letter of the chapter (and yes, these ran from A to Z. Maintaining this while translating from German to English must have been a bit of a challenge for Manheim).

Continue reading

“Pet Sematary”

Pet Sematary

[Explanation of Reading Journal/Ratings]

Stephen King’s 1983 classic (?). I read a well-loved (and slightly molding) first edition that’s been in the family for the last thirty-odd years.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

The plot: Doctor Louis Creed and his young family move from Chicago to Maine. After the death of the family cat, an older local shows Louis a secret burial ground where the dead come back. But what’s buried here comes back changed.

Pet Sematary is a modern “Monkey’s Paw” with touches of Lovecraftian mythos. It succeeds but is a hard book to read. It doesn’t sit in the normal comfort zone of horror. That may sound contradictory (How does horror have a comfort zone?).

In horror, we usually look in from the edge of a frightening situation. It couldn’t happen to us; we would make the right decisions. There’s a thrill in looking into the darkness while knowing we are in our home, safe. Escapism.

Pet Sematary doesn’t give any edges to escape into. The horror is not in unknown or unlikely but in the absolutely certain: We all die. The only way to avoid the death of loved ones is to go first.

Continue reading