Cloud Atlas Readalong

Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 6: Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After

Introduction
Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (first half)
Part 2: Letters from Zedelghem (first half)
Part 3: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (first half)
Part 4: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (first half)
Part 5: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (first half)

Part 6: Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After

The Story So Far . . .
Sloosha’s Crossin’ really is a crossing, the point at which we move out of the first halves of the six narratives and cross over to the second halves. Sloosha’s is presented in its entirety, in the first person, as an older Zachry tells the tale of his life, presumably to a group of children gathered ’round. The first thing you’ll notice is the dialect: it’s written in English, but a corrupted (or evolved) form of English that is as foreign to modern ears as Adam Ewing’s 19th-century English is.

Zachry’s tale begins on Big I, in the Hawaiian islands, long after The Fall of humankind. When he is 9 years old, he, his brother Adam, and their pa are on their way back from Honokaa Market, when Zachry goes into the bush after a bird. He hears the voice of Old Georgie (the Devil) whispering to him, and becomes aware that Kona raiders are about. He accidentally leads the Kona back to where his family is, and then hides while the Kona butcher his father and take his brother as a slave. Horrified, he returns to the Valley where he lives, reporting the Kona attack but never telling anyone that he led the warriors to Sloosha’s Crossin’.

Continue reading “Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 6: Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After”

Advertisements
Cloud Atlas Readalong

Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 5: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (first half)

Introduction
Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (first half)
Part 2: Letters from Zedelghem (first half)
Part 3: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (first half)
Part 4: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (first half)

Part 5: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (first half)

The Story So Far . . .
Of all the stories in Cloud Atlas, this one is my favourite. So much is going on in terms of history, context, politics, and society, and it’s set against a highly believable futuristic backdrop and told in a modified form of evolved English. (For example, with the politcal prevalence of corporations in this “corpocracy,” many everyday objects are referred to by their once-trademarked names: people drive fords, download information on their sonys, wear nikes on their feet, watch disneys, and so forth.)

This section occurs as a dialogue, the recorded final interview of an imprisoned clone, or “fabricant,” conducted by a government archivist. It takes place in a futuristic Korea now known as Nea So Copros,which is governed by a political party/doctrine known as Unanimity. Though much of the world is “deadlanded,” technology in this world far exceeds our own. The main character, Sonmi~451, is fabricant who is being asked for her version of the truth in this final interview, before she is sent “to the litehouse.” She begins by talking about her life as a server at a fast-food franchise called Papa Song’s. Sonmi would awaken with her cloned sisters, recite the Six Catechisms at Matins, work 19-hour days serving and cleaning up after “pureblood” consumers, end the day with Vespers, consume something called Soap, which contains nutrients as well as amnesiads that deaden curiosity, and go back to sleep. Fabricants have limited IQ and vocabulary, but know that after twelve years of service, they are sent to a place called Xultation, their “debt” fulfilled to the corporation that owns them. At this point, they become consumers just like purebloods: the ultimate afterlife for a server.

Consumerism, from http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

Continue reading “Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 5: An Orison of Sonmi~451 (first half)”

Cloud Atlas Readalong

Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 4: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (first half)

Introduction
Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (first half)
Part 2: Letters from Zedelghem (first half)
Part 3: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (first half)

Part 4: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish

The Story So Far . . .
Cloud Atlas’ fourth part takes us back to a first person point of view as Timothy Cavendish writes his memoirs. Tim wants to tell the story of an ordeal that happened to him six years earlier. A sixtysomething, barely solvent vanity publisher in London, Tim starts his story by remembering an event he wasn’t planning to talk about, the time he was mugged by a trio of teenaged girls. Though this has little to do with the tale of his ordeal, it sets up two major components of this narrative: that Tim is old and is therefore treated poorly, and that he has a somewhat wandering style of remembrance.

Moving on to the story at hand, what he refers to as The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, he prefaces the tale, by claiming that he had no idea what Dermot “Duster” Hoggins would do. Hoggins, a petty thug from a family of petty thugs, had hired Tim as his editor and vanity publisher of his fictionalized memoir, Knuckle Sandwich. On the night of the giant literary “Lemon Prize” announcement, Hoggins finds Tim in a pub with everyone else in British publishing, sees a critic who unmercifully butchered Knuckle Sandwich in a scathing review, and tosses the unsuspecting intellectual over the balcony to his death.

Image found on http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.ca

Continue reading “Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 4: The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (first half)”

Cloud Atlas Readalong

Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 3: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery

Introduction
Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (first half)
Part 2: Letters from Zedelghem (first half)

Part 3: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery

The Story So Far . . .
The third of our six nested stories in Cloud Atlas is the first that reads like a novel, not a true-life account. It’s a third-person, mostly omniscient, and present tense narrative. It also starts with the most direct link to the previous story of all of the narratives, beginning, “Rufus Sixsmith leans over the balcony…” (p. 90). Sixsmith, of course, is the recipient of the letters written by Robert Frobisher in part 2. It’s 1975, 44 years after those letters were written, and Sixsmith is an old man and eminent scientist who meets a 26-year-old journalist named Luisa Rey when they get stuck in an elevator together.

Luisa is the daughter of admired cop-turned-Vietnam reporter Lester Rey, who recently died. She’s cutting her teeth as a gossip columnist for Spyglass magazine and hoping for an opportunity to write about something real. Sixsmith is harbouring a secret that might get him killed, and passes along just enough information to get her interested. They talk for an hour and a half, the duration of the blackout that has trapped them in the elevator, trade stories (she tells stories about her dad, and about interviewing Hitchcock, he talks about his beloved niece, Megan), and Sixsmith remarks that “I feel I’ve known you for years, not ninety minutes” (p. 96).

Continue reading “Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 3: Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery”

Cloud Atlas Readalong

Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 2: Letters from Zedelghem (first half)

The Cloud Atlas Readalong with Dee at EditorialEyes

Introduction
Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (first half)

Part 2: Letters from Zedelghem

The Story So Far…
“Letters from Zedelghem” is the funny and affecting second section of Cloud Atlas. Though from a first-person perspective like “Adam Ewing,” this section is not in journal entries but rather is written entirely in letters. The writer is a rakish, bisexual (or perhaps simply opportunistic), musically gifted and financially strapped Englishman named Robert Frobisher.

July 29th, 1931—Frobisher is writing to his friend and, it’s hinted, (former?) lover Rufus Sixsmith throughout this section, and he begins by recounting how he is awakened in his hotel in London by a debt collector’s thugs hammering his door down. Making his escape from both the thugs and his hotel bill out the bathroom window and down a drainpipe, he hides in Victoria Station and ponders his fate. Should he borrow money from his estranged family or the classmates from the Cambridge college he was kicked out of, or take an entirely different and somewhat crazy option… Continue reading “Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 2: Letters from Zedelghem (first half)”

Cloud Atlas Readalong

Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (first half)

Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing

The Story So Far…
The adventure begins on the high seas…or stuck on a tiny island with cannibals and no escape. Or so thinks the colonial-minded American in the first part of Cloud Atlas. We open Thursday, November 7th, in what seems to be the middle of a narrative. This section is, as the title alludes, a journal kept by a man journeying in the south Pacific. The diarist, Adam Ewing, is an American notary who had duties in New South Wales and has paid for a bunk on the ship Prophetess. He seems like an earnest young man, perhaps a bit judgmental of the people around him. He is currently stuck on Chatham Isle, a small island off the coast of New Zealand, for seven days while the ship is repaired. The indigenous people of the island are said by the white visitors to be cannibals. It is somewhere around 1850.

Antique map of Chatham Isle, published in “Nouvelle Geographie Universelle,” by Elisee Reclus, Paris 1889.

In the first episode, he comes across another white man, one Dr. Henry Goose, and it’s not a pleasant encounter. Goose, once a physician to royalty, says that he has been disgraced by the Marchioness Grace of Mayfair. He has a plan, though: he’s going to collect human teeth from along the coast of this isle, teeth that were apparently spat out by cannibals. He’s going to fashion a set of dentures for the Marchioness and then reveal in front of all of high society that she now eats with cannibals’ teeth. So, not the cuddliest fellow in the world, and perhaps not the sanest. Maybe not someone to cross either…

Continue reading “Cloud Atlas Readalong Part 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (first half)”

book review, Cloud Atlas Readalong, fun stuff

Introducing the Cloud Atlas Readalong!

The Cloud Atlas Readalong with Dee at EditorialEyes

Click here for a complete list of Readalong posts.

It’s inevitable. When someone finds out you’re a book person, they will ask you that single, awful question: What’s your favourite book? How on earth can you answer a question like that? Narrow it down by genre, perhaps, or by the criteria that define “favourite”? Give a top-5 answer instead? Or just shrug and say “too many to count”?

Well, if I were pinned down and had to answer that question, I would have several strong contenders, including Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind, A.S. Byatt’s Possession, Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness, and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. And numbered among those is David Mitchell’s luminous, challenging, storytelling masterpiece Cloud Atlas. You may have heard the buzz about the Wachowskis’ movie adaptation of Cloud Atlas, premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival and opening in wide release on October 26th. In order to appreciate the film to its fullest, I’m going to re-read the stunning source novel, and I thought you might enjoy reading along and discussing with me.

The first installment will go live Tuesday, August 14th, and in it I’ll look at the first section, “The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing” (first half). Each Tuesday we’ll look at the next section of Cloud Atlas, from “Adam Ewing” to “Sloosha’s Crossin'” and back again. The final section will take us to Tuesday, October 23rd, just in time for the movie…

Never read Cloud Atlas? Started but gave up because the language of the Pacific Journal section was too dense? Read it and want to read it again? Please join me in discussing Cloud Atlas.

Continue reading “Introducing the Cloud Atlas Readalong!”