Ghostwritten ~ by David Mitchell

Out of all the novels and stories I’ve read by David Mitchell my favorites are Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.  Sad to say,  I seem to get less enjoyment from the newer works, so it’s a real treat to read Mitchell’s first published novel. I can see the almost direct  progression from this first novel to the wonderment he produced with my favorites.

David Mitchell seems to have listened to his own drummer as he went from these slightly mystical novels which are comprised of  loosely connected episodes to the more mystically mysterious, but also more somewhat interwoven novels.  From Ghostwritten to Cloud Atlas and then on to Slade House it’s kind of like the very long and progressively more imaginative development of a theme – or an oeuvre.

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Ghostwritten
by David Mitchell
1999 / 427 pages
read by William Rycroft – 15h 9m
rating: 7.5 / fiction 
(both read and listened)
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Ghostwritten is comprised of ten interwoven episodes which take place all over the world with the title of the story indicating where in the world.’

In the second story of Ghostwritten,  “Tokyo,” Haruki Murakami is mentioned as a translator of F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is true.  And this is the story about the young jazz aficionado who sells CDs. (Murakami and Mitchell are both jazz enthusiasts.)

The stories cross the globe with Asia being kind of central.  They are linked by circumstance, theme and a couple of minor characters,  but there isn’t quite enough connection to call them interwoven.  The ending however completes that connection.

Most of the stories include a ghost or otherworldly types of being and a huge theme is the question of whether life is determined by fate or chance.  The effect is mysterious but the tone is generally humorous.

“Holy Mountain” takes place in China and concerns one woman’s difficult life over the course of decades. I think that’s my favorite story.  It’s brilliant.

The rest of the stories are of varying interest with the better ones toward the end.  “Clear Island” and “Night Train”  are loaded with suspense and “Underground” winds everything up and back into the first chapter.  This makes it more novel-like rather than simply linked stories.

http://nymag.com/nymetro/arts/books/reviews/3773/