Ghostwritten

People say they choose, but it comes down to the same thing: why people choose what they choose is also down to chance

Ghostwritten’s been a bit of a rollercoaster really – which is both a good and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because it takes you into crazy different directions, but it’s also a bad thing because it varies a lot in quality (at least to me. Not stating any absolutes here). But did like it and it was immensely entertaining (heh, I’d never say that out loud and it’s such a tired phrase that doesn’t actually mean anything, but I felt I somehow felt the sentence should have been longer).

Just like Cloud Atlas, Ghostwritten is based on a gimmick and it’s a puzzle of 9 loosely interconnected stories. The actual connections aren’t so much in the narrative thread as they are in the characters (who randomly pop into one story or another). And at first I was going to go into all the details (maybe even draw a map – which would be kind of cool if I wasn’t so lazy) but I figure at least 10% of the fun is in spotting all these connections (few are in your face – most of them are mentioned only in passing) – so I won’t list them. You can find them on wiki anyways – and I have to say, I did miss one from their list. If it were a movie, this book would be part of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Death trilogy – while Underground (the last part) is very much like that scene between Kevin Spacey in Chazz Palminteri in Usual Suspects (and if you don’t know what the scene is – go see the movie. Even 15 years later it’s still pretty great).

These nine stories take you all over the world: from Okinawa to Tokyo, Hong Kong, China (the Holy Mountain), Mongolia, Petersburg, London, Ireland (Clear Island), New York (Night train) and finally back to Tokyo. You can check out what happens to who in each place on Wikipedia – all I can say is that it really put me in the mood for travelling. And while I enjoyed most of the book, I still found some faults to it. For example, the terrorist’s psychology in Okinawa was a bit facile, a bit too obvious: a bullied child, largely ignored by his family, never completely and comfortable integrated in society is drawn to a cult (though he does not consider it as such) that professes the non-adherents to be unclean – in other words, placing him above his former tormentors. And on such a fertile ground the complete brainwashing he went through brings about his unerring faith in His Serendipity and the various supernatural acts he may perform. It’s impossible not to feel sorry for a man so completely taken in – and that the cult turns out to be a big sham should be of no surprise to anyone.

I had signed the papers releasing me from the prison of materialism. Now The Fellowship owned my car and its contents, my savings, pension funds, my golf membership and my car.

I think the best parts were the ones taking place in Western Europe/US, if only for the fact that the use of the language the most appropriate. It was something I found a bit grating at times –there was too little difference in the manner of speech and the choice of words of a British slacker in a band and an old woman owing a tea shack at the foot of The Holy Mountain in China. Or – a story about a camel told by a Mongolian girl in which the camel says You can’t beat a free nosh-up …there’s clearly something wrong with that picture.

A lot of the story in London has to do with the apology of chance: the band our slacker is in is called The Music of Chance (a shout-out to Paul Auster and a book I haven’t yet read but I always thought a title like that should hide something terrifically promising), his gambling or his last minute save of the woman who was almost run over by a cab – and it was probably my favorite of all.

It took me a few days to write this (because I really wasn’t in the mood) and I think it’s a bit weird and disjointed – so here’s links to proper & useful reviews: Salon (the reviewer here says a bunch of the episodes read a lot like other authors – Murakami, Hornby – and she’s totally right), NY Books, The Guardian.

~ by ameer on December 25, 2010.

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