Copyright © 2000. All Rights Reserved
by Alan Egerton Ball
by David Mitchell
Sceptre, 436 pp.
Ghostwritten is a novel of the age of CNN and the stories behind disaster sound-bites. Imagine watching seemingly unconnected news events unfold (including historical background features) only to have the slow realization of a coalescing theme. Such a structure underpins this work.
David Mitchell shows skill in sufficiently varying individual scenarios and the first-person voice of each linked story to create believability and a fascination with a range of human thought and experience. He excels in the transfer of environments to the written word. Locations in Asia, Europe and America add to the sense of imminent global Armageddon. But the structure is not without problems. Links in a chain of tenuously connected stories create a constant need to introduce new characters. By dismissing one character of interest after another, the author leaves the reader with a feeling of abandonment that is never quite resolved.
It could be argued that this apocalyptic novel is a ghost story, science fiction, transcendental cult fiction, anti-military agitprop or new-age fantasy it is all of these and more. As a result, each reader is sure to find a favourite section. For me, its the Tokyo portion of the book where an 18-year-old fan is the sole attendant in a CD emporium and a part-time saxophonist at the "Jazz Hole." Mitchells thumbnail sketches of musical styles are memorable: Charlie Parker molten and twisting; Duke Ellingtons "Take the A Train" rattling along on goofy optimism; Chet Baker zennish murmurings in a soft void; Miles Davis blissful and forlorn; "Undercurrent" of Jim Hall and Bill Evans an album of water, choppy and brushed by the wind.
Waltz over to your local CD store, put on the earphones, sample the music. The man knows of which he speaks. Ghostwritten is worth the cover price for the jazz recommendations alone.
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