>In case you made a New Year’s resolution to read more metafiction in 2011, but want to put off tackling a huge, fragmentary, footnoted novel by David Foster Wallace or Mark Z. Danielewski, I suggest one of these. Both by English authors, their narratives within narratives qualify them as metafiction, but the stories don’t require decoding or notetaking to keep track of.
Cloud Atlas (Random, 2004) by David Mitchell is made up of six different, loosely connected stories with recurring themes and self-references. Each narrative is written in a completely different style, from an excerpt from the diary of a seafaring passenger in 19th-century New Zealand to a story set in a future time after modern civilization and technology have come crashing down. The writing is challenging, but the characters and plotlines are so vivid and memorable, reading it is well worth any brain strain. (David Mitchell is the author of the 2010 novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, set in a Dutch trading post in Japan in 1799.)
A lighter novel about novel-writing and narrative, Our Tragic Universe (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) by Scarlett Thomas has a novelist as the main character who — in addition to being part of a stable of series authors who produce formulaic teen novels under the name Zeb Ross — reviews pseudo-scientific books and makes jam to pay the rent while she struggles to produce a literary novel free of genre cliches, muses about love and marriage, and converses with friends about the meaning of life. Meg’s supporting cast of characters are suitably quirky and intellectual for bounce her ideas off of: the possibility of life after death, narrative structure in fiction and reality, and whether or not she should leave her wet blanket of a husband.
Read the New York Times review of Cloud Atlas here.
Read the New York Times review of Our Tragic Universe here.
Check the availability of Cloud Atlas in the Old Colony Library Network catalog here.
Check the availability of Our Tragic Universe in the Old Colony Library Network catalog here.