I’m three-quarters of the way through The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, so if I don’t do a Mid-Readalong post soon, I’ll have to do a Wrap-Up post instead. It’s a good thing the #BoneClocks17 readalong was scheduled for a leisurely pace, because I’ve been at it for well over a month, interspersed with other reading. (I seem to remember I took forever to read Cloud Atlas, too!)
It’s a good book to read slowly because The Bone Clocks is all about time and the brevity of the human lifespan. There are naturally atemporal beings (resurrected souls) who never die, characters who die tragically young, and otherwise regular people who suffer from debilitating visions of the past and future. I don’t think I’m giving any spoilers here in this post, but it’s a discussion post, not a book review, so if you’re a paranoid, spoiler-averse reader like myself, be forewarned!
I’ve been reading The Bone Clocks in ebook format downloaded through the library, so I lost the notes and highlights from the first half of the book when the ebook loan expired (twice). There is a lot happening, and a lot to ponder on every page, so notes would have been helpful!
I knew nothing about The Bone Clocks going into the readalong. The only other book by David Mitchell that I’ve read is Cloud Atlas, which also has loosely connected stories widely separate in time and place and characters who appear in the periphery of other books. The Bone Clocks has an element of dark fantasy that I don’t recall from Cloud Atlas. After The Bone Clocks comes Slade House, (which I mistakenly thought came before, at the start of the readalong) and that has some recurring characters, too, I believe.
I also had been confusedly thinking that I’d read David Mitchell’s first novel before he was a well-known writer, which would have been Black Swan Green from 2006, but turns out I was mixing up my authors and was thinking of A Question of Attraction by David Nicholls from 2003. (Are there as many English novelists named David as there are American novelists named Jonathan, I wonder?)
The section of the book narrated by the literary enfant terrible character, Crispin Hershey, adds a metafictional aspect to the dark humor prevalent throughout The Bone Clocks, which over all, has a melancholy, rather than funny, I would say. (Being a good person in the time you have on earth is a good thing, but no one can really say why.)
Crispin Hershey’s later novels never sold as well as his first cult classic, Dessicated Embryos (referred to earlier in The Bone Clocks before readers meet Crispin Hershey) and he’s way beyond the deadline for turning the new novel about the lighthouse in Australia he’s under contract to his publisher for.
In this passage from The Bone Clocks, Crispin is on the phone with his agent, Hal, desperately trying to avoid paying back the advance on the nonexistent next book, which sounds suspiciously like the The Bone Clocks:
“Where does the Australian lighthouse fit in?”
I take a deep breath. And another. “It doesn’t.”
Hal, I am fairly sure, is miming shooting himself.
“But this one’s got legs, Hal. A jet-lagged businessman has the mother of all breakdowns in a labyrinthine hotel in Shanghai, encounters a minister, a CEO, a cleaner, a psychic woman who hears voices” – gabbling garbling – “think Solaris meets Noam Chomsky via The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Add a dash of Twin Peaks…”
Hal is pouring himself a whisky and soda: Hear it fizz? His voice is flat and accusative: ‘Crispin. Are you trying to tell me that you’re writing a fantasy novel?’
‘Me? Never! Or it’s only one-third fantasy. Half, at most.’
‘A book can’t be half fantasy any more than a woman can be half pregnant. How many pages have you got?’
‘Oh, it’s humming along really well. About a hundred.’
‘Crispin. This is me. How many pages have you got?’
How does he always know? ‘Thirty – but the rest is all mapped out, I swear.’
Hal the Hyena exhales a sawtoothed groan. ‘Shitting Nora.’
Enjoying an unexpected day off due to the major nor’easter named Niko that blew in early this morning. I hope the storm doesn’t bring harm to anyone who has to go out in it today!