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Number9Dream: A Novel [Anglais] [Broché]

David Mitchell
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
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Description de l'ouvrage

11 février 2003
From the author of Cloud Atlas, now a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant, and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer

Number9Dream is the international literary sensation from a writer with astonishing range and imaginative energy—an intoxicating ride through Tokyo’s dark underworlds and the even more mysterious landscapes of our collective dreams.

David Mitchell follows his eerily precocious, globe-striding first novel, Ghostwritten, with a work that is in its way even more ambitious. In outward form, Number9Dream is a Dickensian coming-of-age journey: Young dreamer Eiji Miyake, from remote rural Japan, thrust out on his own by his sister’s death and his mother’s breakdown, comes to Tokyo in pursuit of the father who abandoned him. Stumbling around this strange, awesome city, he trips over and crosses—through a hidden destiny or just monstrously bad luck—a number of its secret power centers. Suddenly, the riddle of his father’s identity becomes just one of the increasingly urgent questions Eiji must answer. Why is the line between the world of his experiences and the world of his dreams so blurry? Why do so many horrible things keep happening to him? What is it about the number 9? To answer these questions, and ultimately to come to terms with his inheritance, Eiji must somehow acquire an insight into the workings of history and fate that would be rare in anyone, much less in a boy from out of town with a price on his head and less than the cost of a Beatles disc to his name.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Descriptions du produit

Extrait

one

PanOpticon


"We are both busy people, so let's cut the small talk. You already know my name, or at least you knew it, once upon a time. Eiji Miyake. Yes, Ms. Kato, that Eiji Miyake. Why am I here in Tokyo? Think about it. I am here to find out who my father is. And why you, Ms. Kato? You know his name and you know his address. I never threaten anyone. But I am telling you that you are going to give me the information I want. Right now."

Or something like that. A galaxy of cream unribbons in my coffee cup, and the background chatter pulls into focus. My very first morning in Tokyo, and already I am getting ahead of myself. Jupiter Cafe sloshes with lunch-hour laughter, Friday plottings, clinking saucers. Drones bark into cell phones, she-drones hitch up sagging voices to sound more feminine. Steam bears coffee, seafood rolls, detergent. I have a fine across-the-street view of PanOpticon's main entrance. Quite a sight, this zirconium gothic skyscraper. Its upper floors are hidden by cloud, and so is the real Akiko Kato. City weather is a mystery. Under its tight lid, Tokyo swelters at 34°C in 86 percent humidity--a big panasonic display says so. Tokyo is too close up to see, sometimes. There are no distances and everything is above your head--dentists, kindergartens, dance studios. Even the roads and walkways are up on murky stilts. An evil-twin Venice with all the water drained away. Reflected airplanes climb over mirrored buildings. I always thought Kagoshima was huge, but you could lose it down a single side alley in Shinjuku. I light a cigarette--I am smoking Kools today, the brand chosen by a biker with hair dyed blackcurrant in the line ahead of me--and watch the traffic and passersby on the intersection between Omekaido Avenue and Kita Street. City office drones, lip-pierced hairdressers, midday drunks. Nobody is standing still. Rivers, snowstorms, traffic, bytes, generations, a thousand faces per minute. Back on Yakushima you might get a thousand minutes per face. Crowds make me thoughtful. All these people have boxes of memories labeled "Father," "Dad," "Pa." Whatever. Photogenic pix, shots in poor light, scary figures, tender poses, fuzzy angles, scratched negatives--it makes no difference. Unlike me, they know who it was who ushered them into the world. Crowds make me too thoughtful.

Ms. Kato! Come down to Jupiter Cafe! It would be so much simpler. You drop by for a seafood roll and a coffee; I recognize you instantly, of course, introduce myself, admit coyly that I was hoping to bump into you here; we discuss the matter at hand--we are two grown-ups now--and you will see that natural justice is on my side. I sigh aloud, and sense my neighbor hide him-or-herself deeper behind his-or-her barrier of newspaper. How do you smuggle daydreams into reality? My careful plan seems far-fetched. A building as vast as PanOpticon surely has many other exits. It must have its own restaurants, to spare its employees the hassle of descending to ground level. Who says you even eat lunch, Ms. Kato? Maybe your slaves bring you a human heart to tide you over until suppertime. I entomb my Kool in the innards of its ancestors and resolve to end my stakeout when I finish this coffee. Hear that, Akiko Kato? I am coming in to get you.

Three waitresses staff Jupiter Cafe this lunchtime. Waitress One--the boss--is a brittle imperial dowager who poisoned her husband. Waitress Two, a corn-on-the-cob face with a braying donkey voice, is Waitress One thirty years ago. Waitress Three is turned away right now, but her hair is up and I can see she has the most perfect neck on Earth. I mean it. A syndicate of love poets could not describe how smooth and curved this neck is. Soft as a peeled egg. Dowager is telling Donkey--and half Jupiter Cafe by default--about her hairdresser's latest failed marriage. "When his wives don't measure up to his fantasies, that's when he tosses them overboard." She has an industrial-diamond voice. The waitress with the perfect neck is serving a life sentence at the sink with a scrubber and sponge in lieu of a ball and chain. The atmosphere is hostile in here. Are Dowager and Donkey cold-shouldering her, or is she cold-shouldering them?

Hot fog is now down to the ninth story of PanOpticon. I decide to calculate the number of days I have lived. It comes to 7,286. I add four leap years. The clock says 12:51. Suddenly most of the drones in the cafe get to their feet and flock away. Are they afraid that if one o'clock finds them anywhere except their fluorescent-lit cubicles, their companies will have an ideal excuse to Restructure them? I watch lots of them enter PanOpticon, and toy with the idea of coming back tomorrow and stealing an ID tag. No. Simple is good. I strike PanOpticon today. At the stroke of one o'clock. My coffee cup stands empty in its moat of slops. I admit I am nervous. Nervous is cool. A recruitment officer for the Self-Defense Forces came to my high school--my old high school, I should say--and said that no worthwhile fighting unit wants members who are immune to fear. In combat, soldiers who are blind and brave inevitably get their platoon wiped out. An effective soldier controls his fear, and uses it to sharpen his senses. It sounded so easy. Another coffee, Eiji? No, thanks, Eiji, but I will smoke one final Kool. To sharpen my senses.

I catch the clock changing from 13:31 to 13:32. Yeah, I know, my deadline died. My ashtray brimmeth over. I shake my box of Kools. Only two left. The fog is down to the sixth story. I imagine Akiko Kato gazing through her air-conned executive-office-suite window--it is high, high up, above the fog even, maybe. The sunshine is stellar up there. Can she sense me, as I sense her? Did she wake up this morning knowing that today is one of those life-altering days? One final, final, final cigarette before "nervous" becomes "spineless." The only other customer in Jupiter Cafe who has stayed as long as me is an old man. He is plugged into a vidboy. His fingers twitch as he fires plasma bolts into the digital distance. He is identical to the ink-brush portrait of Lao Tzu in my classics textbook. I mean it. Bald, nutty, bearded. Other customers arrive, order, pay, drink, eat, use the bathroom, and go. Decades' worth every quarter-hour. Only Lao Tzu and I endure. The waitresses must be thinking my girlfriend has stood me up. Or that I am a psycho on the prowl for a female to stalk. A Muzak version of "Imagine" comes on and John Lennon wakes up in his tomb, appalled. It is sugary beyond belief, full of flowery flutes. Even the musical prostitutes who recorded this horror hated it. Two pregnant women enter, order lemon tea, and discuss what kinds of fathers their husbands will become. "Not ideal, maybe," I want to lean over and tell them, "but it could be worse. Want to hear my life story?" Lao Tzu coughs a cough of no return, and dabs the phlegm off his vidboy screen. I drag smoke down deep and trickle it out through my nostrils. I never expected Tokyo to be this dirty. It needs a good flooding to clean it up. Mandolineering gondoliers punting down Ginza. "Mind you," continues Dowager to Donkey, "his wives are such grasping, mincing creatures! They want to play the la-di-da company president's wife. I tell my hairdresser this: When you search for a spouse, pick somebody whose dreams are exactly the same size as yours. But does he listen, the brainless ape? Of course not! What would an old woman know about these things?" I inhale the foam from my new coffee. My cup has lipstick traces. I construct a legal case to prove that touching the lipstick with my own lips constitutes a kiss. That would increase my tally of kissed girls to three. Surely, less than the national average for a young male of my years. I think I want to forget the first two girls. I know they have already forgotten me. So I look around Jupiter Cafe for a suitable owner of painted lips. I settle on the waitress with the living, wise, moonlit, viola neck. She is still working through the mountain range of dirty cups and dishes. A tendril of hair has fallen loose. It tickles her nape. Lucky hair! I try to compare the fuchsia color on the cup to her lips, but I cannot see her face properly. My case is shaky. Besides, this lipstick is half-fused with the porcelain atoms. It might have been washed many times. Jupiter Cafe is not the last word in luxury teahouses. My imagination is my worst enemy--no, that is not true, but the comfort it gives is never warmer than tepid. The waitress is a sophisticated Tokyoite. She has enough rich, fashion-conscious, virile admirers to fill a laptop computer. Case dismissed. Lao Tzu growls at his vidboy. "Damn, damn, damn bioborgs! Every damn time!" I drink my dregs, put on my baseball cap, and stare at PanOpticon. Time to locate my maker.

PanOpticon's lobby is as cavernous as the belly of some futuristic robo-behemoth. Which is a fair description of the whole PanOpticon organism, only Tokyo moves around it instead of it needing to move around Tokyo. Arrows in the floorpads sense my feet and guide me to a vacant reception booth. I fake boredom. Changes in heart rate may trigger suspicion. A door hisses shut behind me. The blackness is subterranean. A tracer scans me from head to toe, blipping over the bar code on my ID tag. An amber spotlight flicks on, and my reflection stares back from the black glass. I certainly look the part. Overalls, baseball cap, toolbox, clipboard. I adjust my hair and pretend to admire myself. "State your name and business," intones an ice-maiden voice. I wonder how human she is. These days computers humanize and humans computerize and you never know. I pretend to lose my cool slightly, stare at the ceiling, and act the overawed yokel. "Uh . . . Afternoon, madam. Ran Sogabe is my name. I came to do the fish, see."

"Company?"

"No, I came quite alone."

"What is the name of your company? Your employer?" I hear irritat...

Revue de presse

Praise for David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten

“Mitchell . . . has a gift for fiction’s natural pleasures—intricate surprises, insidiously woven narratives, ingenious voices.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Mitchell is a fabulous ghostwriter fueled by a brilliant imagination and buoyed by beautifully descriptive writing. Ghostwritten is a brave new book for a brave new world.”
USA Today

“To complement its heady themes, Ghostwritten is also elegantly composed, gracefully plotted, and full of humor. . . . [It] recall[s] Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in its emotional scope and its ambitions. Like the great Russians, Mitchell makes us feel that more is at stake than individual lives, although it’s by individual lives that pain and loss are measured.”
Los Angeles Times

“An intricately assembled Fabergé egg of a novel, full of sly and sometimes beautiful surprises. . . . In an era in which much literary fiction is characterized by unearned ironies and glib cynicism, it’s hard not to be impressed by the humanism that animates Mitchell’s book. . . . Worth a dozen of the morally anorexic novels that regularly come down the pipe.”
—Daniel Mendelsohn, New York magazine

“Reminiscent at times of DeLillo, Murakami, and science fiction, especially in its continual probing of what is real and what is not, this book remains very much its own thing. . . . It is a thrill to read a piece of fiction this engrossing, challenging, urgent, and ultimately, so very new.” —Booklist

“Unlike so many other chroniclers of the twenty-first-century pastiche—an industry dominated by ad men and feature-writers, not novelists—Mitchell has set out to craft actual characters, not archetypes. The result is a dazzling piece of work.”
The Washington Post

“This is one of the best first novels I’ve read for a long time. . . . I read a proof of this on a transatlantic flight. When I got off in Atlanta, I couldn’t put it down. I pulled my luggage in one hand along corridors and escalators, and held David Mitchell’s last chapter up to my nose with the other. I finished at the carousel. It seemed appropriate. And it’s even better the second time.”
—A. S. Byatt


From the Hardcover edition.

Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 416 pages
  • Editeur : Random House Trade Paperbacks; Édition : Reprint (11 février 2003)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0812966929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812966923
  • Dimensions du produit: 21,2 x 16,6 x 2,1 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 265.809 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Très beau livre 17 juin 2013
Par Olivier
Format:Broché|Achat authentifié par Amazon
Par l'un des meilleurs auteurs de notre temps ! Une fable très bien écrite et dont on ne se lasse à aucun moment.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 étoiles sur 5  80 commentaires
28 internautes sur 31 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Be patient! 4 mai 2002
Par Mark Delaney - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
First of all, most of the other reviewers comments are true, even the comments of those who hated the book. Here's the scoop: Number9Dream is brilliant and moving, occasionally violent and shocking, and almost never boring. The scenes involving "Goatwriter" are everything you might imagine from what you have heard. They are puzzling. They are a distraction from the main story. They are also quite funny in their way. Be advised that these scenes do not pop inexplicably out of the ether, as you might assume from the other reviews posted here. The main character, Eiji, is hiding from those who might kill him, and he stumbles upon the text of a story. To bide his time, he reads this story about Goatwriter. It's odd, but it fits. Most importantly, readers who wade through that short section will find they've enjoyed one of the most satisfying novels they've read in a very long time.
32 internautes sur 37 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Ambitious novel that stumbles under its own aspirations 17 octobre 2002
Par J. N. Mohlman - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat authentifié par Amazon
In "Ghostwritten" David Mitchell produced a novel that was stylish, engaging, and above all, clever. He created a fascinating portrait of the chance meetings that drive us on to our destinies; a task that in less gifted hands would be burdensome, but that was elegant and light in Mitchell's. Unfortunately, "Number9Dream" doesn't quite live up to the high benchmark he set with his first novel.
The book's primary problem is that Mitchell was far too clever for his own good. As the reader follows the protagonist, Eiji Miyake, on his search for this father, and his place in the world, they are buffeted by numerous asides, dreams, stories, fantasies, etc. Any one of these is extremely well written, but taken as a whole they make for a disjointed reading experience. Their purpose is to explore the interactions Mitchell considered so deftly in "Ghostwritten" but as they pertain to just one individual. However, the end result is a chaotic mishmash that is frequently entertaining, and always well written, but rarely satisfying.
That said, I wouldn't necessarily recommend against reading "Number9Dream", for one thing a sub par effort for David Mitchell is better than 90% of what's on the market today. Moreover, he makes some really interesting points about the nature of society and his ending (which I am sure many found abrupt) is a fascinating point about the fleeting nature of contentment, ambition and desire.
In the end, David Mitchell should be complimented for writing a novel that challenges the definitions of plotting and characterization. While the attempt falls somewhat short, it is still a noteworthy sophomore effort. If you don't mind a novel that makes you work a little, "Number9Dream" is an interesting effort from a young writer who is just hitting his stride.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Another Spiritual Novel from the genius Mitchell 30 novembre 2002
Par K. A D. Veer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié
While not as good as his first novel "Ghostwritten," "Number9Dream" is an unforgetabe book, and satisfying read for those who are familiar with David Mitchell's style. The book begins in Tokyo with a young man from the countryside sitting in a coffee shop, plotting the best time to invade the building that houses his fathers lawyer. He plaans to extract from her, information as to his fathers where-abouts, which are the focus of the novel.

Though a good novel, it would probably be difficult for people to understand who've never read Mitchell before. My only noteable complaint about the book is that the dream sequences become somewhat jumbled at first, leaving you confused and somewhat angered. I nearly put the book down before the first section had finished. You'll fiure out what's real by the time the second section is about half-way through. Sometimes grusome (that bowling scene is disgusting), sometime beautiful (Mitchell really has expanded on his touching and lovely way of speaking) and like "Ghostwritten," leaves you no really clear-cut ending (something else that might enrage new readers). So basically, a good read for veterans of Mitchell, confusing and annoying for everyone else.
17 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Favorite Book from my Favorite Author 25 janvier 2005
Par Craig D. Phillipson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
DESPITE WHAT YOU MAY HAVE HEARD

I love the condescension of this book's reviewers. Most of them see fit to deem Mitchell's novel as 'ambitious', that he was far too clever for his own good, but not quite clever enough for them. One reader was barely able to compel himself through the first 60 pages, but was still able to deduce that Mitchell's work was in this instance "fundamentally masturbatory" (I have no idea what book this guy was reading).

A FANTASTIC READ

If you want to read an excellent novel, I would hate to have you be dissuaded by numbskulls with a hazy grasp on the definition of the term 'disjointed.' For a novel that "challenges the defintion[sic] of plotting" the narrative thread is marvelously clear. It is, at its core, a book about a boy searching for his father. But more than that, its a book about a boy's life and everything that fits into that life: what he's thinking, where he comes from, what he wants.

I KNOW YOU'LL LIKE IT

I think reviewers who gave this book 3 stars or less had difficulty with the novel because in Number9dream Mitchell deals in the fabric and machinery of human imagination, how it compels us through the mundane, how it propels us through our fears, and how some of us are driven to nurture it, to stoke its fires and, at times, to give ourselves over to its power.

So if you are not willing to surrender, if briefly, to imagination, this is not the novel for you. But otherwise, give it a chance, let yourself go, and for God's sake love this book. I do.

Here is my previous review for this book:

I read this novel in preparation for Mitchell's latest, "Cloud Atlas", and was totally in awe of the depth of his insights, the eagerness of his narrative, and the beauty of his characters (among my favorites: Pithecanthropus, the tender neanderthal in the service of his secret love, and Kusakabe, the anti-war kaiten pilot on the eve of his suicide mission).

On the ending: I have heard a lot of grumbling. Personally, I finished the novel at 2am (an hour when I couldn't be sure I wasn't dreaming myself) and went to bed frustrated, maddened, making plans to hunt Mitchell down and slap him a couple times. In the morning though, I was awakened to its simplistic and absolute genius. It was perfect because A) it was not a sludge of sappinness pandering to the most obvious emotional responses the novel had been building throughout (writers, take note) and B) it was marvelously descriptive of a quintessential human experience, without overtly being a description.

Is the novel challenging? Yes, but not in the sense of confusing the reader, as some previous reviewers have intimated. Rather, it challenges perception, death, purpose, and the very mechanisms of modern life. All that, and it is supremely enjoyable, brilliant, really really good, funny, smart, genius, flying, and running.

So delve inside number9dream, be carried by its venerable rhythms to your own violent waking...
10 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Style and finesse - but where's the rest? 13 octobre 2007
Par Fairweatherassult - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché
David Mitchell doesn't need to see my eyebrow raising: he's an extremely well-established novelist, with homes in three different countries, who's considered to have a Midas touch by the opinion making caste of English language fiction.

I just think he rips off Murakami far too much.

Other reviewers have commented on the overwhelming debt to Murakami in this work. It's there, although I'd say it's more indicative of cliched 'point of view' tricks. But the Murakami shadow is no small complaint . . . indeed, I'd say the outright lifting has gone beyond homage to blatant imitation. Not uncommon, of course. But it's trouble in this example for two reasons . . . Mitchell is copping a Japanese voice, and loading it down with the shinto-neon effects (and lotsa yakuza!) that clearly came from his oft-mentioned decade teaching in Japan. For a man who spent so much time there, he has admittedly mastered little of the language. And, by extension, seems to have only vague nuances of its society.

The structure of this work is interesting, and is Mitchell's usual technique of one world/many versions. In this case, the nine 'dreams' are the surrogate realities that Eiji conjures up to fill the basic void of absent-father syndrom. Computer viruses, secret societies, mobsters, these are all the 'Fight Club' fantasies for inventing a reality where there is one. Have you heard of an author doing this before? They have, and Mitchell hardly stands out from the metaphysics of parralel lives. What is it with drowning sisters and guilt-ridden brother using magic to avoid the truth of premature death? This plotline, featured in the character of Anju, is almost *exactly* the same in texture as Karen Russell's "Haunting Olivia". Do hip phantasmal writers just all love dead drowned little girls, and the magic realism the brothers conjure up as replica siblings? Oh, but this time it's in cool Japan! And Mitchell's version of it sounds a lot like 'Norwegian Wood'. If you enjoy stories in which a main character develops narrative strategies for negotiating the past, try Cees Nooteboom's _All Soul's Day_, in which a cinematographer puts all his skills to the test in coming to terms with the death of his family. Nooteboom, to my mind, had a much more human vision, whereas Mitchell likes his laser-shooting droids way too much.

That's not to say the book is without merit . . . I really enjoy Mitchell for breaking the creative writing rules. It's got tricks, great phrases, all that writerly stuff. His narratives are byte-pixels of strange images and inhumane visions of people. At other times, the potent lyricism that Mitchell can muster serves the wrong master. The 'Kaiten' chapter is truly haunting in a Letters from Iwajima kind of way (recovered letters tell the human story) . . . and its portrait of military comraderie is so lush that the Shinkaze of the far right would be pleased. And it's moments like this that frustrate me the most: the 'Kaiten' diary has some fantastic writing, if you stop to consider that, in the time after a failed suicide mission, a submariner pens a poetic diary entry in English, within total darkness, about Life/Death. If Mitchell had just committed himself to two or three sub-plots, and wove them in more tightly to Eiji's plight, I really would have taken my breath away. Instead, I just choked on so much excess *stuff*. Honestly, and I love long novels, but this could have had 200 pages hacked out easily.

His writing can be gorgeous: I like Mitchell best when he's not trying so hard . . . the kids' football match was gloriously funny . . . I can set aside whether a Japanese coach would really yell "Sphincter" repeatedly at schoolboys . . . or his threat to disembowel them . . . but the stereotype of the Spartan coach has some truth I guess. But it definitely reads like a Westerner's version of Japanese life and culture, pantomimed from the 'inside'.

But I really think ego got in the way here. Mitchell seems determined to make a Joycean multinarrative, mixed up with a science fiction of warp-core breech. In places, it's fun. Mitchell has style. I'd take his kind of writing over the prissy minions any day. But the problem is that underneath the surface, which Mitchell disguises with lots of effects, is a pretty flat bit of yeah whatever. Spoiler alert: here's the plot. Eiji's dad is a jerk lawyer who doesn't pay attention to him. So this lonely boy creates a manga-world of computer spies and martial artists to cover up for a sad reality. Some of this manga world is apparently true: lots of yakuza deaths and suicidal bosses (here's a game: count how many Japanese characters in Mitchell's oeuvre end up killing themselves). Oh, there's a dead sister too -- and when she died Eiji felt really bad and guilty in a Kierkegaard kind of way, so he plays video games to take his mind off of the guilt. Do you see what I mean? So many plot devices in this book, but the bare bits are pretty cliche. So instead we get like -- seven, eight? -- mystery packages showing up. I groaned every time a manilla envelope or unannounced stranger or mystery mobile phone message came about. It means that Mitchell is loading up for another tricky-dicky curveball

Flipping through it again, I do keep finding some marvellous passages! Just odd bits of description beneath all the heavy handed dialogue and weird plot mechanics. My stomach can only take so much. I don't know -- maybe it deserves three stars? I hate rating books, so let me put it this way: in the genre of science-fiction metaphysics in which daydreams compete against a Single Reality, Mitchell's is quite good, if not excessive in its Matrix fantasia.

Maybe it's the almost obsessive need to assume a Japanese voice of 'rural' Japan as well as the metrpololis. Here's where the author skids on politics, although I know most people won't give a darn. Mitchell claims in interviews that this book was intended to be an antitode to orientalist attitudes of cherry blossoms and geisha. OK, so you're corrective is yakuza and suicide cults? Honestly, there's some excellent books of montage trauma and dreams concerning modern Japanese society. They're written by Japanese people. Mitchell, much like the Hearn he slags, is playing naturalised citizen by way of marriage. Hearn at least brought the eye of the student to his studies. Mitchell has just found a quirky backdrop for what, if set in London, would have been a banal lump of crazy prose.

No one bothers to mention it, so I will. The Japanese milieu in this book is the 'trick' to decorate a typical sci-fi quest mystery of dreams and identity. One reviewer claims there are no 'English Murakamis'. If this means that no one in English has attempted warped narratives that butterfly-effect notions of self and relativity -- give me a break. Mitchell is no innovator, unless if by invention it's unique to use foreign culture as a framework of alienation. It's called Sophia Coppola, "Lost in Translation". Mitchell has given us wordy anime, served up as hallucinatory highjinks. Like most new age screeds, some will find it mind expanding, others will find hackneyed. I liked "Wild Sheep Chase" more, both for its twisted sense, but also for its insights into postmodern Japan. Mitchell is turning his EFL efforts into a Booker prize nominee, and I'm finding this kind of thing tiring . . . it's Lafcadio Hearn meets Donald Ritchie meets Blade Runner. I bet you Mitchell would be the first to moan if a Tokyoite wrote, in Japanese, a violent bust-up about bangers, chips, and football hooligans searching for Churchill's cigar. In short, a cliched version of Britain, with Noddy in a kimono. But, when a foreigner takes on Japan, it still has that fanboy anime chic.

Because, really, Japan as a 'setting' is the trick to make this novel work. This notion of many dreams replacing one sad reality is totally been done. Even this morning, I read a novella by a Canadian, aping the voice of a Polish refusenik, in which a professor travels by plane to a semiotics conference in Odessa. During the flight, he has different versions (dreams) of what will happen in Odessa. Each chapter is a dream. In the final chapter, we find out he's not a professor, but an unemployed factory worker who has to explain to his wife that the rent money was spent on drink. But the 'Polish' atmosphere, like Mitchell's use of anime Japan, is what makes an old narrative drick do new things. Japan certainly must have given him enough pyrotechnics for his now you see it, now you don't kind of narrative. But man I'm tired of it all -- give me some reality instead of all this botoxed prose covering up a hackneyed centre. Eiji and his dad don't get along. Ok, fine.
Eiji's sister drowned and that's a hard reality to cope with. Yes, of course. But that's the reason why we get about 100 pages of cyber-crime sprees and articulate goats? Or are you trying to outdo Murakami?

Indeed, Mitchell exhibits an unhealthy fascination for Japan as a suicide-prone nation. A great deal of this plot has to do with the 'kaiten' (human torpedo), just as 'Ghostwritten', his first novel, fixated on the AUM cult. So . . . yakuza, suicidal warriors, pachinko parlous, video games. Well, so much for doing away with stereotypes. No amount of cartographic references, or Lao Tzu wise man quotes, will lead away from that. I can't help but think that, had Mitchell written a plain book about being an ESL teacher and falling in love (as he did), we'd have a much better book than this digitized hyperbole. Mitchell's a brilliant writer, of course he is -- too bad he gives way to robots. If I had a beer with the guy, I'd tell him to put away the white oxford shirts for a while, stop hanging around romantic west Ireland, and give a try with something more to the point. Maybe 'Black Swan Green', his newest -- which is supposed to sound a lot like 'Paddy Clarke Ha Ha ha' does exactly that. But with alllll the stuff in the world to read I think I've given him a fair go, and I'm moving on

On a technical note, Mitchell makes a number of historical blunders and botches many of his cultural references. For example, in the final dream-interrupted sequence, the narrator refers the Kansai Earthquake (Mitchell is using the earliest name for this disaster) through its effect on the Richter scale. Japanese earthquakes are almost never reported like this, following instead their own system for measuring magnitude. Eiji refers to kanji as 'Japanese characters'. For some reason, Mitchell supplies long vowels for all place names, but does so inconsistently (Kyûshû but not Ôsaka). The wrong omnomatopoeia used for the cicada. Descriptions of closets in rural homesteads. Small errors like this abound, and they're the kind no Japanese author would make. I know that I sound like I'm nitpicking, which I am -- but, if you're going to put on another voice, shouldn't you get the details right? People always complain about bad accents in films, or American novels set in Ireland where people buy 'gas' instead of 'petrol'. It's small details, and they don't matter to the plot -- but they do ring out like a bad accent.

If you must get your Mitchell fix, and you could do worse, I'd say this is his most unsatisfying version of the psesudo anti-novel, 'Cloud Atlas' is far more inventive, and perhaps offers a more satisfying view of Big Issues, using a very Mishima-like reincarnation trick. 'Number9dream' is supernatural and quirky, but also a big swollen love hotel in which Mitchell pays tribute to himself. Kissie, kissie. I don't mind long novels, or quirk mind-benders, but books like this seem so cutesy in their agenda . . . makes me yearn for some social realism. For the beautiful moments of description, and there are many, there's a lot of self-important dross to get through. Too much, to be honest, and I suspect much of it has to do with the author's own self-importance. I just don't think this book will matter very much in fifty years, not that its effect, aside from gushy reviews, was all that great now. That's ok -- the world need minor novelists. But no amount of verbal steroids can bulk a book to the point of purpose.

But here, for all of the fine phrases and Murakami ambitions, there's not much that lingered in my mind. In fact, I found the last two hundred pages to be an incredible slog, even with the hip use of weird fonts and typographic sleight of hand. It's like 'Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close' or that other super famous uber original book about a textual shark who eats memory.

Mitchell's science fiction gangster novel about Japan just doesn't go deep enough, even with a danse macabre Beatles soundtrack. Read it, enjoy it, and watch it become a second-hand book. Or please try Roberto Bolano instead. I thank Mitchell for the educational experience I learned from this text. Even the most profound of technicians, really wizards of prose, can't invent a soul where there isn't one.

I might have really enjoyed this book, had it something poignant to offer to plead the case of the human race. Like most fiction of this sort, however, once you brush off the highjinks and brawny similes, there's really not much to say. Identity, mystery, gigabytes of verbiage? You don't say . . .

This year I dedicated myself to reading all the novels that Granta and the Paris Review told me were Important and Truly Brilliant and Eternal Masterpieces. I surrendered myself to their instruction. Now, like the end of Ramadan, I feel that I am entitled to feast once more on true geniuses. What seperates the Greats from wonderful wannabes? I have no idea, but I know what books will endure forever.

I can't wait for '1Q84' to come out in English. It'll remind me why there's a big gap between what Murakami does, and what Mitchell is trying to do.
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