Ghostwritten : a novel /

Main Author: Mitchell, David
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Vintage, 2001.
Edition: 1st ed.
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Review by Booklist Review

It is a thrill to read a piece of fiction this engrossing, challenging, urgent, and, ultimately, so very new. This book, which would be remarkable even if it weren't a first novel, was published last year in Great Britain to critical acclaim. It is organized into nine different tales set all over the globe, each with its own narrator and distinctive style. Yet, through plotting that is as bold as it is complex, the stories interconnect, giving life to the clicheof the global village. "Twenty million people live and work in Tokyo," says the narrator of "Tokyo." "It's so big that nobody really knows where it stops." Mitchell's late-modern cities don't end, they scarily morph and transmute into each other as we travel through them in the company of a crazed cult member, a corrupt lawyer, a Tokyo jazz aficionado, an art thief, a New York late-night DJ. And it is these characters, wonderfully seductive and often funny, who keep the book afloat. 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: a novel of the twenty-first century. --Brian Kenney

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Nine disparate but interconnected tales (and a short coda) in Mitchell's impressive debut examine 21st-century notions of community, coincidence, causality, catastrophe and fate. Each episode in this mammoth sociocultural tapestry is related in the first person, and set in a different international locale. The gripping first story introduces Keisuke Tanaka, aka Quasar, a fanatical Japanese doomsday cultist who's on the lam in Okinawa after completing a successful gas attack in a Tokyo subway. The links between Quasar and the novel's next narrator, Satoru Sonada, a teenage jazz aficionado, are tenuous at first. Both are denizens of Tokyo; both tend toward nearly monomaniacal obsessiveness; both went to the same school (albeit at different times) and shared a common teacher, the crass Mr. Ikeda. As the plot progresses, however, the connections between narrators become more complex, richly imaginative and thematically suggestive. Key symbols and metaphors repeat, mutating provocatively in new contexts. Innocuous descriptions accrue a subtle but probing irony through repetition; images of wild birds taking flight, luminous night skies and even bloody head wounds implicate and involve Mitchell's characters in an exquisitely choreographed dance of coincidence, connection and fluid, intuitive meanings. Other performers include a corrupt but (literally) haunted Hong Kong lawyer; an unnamed, time-battered Chinese tea-shop proprietress; a nomadic, disembodied intelligence on a voyage of self-discovery through Mongolia; a seductive and wily Russian art thief; a London-based musician, ghostwriter and ne'er-do-well; a brilliant but imperiled Irish physicist; and a loud-mouthed late-night radio-show host who unwittingly brushes with a global cyber-catastrophe. Already a sensation on its publication in England, Mitchell's wildly variegated story can be abstruse and elusive in its larger themes, but the gorgeous prose and vibrant, original construction make this an accomplishment not to be missed. 5-city author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Gleefully self-referential, slyly philosophical, subtly postmodern, Mitchell's debut novel consists of nine intertwining tales and the people who move within and among them. Spanning the globeDfrom teeming Tokyo to the isolated Holy Mountain, from the idyllic Clear Island to Old Man LondonDthe characters also run the gamut: criminal, professional, genius, provincial, fanatic. The novel evades the reader's aim to discern a moral, instead exploring the motions of consciousness through various lives in nine distinct and elegant voices. Although the numerous viewpoints can be distancing, the challenges of this intellectual puzzle propel the reader to the rather bizarre but compelling last two chapters. As Mitchell's Mr. Cavendish purports, "We all think we're in control of our own lives, but really they're pre-ghostwritten by forces around us." So how well does the thing read? Very well. Perhaps not revelatory, but this contemplative pleasure of a book is recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/00.]DAnn Kim, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

An inordinately ambitious first novel, the work of a Westerner living in Japan, traces a chain of events that affect lives on several continents, explored in stories “ghostwritten” by other (in some cases, literally alien) intelligences than those of the people who experience them. The narrative begins and ends (in “Okinawa,” then “Underground”) in the mind of a member of a millennial cult that commits mass murder by releasing poison gas into the Tokyo subway system. An errant phone call links him with a Korean-born music-store clerk working in “Tokyo” who’s smitten with a beautiful student, and follows her to “Hong Kong.” There, the couple are glancingly observed by a British finance lawyer who’s cast off by his resentful (childless) wife, sexually dominated by their Chinese maid, drawn into money-laundering for a Russian criminal conspiracy, and haunted by the unthreatening ghost of a young Oriental girl. Similarly accidental connections lead gradually from East to West, focusing on a series of art thefts that occur in “Petersburg,” a rootless jazz drummer’s sexual and artistic progress (as a ghostwriter of celebrity autobiographies) through London’s musical and political worlds, and a woman scientist’s painful exile from her past as part of a surveillance team performing secretive services—on an island off the coast of Ireland—for the US Department of Defense. This is a fairly extreme example of the contemporary “systems novel” (as practiced by Pynchon, DeLillo, McElroy, et al.) obsessed with the interrelationship—not to mention intricacy and opacity—of postindustrial culture’s supersophisticated technologies. The impression of a world systematically endangering itself lies heavily on every page. Hollander’s bleak black-comic dramatizations of the depersonalizing effects of a global village worshipping such strange new gods doesn’t entirely escape redundancy and obscurity, but the most interesting chapters, especially those depicting a Chinese woman victimized by Mao’s Cultural Revolution and a Mongolian spirit vainly seeking a stable “host” body, rise to impressive levels of both ingenuity and poignancy. A richly layered, difficult text that may well be worth the several readings it probably requires.

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