Sometimes I like to read fiction that features carefully created, fully rounded characters who respond convincingly to realistic situations. Sometimes I’m looking for plot-driven adventure set in exotic locales. Sometimes I want a historical setting that attends uncannily to detail and brings the past to vivid life. Sometimes I need a spectacular vision of the future that brings to mind possibilities I’ve never imagined before. Sometimes I just want to hear someone play with language and ideas in a way that makes beautiful music to my innner ear. And very rarely, I get all those things I want from a single author.
David Mitchell has made a career out of defying expectations and continually raising the literary bar, producing a series of novels that are nearly unmatched for their brilliance and complexity, yet are somehow accessible and thoroughly entertaining. He’s done all this while maintaining an engaging, humble public profile, as evidenced in this online interview.
On Tuesday, September 2nd, he’ll be releasing The Bone Clocks, which by all accounts is his best yet. It tells of Holly Sykes, first encountered as a fifteen-year-old runaway, whose long, eventful life is witnessed and narrated by several other characters, including a student, a journalist, and a psychiatrist. The action “takes place in Cambridge, Gravesend, Switzerland, Manhattan, the Hudson Valley, Toronto, Vancouver, Russia, Australia, Colombia, Shanghai, Iraq, Iceland, and several places you will look for in vain on a map. The central narrative begins 30 years ago, in 1984, and ends nearly 30 years hence, in 2043, but once you factor in various digressions and backstories, the time span of the book covers some 7,000 years.” Sounds like too much to handle, but Mitchell’s always had a remarkable ability to take the world in all its sprawling confusion and prove how interconnected it really is. I trust his talent implicitly.
How much have I been looking forward to The Bone Clocks? Well, the shop is closed on Monday for Labor Day, but if it weren’t, I’d convince the boss to stay open until midnight so we could start selling it the instant it’s legally possible to do so. As it is, I suggest you turn up first thing on Tuesday morning to claim a copy. Don’t look for me to ring you up, though. I’ll be in the back room reading mine.