In all my crazy craziness, the guilt at leaving the Swan Show hanging is starting to weigh me down. A note to self has already been drafted. It goes something like this: clearly you are incapable of keeping up a series of posts on the same subject unless you actually have, you know, time and no engagement and no house guests, etc. Note drafted. Note sent to self. Self acknowledges that it is bad for the blog and bad for the readers and -- really -- just plain bad manners to keep things hanging like this. I'm not the writer I thought I was. Or, rather, I'm simply not the blogger I thought I was. But just as The Swan Man finds redemption in the last part of this swan tale, so shall I.
Now, to the point:
Where were we? David Mitchell was starting to annoy. His shtick was running thick & I didn't really see how he could climb out of it without a major maneuver. But here's the thing about David Mitchell: he loves language. He loves words. He cares so much about using the precise word for it's exact meaning (and only subverting that meaning if you understand the actual meaning in the first place - not the stuff of amateurs) that you have to just ease off him a bit. Give him the space to do his dance...even if he knows the well-worn steps a little too well for your liking.
Specific acts of redemption:
- When asked about his process (for doesn't someone always ask this, and aren't we always curious even though we know that writers hate this question and we would never be so naff as to ask this but are devilishly pleased when someone else does?) Mitchell got very somber. Very serious. Dropped the shtick. He spoke of ideas and inspirations and of doing something that had not been done before, at least by him, even if it had, in fact, been done by someone else.
- He spoke of the journey. Not in a cheesy way. Of finding oneself in the pages & how even though Black Swan Green seems on the surface to be the less acrobatic and somersaulty on the page and in the plot, it was the most challenging book he's written to date.
- While he was careful to mention that doesn't mean "the big theatrical stuff of my earlier books comes easy for me", he did admit that, well, it does. Somewhat. That his wide ranging interests and studies and writing styles do make sense in a more sprawling work and so with BSG, he had to be still. Be quiet. And really live inside the book and let it find its own gentle voice -- so different from the books that he's written before.
- He loves Murakami. Enough said, I know. He was blown away by Murakami's work early on and all he wanted to do was write something that good. Now, living in Tokyo and reading Murakami will do that to you. But Mitchell had a lovely anecdote about never having met the man but being in complete awe of him and his work. Recently, he was asked to review Murakami's latest book, Kafka on the Shore. He was delighted to be asked and even more delighted to give a writer he so admired his due. "I was planning to do a puff piece. His work is brilliant, right? How hard could this be?" Alas, Mitchell read Kafka on the Shore and did not like it. Not one bit. He found himself in a situation that required him to, yes, bash his idol. Yet, when you read Mitchell's review, it is not at all bashy and is more, I'll just come out and say it, puffy. Especially if he really didn't like it. You can see a man desperately tip-toeing around Murakami's work, reviewing it in the vein of "others will think this", "critics may say this" - never wanting to put his impressions firmly down on the page. I don't love this wishy-washiness, but I can certainly appreciate the delicacy of the situation!
Moment of redemption in which I realized that David Mitchell is human and he is a writer and I'm okay with his maybe-snottiness because goddamn, he is a writer's writer (I know, didn't think I'd go there, but I did) and, well, here it is:
- When asked about his next book, he stated firmly that he would not begin for a bit...although let on that something was brewing. He then told us that upon finishing number9dream, he printed it, delivered it to his agent and then returned home the very same evening to begin what eventually became Cloud Atlas. He smiled sheepishly and recalled how he was so afraid of losing the rhythm, of losing whatever magical momentum he had on one book that he didn't know what to do with himself and immediately set about writing another. He admitted that it began to complicate things when there were revisions on the one book while working on something as far-reaching and acrobatic as Cloud Atlas. "It was crazy, I know." Then he paused. Smiled a bit. Waited. And said: "I just didn't want to lose it. I was so afraid I'd lose it and never write again."
Aren't we all?