“It’s true, reading too many novels makes you go blind.”
Well, that explains why I wear bifocals that resemble the Hubble Space Telescope. Problem solved!
This quote comes from the insanely mind-bending novel Cloud Atlas, which many literati consider David Mitchell’s opus – for now. A brilliant multi-century set of six recurring stories that take place around the world, Cloud Atlas is without question a tour de force.
Although you might initially laugh at the sentence (how can anyone read too many novels?), I think there’s more truth to it than you might have considered. Authors like Dan Brown dance around the subject of pursuing the facts (or the truth) at the potential cost of death in a FUN! way, but I think someone like Umberto Eco does a better job of capturing the lesson here. The Name of the Rose is a phenomenal story about the thirst for knowledge and the danger this can entail. Now, you might think that learning, reading and bettering yourself mentally have no limits, but I think that’s what Cloud Atlas and Eco’s opus teach us – even with the great achievements in life, sometimes you can go too far and there are necessary consequences to these pursuits.
On a personal note, I had the extreme good fortune to get to know David Mitchell before his meteoric rise to worldwide fame. I even spent time with he and his family in Ireland before Cloud Atlas turned DM into a literary rock star and the Wachowskis picked up the rights to turn the novel into a major Hollywood film (though it pales in comparison to the book sadly). I’ve also had the good fortune to meet many other authors over the years and can say unequivocally that David is not the only the most gracious of writers I’ve gotten to know, but has a mind and a sense of creativity unlike anyone else I know of writing today.
So, if you haven’t read Cloud Atlas yet, do yourself a favour and go get it. Once you’re done that, you can start from the beginning of his oeuvre and pick up Ghostwritten, another kick-ass novel that will make your head spin with its originality.