Tag Archives: cloud atlas

Rock Stars of the Publishing World

Image result for editor and author

Now, granted, I’m a little bit biased here, but let me draw you a picture. In your head. Can you see it yet? Let me try harder.

Remember when Dave Winfield was drafted by teams in the NBA, NFL, ABA (American Basketball Association) and Major League Baseball (as a freaking pitcher!) – and all in the same year! Okay, that guy had sick skills to pay the bills.

Then there was renegade Bo Jackson, an all-star in both Major League Baseball and the NFL. (Anyone remember the “Bo Knows” ads back in the early ’90s?)

Possibly the best-known and glitziest cross-sport athlete, however, is “Neon” Deion Sanders, who, in 1992, became the only athlete ever to hit a home run in the Majors and score a touchdown in the NFL in the same week. Booya!

Anyway, forget all that jazz. In the literary world, many will tell you that you’re either an editor or a writer. You can’t be both, and certainly not at the same time like the above-mentioned freaks of athletic nature.

Well, kudos to Literary Hub (@lithub) for putting us word nerds in our place and singling out some titans of literature that have indeed been cross-publishing all-stars, switch hitters, if you will, who played for both teams at one time in their careers.

In a piece titled “7 Writers Who Were Also Editors (And the Books They Edited),” LitHub associate editor Emily Temple (@knownemily) put together a list to make your head spin. Talk about a group of people who wear a cornucopia of hats!

Aside from their individual success as writers, you’ve got to take a look at the complete list of authors these people have edited in the past and ask yourself how they could have pulled this off.

On a personal note, my favourite person on this list (again, slightly biased) is David Ebershoff, a man who 1) is not only a brilliant novelist; 2) not only a remarkably gifted editor in fiction but non-fiction as well; 3) not only edited some of David Mitchell’s best work (Cloud Atlas, Thousand Autumns…WTF?); but 4) is arguably as intelligent and gracious as Mitchell himself, making the two of them – to use the above analogy – kind of like having Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid on the same hockey team (2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, anybody?).


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Quote of the Day

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“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.

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On Love & Quotes

I like quotes. And, really, who doesn’t ? Bound by a cute pair of rabbit ears, a great quote can serve as a life mantra, a conversation starter, an impetus to change your life, a reason to learn more about a subject…the list is endless!

My friend and old ex-curler buddy, Stephen B., just tagged me in a Facebook Memory (didn’t even know they existed before this) and reminded me of a quote from Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey, a novel we read in our book club aeons ago. Wilder was in his own league when it came to English prose. I mean, here was a guy who really knew how to string together words in a way that hits you hard, not like a nudge on the shoulder, but more a hammer to the cerebral cortex that induces a shot of heaven-borne adrenalin to your organ of fire.

Check out this doozy from The Bridge of San Luis Rey:

Soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.

(ed. note: If you like Wilder, especially The Bridge of San Luis Rey, I strongly encourage you to read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Aside from The Bridge of San Luis Rey being one of Mitchell’s favourite books, he infused a lot from Wilder’s novel in his own epic, ranging from the character of Luisa Rey to the almost frequent mention of bridges at key moments in the story. )

While reading that Wilder quote again, I find it hauntingly similar to a passage I read years ago that was written by yet another literary giant more than 60 years before Wilder penned his ethereal prose on love. To quote Prince Andrei from War and Peace:

Love hinders death. Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.

Now that I’m on the subject, though, I can’t but recall two of my all-time-forever-like-totally-can’t-forget-about-them quotes on this subject.

First, I present Lawrence Durrell from the first book in the Alexandria Quartet novels, Justine:

The loved object is simply one that has shared an experience at the same moment of time, narcissistically; and the desire to be near the beloved object is at first not due to the idea of possessing it, but simply to let the two experiences compare themselves, like reflections in different mirrors. All this may precede the first look, kiss, or touch; precede ambition, pride, or envy; precede the first declarations which mark the turning point—for from here love degenerates into habit, possession, and back to loneliness.

And I end with the man himself, Michael Ondaatje, and his swan song from The English Patient:

We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography – to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.

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Genre Snobbery

In an interview with David Barr Kirtley, host of the podcast “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy,” David Mitchell opened up about a few subjects, including – but not limited to – Ursula K. Le Guin, Dungeons & Dragons, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant, and that very crystalline subject otherwise known as “the future.” As always, Mr. Mitchell has some insightful nuggets of barbecue sauce-laden wisdom to pass on, one of which has to do with the idea of literary genrefication.

I think it fair to say that we as people like to classify, organize, break down, label and basically separate anything and everything into smaller and smaller groups. We do it in the humanities, the arts, and the sciences. It’s meant to help us understand and categorize larger units of information and make it more readily accessible, whether as bits of memory or as books at a library.

Yet David Mitchell takes exception to using labels in the literary world to strictly isolate one branch of writing from another. As the author of little-known works such as Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks puts it:

It’s convenient to have a science fiction and fantasy section, it’s convenient to have a mainstream literary fiction section, but these should only be guides, they shouldn’t be demarcated territories where one type of reader belongs and another type of reader does not belong…It’s a bizarre act of self-mutilation to say that ‘I don’t get on with science fiction and fantasy, therefore I’m never going to read any. What a shame. All those great books that you’re cutting yourself off from.

So true. Click here to read the full article on wired.com, entitled, “Genre Snobbery Is a ‘Bizarre Act of Self-Mutilation’.”

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