Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Ghostwritten" by David Mitchell

Ghostwritten is a collection of short stories loosely bound together, somewhat like Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, though Mitchell's stories are even less explicitly related. The nine narrators and settings vary widely, from a Japanese cult member responsible for a terrorist gas attack to a solitary owner of a tea shack on Holy Mountain to a late night radio host in New York City, among others.

Individually, the stories are interesting, though they vary in style and comprehensibility. For example, the stories about the cult member or the Japanese teenager in love are straightforward and successfully capture each narrator's vioice. The more fantastical stories, like those about he the haunted businessman or about the traveling non-corporeal entity, are more muddled and, for me, less enjoyable. Nonetheless, each story is clearly distinguished from the others, and I enjoyed the variety of locales, from rural Ireland to isolated China.

I prefer the short story collections I read to have thematic commonalities, as Lahiri is so skilled at doing in her works. Though I've no doubt there are connections between Mitchell's stories since they are so subtely weaved together throughout, the stories are just too outwardly separated for me to put the pieces together. I have little sense or feeling for the book as a whole.

Mitchell is a talented writer and his stories read beautifully, but there's a sense of incompleteness to Ghostwritten (in fact, several stories end abruptly with no semblance of resolution or ending) that I can't shake.

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