“We’re all ghostwriters, my boy. And it’s not just our
memories. Our actions, too. We all think we’re in control of our own lives, but really they’re pre-ghostwritten by forces around us.” – David Mitchell, “Ghostwritten”
I used to listen to the Bat Segundo Show, one of the finest literary podcasts in all of podcast-dom, (est. 2001). So I kind of double-blinked while reading David Mitchell’s 1999 novel, “Ghostwritten”- and stumbling upon a Bat Segundo Show within its pages.
Does Mitchell, aside from his literary talents, have the ability to prophecy the unlikely names of future podcasters?!? The far-less-magical explanation is that the real-life “Bat Segundo” adopted the moniker of the unreal-life DJ in a blatant attempt to attract Mitchell as a guest to the podcast. (The ploy worked.)
“Ghostwritten,” a novel-in-9-novellas, is one of the few hyped-and-toasted debuts of our time that actually did herald a serious and serial writer. It’s a bold effort, and it was bolder then: At that time every whiny writer’s first novel was supposed to be about a whiny writer struggling with his first novel.
I noticed “Ghostwriten” in 2000 and knew I would get to it- eventually. It’s been 14 years of watching the Mitchell shelf at the library get thicker, and here we are. While he’s got another fan now, and I’m bound to read everything Mitchell has put out shortly, in the end the thematic diffuseness of “Ghostwritten” left me dissatisfied. Mitchell aims to prove that he can write NINE exciting, imaginative novels, in 9 disparate moods and voices; that he can sprawl like Thomas Pynchon or Don DeLillo; that he can do London like Nick Hornby and Tokyo like Murakami; that he can thrown in super-intelligent AI like Philip K. Dick; that he can slide into Irish accents- and Russian- and Mongolian.
He doesn’t quite pull ALL of those things off (WHO COULD?) but, my God, HE TRIES! How admirable is that?
RATING: COOL! but a gutsy attempt at a MASTERPIECE!!!