The Good, the Bad, and the Hungry Sale
 
 

Recently Viewed clear list


Original Essays | June 20, 2014

Lauren Owen: IMG The Other Vampire



It's a wild and thundery night. Inside a ramshackle old manor house, a beautiful young girl lies asleep in bed. At the window, a figure watches... Continue »

spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$10.50
List price: $15.00
Used Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
7 Burnside Literature- A to Z
2 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

Cloud Atlas: A Novel

by

Cloud Atlas: A Novel Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Thursday, 7th November—

Beyond the Indian hamlet, upon a forlorn strand, I happened on a trail of recent footprints. Through rotting kelp, sea cocoa-nuts & bamboo, the tracks led me to their maker, a White man, his trowzers & Pea-jacket rolled up, sporting a kempt beard & an outsized Beaver, shoveling & sifting the cindery sand with a teaspoon so intently that he noticed me only after I had hailed him from ten yards away. Thus it was, I made the acquaintance of Dr. Henry Goose, surgeon to the London nobility. His nationality was no surprise. If there be any eyrie so desolate, or isle so remote, that one may there resort unchallenged by an Englishman, tis not down on any map I ever saw.

Had the doctor misplaced anything on that dismal shore? Could I render assistance? Dr. Goose shook his head, knotted loose his kerchief & displayed its contents with clear pride. “Teeth, sir, are the enameled grails of the quest in hand. In days gone by this Arcadian strand was a cannibals banqueting hall, yes, where the strong engorged themselves on the weak. The teeth, they spat out, as you or I would expel cherry stones. But these base molars, sir, shall be transmuted to gold & how? An artisan of Piccadilly who fashions denture sets for the nobility pays handsomely for human gnashers. Do you know the price a quarter pound will earn, sir?”

I confessed I did not.

“Nor shall I enlighten you, sir, for tis a professional secret!” He tapped his nose. “Mr. Ewing, are you acquainted with Marchioness Grace of Mayfair? No? The better for you, for she is a corpse in petticoats. Five years have passed since this harridan besmirched my name, yes, with imputations that resulted in my being blackballed from Society.” Dr. Goose looked out to sea. “My peregrinations began in that dark hour.”

I expressed sympathy with the doctors plight.

“I thank you, sir, I thank you, but these ivories”—he shook his kerchief—“are my angels of redemption. Permit me to elucidate. The Marchioness wears dental fixtures fashioned by the afore- mentioned doctor. Next yuletide, just as that scented She-Donkey is addressing her Ambassadors Ball, I, Henry Goose, yes, I shall arise & declare to one & all that our hostess masticates with cannibals gnashers! Sir Hubert will challenge me, predictably, ‘Furnish your evidence, that boor shall roar, ‘or grant me satisfaction! I shall declare, ‘Evidence, Sir Hubert? Why, I gathered your mothers teeth myself from the spittoon of the South Pacific! Here, sir, here are some of their fellows! & fling these very teeth into her tortoiseshell soup tureen & that, sir, that will grant me my satisfaction! The twittering wits will scald the icy Marchioness in their news sheets & by next season she shall be fortunate to receive an invitation to a Poorhouse Ball!”

In haste, I bade Henry Goose a good day. I fancy he is a Bedlamite.

Friday, 8th November—

In the rude shipyard beneath my window, work progresses on the jibboom, under Mr. Sykess directorship. Mr. Walker, Ocean Bays sole taverner, is also its principal timber merchant & he brags of his years as a master shipbuilder in Liverpool. (I am now versed enough in Antipodese etiquette to let such unlikely truths lie.) Mr. Sykes told me an entire week is needed to render the Prophet- ess “Bristol fashion.” Seven days holed up in the Musket seems a grim sentence, yet I recall the fangs of the banshee tempest & the mariners lost oerboard & my present misfortune feels less acute.

I met Dr. Goose on the stairs this morning & we took breakfast together. He has lodged at the Musket since middle October after voyaging hither on a Brazilian merchantman, Namorados, from Feejee, where he practiced his arts in a mission. Now the doctor awaits a long-overdue Australian sealer, the Nellie, to convey him to Sydney. From the colony he will seek a position aboard a passenger ship for his native London.

My judgment of Dr. Goose was unjust & premature. One must be cynical as Diogenes to prosper in my profession, but cynicism can blind one to subtler virtues. The doctor has his eccentricities & recounts them gladly for a dram of Portuguese pisco (never to excess), but I vouchsafe he is the only other gentleman on this latitude east of Sydney & west of Valparaiso. I may even compose for him a letter of introduction for the Partridges in Sydney, for Dr. Goose & dear Fred are of the same cloth.

Poor weather precluding my morning outing, we yarned by the peat fire & the hours sped by like minutes. I spoke at length of Tilda & Jackson & also my fears of “gold fever” in San Francisco. Our conversation then voyaged from my hometown to my recent notarial duties in New South Wales, thence to Gibbon, Malthus & Godwin via Leeches & Locomotives. Attentive conversation is an emollient I lack sorely aboard the Prophetess & the doctor is a veritable polymath. Moreover, he possesses a handsome army of scrimshandered chessmen whom we shall keep busy until either the Prophetesss departure or the Nellies arrival.

Saturday, 9th November—

Sunrise bright as a silver dollar. Our schooner still looks a woeful picture out in the Bay. An Indian war canoe is being careened on the shore. Henry & I struck out for “Banqueters Beach” in holy-day mood, blithely saluting the maid who labors for Mr. Walker. The sullen miss was hanging laundry on a shrub & ignored us. She has a tinge of black blood & I fancy her mother is not far removed from the jungle breed.

As we passed below the Indian hamlet, a “humming” aroused our curiosity & we resolved to locate its source. The settlement is circumvallated by a stake fence, so decayed that one may gain ingress at a dozen places. A hairless bitch raised her head, but she was toothless & dying & did not bark. An outer ring of ponga huts (fashioned from branches, earthen walls & matted ceilings) groveled in the lees of “grandee” dwellings, wooden structures with carved lintel pieces & rudimentary porches. In the hub of this village, a public flogging was under way. Henry & I were the only two Whites present, but three castes of spectating Indians were demarked. The chieftain occupied his throne, in a feathered cloak, while the tattooed gentry & their womenfolk & children stood in attendance, numbering some thirty in total. The slaves, duskier & sootier than their nut-brown masters & less than half their number, squatted in the mud. Such inbred, bovine torpor! Pockmarked & pustular with haki-haki, these wretches watched the punishment, making no response but that bizarre, beelike “hum.” Empathy or condemnation, we knew not what the noise signified. The whip master was a Goliath whose physique would daunt any frontier prizefighter. Lizards mighty & small were tattooed over every inch of the savages musculature:—his pelt would fetch a fine price, though I should not be the man assigned to relieve him of it for all the pearls of O-hawaii! The piteous prisoner, hoarfrosted with many harsh years, was bound naked to an A-frame. His body shuddered with each excoriating lash, his back was a vellum of bloody runes, but his insensible face bespoke the serenity of a martyr already in the care of the Lord.

I confess, I swooned under each fall of the lash. Then a peculiar thing occurred. The beaten savage raised his slumped head, found my eye & shone me a look of uncanny, amicable knowing! As if a theatrical performer saw a long-lost friend in the Royal Box and, undetected by the audience, communicated his recognition. A tattooed “blackfella” approached us & flicked his nephrite dagger to indicate that we were unwelcome. I inquired after the nature of the prisoners crime. Henry put his arm around me. “Come, Adam, a wise man does not step betwixt the beast & his meat.”

Sunday, 10th November—

Mr. Boerhaave sat amidst his cabal of trusted ruffians like Lord Anaconda & his garter snakes. Their Sabbath “celebrations” downstairs had begun ere I had risen. I went in search of shaving water & found the tavern swilling with Tars awaiting their turn with those poor Indian girls whom Walker has ensnared in an impromptu bordello. (Rafael was not in the debauchers number.)

I do not break my Sabbath fast in a whorehouse. Henrys sense of repulsion equaled to my own, so we forfeited breakfast (the maid was doubtless being pressed into alternative service) & set out for the chapel to worship with our fasts unbroken.

We had not gone two hundred yards when, to my consternation, I remembered this journal, lying on the table in my room at the Musket, visible to any drunken sailor who might break in. Fearful for its safety (& my own, were Mr. Boerhaave to get his hands on it), I retraced my steps to conceal it more artfully. Broad smirks greeted my return & I assumed I was “the devil being spoken of,” but I learned the true reason when I opened my door:—to wit, Mr. Boerhaaves ursine buttocks astraddle his Blackamoor Goldilocks in my bed in flagrante delicto! Did that devil Dutchman apologize? Far from it! He judged himself the injured party & roared, “Get ye hence, Mr. Quillcock! or by Gods B——d, I shall snap your tricksy Yankee nib in two!”

I snatched my diary & clattered downstairs to a riotocracy of merriment & ridicule from the White savages there gathered. I remonstrated to Walker that I was paying for a private room & I expected it to remain private even during my absence, but that scoundrel merely offered a one-third discount on “a quarter-hours gallop on the comeliest filly in my stable!” Disgusted, I retorted that I was a husband & a father! & that I should rather die than abase my dignity & decency with any of his poxed whores! Walker swore to “decorate my eyes” if I called his own dear daughters “whores” again. One toothless garter snake jeered that if possessing a wife & a child was a single virtue, “Why, Mr. Ewing, I be ten times more virtuous than you be!” & an unseen hand emptied a tankard of sheog over my person. I withdrew ere the liquid was swapped for a more obdurate missile.

The chapel bell was summoning the God-fearing of Ocean Bay & I hurried thitherwards, where Henry waited, trying to forget the recent foulnesses witnessed at my lodgings. The chapel creaked like an old tub & its congregation numbered little more than the digits of two hands, but no traveler ever quenched his thirst at a desert oasis more thankfully than Henry & I gave worship this morning. The Lutheran founder has lain at rest in his chapels cemetery these ten winters past & no ordained successor has yet ventured to claim captaincy of the altar. Its denomination, therefore, is a “rattle bag” of Christian creeds. Biblical passages were read by that half of the congregation who know their let- ters & we joined in a hymn or two nominated by rota. The “steward” of this demotic flock, one Mr. DArnoq, stood beneath the modest cruciform & besought Henry & me to participate in likewise manner. Mindful of my own salvation from last weeks tempest, I nominated Luke ch. 8, “And they came to him, & awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, & rebuked the wind & the raging of the water: & they ceased, & there was a calm.”

Henry recited from Psalm the Eighth, in a voice as sonorous as any schooled dramatist: “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou has put all things under his feet: all sheep & oxen, yea & the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air & the fish of the sea & whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.”

No organist played a Magnificat but the wind in the flue chimney, no choir sang a Nunc Dimittis but the wuthering gulls, yet I fancy the Creator was not displeazed. We resembled more the Early Christians of Rome than any later Church encrusted with arcana & gemstones. Communal prayer followed. Parishioners prayed ad lib for the eradication of potato blight, mercy on a dead infants soul, blessing upon a new fishing boat, &c. Henry gave thanks for the hospitality shown us visitors by the Christians of Chatham Isle. I echoed these sentiments & sent a prayer for Tilda, Jackson & my father-in-law during my extended absence.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 50 comments:

Lee Turnbull, January 31, 2013 (view all comments by Lee Turnbull)
A beautifully rendered novel comprised of six nesting stories. David Mitchell's tour-de-force is both profound and a delight to read.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
lukas, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by lukas)
Wow, people really like this book. I'll admit I didn't read it until after the movie came out, a movie I had no interest in (although who doesn't look non-Asian actors playing Asians?). Plenty of smarter folks than I am think this book is some kind of masterpiece. And it is virtuosic to be sure, with it's dazzling blend of styles and possibly interconnected plot lines, but is sure isn't much fun to read. I dare anybody to read the "Sloosha's Crossin' An' Ev'rythin' After" section out loud without snickering. Heck, just read that title. I don't get the fuss, but this is certainly hermetic post-modern wankery on the vastest, most self-indulgent scale.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(4 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)
joannebeth14, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by joannebeth14)
It's a unique experience. Don't go see the movie, read the book.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 50 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780375507250
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Mitchell, David
Publisher:
Random House Trade
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Reincarnation
Subject:
Fantasy fiction
Subject:
Fate and fatalism
Subject:
Fantasy - General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st U.S. ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
August 2004
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
528
Dimensions:
8 x 5.31 in 1 lb

Other books you might like

  1. The Kite Runner
    Used Trade Paper $2.50
  2. The Known World
    Used Trade Paper $5.95
  3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in...
    Used Trade Paper $1.50
  4. The Shadow of the Wind
    Used Trade Paper $4.95
  5. The Time Traveler's Wife
    Used Trade Paper $5.95
  6. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
    Used Trade Paper $8.50

Related Subjects


Featured Titles » Bestsellers
Featured Titles » General
Featured Titles » Genre
Featured Titles » Literature
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Science Fiction and Fantasy » Fantasy » General

Cloud Atlas: A Novel Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.50 In Stock
Product details 528 pages Random House Trade - English 9780375507250 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

While it was hard to narrow down my list to just five "best of" picks, I didn't have to think twice about what would be my favorite book of the year. In Cloud Atlas Mitchell again uses the format of connecting short stories with recurring motifs into a larger, almost epic narrative that spans the globe and centuries of human history. Filled with wonderful characters, effortless shifts in style, and more imagination than you can shake a stick at, Cloud Atlas will be a tough book for its author to top. Personally, I cannot wait to see him try.

"Staff Pick" by ,

For readers who enjoy good stories wrapped around an inventive structure. Each tale is obliquely connected to another moving forward through time. And each has a totally different voice and style.

"Staff Pick" by ,

If you haven't read David Mitchell's previous novels, let Cloud Atlas be your introduction to his incredible imagination. Here six convincing and wonderfully realized worlds, filled with surprise and originality, loosely intermingle. Each story, inhabited with equally compelling characters, proves the genius of this amazingly gifted writer.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "At once audacious, dazzling, pretentious and infuriating, Mitchell's third novel weaves history, science, suspense, humor and pathos through six separate but loosely related narratives. Like Mitchell's previous works, Ghostwritten and number9dream (which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize), this latest foray relies on a kaleidoscopic plot structure that showcases the author's stylistic virtuosity. Each of the narratives is set in a different time and place, each is written in a different prose style, each is broken off mid-action and brought to conclusion in the second half of the book. Among the volume's most engaging story lines is a witty 1930s-era chronicle, via letters, of a young musician's effort to become an amanuensis for a renowned, blind composer and a hilarious account of a modern-day vanity publisher who is institutionalized by a stroke and plans a madcap escape in order to return to his literary empire (such as it is). Mitchell's ability to throw his voice may remind some readers of David Foster Wallace, though the intermittent hollowness of his ventriloquism frustrates. Still, readers who enjoy the 'novel as puzzle' will find much to savor in this original and occasionally very entertaining work. Agent, Douglas Stewart. (Aug. 24) Forecast: Lots of buzz and a friendly paperback price will ensure strong sales, but like other fashionable tomes (think Pynchon's Mason & Dixon) Mitchell's novel may be more admired than read." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "David Mitchell is a spookily protean writer. His favored technique — he used it in his first novel, Ghostwritten — is to build a long narrative out of shorter ones, stories told in vastly different voices and styles, then cinch the whole patchwork together with some supernal device that reveals their underlying connections. In Ghostwritten, he couldn't manage to pull off that final, unifying gesture, but his third novel, Cloud Atlas, is far more convincing, a genuine and thoroughly entertaining literary puzzle." (read the entire Salon.com review)
"Review" by , "[A] remarkable achievement, a frightening, beautiful, funny, wildly inventive, elaborately conceived tour de force....Each of these tales more than earns its keep. Collectively, they constitute a work of art."
"Review" by , "Great Britain's answer to Thomas Pynchon outdoes himself...maddeningly intricate, improbably entertaining....[O]ne of the most imaginative and rewarding novels in recent memory....Sheer storytelling brilliance."
"Review" by , "Mitchell has a gift for creating fully realized worlds with a varied cast of characters. However...while the clever construction serves to highlight the novel's big ideas, the continual interruptions may distance the average reader."
"Review" by , "The novel as series of nested dolls or Chinese boxes, a puzzle-book, and yet — not just dazzling, amusing or clever but heartbreaking and passionate, too. I've never read anything quite like it, and I'm grateful to have lived, for a while, in all its many worlds, which are all one world, which is, in turn, enchanted by Mitchell's spell-caster prose, our own."
"Review" by , "This rich, imaginative novel parcels out its surprises with impeccable timing, and the less you know in advance, the more pleasure it gives....Exhilarating, challenging, full of invention, this book may show where the future of the novel — and of humanity — is headed."
"Review" by , "Cloud Atlas is no novel for the casual reader in search of easy entertainment, though much of it reads with the ease of a commercial page-turner. It is a finely wrought text, examining both past and future, for our time."
"Review" by , "Mitchell's talents for riotous incident and energetic prose keep the pages turning, but Atlas' disparate strands are linked only by the flimsiest of pretenses....The six cylinders never function as one engine. (Grade: B)"
"Review" by , "Mitchell's exploration of power and greed is riveting, and the way the stories come together, through time and cultures, is astonishing. Cloud Atlas is a novel not to be missed."
"Review" by , "Mitchell possesses an amazingly copious and eclectic imagination."
"Review" by , "Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He...can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across this novel's every page. But Cloud Atlas is the sort of book that makes ambition seem slightly suspect..."
"Review" by , "A boomeranging historical novel moving from the Age of Discover to post-apocalyptic Hawaii with stops on the way in China Syndrome-era California and dystopian capitalist Korea. An amazing performance of ventriloquism and brains."
"Review" by , "Watch out for Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, a work of free-wheeling fantasy by a cutting-edge writer."
"Review" by , "Mr. Mitchell is on record that his goal was a reading experience akin to taking apart a Russian doll, then putting it back together. To this extent, he has certainly succeeded....For all its dazzle, though, Cloud Atlas is substance still searching for style."
"Review" by , "[Mitchell's] previous novels, Ghostwritten and Number9Dream, also feature stories that are interconnected, but tenuously. His handling of the technique in Cloud Atlas is more dexterous."
"Review" by , "Some of Mitchell's sections are quite brilliant and moving, while a couple devolve to the pedestrian, marring the overall effect of the novel."
"Review" by , "[A] remarkable book....It knits together science fiction, political thriller and historical pastiche with musical virtuosity and linguistic exuberance: there won't be a bigger, bolder novel next year."
"Review" by , "David Mitchell is by no means a complete unknown, but I shall be very surprised if...Cloud Atlas doesn't propel him into the front rank of novelists."
"Review" by , "One of the biggest joys of Cloud Atlas is to watch Mitchell sashay from genre to genre without a hitch in his dance step. Whether you are a fantasy-book reader or a thriller reader...you will find Cloud Atlas maintains a startling level of authenticity throughout."
"Review" by , "A daunting talent, adept with the global canvas, and able to move from the technological to the spiritual with supernatural ease."
"Synopsis" by , In his captivating third novel, Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre, and time to offer a meditation on humanity's dangerous will to power, and where it may lead.
"Synopsis" by , Now a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant, and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer

A postmodern visionary who is also a master of styles of genres, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventure, a Nabokovian lore of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction that reveals how disparate people connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.

spacer
spacer
  • back to top
Follow us on...




Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.