Posts Tagged ‘italo calvino’

Well, I guess the Wachowskis must not do a whole lot of reading.

I remember when the weird trailer for their movie came out; instead of being about the movie it’s about the three of them–the Wachowskis and Tom Twyker–sitting there talking about how this is the BEST BOOK EVER and THERE’S NEVER EVER BEEN ANOTHER BOOK LIKE IT and so they had to turn it into this life-changing piece of art.

I guess they’ve never heard of these things called “short-story anthologies”, nor had they ever read Italo Calvino’s When On Winter’s Night A Traveler. Because I just finished reading Cloud Atlas and that’s what book it is. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a very good book indeed. Is it the Best Book Ever? No. It is a mostly well-done collection of short stories grouped around a theme. The first short story is a mid-nineteenth century seafaring journal centering around slavery. The second is 1930s Europe. It goes on like that, with the characters in each story being reincarnations of the same person, making the same mistakes in a whole new era. Oh what fun! The gimmicky part, also found in the Calvino book, is that each short story leaves off abruptly (except for the central story set in a post-apocalyptic future.) You’re reading along and then BAM! the story just stops and now you have to care about a detective story set in the 1970s, or a blade-runner/THX-1138 rip-off set in the future. After the central story where we see that yes, indeed, the same people DO make the same mistakes, right up to the end of the world as we know it…and beyond, we get to finish the back half of all the short stories. It’s like going up a ladder and back down again.

That’s really a good way to structure the book for maximum impact of the huge reveals of things like what happens to each version of the person with the comet birthmark. It’s a really annoying way to structure the book for the reader, but I suppose it does make the point, starkly, that the ending of any story is wholly dependent upon where the teller stops telling it. What seem like happy endings after the first short story turn sad after the second, and vice versa.

It IS a very good book, but all due respect to the filmmakers it’s not the BEST BOOK EVER nor did it CHANGE MY LIFE to read it. At least now that I have read it I can see their movie. Time Magazine claimed the film was the worst of 2012. I can only assume that Time Magazine didn’t see a lot of movies in 2012.

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