Thursday, August 26, 2010

And Reading "Number9Dream" is Done, an Engaging Novel

Everybody's talking about "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet." Good for them. Good for David Mitchell, what's more. I hope he finally wins a much deserved Man Booker Prize. I've got my copy, happy to say. But now I haven't read it as of yet. I did, however, just finish reading the last of the novels I had left to read of David Mitchell's compendium that precede "Jacob de Zoet." (Does that make sense?) Well, it's called "Number9Dream." It was good. I liked it. But we'll get to that.

I think since "Inception" hit the scene and has been one of the top movies of the summer (and certainly a movie I enjoyed quite a lot) "Number9Dream" proved to be a fairly nice follow up to that. Mitchell's not quite as concerned with literal traversal through one's subconsciousness (By the way: is it possible for that to truly be literal? I guess . . .), but the notion of dreams, as the title certainly expresses, does play its own part. Mitchell, more or less, overtly expresses his influence by direct reference to Philip K. Dick in "Number9Dream," and his novel -- as much as any of Mitchell's others -- demonstrates this affinity for the much ballyhooed cult sci-fi writer with its surrealist plot turns and ambiguity, all of which have an advanced-technology bend to them, so that even though the setting is ostensibly present day Japan it still feels as if it is actually a place far more futuristic (as is sort of my impression of Tokyo, anyway) than our contemporary world, capiche?

(Ed. Matt's Note: It certainly doesn't hurt that I was reading "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" in concert with "Number9Dream" -- as specifically goes divining parallels between the two authors.)

The novel primarily concerns Eiji Miyake, the illegitimate son of a prominent Tokyo citizen whom the story centers on, to the extent that Miyake is trying to discover who, then, precisely this citizen, i.e. his father, is. What's somewhat interesting to me is how little, in the end, I felt the notion of numbers mattered to the story. They appear constantly, seemingly betokening any twist of fate, positive, negative, or neuter, that Miyake encounters, but even at that still do not -- from what I gleaned -- illuminate any greater truth of the story by their significance. 9 might as well have been 1568. But maybe that was the point. What do I mean? Just that we can find numbers everywhere and they can seem to follow us if we are looking for them to do so, and we can contrive meaning to attach to them for that.

It's probably in existential terms what amounts to an attempt at making sense of the absurd. (Camus help me out here.) The only meaning is that which we attach with our own personal consciousness (or the influence of others and theirs), if I'm correctly taking the existentialist tack, which I suppose I am. It's just that the novel is awash with references to the number 9, some seemingly important others less so, and I can only derive from this then that they are subsequently meant to mute each other's significance with their over-saturation. Of course I might just be a little too lazy in scrutinizing its significance, also. There's my little caveat copout, of which any reader who reads me blog consistently knows I am so fond of dropping at the end of these expositions-0-mine. So sue me.

What remains true in my opinion is that David Mitchell is a world-class story teller, who is among my favorite, possibly all time, in fact. There's still something Nabokovian to his writing, although my attitude about this being the case has diminished some from my originally asserting it in my post about "Black Swan Green." Moreover, he can take narratives and archetypes that may feel stale or false in the hands of someone less gifted and keep you engaged and enraptured till the story reaches its terminus. How Mitchell spins a story line that involves Yakuza mobsters, Miyake's romance with a talented-to-the-point-of-precocity young musician, his estrangement from his mother, factotum-lifestyle in the big city, and the overarching hunt for his father is beyond me, but he does.

So while "Number9Dream" is probably my least favorite of David Mitchell's works I've read to date, it was by no means bad, and is certainly worth your time. Absolutely it is worth your time, actually.

1 comment:

  1. Funny isn't, what a person's willing to forgive in an author one loves.

    A very personal affair, that.

    I must say that I did enjoy following Eiji Miyake as he travels through inner space at the speed of a daydream.

    The intro was good stuff.

    My major complaint - and this applies to Mitchell generally - is that the quality of his prose doesn't always match his narrative inventiveness.

    Daydreaming outside the PanOpticon, brilliant!

    "His rap sheet is as long as your wife's fur coat rack," not so much.

    Have a good weekend. Enjoyed your review. Eager for more on Mitchell and Nabakov, and others...