27 August 2013

Cloud Atlas (the book)

I was intrigued by the movie, so I decided to read the book, which I enjoyed immensely, especially the author's ability to present each of the six segments in a unique "voice."

I won't even try to summarize or analyse the content of the book; there are an abundance of reviews both of the book and of the movie adaptation available online.  Interestingly, for this edition of the book David Mitchell includes a postscript reporting on how he was invited to participate in the creation of the movie, and how (recognizing the differences inherent in film vs. text presentations) he has been delighted with the movie's ability to capture the essence of the novel.

Unexpectedly, I decided that having seen the movie enhanced my enjoyment of the book; I think the nested "Matryoshka-doll-like" structure of the book would have been confusing had I not already seen the movie and understood the connections between the characters.

Herewith some random thoughts.  Best turn of phrase in the book:
(of a teenage girl)  "she has to lose her pre-Copernican view of a universe revolving around herself."
New words/phrases to look up the meaning or etymology of:
sinnet, doolally, retrousset, sundered, crenellation, shagreen, scarper(v.), clement, sarnies, sheog, wuthering, “small ale,” hugger-mugger, “we got under weigh,” yorkered, mollyhawk, tournour.
Re corpocracy:
"How the consumers seethed to buy, buy, buy! Purebloods, it seemed, were a sponge of demand that sucked goods and sevices from every vendor, dinery, bar, shop, and nook.

Hae-Joo lead me to a stylish cafe platform where he bought a styro of starbuck for himself and an aqua for me.  He xpalined that under the Enrichment Statutes, consumers have to spend a fixed quota of dollars each month, depending on their strata.  Hoarding [money] is an anti-corpocratic crime.
Two references to the title:
"I watched clouds awobbly from the floor o' that kayak.  Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an' tho' a cloud's shape nor hue nor size don't stay the same, it's still a cloud an' so is a soul.  Who can say where the cloud's blowed from or who the soul'll be 'morrow?  Only Sonmi the east an' the west an' the compass an' the atlas, yay, only the atlas o' clouds. (Zachry, p. 308)

Three or four times only in my youth did I glimpse the Joyous Isles, before they were lost to fogs, depressions, cold fronts, ill winds, and contrary tides... I mistook them for adulthood.  Assuming they were a fixed feature in my life's voyage.  I neglected to record their latitude their longitude, their approach.  Young ruddy fool.  What wouldn't I give now for a never-changing map of the ever-constant ineffable?  To posess, as it were, an atlas of clouds. (Cavendish, p. 373)
I've already requested another of his books ("The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet") from the library.

Readers are invited to leave their own mini-reviews (of the movie or the book) in the Comments. 


  1. I fell in love with David Mitchell after having read Cloud Atlas. As you read more of his books you'll be blown away by what a dynamic writer her is. Jacob De Zoet would be my 2nd fave book of his. Enjoy eating up every word!!!

  2. Some of those words are in reasonably common use in the UK, I'll have a go at quick explanations:

    Not sure about 'sinnet', but 'sennit' is a kind of braided cord often used decoratively on clothes, like the Navy's formal dress

    Doolally = crazy, gone mad. usually used in a pleasant way rather than a cruel one, for example "grandma's gone a bit doolally"

    Sundered = torn apart, as in "wrenched asunder"

    Crenellation = the 'up-down-up-down' top of a castle wall or tower. The 'down' parts are gaps for archers to fire through, the 'up' parts are shelter for them to hide behind

    Shagreen = a kind of rough leather - I think it has the same root as 'chamois'

    To scarper = to run away, usually from authority

    Clement = pleasant. Usually used to describe the weather on a nice but mild day

    Sarnies = slang for sandwiches, usually the homemade kind

    Wuthering = onomatopoeic word for the sound of strong wind

    Small ale = a beer with a low alcohol content. In medieval times this would have been drunk by pretty much everyone as the alcohol made it safer than drinking plain water, but it was too mild to get you very intoxicated

    Hugger mugger = behaving differently from how you feel. I always associate it with being a 'hugger' (pleasant and friendly) to someone's face and a 'mugger' (pulling faces, making fun) behind their back. I could be very wrong though!

    Under weigh = to start a journey. I always thought this phrase came from sailing, you 'weigh anchor' when you lift the anchor, and then the ship can move. It might also be a misspelling of 'underway'.

    Mollyhawk = I vaguely recall this being used to describe a young seagull, but I might be confused...


  3. I enjoyed "Cloud Atlas". It was good, but not as good as I hoped it would be(my problem for sure).

    "Black Swan Green" was terrific. And I could not get going with "number9dream" so I stopped reading it, oh well...


  4. The Cloud Atlas movie is very occult. Google Cloud Atlas + occult or +gnostic or +esoteric for a very different kind of movie review.

    In fact, a majority of movies, television shows and children's television programming have deep occult themes.

    See the website "Vigilant Citizen" and many, many other websites for evidence.

    Even in this review, found in a well know journal, the critic says the movie "The Matrix" was gnostic and so is Cloud Atlas:


    Slowly and surely, people are being "taught" various philosophies through the media.

    1. Occult, gnostic, esoteric it all probably applies, yet the message of the movie is one of human solidarity, fight oppression in various forms (slavery, nursing home imprisonment, overbearing mentor, slowly poisoning doctor ...) It uses completely familiar plots, seen in so many other movies, woven together by a superstructure.

      It's the old story of human empowerment, by the regaining of human dignity (self worth) through cooperation. There is a supernatural and gnostic crutch, but like religion it's just a means to an end. The supernatural is made up, but working together (even in something like singing in a chorus) is completely real, rewarding and empowering.

      There is no understanding to be gained from spotting patterns and labeling things as "x". Vigilant Citizen dot com is nothing but the common fallacy of taking a metaphor literally. "Symbols rule the world" - in a sense, yes, though pervay is a better word. To literally rule symbols would need a government, a court, constitution, staff.

    2. "Slowly and surely, people are being "taught" various philosophies through the media"

      Oh goodie. I'm so glad to hear that. I love learning new things. Don't you?

  5. Oh and don't forget that when you watch tv or the movies that your brain switches to alpha waves - a relaxed suggestive state!

    It is then that hypnotic techniques and neurolinguistic programming is introduced.

    The movie Inception is a great example:



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