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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Jennifer Brown
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Black Swan Green

Black Swan Green - David Mitchell

In the words of Jason Taylor, thirteen year old hero of Black Swan Green, David Mitchell “is ace.” I would go so far as to say he is the most brilliant of all contemporary popular authors. Show me the writer who can write in six very different styles with six unique voices and hold it all together; now show me the author that can do it in one book as Mitchell did in Cloud Atlas.

Black Swan Green was Mitchell's follow-up to his renowned third novel. Because of this, I'm sure many readers had massive expectations. How could Mitchell follow such a ground-breaking epic with a story about a stammering thirteen year old? Yet Mitchell does it quite well, getting into the voice of another character much in the fashion of Cloud Atlas. David Mitchell was largely believable as Jason Taylor.

If you've never read Mitchell before, know that his novels aren't necessarily easy and often start with muddy direction and understanding. When I started Cloud Atlas I struggled with it; I wondered what I was getting into. I've heard many others express the same sentiment. But as it moved along it became better and clearer until the book was carrying my along. Though significantly smaller in scope, Black Swan Green carries much of the same experience. It starts slow and events at the beginning seem insignificant, it's hard to get invested in these characters, and come on, what's original about the adolescent coming of age story? Midway there's that change and by the end, well—Mitchell's brilliant.

My favorite thing about David Mitchell is how he ties his books and stories together regardless of how separate they are in time and scope—it's the premise of Cloud Atlas retold in Mitchell's own writing career. Amazing. Black Swan Green makes allusions to every Mitchell novel that preceded it, as well as to several published stories. It motivates me to read his entire collection straight through from the beginning. And that's what I'm going to do. Next time I pick up a Mitchell novel (which will not be long from now), I'm starting from the beginning with Ghostwritten. Hopefully I'll have read all of his works by the time his sixth novel is published