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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Visible Empire
Hannah Pittard
The Deptford Trilogy
Robertson Davies
Life on Mars
Jennifer Brown
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Natalie Savage Carlson

Cloud Atlas: A Novel

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell A large part of the variety found in clouds relates directly to the altitude of the cloud. Cirrus clouds can be found above 18,000 feet; Stratus under 6,500; Alto between 6,500 an 18,000. Within these groups, there are different types. Cirrostratus clouds, part of the Cirrus family, are thin, covering much of the sky; they often indicate that rain or snow is coming. Cirrocumbulus are also a part of the Cirrus family, but they appear as rows of white puffs. They occur during times of cold weather. Outside of the three groups are other clouds, Cumulus, Cumulonimbus, Mammatus, et cetera; each has its own unique appearance and reason for being.Knowing how each particular type of cloud is formed does little for me than fill my mind with information that makes me feel self-important. Sure, I can be aware of when it might rain or know which way a storm is blowing, but day in and out, cloud identification helps me little. That doesn't mean I appreciate clouds any less: the beauty and power of clouds; the joy in connecting their shapes to my favorite furry animals. I love clouds, even when I don't understand them.I feel much the same way about David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. There is power in these stories. Each is so unique that it is difficult not to stand in awe at Mitchell's raw talent. Whether he's writing a journal as an eighteenth century notary aboard an ocean vessel, the letters of a priggish English composer, a suspenseful tale of corruption and the journalist who uncovers it, the vain musings of a publisher with a belief that he is akin to Randle Patrick McMurphy, the interview of a clone guilty for her rebellion against a capitalist totalitarian government, or the post-apocalyptic oral stories of adventure by a primitive tribesman, Mitchell writes perfectly. One minute Mitchell's writing mirrors Melville, the next Margaret Atwood or a more literate Tom Clancy, then Toni Morrison.Mitchell's talent is clear, but what his aim was is not so transparent. The thread that connects these stories is often thin. Regardless, this makes them no less intriguing. Even the many stories that move slowly are entertaining in their own unique way.Cloud Atlas was an exceptional read. The stories were a delight and the characters worth every minute of my time. I would like to have had a more clear intent of Mitchell's purpose; there's no denying the author is clever—perhaps too clever—but that doesn't make up for the lack of connection. Cloud Altas is the kind of novel that takes determination and patience, but it doesn't require complete understanding. Sometimes it's okay to just sit back and be mystified by it all. And sometimes the greatest joys in life can come from the simple things, like finding a cloud in the shape of an enormous bunny.