Fiction

Excerpt from Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish

Mother used to say escape is never further than the nearest book. Well, Mumsy, no, not really. Your beloved large-print sagas of rags, riches, and heartbreak were no camouflage against the miseries trained on you by the tennis ball launcher of life, were they? But, yes, Mum, there again, you have a point. Books don’t offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw. God know, I had bog all else to do at Aurora House except read.

The day after my miracle recovery I picked up Half-Lives and, ye gods, began wondering if Hilary V. Hush might not have written a publishable thriller after all. I had a vision of The First Luisa Rey Mystery in stylish black-and-bronze selling at Tesco checkouts; then a Second Mystery, then the Third. Queen Gwen(dolin Bendincks) exchanged a sharp 2B pencil for a blunt blandishment (missionaries are so malleable if you kid them you’re a possible convert), and I set about giving the thing a top-to-bottom edit. One or two things will have to go: the insinuation that Luisa Rey is this Robert Frobisher chap reincarnated, for example. Far too hippie-druggy-new age. (I, too, have a birthmark, below my left armpit, but no lover ever compared it to a comet. Georgette nicknamed it Timbo’s Turd.)

But, overall, I concluded that young-hack-versus-corporate-corruption thriller had potential. (The Ghost of Sir Felix Finch whines, “But it’s been done a hundred times before!”—as if there could be anything not done a hundred thousand times between Aristophanes and Andrew Void-Webber! As if Art is the What, not the How!)

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