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Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Cloud Atlas" and the pleasures of re-reading

I can't remember the last time I enjoyed re-reading a book so much.

Actually I can't remember the last time I re-read a book. Because my greatest fear is that I am going to die before I can read all the books I want to read, I try to get through as many as I can at the same time 12 at the last count. This is crazy, I know. But I can't help it this is what bibliomaniacs do. Despite my best efforts, though, I still haven't managed to read even once all the books I own. So where is the time for re-reading?

I made an exception, however, for Cloud Atlas. I first chanced upon David Mitchell's dazzling novel in the Just Books library three years ago. I loved it so much I recommended it to my wife, Chandrika, who finished it in record time and pronounced it to be brilliant.

A couple of weeks ago we learnt that the movie based on the book would soon be released in India. And that became the motivation for us to pick up Cloud Atlas again. I began re-reading it immediately on my Kindle Fire (on which I have stored some thousand e-books). But my wife insisted we should have our own hard copy, so I purchased one for her last week on HomeShop18, paying Rs.267 for a book that would have cost me Rs.399 in a bookshop (it's now available on the website for Rs.235).

And two days ago, we went to watch the movie at Cinepolis. We knew the book's many-layered structure would be difficult to replicate on film and we were curious to see what Hollywood had come up with. Well, all credit to the three directors (yes, it took three experts in the movie business to realise Mitchell's wondrous vision on celluloid) — they have clearly made a superhuman effort, and an imaginative one at that. I have to say, though, if you haven't read the book, it is going to be difficult to enjoy and appreciate what you're seeing on the screen.

I also have to say the book is infinitely better than the movie. I am three-quarters of the way through the e-book now and how watching the movie has helped is that I can now visualise scenes and characters as I come upon them in my reading. For me, re-reading Cloud Atlas has become twice as pleasurable.

TOM HANKS AND HALLE BERRY PLAY MULTIPLE ROLES IN CLOUD ATLAS.
ADDITIONAL READING from The New York Times:
  • "Souls Tangled Up in Time", by film critic A.O. Scott: "This is by no means the best movie of the year, but it may be the most movie you can get for the price of a single ticket."
  • "Bending Time, Bending Minds", by Charles McGrath: "It might be possible to write a novel more unfilmable than David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, but you would have to work at it."