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    “Everywhere I look, you could frame it”: David Mitchell’s Mission to Describe

    Brooker, Joseph (2019) “Everywhere I look, you could frame it”: David Mitchell’s Mission to Describe. Crossings: A Journal of English Studies 10 , pp. 40-46. ISSN 2071-1107.

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    David Mitchell’s novels are often discussed in terms of large themes, but this paper adumbrates a different approach: reading Mitchell as a stylist, tracing the tendencies of his writing at a more local level and probing their implications. Focusing on Mitchell’s debut Ghostwritten (1999), the essay explores Mitchell’s persistent penchant for aphorism and for succinct visual description. In the novel’s “Tokyo” chapter we observe the cyclical growth of cherry blossoms as part of the narrator Satoru’s attention to the world. In the “Petersburg” chapter, another narrator, Margarita Latunsky, walks through the city at night, listing vivid visual details, and remarks: “Everywhere I look, you could frame it and just by doing that you’d have a picture.” This attention to detail is redemptive. The same is true of another character, Neal Brose, earlier in the book, who, just before his death is granted a perceptual relief, an ability to see and appreciate more clearly the physical world around him. In all this, Mitchell compares tellingly to the great stylist of the previous generation of British novelists, Martin Amis. The reviewer Adam Mars-Jones observed that “Amis’s originality as a stylist” had been “to detach lyrical language from the lyrical impulse,” writing with exquisite style about degradation. Mitchell inverts this aesthetic, bringing our attention readily to bear on the external world in a spirit of curiosity and care. This connects to Mitchell’s ethical impulse as a writer: his care for words betokens a care for the world.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): Stylist, Lyricism, Aphorism
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2019 13:47
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:46


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