Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cloud Atlas: Letters from Zedelghem

[Read after Section 2]

I can tell the great joy of this book, for me, is going to be the revelations of how each part fits together. I'm a fan of interconnecting storylines in film (I love Altman's Shortcuts and PT Anderson's Magnolia especially). There's a certain thrill that comes from seeing how the pieces unexpectedly lock into place. So I loved the moment where we finally learn how this section's narrator, a music-obsessed, bisexual scoundrel named Robert Frobisher, connects to Adam Smith of Section 1. I won't spoil it here.

Section 2 departs from the journal of Adam Smith and offers up the letters of Robert Frobisher. Ah, the epistolary novel. Having been forced to make my way through such tomes as Fielding's Pamela during Ph.D comp exams, I'm not a particular fan of this genre. But Frobisher's letters (to someone named Sixsmith) have a great, almost musical rhythm, to them, relaying the story of how he insinuates himself into the role of amanuensis for a legendary ailing composer named Ayrs at Ayrs' estate in Zedelghem and the two begin to compose together (while Frobisher conducts an affair with Ayrs' wife).

Favorite line of this section:

"Bedroom farce, when it actually happens, is intensely sad."

Point of discussion:

Is the music of Ayrs and Frobisher meant to mirror the novel's own way of linking past and present? Frobisher states: "Musicologically, he's Janus-headed. One Ayrs looks back to Romanticism's deathbed, the other looks to the future...Watching him use counterpoint and mix colors refines my own language in exciting ways."

Is there more "doubling" in this section, as Frobisher begins to almost transform into Ayrs?

Pretentious poetry reference and wordplay regarding the "cliffs of Dover":

"Dover an utter fright staffed by Bolsheviks, versified cliffs as Romantic as my arse and a similar hue."

Best piece of advice:

"When insolvent, pack minimally, with a valise tough enough to be thrown onto a London pavement from a first-or-second floor window."

Coming soon to PBR Book Club:

Bananasuit (or possibly Chip) applies a feminist perspective to Frobisher's shenanigans. What do we make of a whole slew of rather misogynistic comments that emerge especially near the end of this section?

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