Join David Mitchell to talk about THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET, our September Book of the Month, on Wed 28 September, 9-10pm

(156 Posts)

September's Author of the Month has been named as one of the most influential novelists in the world. David Mitchell has twice been shortlisted for the Booker and his novels attract vast numbers of readers and glowing reviews alike.

His latest book, THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET, is a masterpiece of historical fiction. Set in 1799, in the Japanese trading port of Dejima (run by the Dutch East India Trading Company, it is Japan's only window to the outside world), the novel follows young Dutchman Jacob de Zoet's struggle to win his fortune, battle with corruption and begin his love affair with the beautiful but scarred Japanese midwife who is dangerously close to the local Samurai lord. Ambitious, poetic, pacy, full of detail and immaculately researched - this is a novel that creates a world so fully realised that you become utterly engulfed in its pages.

We have 100 free copies for Mumsnetters - find out more at our book of the month page.

And get your paperback or Kindle version now.

We're delighted that David will be joining us for the chat on Wednesday 28 September 9-10pm. Look forward to seeing you there.

ThatllDoPig Thu 01-Sep-11 23:01:15

Is he the one off Mitchell and Webb then?! Hope so, I love him.

RoundOrangeHead Fri 02-Sep-11 10:48:25

no, it's the proper one wink

RoundOrangeHead Fri 02-Sep-11 10:53:45

I loved this book, but read the whole thing pronouncing Zoet like Moet, which is apparently wrong

sfxmum Fri 02-Sep-11 11:23:04

so excited must try not to disgracefully go all fangirl
<goes off to think of intelligent questions to ask>
one of my favourite writers smile

pinkthechaffinch Fri 02-Sep-11 12:23:38

Ooh, it sounds like a good read, hope I get a free copy.

Thatlldopig, i love your nickname. It's not the TVcomic/Radio4quiz show/newspapercolumnist David Mitchell, but I can promise you that this one is even better.

And a quick note to say don't worry if you are getting an Out of Office reply to your free copy email. Your requests are getting through and we will post on here as usual when all copies have gone.

Love his books! Am secretly hoping that the book-shaped birthday present sat on my cupboard is his new book.

If not, I'll be trying for a free copy smile

Bearcrumble Fri 02-Sep-11 18:00:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

pithtaker Fri 02-Sep-11 18:11:54

omg, i love this man, or at least I love his books. Will be here for this.x

pithtaker Fri 02-Sep-11 18:12:37

Argh! where the F..,l mk did that X come from?

sfxmum Fri 02-Sep-11 18:23:05

fangirl Pithtaker grin

Fillybuster Fri 02-Sep-11 18:50:55

I've already bought it TWICE (hardback, then paperback for holiday)...bloody excellent book and I adore David Mitchell (just finished Black Swan Green this morning)...hurrah! 28th is in diary grin

<so stupidly fangirl it would be pointless to try to hide it....>

Boo - different book received wink

email sent - fingers crossed

colette Fri 02-Sep-11 21:34:30

I am reading this book from the library, it is great really does take you to another world. I am reading it in bed and fallling asleep whilst I am reading .
Love this author

sfxmum Fri 02-Sep-11 22:00:27

The thing about Mitchell was that I stumbled quite by accident on
number9dream and was instantly excited engaged and kept reading those fantastic sentences, and was desperate to read whatever he was to write next, it turns out it was already written Hurrahgrin it was a long wait for his 3rd, but I must confess I was a tiny bit miffed when it became so successful, no longer just mine (deluded)

I am always looking forward to whatever comes next, really love everything about the way he writes. It is exciting to 'discover' a writer as he is writing, all my other favourites. at this level had been writing for many years when I found them

Alicious Sat 03-Sep-11 20:45:52

Email sent-I can't wait for the 28th-I am a huge fan! David Mitchell is an amazing author-yay! smile

shareatip Mon 05-Sep-11 17:21:01

A very, very disturbing theme to this book but his beautiful writing style and ability to create a story... the best I've come across. I will join!!! (How do I join???? )

Read Thousand Autumns so long ago now, I may need to refresh my memory.

SpeedyGonzalez Mon 05-Sep-11 20:10:40

Would LOVE to read this; I absolutely adored Cloud Atlas. Sadly I very much doubt I'll get the chance to read as much as I'd like by the end of the month, so I just want to say David Mitchell you are an amazing writer. grin

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 06-Sep-11 14:48:43

shareatip

A very, very disturbing theme to this book but his beautiful writing style and ability to create a story... the best I've come across. I will join!!! (How do I join???? )

Read Thousand Autumns so long ago now, I may need to refresh my memory.

Hi, it's 'join' in the loosest sense. Essentially, if you've read one of David Mitchell's books and have a question for him, then please join us on the evening of 28 September - he'll be on Mumsnet from 9-10pm.

If you can't make the live chat, then post your question anyway and read the discussion through at your leisure at a later date.

And regular book clubbers, please note the later time (we figured 8pm was still too close to children's bedtimes for lots of you).

sfxmum Tue 06-Sep-11 14:58:43

yes thank you for the later time, we follow European times at ourswink

perhaps I missed the point but I never really felt the 'theme' were the babies

WhipMeIndiana Tue 06-Sep-11 21:13:26

am waiting with fingers crosses <makes typing a challenge> to see if I blagged won a free copy, sounds a very intruiging read

IamtheSnorkMaiden Tue 06-Sep-11 22:36:18

This book was unanimously loved by my reading group, as was Cloud Atlas. That man is just far too clever for his own good. A shit-hot writer. Love him.

skorpion Wed 07-Sep-11 11:57:13

I just love, love his books! No doubt about it, shameless fan here... blush

Read Ghostwritten many times and found Thousand Autumns so beautifully sad.

Off to think of an intelligent question without giggles and blushing......

isleangel Wed 07-Sep-11 14:43:51

Hi
I have sent my email for the book last night, but I have heard nothing. Am I meant to get a return email, or are there any books left at all? How do I know? I loved Cloud Atlas, but haven't much money at the moment, so new books are a luxury, so this would be brilliant if I could get a copy smile

gailforce1 Wed 07-Sep-11 14:46:31

Just wondering if an hour is going to be long enough as there are so many who have enjoyed all his books..........?

kerrymumbles Thu 08-Sep-11 15:18:41

Where in Ireland do you live and would you be willing to read draft of my novel?

[chancer]

SkaterGrrrrl Fri 09-Sep-11 09:05:21

I heart this book.

All 100 copies are now gone...I'm afraid there isn't a notification email to the lucky bunch who got there first, but you should receive the free copy next week. Many apologies to anyone who missed out (and hope you can beg/borrow/nab a copy off a friend).

Great to see so many fans here, hope you can all make 28th. I am feeling almost nauseous with admiration for this author, and I'm desperately trying to whittle my thousand questions down...

isleangel, I hope you get one. I've already passed mine on, but if you need one perhaps other Mumsnet editors might help.

SpeedyGonzalez, doesn't matter if you haven't read the latest one, come and talk about Cloud Atlas instead. The Bookclub chats are always about an author's entire output, you can ask about anything you want...

gailforce, good point about the hour sometimes not being long enough - we're still tinkering around with the slot and the timings etc, so we'll see how this first one at 9pm goes, and perhaps if everyone feels they need longer we'll start to extend?

Does anyone else have preferences about length/timing? Let me know...

kerrymumbles Fri 09-Sep-11 11:51:13

does that mean i didn't get one?

sobs

missorinoco Fri 09-Sep-11 20:26:21

isleangel, if i get one you can have mine when i have finished. i am equally broke. will let you know next week if one arrives.

isleangel Sun 11-Sep-11 12:54:44

Thanks for letting me know Tillybookclub, and really thanks missorinoco. I'll keep my fingers crossed that I see a book next week and let you know if I need a copy. I really love the book threads on here, even though I've only been on a short time. It's really lovely to meet such lovely people!

SpeedyGonzalez Sun 11-Sep-11 15:48:02

Thanks Tilly! I applied for a free book anyway, so fingers crossed!

ripstheirthroatoutliveupstairs Mon 12-Sep-11 13:43:30

I applied for but didn't get a free book sad. Still you can't have everything. I'll see if I can borrow a copy from the library this afternoon.
I love this author's work, I particularly enjoyed cloud atlas.

DoubleMum Tue 13-Sep-11 18:03:16

David Mitchell is absolutely lovely. I work for a Japanese book chain and when we picked up his first book years ago he was living in Hiroshima and used to go in and do signings in our Hiroshima store. He is a pleasure to interview and a dream for a publicist because he doesn't say no to reasonable requests. His wife is lovely too. Of course he's considerably more famous these days!

lisara Tue 13-Sep-11 23:22:06

Love the scope of David Mitchell's writing - could completely relate to Black Swan Green as spent part of my childhood in that area and was very evocative but really impressed with all his books - only wish I could write too as I read enough......

clevergingercat Fri 16-Sep-11 20:19:55

I read this book and was delighted with it. So I hope I can make it on Wednesday 28th! It would be great to add on my book reviews blog that I had heard him,

gailforce1 Fri 16-Sep-11 21:23:32

Is anyone else struggling to get into this? I am just not finding that it is "moving along" but it may be that I am very tired at the moment and trying to read late at night.

CalatalieSisters Mon 19-Sep-11 08:52:51

Has everyone had their free book now? I haven't received one and am just wondering whether it is time to give up waiting and buy a copy.

gazzalw Mon 19-Sep-11 17:14:12

I haven't had one but was pretty quick off the mark in sending off email - well before TillyBookClub flagged up that they'd all gone - maybe they haven't been sent out yet...?
Anyone received a copy yet - doesn't give long to read a long book!

WhipMeIndiana Mon 19-Sep-11 18:04:32

I havent had one, thought Id got there in time too sad

CalatalieSisters Mon 19-Sep-11 18:06:27

Yes, I thought I'd been liucky enough to get in very early too. Perhaps they havn't sent them out yet. I'm a very slow reader: it would be difficult for me to read it in time now. Ah well.

SpeedyGonzalez Mon 19-Sep-11 22:14:07

Haven't received one, either. Oh well.

No book here either - thought I was fairly quick too sad

JajasWolef Wed 21-Sep-11 09:11:29

gailforce, yes I think that you do need to devote a bit of time and brain power to this book it has to be said. I don't think it is a novel that you can just read a couple of pages before you turn out the light as quite complex although yes evenly paced. Well worth it but quite a challenge.

TheRhubarb Wed 21-Sep-11 13:57:53

I'm guessing it's not him off Mitchell and Webb then? I did wonder, but then he does come across as intelligent so it's not in the realms of impossibility that he could have written a book.

So what's this book about? Is it funny?

JajasWolef Wed 21-Sep-11 14:20:04

er no not funny and definitely not that other bloke!

TheRhubarb Wed 21-Sep-11 14:32:44

Not funny? So what, like a grown up Michael Morpurgo? Where everybody dies including the dog?

JajasWolef Wed 21-Sep-11 14:39:43

I think they eat the dog!

JajasWolef Wed 21-Sep-11 14:40:00

only joking...

Hullygully Wed 21-Sep-11 15:06:49

read em all

no questions

just admiration

I'm so sad that your free copies haven't arrived - I'm chasing the publisher now. I will keep you posted... Can I urge you all to come anyway, you can ask David about any of his books, his writing life, books he recommends, anything you like. Please don't feel you have to have read Thousand Autumns..., the chat is open to anyone who wants to be there.

Speaking of which, it is time to gather a few advance questions - pop them up here and I will send on to David on Monday next week.

gailforce, I agree it is definitely slower at the beginning but then the pace speeds up and you're whipping along after a few chapters. Really worth keeping at it. Promise.

Very excited about next Wednesday and hope to see you all there.

Jajas Wed 21-Sep-11 21:29:11

ok, my question would be this.

After the very measured start, more exciting but yet still very detailed and real time middle, did the end have to all happen so quickly? I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it, but the last 40 years or so were very compressed!

I would like to know more about how David's love affair with all things Japanese came about. I love the measured pace and tone of his books, and they have piqued my interest in Japan, so where did it all begin for him?

I'm hoping this will lead to some recommendations so that I don't have to try and sneak a second question in

OliviaMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 22-Sep-11 10:13:42

<marks place>
<looks at Kindle =2% of book read>
<ignores children and obstreperous Mumsnetters>

Hullygully Thu 22-Sep-11 10:29:07

Oh, and I love him very much.

CalatalieSisters Thu 22-Sep-11 12:39:42

Assuming I haven't got/read the book in time, I will be afraid to come back to the webchat next week because people naturally have to feel free to include spoilers.

So can I just ask a question now about Cloud Atlas? I enjoyed it very much indeed and, I guess like most readers, the feature I most enjoyed was the beautiful precise capture of very different voices, and very different forms of narrative. But, still, I was reading forward very eagerly, because we tend to think of novels as being very largely about progress to a resolution, about a satisfying ending that retrospectively flavours the whole story. In one way Cloud Atlas had a very satisfying ending, the completion of the narrative arc from one civilisation corrupted by an external/techno-rich set of outsiders, to another -- post-"smart" -- civilisation, in relation to which a new set of techno-rich outsiders were much more cautious, much more wary of disrupting something valuable.

That was a lovely circle, but still (and I don't mean any of this as a criticism) what was lovely was its structure rather than its content: the content was relatively slight, obvious -- a kind of truistic portrayal of the dangers of commercially led industrial progress and imperialism and the need to respect the integrity of traditional cultures.

So what I wanted to ask is: am I wrong to read a novel primarily for the sake of its content rather than its form, and to read enthusiastically forwards to the content of its resolution? I wanted the resolution, or rather the ideas conveyed in the resolution, to be more challenging, unexpected, counterintuitive, novel than they were. But what was beautiful about the book was its voice and its structure, and I should have been reading more "in each moment" (rather than reading forwards), as you might think of reading a poem rather than a novel.Was I looking in the wrong place? I don't think I've expressed any of that very well: what I am really thinking is something like : "Poems and novels are very much less different from one another than I thought before reading Cloud Atlas."

JajasWolef Thu 22-Sep-11 12:43:18

CalatalieSisters, I think you worded that perfectly. I think we do tend to desire a beginning, a middle and a conclusion in a novel but life very often isn't like that so not sure why we expect books to be thus so? Maybe because life isn't like that and we wish it were then we use books to fill that gap?

A Thousand Autumns is more true to the traditional format of a novel than Cloud Atlas which was almost exhausting to read but very exciting nontheless!

CalatalieSisters Thu 22-Sep-11 12:59:05

Just to clarify a bit, the ending of Cloud Atlas is very satisfying, but it achieves that because seeing the last portion of the structural arc of the book allows you to identify more clearly, retrospectively, the shape of that arc throughout the book, so it it is the book as a whole, rather than the culmination, that constitutes the satisfying resolution. So there is something about the book that defeats the forwards thrust with which I generally read novels: it seems much more poem-like, more still, than I thought a novel could be.

DazR Thu 22-Sep-11 14:29:49

Has anyone received a free copy yet???

gazzalw Thu 22-Sep-11 15:59:05

No!

sfxmum Thu 22-Sep-11 18:47:15

I have heard a lot of criticism that his books are about form rather than content but I really disagree the characters are engaging as is the story. and as a bonus there are moments which are unforgettable
and for sheer geekness I like that some characters go across novels

JajasWolef Thu 22-Sep-11 20:15:15

I love the travelling across novels concept too sfxmum!

Me too - it adds a feeling of continuity and balance. There is something very satisfying about it. When I recognise something from a different book, it makes me re-think (and sometimes re-read) what I read before.

SpeedyGonzalez Thu 22-Sep-11 23:44:26

Ahem. The last chapter of Cloud Atlas was the bit that I, er, didn't actually read. blush I just found that character a bit irritating and couldn't be bothered! <<runs for the hills>>

<<realises that by missing out last chapter, have shot self in foot so running for hills rather tricky>>

grin

Good news - I've spoken to the publishers and they are sending out another batch of 100 copies.

Did anyone at all receive theirs first time round? It's still a mystery what has happened to that lot. If you did get one, please let me know...cheers.

Just to say once more that the author chat is open to all questions, no matter which books you have or haven't read. So come along and don't be shy.

gazzalw Fri 23-Sep-11 11:29:08

Thanks Tilly - there seems to be a book gremlin doing the rounds as there's been a problem with the Pearson ones as well!

CalatalieSisters Fri 23-Sep-11 11:33:05

What a mystery. A hundred thousand autumns lost in the ether.

DazR Fri 23-Sep-11 11:54:28

Received my free copy today!! Not sure how far I will get before the chat.......

gazzalw Fri 23-Sep-11 13:10:47

Yes, I've just got a copy too postmarked 22/09! Hurrah!

CalatalieSisters Fri 23-Sep-11 13:15:06

Me too. <eyes down>

pithtaker Fri 23-Sep-11 14:05:58

My copy arrived today! smile

aristocat Fri 23-Sep-11 19:32:11

mine arrived today aswell ..... must get reading to try and finish it for next week grin

WhipMeIndiana Fri 23-Sep-11 20:20:14

congratulations on your books people...fingers crossed as Ive just finished black sun by graham brown, and labyrinth is waiting to be read next...unless a book shaped parcel arrives tomorrow, that is....

I got one today!

Mine was waiting for me when I got home - thank you smile

It was postmarked 22nd Sep

BodyOfEeyore Sat 24-Sep-11 14:50:44

Mine arrived this morning. I shall put 'How to be a Woman' aside and get reading on Mitchell's masterpiece!

missorinoco Sat 24-Sep-11 19:26:02

My copy has arrived today - thankyou! Noter sure I shall finish it in time though.

stopthebus Mon 26-Sep-11 10:25:57

No book here, guess I wasn't quick enough to email! Congrats to all those lucky people who did get one.

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 26-Sep-11 12:08:10

Just flaggin' that we've started our very own @Mumsnetbookclub Twitter feed. If you're partial to tweeting, please follow us and spread the word. Thanks smile

LaVitaBellissima Mon 26-Sep-11 14:03:04

Mine arrived today too - I better get started tonight!

Great that you got the copies at last - has anyone received two? I know they sent a second batch so still not sure if these are the first or second wave.

And if you can't make it, please do pop any more questions up here...

CalatalieSisters Mon 26-Sep-11 15:04:07

I only received one. It is a wonderful book, a huge page turner (though I don't know if I will turn enough pages in time for the chat). So rich in atmosphere. Reminds me a bit of Joseph Conrad in that it takes me to such exotic times and places, with so much salt and manliness.

I only received one copy too. I am really enjoying it so far, but will not have read anywhere near enough of it to discuss it by Wednesday. I think I held my breath for the entire first chapter though...

aristocat Mon 26-Sep-11 20:36:02

i only have one copy too .... and its very good so far smile thanks

CalatalieSisters and browneyesblue, not necessary to have read the whole thing - we'll be discussing all David's books, plus how he writes/what his favourite books are etc. Come along and join in, however many pages you've done.

See you all tomorrow - and don't forget it's an hour later than before, 9-10pm.

By the way, did you know that Cloud Atlas was being made into a film? One of the most unfilmable books of all time, I would have thought - but then they said that about The English Patient...Looking forward to asking David more about that.

MaxineQuordlepleen Tue 27-Sep-11 22:09:01

I'm not able to join you tomorrow so I just wanted to say how much I loved The Thousand Autumns. It took me a while to get into it but then I couldn't put it down. The combination of the minute historical detail and the different psychological insights make it a stunning achievement. I particularly liked the portrayal of the oppression of women although the general sense of powerlessness and imprisonment for everyone was almost palpable. Thankyou so much for such a great read.

Which character did you imagine first? Also, SPOILER ALERT (and sentimental alert, for that matter)- did you want Jacob and Orito to get together? Or did you see it as all doomed from the start?

DavidMitchell Tue 27-Sep-11 22:24:01

Hello Mumsnetters,

This is David Mitchell just posting a message a day early (to make sure I know my way around the website a little.) Thanks for all your kind remarks about my book and writing - I've gotten a big kick out of reading them. I always feel that if you can persuade a busy and tired mum to stick with your story, then you're doing something right. My own wife is my most trusted reader of my manuscripts for this reason.

Anyway, looking forward to communicating with you tomorrow from 9.

DavidMitchell Tue 27-Sep-11 22:33:52

To Maxine Quordlepleen (whilst trying to work out the QUOTE function) -

I imagined Jacob first. He is the reader's vehicle into this odd, compressed world, and he was originally the writer's way in too. You can only plot so much in advance until you reach a point where you have to 'write your way in'. In an earlier version I did intend (SPOILER ALERT) for Jacob and Orito to get it together, and quite early on, too - the novel would have followed their marriage. Then I realized I was writing a sort of Nagasaki EastEnders, and went back to the drawing board. That's okay, tho' - novels are built from changes of mind. Doomed? Only sort of.

Have a good evening tomorrow night, any road up.

An early message (hello David!) - now I'm really excited about Wednesday night smile

I'm really enjoying the book. The detail is wonderful; it paints such a vivid picture. Cloud Atlas has long been a favourite of mine, but The Thousand Autumns has me hooked in a completely different way.

Just in case I forget later, I also wanted to ask about future projects. Are you working on anything/taking a break/giving up novels to become a hotshot Hollywood darling (please don't)?

CalatalieSisters Wed 28-Sep-11 09:44:05

Still haven't read enough to participate properly in a discussion of Thousand Autumns. But I would like to ask a question about some of the beautiful juxtapositions and passing metaphors.

I loved the fact that following the childbirth in chapter 1, chapter 2 had a spilling of "fecund" (or was it "fertile") ink, alongside blood, that left Jacob delivered onto the floor at the birth of his own story. And then later, again, Aibagawa speaks of words having blood, smell, pain, and of the fact that she has to be inured to such things in her job of delivery. Beautiful beautiful slidings between blood and language, between literal births and (something to do with) linguistic creativity. I wondered how systematic such lovely touches are. Do you see yourself as pursuing a theme, or rather as being spontaneously playful just as the words hit you? Do you think of it as an attempt to communicate a definite metaphorical meaning to the reader, or do you just play, and in the course of that hope for the reader to be presented with something rich enough to stimulate her own play?

I adored the two conversations between Jacob and Aibagawa that I have read so far -- the monkey in the warehouse and the scene where he assists her translation.

strandednomore Wed 28-Sep-11 10:38:43

Unfortunately I didn't see send off for a free book and certainly don't have time to buy and read it before the webchat but I will now look out for it as I am another one who LOVED Cloud Atlas and totally agree with CatalieSister's remarks about the novel being almost poem-like.

That's it really! Good luck with the webchat.

Just a quick one to say see you all 9pm - and also to say don't worry, David is not doing a Christos and jumping the gun, just testing out the posting.

David, let me know if the quote button isn't working - I'll get it fixed by tonight.

Till later.

sfxmum Wed 28-Sep-11 12:11:26

Hi David
Points for the conscientious early testing and appreciative comments of the missus grin

First many thanks for all the books they are a joy to read

Question
English is not my first language but I have lived here for the past 19yrs, it often amuses me the influence both languages have in the way I express myself
my question is, I understand that you have immersed yourself in another language and I wonder if this as a particular influence in the way you use/ approach/see/ use English
many thanks

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 18:17:36

sfxmum

Hi David
Points for the conscientious early testing and appreciative comments of the missus grin

First many thanks for all the books they are a joy to read

Question
English is not my first language but I have lived here for the past 19yrs, it often amuses me the influence both languages have in the way I express myself
my question is, I understand that you have immersed yourself in another language and I wonder if this as a particular influence in the way you use/ approach/see/ use English
many thanks

Hi sfxmum,

Not QUITE Doing a Christos and jumping the gun, and not quite understanding the 'missus' remark, tho' I'm enjoying imagining what it might mean...

My Japanese is OK rather than great, but as you know if you study any language other than your own, you get to see your mother tongue as a building from the outside as opposed to a house from which you never leave. You see its strengths and weaknesses. And it's fun, and informative about what language is, isn't it? I can't say what sort of a writer I would be if I hadn't dabbled in foreign language because I can't see into that parallel universe, but I do think I'd be a somewhat different writer. One of my recurrent themes is communication, and miscommunication, and non-communication (the book before '1000 Autumns', something called 'Black Swan Green', is about stammering) and my time as a struggling operator in Japanese certainly informs this theme - it can't not.

Right, I'd best stop before Tilly scolds me for leaving the blocks before the starter whistle blows - I just wanted to test the QUOTE function. Nice fetching colour I've been given, I see - gold with undertones of mucus and baby poo - appropriate, I guess...

David

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 18:25:57

CalatalieSisters

Still haven't read enough to participate properly in a discussion of Thousand Autumns. But I would like to ask a question about some of the beautiful juxtapositions and passing metaphors.

I loved the fact that following the childbirth in chapter 1, chapter 2 had a spilling of "fecund" (or was it "fertile") ink, alongside blood, that left Jacob delivered onto the floor at the birth of his own story. And then later, again, Aibagawa speaks of words having blood, smell, pain, and of the fact that she has to be inured to such things in her job of delivery. Beautiful beautiful slidings between blood and language, between literal births and (something to do with) linguistic creativity. I wondered how systematic such lovely touches are. Do you see yourself as pursuing a theme, or rather as being spontaneously playful just as the words hit you? Do you think of it as an attempt to communicate a definite metaphorical meaning to the reader, or do you just play, and in the course of that hope for the reader to be presented with something rich enough to stimulate her own play?

I adored the two conversations between Jacob and Aibagawa that I have read so far -- the monkey in the warehouse and the scene where he assists her translation.

Thanks CalatalieSisters,

What an observant posting. I'm not sure if 'systematic' is quite the word for these resonances between theme and style and language, tho' I'm not sure what the word should be. It's more like you train yourself to spot them in the stream of ideas that occur to you as you construct the narrative - to spot them and, if appropriate, to use them. I can't do all the reader's thinking for him or her, nor would I wish to - it's more like presenting the reader with a posh buffet with dishes I think will go with one another well, and then leaving the reader to dine (find meaning and, I hope, pleasure) on those aspects of the text (the buffet) his or her own tastes draw him or her to... (Hear that metaphor come crashing down? Me too...)

I couldn't get Jacob and Orito together often - the rules of Dejima make chance encounters very very tricky to bring about, but you've got a sweet one in the garden ahead of you...

CalatalieSisters Wed 28-Sep-11 18:35:17

Yes. Thank you for that very thoughtful answer. A mixture of sponteneity and selection. Like evolution.

So words/ink are blood and a buffet. grin Gets knife and fork

I'll look forward to the garden scene.

jamaisjedors Wed 28-Sep-11 19:11:21

I wanted to jump in with my question and appreciation before tonight because I will probably be in bed (am an hour ahead here in France)!

But actually I see that sfxmum has got in before me!

I am 3/4 of the way through "The thousand Autumns..." and enjoying it very much.

I wanted to say how much I appreciated your "translation scene" with Jacob helping out the interpreters with Dutch/Japanese.

As someone who spends her life translating backwards and forwards between two languages I found it fascinating and very accurate - not that I know any Dutch - do you? by the way? (In some ways it's quite wierd to read the Dutch/Japanese exchanges in a third language,*English*).

You are obviously totally fascinated with language, as all good writers should be are, I loved the palimpset quality of Cloud Atlas and the way you seemed to be having fun with language there (but not in an off-putting self-conscious way I thought).

Can you trace back where your fascination with language came from? How many languages do you speak?

Anyway I am taking up way too much space AND have probably exceeded my quota of questions - I'm hoping someone else is going to ask about the title wink - or will all be revealed when I finish the book?

Thanks for your books blush

(oh and sneaky extra question - what was the last book YOU read?)

sfxmum Wed 28-Sep-11 19:12:51

thanks for reply, that was fast, I only posted early as was not sure I could be here at 9
earlier I meant you made a nice comment valuing your wife's role/ contribution

Since you mentioned Black Swan Green I really liked it, so full of the the awkwardness of growing up, I hear it is being adapted for telly
<good grief flash backs to 80's fashion>

I do hope the adaptation of Cloud Atlas is at least adequate, I understand it is a different language altogether but adaptations of books I love make me nervous
I only watched Blindness from behind my hands and long after it came out on dvd

but I digress as you were

babybessa Wed 28-Sep-11 19:26:37

Hi - very odd sensation writing to an author I admire so much. Gulp. Here goes. Cloud Atlas was incredible and stayed with me for a long time, but this one was even better. I wept buckets at the end. The description of Jacob leaving his son behind was so painful and raw I had to put the book down and 'gather' (I have two sons). I didnt know how you could possibly end the novel, but again, a very moving and beautifully imagined scene (wont spoil for those who have yet to get there). As an English teacher I was blown away by the scene you did of the market in rhyming couplets; astonishingly composed. Just brilliant. Thank you. I dont know where you get this stuff from but please keep doing it!

Oh, and my question: has your novel been translated into Japanese or Dutch and if so, how has it been received?

Filmbuffmum Wed 28-Sep-11 19:56:47

So glad I didn't forget about this! As the mother of two young sons, I loved Black Swan Green and felt that it really gave me some insight into how it might feel to be a boy!
I'm rather nervous about the filming of Cloud Atlas and was wondering how much input you had into the adaptation process? I did a course on film adaptations once, and can only really remember feeling satisfied with the film version of Joyce's short story The Dead, otherwise concluded that the cliche about good books making poor films and vice versa was largely true. Have you see the finished version yet, and do you feel it captures your internal view of the book, and does a writer even have such a thing, or is it modified by critical and reader responses?
Hope to still be up and available at 9pm (insomniac 2 year old is messing up my evenings!!)

southlondonlady Wed 28-Sep-11 20:11:33

Hello! I loved this book, an epic read. Just getting my question in early - where did you get the idea for the Shiranui shrine? The psychology aspect, ie keeping the women hopeful and productive, is very interesting. There's a slightly similar set up in Cloud Atlas if I'm remembering correctly. Is there something in history which influenced you or did you think of it yourself?

Hi!

What's the deal with Japan, and with old-timey maritime adventures? I've seen them appear in your books at least twice!

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 20:56:55

jamaisjedors

I wanted to jump in with my question and appreciation before tonight because I will probably be in bed (am an hour ahead here in France)!

But actually I see that sfxmum has got in before me!

I am 3/4 of the way through "The thousand Autumns..." and enjoying it very much.

I wanted to say how much I appreciated your "translation scene" with Jacob helping out the interpreters with Dutch/Japanese.

As someone who spends her life translating backwards and forwards between two languages I found it fascinating and very accurate - not that I know any Dutch - do you? by the way? (In some ways it's quite wierd to read the Dutch/Japanese exchanges in a third language,*English*).

You are obviously totally fascinated with language, as all good writers should be are, I loved the palimpset quality of Cloud Atlas and the way you seemed to be having fun with language there (but not in an off-putting self-conscious way I thought).

Can you trace back where your fascination with language came from? How many languages do you speak?

Anyway I am taking up way too much space AND have probably exceeded my quota of questions - I'm hoping someone else is going to ask about the title wink - or will all be revealed when I finish the book?

Thanks for your books blush

(oh and sneaky extra question - what was the last book YOU read?)

Hi 'Jamais' -

I'll be a bad lad and reply to yours before 9 because of your bedtime.
Thanks for yr kind comment about the translation scene - an EFL lesson, in a way, even though the answers are being used to set poor Jacob up and deliver a threat. I studied a little Dutch, but as usual not enough to speak with any confidence. Novelists are doomed jacks of all trades. Perhaps my fascination comes from the fact that I stammer - when language isn't as fluent as thought, you notice it more, and think about it more - your survival as a kid can depend on working out how to do what your disfluency is trying to stop you doing.

The last book I read was 'The Informers' by Juan Gabriel Vasquez, a terrific book I thought - cerebral and delving, sad and good. Always nice to be treated like an adult rather than a market demographic. Now I'm reading 'Independent People' by Halldor Laxness, an Icelander - again, superb.

My look at the time! Better finish this one - thanks for your interest in my work...

CountrySlicker Wed 28-Sep-11 20:59:30

I loved this book through and through, particularly its pace which allowed the characters to develop and give the island life such a strong sense of time and place before events exploded. Unfortunately it read so clearly I think I am now an expert in Japanese-Dutch history at the end of the eighteenth century. How much research did you undertake into the period or should I not hold forth quite so vehemently and just enjoy the story!

jamaisjedors Wed 28-Sep-11 20:59:30

oooh thank you, just checked in before bed grin - much appreciated - I will read the rest of the thread tomorrow.

Evening everyone

There couldn't be a more thrilling way to start the new season of Mumsnet Bookclub. David Mitchell is a vastly talented and dazzlingly versatile writer whose books have won passionate responses from readers and critics alike. THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET is not only a finely crafted masterpiece of historical fiction but also a deeply pleasurable, gripping read.

There is much to pack into an hour, so without further ado....

David, firstly, thank you very much indeed for taking the time to join us. And congratulations on a stunningly vivid and beautifully written novel. And thank you too for already giving us some excellent insights into how you write (I would scold you but your answers are too good). Perhaps we can kick off with the other advance questions from further up the thread? And then we'll aim to get through as many as possible over the next hour.

I'd also like to add our two standard MN Bookclub questions:

Which childhood book most inspired you?

What would be the first piece of advice you would give anyone attempting to write fiction?

Over to you...(and apologies for your background shading - its saying Butterscotch Angel Delight to me)

LongStory Wed 28-Sep-11 21:03:13

Just to say Hi David and thanks for the brilliant books - our book group was set on fire by Cloud Atlas a few years ago. I've read your others but think a Thousand Autumns really stood out too. And you're so right about busy mums (I have 5 young kids + work) - when I read fiction I have very high demands, and you've not let me down yet!

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 21:05:42

My pleasure Tilly and everyone -
thanks for having me on your website.
My most inspirational childhood books were the Earthsea series by Ursula le Guin - intelligent fantasy that still inspires me today.
The first piece of advice? Like the Nike advert, Just Do It.
Practice writing in a notebook - anything will do. If you don't have a great idea for a story, just write about the view from your window, and see where it takes you...

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 21:06:43

LongStory

Just to say Hi David and thanks for the brilliant books - our book group was set on fire by Cloud Atlas a few years ago. I've read your others but think a Thousand Autumns really stood out too. And you're so right about busy mums (I have 5 young kids + work) - when I read fiction I have very high demands, and you've not let me down yet!

And thank you Long Story -

I'll do my best to never let you down. I dislike being let down myself.

LongStory Wed 28-Sep-11 21:09:00

blush Thank you.

I like what you said earlier about novels being built on changes of mind. With CLOUD ATLAS, did you play around with a lot of different structures/characters before whittling it down to its present arrangement? Was there an Ezra Pound moment where you took out the scissors and did a literary mash-up? Or was it a fully formed structural idea from the word go?

And (final question, I promise) how much do you generally leave on the cutting room floor? Are there whole swathes of David Mitchell literature buried in a drawer under the bed/in the bin?

jamaisjedors Wed 28-Sep-11 21:12:02

Great questions Tilly [runs off to bed!]

LongStory Wed 28-Sep-11 21:13:29

The picture you paint of the future in Cloud Atlas still haunts me a little. I would be interested in whether you are feeling more or less optimistic about the future since then.

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 21:15:36

CalatalieSisters

Assuming I haven't got/read the book in time, I will be afraid to come back to the webchat next week because people naturally have to feel free to include spoilers.

So can I just ask a question now about Cloud Atlas? I enjoyed it very much indeed and, I guess like most readers, the feature I most enjoyed was the beautiful precise capture of very different voices, and very different forms of narrative. But, still, I was reading forward very eagerly, because we tend to think of novels as being very largely about progress to a resolution, about a satisfying ending that retrospectively flavours the whole story. In one way Cloud Atlas had a very satisfying ending, the completion of the narrative arc from one civilisation corrupted by an external/techno-rich set of outsiders, to another -- post-"smart" -- civilisation, in relation to which a new set of techno-rich outsiders were much more cautious, much more wary of disrupting something valuable.

That was a lovely circle, but still (and I don't mean any of this as a criticism) what was lovely was its structure rather than its content: the content was relatively slight, obvious -- a kind of truistic portrayal of the dangers of commercially led industrial progress and imperialism and the need to respect the integrity of traditional cultures.

So what I wanted to ask is: am I wrong to read a novel primarily for the sake of its content rather than its form, and to read enthusiastically forwards to the content of its resolution? I wanted the resolution, or rather the ideas conveyed in the resolution, to be more challenging, unexpected, counterintuitive, novel than they were. But what was beautiful about the book was its voice and its structure, and I should have been reading more "in each moment" (rather than reading forwards), as you might think of reading a poem rather than a novel.Was I looking in the wrong place? I don't think I've expressed any of that very well: what I am really thinking is something like : "Poems and novels are very much less different from one another than I thought before reading Cloud Atlas."

Another deep question from Calatalie Sisters here -

I'm glad you liked the structure. Themes & ideas - yes, some writers - like Umberto Eco - seem to set out with the ideas, and their novels are almost lecture notes set to fiction. I'm not knocking that or saying it's wrong - I like his books a lot - but that's not how I work. I'm more a plot and character man - these are the elements that keep me reading the books I love - so I can see that a reader who needs more intellectual nourishment than I can offer might find my books a little cerebrally... thin? I find my ideas as I go along. Or perhaps I'm just a bit distrustful of answers to the big questions - the big questions are big questions because they're not easily answerable. Maybe I'm more of an explorer than an answerer...

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 21:18:35

TillyBookClub

I like what you said earlier about novels being built on changes of mind. With CLOUD ATLAS, did you play around with a lot of different structures/characters before whittling it down to its present arrangement? Was there an Ezra Pound moment where you took out the scissors and did a literary mash-up? Or was it a fully formed structural idea from the word go?

And (final question, I promise) how much do you generally leave on the cutting room floor? Are there whole swathes of David Mitchell literature buried in a drawer under the bed/in the bin?

CLOUD ATLAS was written with the structure clearly in mind before I began. It was 9 parts long, however, before reality began to bite and I realized 6 was the limit - only so many times you can ask a reader to start again. I wrote each novella in its entirety first, though I did work out the cliff-hanger moment as I wrote them.

Some stuff falls to the cutting room floor, but it generally gets reincarnated elsewhere.

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 21:20:42

LongStory

The picture you paint of the future in Cloud Atlas still haunts me a little. I would be interested in whether you are feeling more or less optimistic about the future since then.

It depends on what that day's newspapers look like, Longstory.
And I'm very nervous about how our children will be flying, or having food brought to supermarkets, or how their container ships will lug stuff around the world without oil. Solar power is good for light-bulbs, but we still haven't worked how to shift heavy stuff without combustion engines...

hm....

Thanks, jamais. The level of question (and answer) is damn high this evening. I'm hoping to keep my standards up. Have got another one - but am wary of hogging the thread so David, feel free to leave this one until you've finished with the others.

A question connected to those themes of communication you mentioned...I feel as if I would recognise one of your books even if it came to me as a nameless, coverless manuscript. You are such a distinctive author. But I'm surprised by that, because you can shapeshift and write so confidently in so many different guises. Do you think you can describe your 'voice'? Did you quickly find/recognise it when you started writing?

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 21:23:24

CountrySlicker

I loved this book through and through, particularly its pace which allowed the characters to develop and give the island life such a strong sense of time and place before events exploded. Unfortunately it read so clearly I think I am now an expert in Japanese-Dutch history at the end of the eighteenth century. How much research did you undertake into the period or should I not hold forth quite so vehemently and just enjoy the story!

I did a fat stack of research! Research to lay down the foundations of the world (How did the Napoleonic Wars redraw Europe?) and research to enable each scene (When was shaving cream invented?)

I quite like historical fiction for this very reason, though - my understanding of the past gets improved, plus I get the story. Is that not a Buy 1 get 1 free worth having?!

michelleantoinette Wed 28-Sep-11 21:24:24

Hello David,

I've read all your books and was amazed to find a theme or link that seemed to run through each book that bound them together for example a character from one book would be distantly related to someone in another book or a sign would be present in two books in a different contexts but I couldn't find it in the last book. Did I miss it perhaps?

Thanks,
Michelle

Hi David smile

You put a lot of yourself and your own experience into Black Swan Green, so I wondered whether you appear (in one form or another) in your other novels? If so, is there a version of David Mitchell that might surprise us?

CalatalieSisters Wed 28-Sep-11 21:26:31

Hasten to add that I didn't mean "thinness of content" (as distinct form form) as a criticism. I think it is good.

"Lecture notes set to fiction" is a great way of characterising the fact that we ought not to look to novelists primarily as purveyors of thematic truths. It is hard, though, as a reader to live up to that. We have to learn to sometimes switch off an overbearing pursuit of meaning?

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 21:26:51

TillyBookClub

Thanks, jamais. The level of question (and answer) is damn high this evening. I'm hoping to keep my standards up. Have got another one - but am wary of hogging the thread so David, feel free to leave this one until you've finished with the others.

A question connected to those themes of communication you mentioned...I feel as if I would recognise one of your books even if it came to me as a nameless, coverless manuscript. You are such a distinctive author. But I'm surprised by that, because you can shapeshift and write so confidently in so many different guises. Do you think you can describe your 'voice'? Did you quickly find/recognise it when you started writing?

If it's not too pretentious to say it, I feel that I'm the servant (or midwife?) of each book, and it's my job to hunt around and find the best voice, or the optimum voice, for that book. Clearly this isn't a 1 Size Fits All proposition... I don't think I could describe my voice, other than 'Hopefully The Right One'.
It's a novelist's job to be able to shape-shift if that novelist is going to have a crack at a wide and varied cast. So I wouldn't say I'm so special in this regard...

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 21:29:52

michelleantoinette

Hello David,

I've read all your books and was amazed to find a theme or link that seemed to run through each book that bound them together for example a character from one book would be distantly related to someone in another book or a sign would be present in two books in a different contexts but I couldn't find it in the last book. Did I miss it perhaps?

Thanks,
Michelle

Evening Michelle...

I couldn't many 'hyperlinks' into 1000 AUTUMNS because of the simple fact it is set earlier than all of the others. However, you'll find a moon grey cat in BLACK SWAN GREEN, the young midshipman who waits on Jacob at the very end is the same Boerhaave who becomes the captain of the Prophetess in CLOUD ATLAS and the carpenter Muntervary is the Corkonian ancestor of Mo Muntervary, the quantum scientist in GHOSTWRITTEN. It's a small world...

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 21:34:01

CalatalieSisters

Hasten to add that I didn't mean "thinness of content" (as distinct form form) as a criticism. I think it is good.

"Lecture notes set to fiction" is a great way of characterising the fact that we ought not to look to novelists primarily as purveyors of thematic truths. It is hard, though, as a reader to live up to that. We have to learn to sometimes switch off an overbearing pursuit of meaning?

I wouldn't say 'Have to', CalatalieSisters - you are the sort of reader you are, and no need to change that for anyone, even if the sort of books which may float your boat best of all might not be on the best-seller charts. On the other hand, Tom McCarthy got shortlisted for the Booker, and his work is dense with ideas and meanings.

To echo babybessa's phrase 'I don't know where you get this stuff from' - where DO you get it from? Does your mind permanently fizz with words and pictures and juxtapositions and plotlines?

I have an image of you like a Quentin Blake illustration in a Roald Dahl story, with a vast array of squiggly crazy drawings fireworking out of your head.

Did all that research for Thousand Autumns give you a lot of ideas? or is that mainly background to the events you've already imagined?

Sorry, it is a horribly cliched question, but couldn't help wondering if something specific feeds your imagination - some kind of literary liquid fertiliser.

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 21:38:14

babybessa

Hi - very odd sensation writing to an author I admire so much. Gulp. Here goes. Cloud Atlas was incredible and stayed with me for a long time, but this one was even better. I wept buckets at the end. The description of Jacob leaving his son behind was so painful and raw I had to put the book down and 'gather' (I have two sons). I didnt know how you could possibly end the novel, but again, a very moving and beautifully imagined scene (wont spoil for those who have yet to get there). As an English teacher I was blown away by the scene you did of the market in rhyming couplets; astonishingly composed. Just brilliant. Thank you. I dont know where you get this stuff from but please keep doing it!

Oh, and my question: has your novel been translated into Japanese or Dutch and if so, how has it been received?

Thanks for your question, Baby Bessa - no need to gulp, I promise you. I'm glad you felt the ending works - so much harder to land than it is to take off.
1000 AUTUMNS was translated into Dutch (appearing only a few days after the English version came out) and it did very well in the Netherlands. Things move at a more glacial speed in Japan, and it isn't out there yet. We'll see. Japan has had other things to think about this year than foreign fiction. And thanks for your remark about the rhyming scene - nice to earn the approval of an English teacher.

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 21:43:09

TillyBookClub

To echo babybessa's phrase 'I don't know where you get this stuff from' - where DO you get it from? Does your mind permanently fizz with words and pictures and juxtapositions and plotlines?

I have an image of you like a Quentin Blake illustration in a Roald Dahl story, with a vast array of squiggly crazy drawings fireworking out of your head.

Did all that research for Thousand Autumns give you a lot of ideas? or is that mainly background to the events you've already imagined?

Sorry, it is a horribly cliched question, but couldn't help wondering if something specific feeds your imagination - some kind of literary liquid fertiliser.

Actually yes, there's this stuff called 'Grow-Ur-Story', you can buy it from most good garden centres. You pour it in your ears before you go to sleep, plug your lug-holes with vaseline to stop it trickling out, and when you wake up, lo and behold, look what's grown ;-)

Seriously - ideas for fiction come like ideas for anything else, from the world, from books, from conversations, from the way you conflate ideas in your head, from your kids, from mishearings and malapropisms... the world's made of them. The trick is to identify ones that sit well, that have potential for development, the ones that are useable amongst the near-infinity of ideas that are not useable.

beequeen Wed 28-Sep-11 21:44:15

Hello David
I am impressed by your ability to jump from genre to genre, when so many writers tend to stick to a fairly narrow range.
Given that your previous books have been set in such a variety of backgrounds, what first inspired you to write about 18th century Japan? It is not after all a very well-known area of history (to the average British person at least).

Yes, you're right, all writers shapeshift, but I guess I feel you are particularly adept at changing genre. Many other writers tend to write the same book just with different plots/timeframes. And I like what you say about Hopefully The Right One. Again, many other writers would say they had their voice, and perhaps aren't so aware/bothered whether its the right one.

Just quickly flagging up the questions from babybessa, filmbuffmum, southlondonlady and itsmeandmypuppynow which are much further upthread. Apologies if you're already onto them.

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 21:47:35

browneyesblue

I would like to know more about how David's love affair with all things Japanese came about. I love the measured pace and tone of his books, and they have piqued my interest in Japan, so where did it all begin for him?

I'm hoping this will lead to some recommendations so that I don't have to try and sneak a second question in

I had a Japanese girlfriend in London in the early 90s, in my early 20s, an influential age when life is something of a board-game. Japanese fiction I could recommend includes 'The Makioka Sisters' by Juni'ichiro Tanizaki, 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle' by Haruki Murakami and 'Silence' by Shusaku Endo.

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 21:52:04

beequeen

Hello David
I am impressed by your ability to jump from genre to genre, when so many writers tend to stick to a fairly narrow range.
Given that your previous books have been set in such a variety of backgrounds, what first inspired you to write about 18th century Japan? It is not after all a very well-known area of history (to the average British person at least).

Thank you beequeen bzzzz. The fact that 18th century Japan isn't much known about or written about was attractive - fewer competitors! - and the fact that I wanted to write about Dejima, this odd laboratory where East was entangled with, fascinated by and fearful of West, dictated the period - Dejima stopped existing in the 1850s. As a reader, I'd rather read about a time and place I know little about than those I know a lot about, and every writer is guided by his or her inner reader...

beequeen Wed 28-Sep-11 21:55:36

Interesting that you say that you'd rather read about a subject you know little about - I tend to agree with you, and I love the 'educational' aspect of historical fiction, but as the mother of a 13 year old and living not that far from the Malverns was absolutely haunted by Black Swan Green

I'm strangely excited at the prospect of exploring a whole new area of fiction! Thank you for the recommendations smile

OliviaMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 28-Sep-11 21:55:41

Just popping by late as usual

Hello David,

Thanks for joining us.

I am completely mortified that I am so behind on your book which I'm reading on my kindle.

Do you like the idea of e-books rather than hard/paperbacks?

I also sometimes listen to audio books at night which gives me more of a chance to get through things.
I have just looked to see how long the THOUSAND AUTUMNS audio version is , and it's over 18 hours!
Have you heard it? Were you pleased with it?

<fervently wishes she could have asked a better, cleverer, more insightful and literary questions and remembers she needed to have read the book>

Rosy Wed 28-Sep-11 21:58:20

No question, but I just wanted to say that I loved "Black Swan Green". The description of the newsagents, with loads of stuff no one ever buys really reminds me of the shop I work in, unfortunately! The dialogue of 1980s high school was spot on, too - thankfully kids don't seem as cruel anymore.

natto Wed 28-Sep-11 21:58:43

Hi David, I love the books of yours that I have read, and am enjoying reading your answers here tonight. You are brilliant at creating worlds in which the reader can become immersed, great for reading whilst commuting!
Just wondering how the success of Cloud Atlas affected you? Do you feel extra pressure when writing now, or are you just enjoying it?

LongStory Wed 28-Sep-11 21:59:21

Thanks for letting on the links between the stories and the way you let the reader travel time and space to something new (when the reality of daily life is rather very boring for many of us). Keep up the good work - it's much appreciated. Now wishing I'd managed to squeeze that extra hour out of the day to think up some more questions - they'll all occur to me tomorrow!

LongStory Wed 28-Sep-11 21:59:46

ahhh grammar - it's late!

Only a few minutes to go - David, are you happy to answer the remaining unanswered questions and then we'll call it a day?

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 22:00:32

Filmbuffmum

So glad I didn't forget about this! As the mother of two young sons, I loved Black Swan Green and felt that it really gave me some insight into how it might feel to be a boy!
I'm rather nervous about the filming of Cloud Atlas and was wondering how much input you had into the adaptation process? I did a course on film adaptations once, and can only really remember feeling satisfied with the film version of Joyce's short story The Dead, otherwise concluded that the cliche about good books making poor films and vice versa was largely true. Have you see the finished version yet, and do you feel it captures your internal view of the book, and does a writer even have such a thing, or is it modified by critical and reader responses?
Hope to still be up and available at 9pm (insomniac 2 year old is messing up my evenings!!)

Hope your insomniac is in dreamland, Filmbuffmum -

I had very little input into the film, which was fine with me - screenwriting is a different art to novel-writing, and it would be arrogant to think I could do both. But I have met the Waciowskis and Tom Tykwer - the directors who also wrote the script for the film - and I respect them as writers very much. Also I attended the cast read-thru of the script in Berlin about a month ago, and at least on paper the film worked very well. It doesn't follow the book too slavishly, which is where a lot of film adaptations go wrong. Does a writer have an internal view of a book? I guess, though I wrote the thing 10 years ago now, so I'm not sure what my view was... yes, I think it is modified by the world's view of the book, unless you live as a total hermit and avoid ever encountering the world's view of the book. A tall order in our linked-in twittering age...

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 22:01:52

TillyBookClub

Only a few minutes to go - David, are you happy to answer the remaining unanswered questions and then we'll call it a day?

sure Tilly -
I'll answer Rosy and Natto and apologise to those whose Qs have gone unanswered this time...

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 22:04:23

Rosy

No question, but I just wanted to say that I loved "Black Swan Green". The description of the newsagents, with loads of stuff no one ever buys really reminds me of the shop I work in, unfortunately! The dialogue of 1980s high school was spot on, too - thankfully kids don't seem as cruel anymore.

I can't help but wonder what sort of shop you work in, Rosy - tho' I guess you must sell some units, otherwise the shop wouldn't exist. Thanks for your remark about my dialogue, and here's hoping humaneness is a cooler personality-facet for contemporary kids.

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 22:08:20

natto

Hi David, I love the books of yours that I have read, and am enjoying reading your answers here tonight. You are brilliant at creating worlds in which the reader can become immersed, great for reading whilst commuting!
Just wondering how the success of Cloud Atlas affected you? Do you feel extra pressure when writing now, or are you just enjoying it?

thanks Natto - did you know you are named after fermented soy beans which taste of stilton, often mixed into rice by the Japanese?

I had a slow immersion into the swimming pool of literary reputation, so I never had to handle instant fame, luckily for me. I think I have evolved pressure-ignoring skin, so when it's just me and the book I'm working on, I can focus on the book I'm working on. I enjoy writing very much. The job of putting together sentences, sentences which - we hope - have no faults, no cracks, no cruddy bits sticking out - that's a source of the deepest satisfaction for me.

natto Wed 28-Sep-11 22:12:53

Yes, I have tried it and it's probably the least appetising vegetarian food I've ever eaten. Thanks a lot for answering my question, and keep up the good work!

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 22:12:58

dear Olivia Mumsnet,

really nice you could join us - I know how busy any mum is (and dads can earn their busy stripes too). 18 hours of audio book? Holy Disc-changer, Batman. Ideal for commutes, or house-painting, or situations where you are physically occupied but mentally free. (To answer your question, I listened to segments, and was pleased with the quality of the readings - hearing your work spoken brings lines to life in unexpected ways - but I didn't actually listen to all 18 hours. Entre nous.)

OliviaMumsnet

Just popping by late as usual

Hello David,

Thanks for joining us.

I am completely mortified that I am so behind on your book which I'm reading on my kindle.

Do you like the idea of e-books rather than hard/paperbacks?

I also sometimes listen to audio books at night which gives me more of a chance to get through things.
I have just looked to see how long the THOUSAND AUTUMNS audio version is , and it's over 18 hours!
Have you heard it? Were you pleased with it?

<fervently wishes she could have asked a better, cleverer, more insightful and literary questions and remembers she needed to have read the book>

A fascinating discussion night - thanks to everyone for your questions.

David, thank you very very much indeed for coming on and for your thoughtful and insightful answers. Looking forward to seeing what you write next. Please come back and talk about it, whatever it is. Has been a joy and delight to have you here.

Good luck with it all and thanks again.

sfxmum Wed 28-Sep-11 22:15:07

''The job of putting together sentences, sentences which - we hope - have no faults, no cracks, no cruddy bits sticking out - that's a source of the deepest satisfaction for me.''

and it shows many thanks for a brilliant chat

<goes off to dig Independent People from the To Read mountain>

beequeen Wed 28-Sep-11 22:15:14

I'm listening to the audiobook while running, and it's the best motivation I've ever had to get out there (and distracts me from the pain)

CalatalieSisters Wed 28-Sep-11 22:16:39

Thanks very much for the webchat. It is a real joy to have hundreds of pages of such a beautiful book to look forward to.

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 22:17:57

OliviaMumsnet

Just popping by late as usual

Hello David,

Thanks for joining us.

I am completely mortified that I am so behind on your book which I'm reading on my kindle.

Do you like the idea of e-books rather than hard/paperbacks?

I also sometimes listen to audio books at night which gives me more of a chance to get through things.
I have just looked to see how long the THOUSAND AUTUMNS audio version is , and it's over 18 hours!
Have you heard it? Were you pleased with it?

<fervently wishes she could have asked a better, cleverer, more insightful and literary questions and remembers she needed to have read the book>

Forgot your ebook Q, Olivia - yes, they are fine by me, tho' I'm still a book man myself. Reading can be a meditative, intense - spiritual? - experience, and I prefer the vehicle of reading to be an artefact rather than just the words. Not a very rational standpoint I know, and no doubt it shows my age, but it's how I feel. (Tho' as I lugged 10 books around Iceland in my backpack last months, I wasn't too sure...)

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 22:18:48

CalatalieSisters

Thanks very much for the webchat. It is a real joy to have hundreds of pages of such a beautiful book to look forward to.

bless you. It was my pleasure.

DavidMitchell Wed 28-Sep-11 22:21:43

TillyBookClub

A fascinating discussion night - thanks to everyone for your questions.

David, thank you very very much indeed for coming on and for your thoughtful and insightful answers. Looking forward to seeing what you write next. Please come back and talk about it, whatever it is. Has been a joy and delight to have you here.

Good luck with it all and thanks again.

My pleasure - and thanks to everyone for the thoughtful questions.

OliviaMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 28-Sep-11 22:33:04

Brilliant answers - thank you so much David. <off to bed to get some more chapters in>

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