So I am still reading Cloud Atlas. I could blame the Holiday. Giving Thanks amongst family and friends tends to eat into reading time. But in truth Cloud Atlas is not a book to be rushed. It’s structure and composition demands that you take it slow, pick among its words for deeper meaning. I’m on the downside slope of the novel. Only one last novella to finish.
However, I discovered that during each of the finishes of the novellas the main character attempts a definition or desire for what the book, Cloud Atlas, is attempting to achieve. Three of the men were the most successful I think. Robert Frobisher has the easiest explanation for the construction of the book. Which is eerily similar to the construction of the musical piece he’s working on:
“A sextet for overlapping soloists” “In the 1st set, each solo is interrupted by its successor: In the 2nd, each interruption is recontinued, in order. Revolutionary or gimmicky? Shan’t know until it’s finished, and by then it’ll be too late.” (463)
Previously, Isaac Sachs had described a theory of time. WARNING it’s a bit of a mind f*ck. I think I spent about 5 minutes rereading and trying to fix the idea in my mind. I don’t know if I really “get it” but I at least understand that it must have been one of the genesis for the book:
“One model of time: an infinite matrioshka doll of painted moments, each ‘shell’ (the present) encased inside a nest of ‘shells’ (previous presents) I call the actual past but which we perceive as the virtual past. The doll of ‘now’ likewise encases a nest of presents yet to be, which I call the actual future but which we perceive as the virtual future. (Isaac, 409)
Did you get that? FYI Isaac is differentiating between actual and virtual through this line of thought:
“the workings of the actual past + the virtual past may be illustrated by an event well known to collective history such as the sinking of the Titanic. The disaster as it actually occurred descends into obscurity as its eyewitnesses die off, documents perish + the wreck of the ship dissolves in its Atlantic grave. Yet a virtual sinking of the Titanic, created from reworked memories, papers, hearsay, fiction – in short belief – grows ever ‘truer’. The actual past is brittle, ever-dimming + ever more problematic to access + reconstruct: in contrast, the virtual past is malleable, ever-brightening + ever more difficult to circumvent/expose as fraudulent.”
And for your final decoding a picture of a martioshka doll:
However, as complex as that line of reasoning is. It didn’t send me running for my dictionary. Or at least to dictionary.com. Nope.
It was the character of Timothy Cavendish that stumped me with his word:
“What wouldn’t I give now for a never-changing map of the ever-constant ineffable? To posses, as it were, an atlas of clouds” (389)
in·ef·fa·ble [in-ef-uh-buh l]
1. incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible: ineffable joy.
2. not to be spoken because of its sacredness; unutterable: the ineffable name of the deity.
AKA: A never-changing map of constantly changing indescribable things.
Yep. Needless to say I’ve been reading this book for over 2 weeks now. And it’s wonderful, if a bit heavy for clouds…