Adrian Slatcher writes poetry, fiction and criticism, and lives in Manchester.
It must have been a review of David Mitchell’s debut novel “Ghostwritten” that made me go straight out and buy it. I read it in one stretch, marvelling at his ingenuity, the quality of his writing and that here was a novelist, a contemporary of mine, who was seamlessly mixing a highly readable story with some of the tricks and experiments of writers like Calvino and Borges. In his works since that debut, his willingness to experiment has equal to obvious talent. At times, Mitchell seems capable of writing anything. Since then he has also become a bestselling author with the immense “Cloud Atlas”, a Russian doll of a novel; and the coming-of-age novel “Black Swan Green.” Add in Murakami influenced “Number 9 Dream” and the recent Japan-located historical novel “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” and he’s clearly one of our leading writers, with five powerful novels in less than a dozen years. For all those in publishing who insist on writers writing the same book again and again, Mitchell is an obvious answer – he doesn’t even write the same book within the same book, and “Cloud Atlas” was not only a tour de force and Booker shortlistee, but Richard and Judy’s book of the year. What is so pleasing, other than the sheer pleasure of reading his multi-layered books, is that seem so without compromise. Though primarily a novelist, the structures of “Ghostwritten”, “Cloud Atlas” and even “Black Swan Green” cleverly hide what could easily have been a series of novellas or short stories. Post-modernism and metafiction are absorbed in his work to the extent that the reader doesn’t even notice they are there. I recognised the 80s upbringing in “Black Swan Green” (essentially a novel about divorce and adolescence), whilst also applauding a writer who clearly grew up reading everything from fairy tales to SF. In the often hermetically sealed world of British fiction he remains a touchstone.