The Literary Show-Off

The sprawling plot is overrun with postmodern fancy footwork: the WW II diary of Eiji's great-uncle, letters from Eiji's institutionalized mom, a dream sequence in which he meets Yoko Ono and John Lennon. Lennon wrote a song called "#9 Dream," and Mitchell takes great pains to map the connection between "#9 Dream" and "Norwegian Wood." The latter is a Beatles tune, but it's also the title of a book by Haruki Murakami, the Japanese writer of labyrinthine fiction, to whom Mitchell is extremely indebted. What could've been an amusing tip of the hat to his heroes instead turns into a sophomoric exercise, complete with stoner humor.

Number9Dream is a muddle of missed opportunities and loose ends; it toys with a love story, a childhood trauma, and metaphysical meanderings on life and country without fully playing out any of them. But the novel is also a wild explosion of color and energy, amped up on action-packed set pieces and astute observations of contemporary Japanese society. Like a lot of flamboyant fictionalists, Mitchell's problem isn't a lack of imagination or intelligence, but an inability to curb his excesses.

David Grand rejects gimmicks in favor of frenetic, idiosyncratic storytelling.
photo: Sylvia Plachy
David Grand rejects gimmicks in favor of frenetic, idiosyncratic storytelling.


The Disappearing Body
By David Grand
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 402 pp., $24.95
Buy this book

By David Mitchell
Random House, 400 pp., $24.95
Buy this book

Also in This Week’s Books Section:

Jesse Berrett on The Cold War And The Color Line: American Race Relations In The Global Arena by Thomas Borstelmann

Abigail Zitin on Jerusalem Calling: A Homeless Conscience in a Post-Everything World by Joel Schalit

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