Photo by kamoda used under a Creative Commons license.
David Mitchell, Number9Dream (Random House, 2003).
This is the story of Eiji Miyake, a naif from a small, rural island who heads to Tokyo to find his father, whom he has never met and whose name he does not even know. But Tokyo is a big city, and his father apparently does not want to be found. Eiji’s quest, a coming of age tale, involves navigating the mundane challenges of the big city, like finding a room and a job, and less typical obstacles, like a yakuza power struggle. Mitchell, who lived in Hiroshima for eight years, works in stories within stories, from Eiji’s daydreams to a diary of a WWII submariner. Like Tokyo, this book is chaotic, crowded and overflowing, a mix of styles, sometimes over-the-top and sometimes affecting.
Here is a relatively thorough bio of Mitchell. Here is the Complete Review’s page for the book, with links to several published reviews and more, and a review of its own. Robert MacFarlane (Observer) writes that the most engaging character in it is the city of Tokyo itself. Joy Press (The Village Voice) says it’s show-offy fiction on a bad hair day. Troy Patterson (Entertainment Weekly) calls it a grand blur of overwhelming sensation. Michiko Kakutani (The New York Times) calls it a messy hodgepodge. Simon McLeish says it reminded him of early Iain Banks, John Barth and James Joyce. Nicholas Pang thinks Mitchell out-Murakamis Murakami. Sam North very much disagrees, as does Khadka. Ashok K. Banker (BlogCritics) says it’s an American novel, set in Japan with Japanese characters. (But Mitchell is English….) Japanese bookstore staffer haginotani says Mitchell’s experiences in Japan resonate in it. Sten Tamkivi found a cliché-ridden way of describing the book’s stylistic mix. Scott Esposito says it reminds him most of Mitchell’s next novel, Cloud Atlas. Francisco Manzo was hooked until he finished it. DreamQueen is head-over-heels for Mitchell’s work. Patrick was underwhelmed. RedHeadRambles says too many digressions saps its momentum; simplegirl agrees. Perpetual Shotgun likes those digressions. Joanna thought, what the hell is going on? Andrew Woodrow Butcher believes it’ll all fall together on his second reading. Ken-Ichi posted some favorite passages. Karen Templer loves the book’s design. Thomas has more to say about the design of different editions. Toh Hsien Min interviewed Mitchell (Quarterly Literary Review Singapore) in early 2002, soon after Number9Dream was released. Here is another interview, with Ron Hogan, from around that time in Beatrice. Nihongo interviewed Mitchell about his time in Hiroshima.