Juggling Worlds

Pico Iyer in The New York Times:

Bone“I don’t summon anything up,” protests Holly Sykes, the down-to-earth protagonist of “The Bone Clocks,” David Mitchell’s latest head-spinning flight into other dimensions. “Voices just . . . nab me.” She’s trying to explain to a skeptical, curmudgeonly English writer how she occasionally falls out of time and sees what’s going to happen next. Embarrassed about her gift — she’s just a regular daughter of the owner of the Captain Marlow pub in Gravesend, Kent — and reluctant to credit such way-out ideas as precognition, she goes on, “Oh, Christ, I can’t avoid the terminology, however crappy it sounds: I was channeling some sentience that was lingering in the fabric of that place.”

There you have it: a perfectly matter-of-fact, unvarnished evocation of how regular folks speak, married to a take-no-prisoners fascination with all that we can’t explain. Coming from a writer himself famous for his gift for channeling voices (not least of pub-owners’ daughters) and for his preternatural talent for seeing things, in the world, above it and all around it, the admission gives off a flash of unexpected self-revelation. (One recalls how the last novel Hilary Mantel published before her uncannily mediumistic “Wolf Hall” was about a woman full of demons who contacts the other world for a living.) “The Bone Clocks” — a perfect title for a novelist who’s always close to the soil and orbiting the heavens in the same breath — is a typically maximalist many-storied construction: In one of its manifold secret corners, it sounds as if a sublimely original writer is wondering how much “writing’s a pathology” (as one of his characters puts it) and whether it’s possible to conjure up time-traveling characters and scenes from the distant past and future, yet not believe in magic.

More here.