Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Screening

That's right, folks, The Book Catapult is hosting a screening of the Cloud Atlas film at 8:00pm on Saturday, November 3rd at the Village Theatre in Coronado, CA! 

UPDATE: We were originally hoping to be able to Skype with David Mitchell during the event, but those pesky time zones have gotten in the way. (Mitchell lives in Ireland, 8 hours ahead of San Diego.) However, Scott and I were able to record our Skype conversation/interview with David last week & will be showing it as part of the post-screening festivities. 

UPDATE #2: The Official Book Catapult Cloud Atlas Trailer has arrived!!! 


Here are the details to the whole deal: 
Saturday, November 3rd
Village Theatre
820 Orange Avenue
Coronado, CA

Following the screening, we will first show the interview between David Mitchell and The Book Catapult. (Approximately 15 minutes.) Following that will be a short discussion on "book versus film" lead by yours truly, Seth Marko, along with recently appointed co-Catapulteer and video-editor, Scott Ehrig-Burgess. The idea behind this is to help further the running dialogue about books, literary culture, and how that all fits in amongst the buzzing universe that is our society these days. The Catapult is bringing the conversation to the people!

Ticket prices:

1 person: $12.50
2 people: $25.00
1 person + a copy of the novel Cloud Atlas SIGNED by David Mitchell: $27.50
2 people + a copy of the novel Cloud Atlas SIGNED by David Mitchell: $40.00

Yes, you read that right - The Book Catapult has procured a very limited number of copies of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, autographed by the author. (These are non-movie tie-in editions, of course.)

We have a couple of purchasing options available online - Paypal and Google Wallet.
Just select your ticket option & click the "buy now" button below the dropdown box. Having trouble? Send us an email at & we'll work it out.

To pay with your Paypal account:

To pay with your Google Wallet account:

The theater - this place is amazing, seriously. (They have a very limited internet presence, but it has been seen in person, so it does exist and is every bit as spectacular as it looks here.) Originally opened in 1947, the Village Theatre in Coronado fell into disrepair and closed in 2000, where it sat unused and unloved for a decade. In the summer of 2011, it reopened under new management, completely refurbished and remodeled in a stunning art deco style. Parking is all street parking, but that time of day, the meters are all off, so you can pretty much park anywhere in the area.

I'm going to go out there and GUARANTEE that this will be an evening you will NEVER forget.* The idea behind this event really comes from a desire to promote a culture of literacy here in San Diego - which involves actively discussing books, for one - so I hope you will join me in celebrating the film version of one of the finest pieces of literature written in this young century. 

*Guarantee not valid. Never forgetting also not valid.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Cloud Atlas Has Been Witnessed

Monday night the operators of this Book Catapult had the unique opportunity of attending an advance screening of the Cloud Atlas movie, rock-bloc style: the film in its entirety, back-to-back, all 172 glorious minutes of it, courtesy of Andy Friedenberg and his Cinema Society of San Diego.  After each of the two screenings we gave our thoughts to the audience and fielded questions from a few hundred passionate movie lovers as the resident "Cloud Atlas Book Experts." Andy was a great host and we felt honored being able to attend. The Cinema Society seems like a great group of people and they have fantastic line-ups of thought-provoking films every season. They are currently in their 29th season in San Diego and a full schedule, plus membership info is available on their website,

In the coming days and weeks I'm sure we'll have a lot more to say about the film, especially its relationship to the book, but for now, here are our initial reactions:

Seth: First of all, don't watch any movie, really, back to back, twice in a row. No matter how good it is, you will feel like your brain has been melon-balled out of your head. But I have to say, this film was pretty goddamned incredible and just about as faithful to the book as it possibly could have been.

I really don't want to ruin anything for you, so I won't go into too much detail here, just a few tidbits:

She's fuggin' your b'liefs'n'all up'n'down'n'in'n'out!
The music, the editing, the special effects, and the makeup (OMG, the makeup) are rock-solid, freakin' outstanding. As Scott will attest, all strong Oscar contenders, no doubt. Tom Hanks is truly great - especially, in my opinion, as Zachry in the "Sloosha's Crossin'" section. If you've read the novel (as I'm sure you all dutifully have) you know of the crazy pidgin English spoken in that section - all preserved and embraced in the film version, much to my surprise and glee. Hanks speaks the language as if it's A) a real language and B) as if it's his native one. Awesome. (Not to mention his Duster Hoggins. Hi-larious.) Hugo Weaving is outstanding in his multiple roles, the best being Zachry's devil, Old Georgie. Spine-tinglingly perfect. James D'Arcy is a magnificent double Rufus Sixsmith and James Broadbent is pitch-perfect as Cavendish. I know, I know, you all want to know about Halle Berry. Well, she didn't really ruin anything, I'll tell you that much. Her Luisa Rey is played just right - like out of a wooden, clichéd pulp mystery novel. (Is that actually acting?) Scott will tell you about the scene-stealing Hugh Grant.

One of the worries I had (isn't it nice to have worries in life like this?) was of new characters created for the film that would allow for some sort of star-crossed-lover-theme to play out for Tom Hanks and Halle Berry. This is not the case, folks, so have no fear. The characters played by Berry that you can see in the trailer - the woman in the red dress that catches Duster Hoggins' eye and the Moriori tattoo-face lady who looks up at Adam Ewing - are seen in their entirety in the trailer and appear for no longer than they do there. Whew.

Vyvyan Ayrs + Robert Frobisher
There are a few creative plot edits that the filmmakers went with that I felt hurt the end result, although this may be the resulting opinion of three read-throughs and a healthy obsession on my part. Mainly these are to do with the reworking of much of Robert Frobisher's obsessive, predatory nature (and the object of that obsession) which creates more questions than answers and a change of the last line in the Timothy Cavendish section (which was spot-on all the way to that point, by the way) leaving a nice, neat, and highly improbable ending for old Tim. Other than that, I approve, wholeheartedly.

I also think that this is as good a time as any to tell you that the Book Catapult has put together our very own screening of the Cloud Atlas film, with a few bells and whistles. We were originally hoping to have a live Skype conversation with David Mitchell, but, being as he lives on the other side of the planet, we had to record it in advance and will be showing it at the event. Not too shabby, nonetheless. Scott and I will also be leading a book/film discussion after the screening - sort of a literary salon-type of deal. Tickets are a mere $12.50 - here's the rest of the info you'll need. I hope you'll join us.

Cavendish, I presume?
Scott: Andy Freidenburg described the movie as a 'Mind-Blower' and I would have to agree.  The three minute or so opening montage - which featured quick cuts back and forth between all six 'threads', voice-over from several characters, and the sweeping crescendo from the Cloud Atlas Sextet - would have been one of the most compelling movie trailers since 'Stargate' (Now that was a great trailer for a terrible movie!) if they had chosen to simply use it, as is, un-cut.  I had chills and my first thoughts were how in hell will anyone who hasn't read the book be able to keep up?  The movie then settles into a slightly more conventional flow, giving us maybe 3-5 minutes of the openings of each of the six narrative threads, but we never stay in one thread for very long - I would venture that we are never left in the same thread for more than seven or eight minutes at any point in the entire three hour experience, before we cut back to another thread.  This, coupled with the score, gives the film a relentless feeling of movement and the viewer - this viewer at least - is never really given a space to decompress in the film.  Just when one thread is resolved, another thread unwinds, building back to a crescendo.  I would recommend taking some sort of growth hormone before you enter the theater because I'm pretty certain, after watching the film twice in a seven hour span, my adrenal gland was completely empty.  And yet, when it was all over, I had two feelings: I wanted to go for a run and I didn't want to ever turn on a TV again.  This is the kind of film your mind will race through again and again as you try to sleep - especially if you watch it twice.  In one sitting.  I think the last time I watched the same movie back to back was when I worked in a video store in college and watched Lethal Weapon 1 and Lethal Weapon 2 back to back. Not literally the same movie, but functionally the same and just about the closest analogy I could come up with.

Finally, as a former video clerk, I feel I am qualified to offer my Oscar Predictions for this film.  I should note that as of yet I am NOT a voting member of the Academy.  It seems reasonable to predict that this film will be this year's Inception - a smart stylish hybrid of Art House and Blockbuster.  With that in mind I think it will squeak by with one of the expanded Best Picture nominations, but how will the Academy handle the split directorial duties?  Can they give a collaborative nomination?  More likely, they will reward the three directors with a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination.  I think they should get a nomination for just trying to adapt Cloud Atlas, so I think this has a good shot.  Surely the film will also be nominated for Best Original Score (The music was fabulous, and, according to several Halle Berry characters, 'beautiful'.) and any and all of the technical awards, such as editing, sound, visual effects.  My back of the envelope numbers have 11 nominations, which seems crazy but reflects how impressed I was with this film.

Lloyd Hooks, professional S.O.B.
Now, of my 11 predicted nominations, I think there are two absolute steel pipe locks: Best Editing and Best Makeup.  This may have been one of the best edited films I have ever seen and the challenges of coherently presenting six movies cut into each other made the task 'Mind-Blowing' to say the least, yet it felt effortless, threads echoing and playing off other threads throughout.  And, of course, the makeup.  Much has been made of the numerous roles - regardless of gender, race, age, etc - played by the ensemble.  The fact that it doesn't completely sink the film or constantly distract is a testament to the makeup team and I have to think they will take home the Oscar.  A highlight for me, makeup and casting-wise, was the performance of Hugh Grant.  Did I just say that?  Hugo Weaving was fabulous as well as a range of bad guys, especially as a Nurse Ratchet-meets-Mrs. Doubtfire Nurse Noakes, and as the devil himself, Ol' Georgie - absolutely chilling in a role that easily could have seemed farcical in lesser hands.  But, in a shocker, I would like to be the first to publicly (other than his PR team maybe) nominate HUGH GRANT for BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR.  Did I just say that?  He was great, no other way to spin it, whether harassing Luisa Rey as CEO slime ball Lloyd Hooks, licking blood from a knife as a Kona cannibal, or, in the role that nearly stole the movie for me, as the brother of Timothy Cavendish.  Hugh Grant people.  I'm not making this up.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Paging Dream Number Nine

by Scott Ehrig-Burgess, Assistant Catapult Operator
It’s David Mitchell month here at the Book Catapult - when isn’t it David Mitchell month at the Book Catapult some of you might ask - so I thought I better ingratiate myself with the founder by tying up my David Mitchell loose ends before diving into my second read-through of Cloud Atlas. This meant I needed to tackle Number9Dream, David Mitchell’s second novel, published in 2001, three years before Cloud Atlas, and, like that novel, short-listed for the Booker. That Number9Dream eventually lost out to Peter Carey’s excellent The True History of the Kelly Gang seems more forgivable than Cloud Atlas losing out to Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, though Colm Toibin fans may feel the same way.

I had read Ghostwritten, David Mitchell’s debut novel, several years ago and have yet to read a stronger ‘First Novel’. The complexities of styles, genres and narratives - essentially a set of nine short stories linked together by chance, coincidence, or fate, depending on your worldview - made me view Ghostwritten as a sort of ‘dress rehearsal’ for Cloud Atlas, which is more or less six novellas stretched across not only space, as in Ghostwritten, but time, in a structure even more experimental and ambitious than Ghostwritten. Having just finished Number9Dream, however, I’ve revised my thoughts and have to say now that I agree with Seth’s basic thesis that David Mitchell is in fact writing one big, terrifyingly awesome novel. Or, as Mitchell writes in Number9Dream: “The Cloud Atlas turns its pages over.” (p.352)

Mr. Mitchell, We Approve.
As Number9Dream reconfirms, Mr. Mitchell is a master of literary ventriloquism. Rarely has a writer who writes almost exclusively in first person shown such range. Mitchell is constantly experimenting, constantly trying his hand at different genres and narrative tricks, a la Georges Perec or his fellow Oulipian, Italo Calvino, all with the linguistic energy and freshness of Nabokov. What is most admirable as a writer is that David Mitchell is never afraid to fail and rather than following the old maxim of ‘Cut Your Darlings’ he simply adds more darlings until nothing feels dear and not a word, whether tragic, brutal, sentimental, camp, comic, or beautiful, seems out of place. He gets away with any number of clever lines a lesser writer would drown in, such as describing the passage of time as: “The minutes jog up the down escalator.” I don’t know a writing workshop that would have escaped from.

Number9Dream, on its surface, appears to be a troubled young man’s quest to find his father. At each turn of events the reader is forced to ask whether what is happening is reality or dream, truth or deception and by chapter three the Holden Caulfield-like narrator (including the propensity to chain smoke) finds himself trapped in a vast underworld conspiracy part Don Delillo’s Underworld (the epigraph here is in fact from Underworld) part surreal Haruki Murakami novel. Murakami, of course, factors anytime a writer does anything mind-bending set in modern Japan, but Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is mentioned in Number9Dream and David Mitchell has stated that “there’s a naughty link between Number9Dream and Norwegian Wood.  Norwegian Wood also borrowed its title from a John Lennon song, though for the life of me I’m not sure what Mitchell’s naughty link is. Maybe a Murakami fan can enlighten me.

Doi-San, Please Don't Blend Me.
As with any Mitchell novel, so playful and confident you almost take his daring inventiveness for granted, the text is full of meta-fictional asides, homages to other works and writers and forays into other genres and mediums of expression. John Lennon lyrics abound, either outrightly quoted or embedded subtly in the text, and the number nine makes appearances as frequently as the number six does in Cloud Atlas. Among the forms and genres Mitchell takes on are video games, film, dreams and hallucinations, pulp fiction, a children’s fantasy novel, and a particularly compelling diary kept by a World War Two pilot of a Kamikaze torpedo, that, as with a lot of Mitchell’s work I swear I have read before, but simply cannot place, in a deja-vu sort of way. The novel also, to its credit, features a magician accidentally ingesting a parakeet, as if to say that even magic can clank one off the crossbar every now and then. The children’s fantasy novel, featuring a writer named Goatwriter who travels in a mystical campervan with a chicken and an extinct ape man was one such clanker for this reader, but even that section was entertaining in its absurd daringness, taking on the meaning of narrative itself.

And of course, besides the myriad dreams and fantasies of the novel, there is the violent descent into the underbelly of a Tokyo controlled by all-knowing all-powerful rival Yakuza factions. What’s fiendishly clever about this subplot, which throughout the novel seems to be of central importance, is that it isn’t about anything at all. By the end you suspect it was one vast, two-hundred-and-fifty page (roughly) red herring, but it was so entertaining you don’t care. The real core of the novel is about something much more simple and elegant than the vague all-encompassing power of shadowy organizations controlling our destinies, it is about the narrator’s power to control the few precious things in the world he can, whether it’s properly grieving the death of his sister, properly falling in love, or properly reconciling the mother he does have, rather than being swallowed up in the pointless quest to find the father he does not, because, by the end of the novel it is brutally clear how little one can control of the vast Cloud Atlas and that the truth lies in those little details even as we all too often spend our lives punching at giants and tilting at windmills, nothing more than careless dreams.

Number9Dream is less rigid in its structure than Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas, but like the best moments of the weirdest dreams, it is an all over the map shambolic joy to read. On to Cloud Atlas!