The novel is a portable Narnia wardobe …

David Mitchell“And then you are away …”

David Mitchell waved his arms and made a take-off noise as he said this to a large crowd on Saturday morning at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. Away from the concerns off the world, and off on a journey, somewhere fantastic. It was in answer to a question about writers that consciously influenced him.

He added that he wanted to emulate writers – that rather than influence, it’s more aspiration that stuck with him. He “ached to do to other people what writers had done to me”.

The “imaginatively intelligent” writers he read when he was 11, 12 or 13 merged with the cellular structure of his brain, and spurred him on. Tolkein was the main writer he mentioned.

Emily Perkins reminded the audience of one of Mitchell’s great lines:

The world contains but one masterpiece – itself.

Mitchell said “I stole it from a Leonard Cohen song. The best line on the book, and it’s not even mine!”.

Asked about the film of his book Cloud Atlas, Mitchell quipped “they don’t call it Hollyweird for nothing”.

He said it had been languishing in the hell where optioned books go. There was a ladder leading out of the hole and poor, exhausted Cloud Atlas was a few rungs from the top. He was confident that the filmmakers would do a good job, optimistic that it would happen, but hoping the film wasn’t too like the book as so many adaptions fail on that score.

A large crowd queued for book signings, and despite a little jet-lag, Mitchell managed to give fans plenty to think about. He will certainly be on my reading list.

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