A little levity


Call it a cackle, chortle, chuckle, that deep-throated laughter that feels like it originates from down inside somewhere. Not since I sat on the bus going to work from Parma, trying to muffle the amusement I experienced while reading Tony Kornheiser’s Pumping Irony, did I laugh so hard aloud as the other evening turning pages in the chapter about Tim Cavendish’s repeated attempts to escape a prison like nursing home into which he inadvertently landed, at his brother’s hand, no less.

One need only to have advanced beyond the acceptable youth brigade in appearance to appreciate the state of Mr. Cavendish as he charges forward in his many thwarted efforts to reclaim his personhood in society.

As I was about to enter an elevator in a building where I have been working part time for the last thirteen and a half years, a woman emerging from the elevator asked me if I was lost.  I said no and went ahead.  Then I asked the receptionist at Ameriprise if I looked dazed and confused and she said “NO!”  When I told her about the woman and said that was not the first time someone here asked me that, I said, “Isn’t that funny?”  And she said with a frown, “No, it isn’t.”  Later it occurred to me that I did not look like the youthful folks all attending seminars in the conference rooms on the main floor of the building.

Ah, where would such a story be found?  The book, Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell is the source of this, one of a half dozen varied but interwoven character studies linked though not obviously connected tales.

To my delight, Mitchell is not hesitant to use words which paint pictures that are easy to visualize if you have the vocabulary, or a good dictionary and some curiosity.  For example, the word chilblains, which I have neither seen in another novel nor heard spoken, is used, only once granted, but used.  The stories are also sprinkled with a bit of French and words that are easy to understand though he has taken the liberty to spell them phonetically like, fritened.  I enjoy that instead of calling a film a movie or a video, he has simplified it to a Disney.


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