Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Boundaries Are Conventions. And The Bone Clocks Author David Mitchell Transcends Them All.

Mitchell on Ireland’s Sheep’s Head Peninsula, where the end of his new novel, The Bone Clocks, takes place. Photo: Jackie Nickerson

It is a beautiful summer afternoon in Ireland, and David Mitchell and I are walking up the High Road above the River Bandon, in the town of Kinsale, talking about supercontinents. One of the pleasures of hanging out with Mitchell is that he is, by self-identification, many kinds of nerd—a Star Trek nerd, a Doctor Who nerd, a map nerd, a taxonomy nerd, a tea nerd, a word nerd, and, for good measure, what you might call a nerd nerd: an enthusiast of nerdery of all kinds. At one point in our conversation, he speaks admiringly of sheep nerds.

But right now, he is nerding out about geology. “I’m reading this book called The Origins of the Irish,” Mitchell says, “and it starts with the literal origins of Ireland: Where did this blob of rock come from?” Turns out it came from two blobs of rock on opposite sides of the world. Then, some 300 million years ago, all the landmass on Earth merged into the supercontinent known as Pangaea, “and those two blobs went”—here he produces a crunching-together sound. Mitchell uses sound effects often in conversation, and he is uncommonly good at imitating nonhuman noises: wind in rigging, an arrow leaving a bow, waves lapping the shore, land smashing together to form nations. “And many millions of years from now,” he continues, apropos of the blobs that are currently Ireland, “they’re going to”—he makes a wrenching-apart sound.

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