In which the Crocodile Snout-Butts the Glass

James Francken

  • number9dream by David Mitchell
    Sceptre, 418 pp, £10.99, March 2001, ISBN 0 340 73976 2

There are three false starts in David Mitchell’s slippery new novel. At the beginning of number9dream the narrator sits in a chaotic Tokyo café staring into an empty coffee cup. Eiji Miyake is a mousy young man who has come to the city to find his father, but he lacks the wherewithal to contact the lawyer who knows his address. When he finally gets up from his table to meet the lawyer there seems to be a twist; Eiji is determined to discover his father’s identity and is hot-headed in the lawyer’s office, brandishing a gun after he has been denied access to confidential files. But the story is stopped short: it turns out to be a fantasy that Eiji has conjured from his seat in the café. He stays in the café until the tag end of the opening section and has two more tangled dreams. The story appears to move forward when the café is flooded and Eiji helps a waitress to safety but this is another fantasy: Eiji is still in his seat. His search gets nowhere – he seems to walk to a nearby cinema and come face to face with his father but this is the final misleading daydream which Mitchell includes to wrong-foot the reader.

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