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Literary Glance: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

November 17, 2021

Anthony Doerr took seven years to write Cloud Cuckoo Land. Maybe he didn’t really take seven years. Maybe he goofed off for six years and then wrote really hard for one year. That’s the thing about writing; even when you’re goofing off, you’re still thinking of ideas for your stories and your mind is still swirling through the writing process.

I appreciate an author who takes years to write a single book. I also appreciate authors who don’t write the same book over and over again. I’ve read only a few pages, and so far, Cloud Cuckoo Land is nothing like Doerr’s previous novel All the Light You Cannot See.

It had to be tough for author Anthony Doerr to write a new book after his novel All the Light You Cannot See was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He probably knew anything he wrote would be compared to his Pulitzer Prize winning novel. He might have been tempted to write a similar novel or, even worse, a sequel. But no, Anthony Doerr went for something different. He wrote Cloud Cuckoo Land, whatever that is.

I initially thought that Cloud Cuckoo Land was a stupid name for a novel, but now that I understand the context, I’m not so sure. Context matters. Since the book explains the context, I won’t get into it. The context matters only if you decide to read the book.

Cloud Cuckoo Land doesn’t seem to be a straightforward story, so this book might not be for me. There’s some timeline juggling. Some readers love complicated timeline juggling. Decades ago, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut had some timeline jumping, and most readers loved it, but it gave me a slight headache. If I remember correctly, I liked a lot of the passages, but I had to go back and forth to keep up with what was going on. Sometimes I thought it was weird just for the sake of being weird, and I got tired of “And so it goes.”

I’m not so sure that’s the case with Cloud Cuckoo Land. I can’t tell until I read the whole thing, but I don’t want to read the whole thing. I like straightforward stories. It’s one of my flaws as a reader.

My brain also sees time as linear, so when stories are interweaved so that when the future affects the past which affects the present which affects the past and then affects the future, I think, “You’re full of crap,” and I put the book down. I admit, the writer manipulating time in stories might not be full of crap, but it makes me feel better to make the accusation.

I’m not saying that time isn’t linear. I just don’t see it. I admit that my brain is kind of limited. I’m pretty good at the stuff I’m good at, but I suck at the stuff I’m not good at. For example, I understand the rules of chess, but I can’t see 15 moves ahead, so I suck as a chess player. I also couldn’t be an engineer with my brain. Highways would collapse, and buildings would fall down. I could be a scientist, though. Nowadays, science is just fundraising off of unproven theories and data manipulation. I could do that.

That’s just the way my brain works. When it comes to reading, my brain likes the straightforward story or the straightforward information. My brain can handle a lot of information as long as it’s straightforward, and I can keep track of lots of characters as long as they don’t have long Russian names.

My brain isn’t into Cloud Cuckoo Land, and I’ll blame it on my brain. Since author Anthony Doerr has proven that he can write a non-pretentious Pulitzer Prize winning novel, I’ll assume that Cloud Cuckoo Land is pretty good, but my brain just isn’t built to read it.

Maybe I’ll keep reading Cloud Cuckoo Land. I just hope it doesn’t take me seven years to finish it.

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