Further Reading: Clouds

James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee today. In his prepared remarks, made public yesterday, the recently ousted F.B.I. director shared the details of his meetings with President Trump, recorded in memo form, during which the President made several references to the harm his presumed ties with Russia have caused on his ability to govern. In a metaphorical flourish, the President envisaged this predicament as a cloud. To wit:

March 30: On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as a cloud that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to lift the cloud.

. . . In an abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying he hadn’t brought up “the McCabe thing” because I had said McCabe was honorable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him (I think he meant Deputy Director McCabe’s wife) campaign money. Although I didn’t understand why the President was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person.

He finished by stressing the cloud that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.

 

April 11: On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that the cloud was getting in the way of his ability to do his job.

Since the days of Aristophanes, writers from Russell Banks (Cloudsplitter) to David Mitchell (The Cloud Atlas) have been drawn to clouds as potent signifiers for everything from beautiful dream to darkest miasma. To follow is a batch of contemporary novels, linked to their Booklist reviews, that incorporate those fluffy things in the sky as a central metaphor.

 

The Cloud Collector, by Brian Freemantle

NSA hacker Jack Irvine has penetrated the Iranian intelligence service’s computer network. He has identified some jihadists and follows them on Facebook, and he has even planted disinformation that spurs one jihadist cell to slaughter another.

The Clouds of War, by Ben Kane

The third entry in Kane’s Hannibal series continues to provide an intimate and often brutally explicit view of the Second Punic War. The action has moved to Sicily, where childhood friends Quintus and Hanno continue to fight on opposite sides of the raging conflict.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The Clouds Roll Away, by Sibella Giorello

Beautifully written with exquisite descriptions, Giorello’s mystery features well-developed characters, such as a rapper who plays classical music on a cello to relax. Themes of redemption and faith rediscovered are subtly integrated into the story.

 

 The Theory of Clouds, by Stephane Audeguy

Cloud watching is as dreamy as pastimes get, and French debut novelist Audeguy casts a spell as mesmerizing as that of a grand armada of cumulus. But clouds can also spell catastrophe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking on the Sea of Clouds, by Gray Rinehart

Air force retiree Rinehart’s debut novel displays his talents at research and describing technical details that immerse the reader in the experience of maintaining a commercial lunar colony. Van and Barbara Richards will find their relationship strained as they deal with dreams meeting reality, while Stormy and Frank Pastorelli are tested as contractors involved with the life-support systems, at odds with the corporate interests that oversee the installation.

 

 The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds, by Alexander McCall Smith

A painting by Nicolas Poussin, valued at £3 million pounds and slated for donation to Scotland’s National Gallery, has been stolen from the stately home of a Scottish country gentleman and held for ransom. After contacting his insurance company, the victim takes the unusual step of reaching out to Isabel Dalhousie, a philosopher who specializes in ethics.

 

 

 

 

 

 Under Fishbone Clouds, by Sam Meekings

Foolishly, the Chinese Kitchen God speaks ill of the head deity, the Jade Emperor. For this he is challenged to discover the true workings of the human heart, and he carries out this task by following the lives of Yuying and her husband, Jinyi. It is his voice that transports the reader into twentieth-century China, where Jinyi and Yuying attempt to hold their love together through years of war, famine, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

The Woman Who Married a Cloud: The Collected Short Stories of Jonathan Carroll, by Jonathan Carroll

Better known as a novelist, Carroll has won more awards with his short stories, which are of a piece.  A full-of-himself, penny-ante lothario puts on a hat and instantly becomes a media-celebrity hottie. A woman who gave up art for a family is forced by an angel to hobby-sketch for God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist. She worked in bookstores for twelve years, reviews books for The Boston Globe, and writes about books, culture, and politics for several other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Genie.

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