Tag Archives: books

“I think we live in an incomprehensible present, and what I’m actually trying to do is illuminate the moment.” William Gibson


That line of thought is so much more interesting to me than Gibson’s dutiful recounting of his first book and his casual invention of the nonsense word ‘cyberspace.’ But it’s true he couldn’t get where he his but for that earlier exercise.

Bill, as he’s called in Mark Neale’s 2000 documentary No Maps for these Territories, describes his early work as "3 chord" for his lack of skill mixed with energy (If so how did Neuromancer win the triple crown?). It’s not often the punks get accolades synchronous with their malfeasance. Following are the notes I furiously Blackberried while watching.

It’s interesting seeing this film on the eve of the release of Bill’s newest novel, (which should be in my mailbox about now). Title came from bill’s lost prose poem Memory Palace. Interviews and music by Bono and The Edge. Neale says in some way the film was a direct descendent of My Dinner with Andre.

Parts of the documentary can be hard to watch at first because of Gibson’s chalky staccato — like Bob Woodward or Keroac with a terrible headcold. But it gets comfortable. Interesting to watch him speak, his diction is so measured, and he’ll pause then repeat entire clauses unchanged before completing the thought. He’s composing as he goes and you can watch it happen in the intimacy of that backseat.

A segment called ‘The Gernsback Conversation’ begins with Jack Womack reading the piece that Bill claimed to have written in the summer of ’80. (this reading, Womack’s twang, reminds me a bit of DeLillo’s “most photographed barn” piece from White Noise.) They then launch into a discussion of the attitudes they held against a scifi community of the time that was being systematically doped through its own insularity. To be welcomed to yesterday’s tomorrow’s parties as "nephews" breathing "fresh air" seems a surprise to Bill and Jack, and to Bruce Stirling. An ironic surprise. An historic one.

Idoru (in which Gibson introduced the celebrity-destroying SlitScan) was published September 4, 1996. TMZ.com launched November 8, 2005.

There’s an interesting insight on his writing process at the 1h07m mark. Bruce Stirling describes the "Gibson Box" as his gift to the genre.

Mentions his fascination with history as fiction, and the fact that we’re constantly rewriting it. He would appreciate Not Written in Stone, as I’m intrigued by it and historiography in principle.

Interesting that Neale’s secondary motivation was to make a Great American Road Movie. Yet the bulk of the driving was done in LA and Vancouver. Bill spoke of his childhood in Virginia and SC (particularly interesting was his recollection of turning in the tv and being in 1961 then stepping outside and into 1921), but there’s no footage of Nebraska or Indiana or Kansas or any heartland states one thinks of when one thinks of GARM’s — these of course being places that perhaps don’t play into Gibson’s books and perhaps being where he sells quite few.

Jim Gemmell, co-author of “Total Recall” has just redefined for me just what ‘What are you doing?’ means


My thoughts turn to the Alzheimer’s patient. The system would have to record not just the “stuff” of his life, but his emotional response to it as well. It would need an invisible interface — voice recognition maybe to respond to inquiries — and a nearly instantaneous method of communicating back meaningful context. Otherwise he’s Guy Pearce in tats.

Hopefully we’re closer to beating Alzheimer’s than we are to ubiquitous tech-enabled recollection. Hopefully this is academic. (And by the way, Gemmell’s section on MyHealthBits — and Shirky’s popularization of ideas around crowdsourced health records, for that matter — will get us much of the way there.)

Secondly, I wonder about the convergence of the Total Recall to come with the Total Access that’s already with us. The potential for interconnectedness between anyone’s and everyone’s lifestreams and the only-slightly-more-objective data cache of unfolding history — in the palm of your hand no less — is, well, paralyzing.

So what are you doing?

FreedomFest 2010 Panel on Ayn Rand with Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, John Mackey, and Orson Scott Card

From FreedomFest 2010 held in Las Vegas, a panel discussion on the impact of Ayn Rand and her work with former Rand associates Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden, Ayn Rand biographer Anne Heller, and writer Orson Scott Card.

Provocative discussion, despite the frustrating cross-talk around the philosophical definition of altruism as espoused by Rand. The Branden’s accepted the polarity of “self over others” versus “others over self” as mutually-exclusive objectives without precluding the possibility of certain acts of kindness perpetrated by the selfish (or “enlightened self-interested”). Mackey and Card, on the other hand, read into Atlas Shrugged in particular an artificial and unnecessary polarity posed between selfishness and altruism. To paraphrase Card: A society comprised of those who would not die for it would soon be conquered by a society of those that would.

There’s a real-world progressive orientation on the part of Mackey and Card that sounds well-meaning, though devoid of the disciplined philosophical rhetoric of the Brandens. Barbara Branden’s outbursts concerning our supposed plunge into Socialism under Obama discredited her otherwise reasonable arguments, however. First, how is it not in the enlightened self-interest of the haves to structurally improve the lives of the have-nots? And second, with due respect to the current Katrina anniversary, what’s the alternative?

Peter Beinart, “The Icarus Syndrome,” interviewed by Mike Allen | BookTV

In “The Icarus Syndrome,” Peter Beinart discusses how each American generation’s perception of war is shaped by the times in which they came of age.  Americans who grew up in prosperous peaceful times are more inclined to think of U.S. military success as a foregone conclusion, while those who lived through tumultuous times are less likely to favor U.S. military action.  Mr. Beinart tests his theory by examining the World War I era, the Vietnam era and the present wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.  He’s interviewed by Mike Allen of The Politico.


From Milton to MySpace: “The Death of the Book” Debate Rages On

Alan Wall’s A Defence of the Book, and especially it’s ongoing comment parade, make for interesting reading. It takes the debate to the summer of ’07 anyway: I tell you this pendulum swings like the stock markets nowadays. (For context, read more about Wall.) While it occurred to me that Wall and several in his audience confused the steps in the data-information-knowledge-wisdom hierarchy, a few actually hit the nail on the head:

What is getting under my skin about this post is that it is couched in terms of a high-minded respect for education and intelligence, when it is in fact a confused conflation of information with its medium, and a snobbish and reactionary attack on the democratic dissemination of knowledge.

Wall began his article with an attack on a conference presenter (with “digitally endowed pockets” no less) predicting the end of the book. And while I wasn’t there myself, I feel fairly comfortable in asserting that neither this “Gizmo Gus” nor any other e-vangelists out are announcing the end of literature. By the end of the article, I began to feel bad for this guy. He’s shooting the messenger. In the interest of full transparency, I’ll offer that I only read the first paragraph before printing the article “for closer reading.” My defense, if I may think out loud for a moment, is not that I can’t read closely online—how many web annotating tools and PDF annotating tools and even audio annotating tools are there now, a bazillion?—I’ve just developed over the years a guerrilla approach to screen reading. It’s necessary for the work I do (as I’m sure it is to many) to extract the bullets from large quantities of data so that I may act on it. If I want to read Paradise Lost, surely I’ll read a book. But, having turned its final leaf, is not my contemplation of the work—that rational coming to terms with its effect—simply the minds attempts to bullet-ize? Perhaps then the Web is the great rational plains and books are emotional boats. Until the electronic book truly arrives (I think this is a “when” and not an “if”), we as travelers must let destination dictate vehicle.