Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

spook country

Spook Country is William Gibson's latest. For those who may not be aware, Gibson pretty much fathered the science fiction genre of Cyberpunk. Think mona lisa overdrive, johnny mnuemonic (sp?), and the matrix. What fewer folks know is that his previous book, Pattern Recognition definitively left cyberpunk and even science-fiction in general well behind (or in the nursery, if you want to be mean) and graduated Gibson into straight-up Literature. And it's an excellent book, you should read it, whomever you are. Spook Country is cut from the mold right next to Pattern Recognition: it's obsessed with contemporary life, especially with the presence and role of branding in our world, stars a down-to-earth, recognizable female protagonist, doesn't rely on jargon, nor (almost) on technological marvels, varies its senetence-structure and uses the occasional big word. In short, it's a great and well-written book, but not that far off from Pattern Recognition.

words: (several not english, i think)

p. 6semiotics
p. 24prelapsarian
p. 52apport
p. 68orishas
p. 69Santero
p. 102Tulpa
p. 117Cuirass
p. 161oxford*
p. 208foxfire**
p. 315Asanas

* ".. a three-eyelet black alligator oxford in his hand."
** "The late-afternoon sun dressed the passing woords with Maxfield Parish foxfire, and perhaps it was that elliptical flicker generated by the train's motion that called these beings forth."

also, great author photo.

Hard Truth

Pop gave me Hard Truth by Nevada Barr. It's a sort of niche-mystery, similar to those of John Dunning (ex-cop turned rare book collector), except this is park-ranger-cum-detective-cum-action-hero. Basically, it's a fine story with lots of nice characters and description of Rocky Mountain National Park, but towards the end it takes a turn for the shockingly graphically horrible, and altho i finished it i sort of wished i hadn't. If you're a silence of the lambs person, this might be for you.

For Whom The Bell Tolls

Like a dog to its vomit, me to Hemingway.
I afraid that i can't say enough good about For Whom The Bell Tolls. This is one of the finest books i've ever read.

From the back of the jacket: "Hemingway did more to change the style of English prose than any other writer in the twentieth century ... and was known for his tough, terse prose." - I take serious issue with
both these statements. Taking the second one first, he may be known for his tough, terse prose, but to say that his tough terse prose is a defining feature is like saying Yosemite is famous for the texture of the granite. Hemingway is all about characters. His people are absolutely believable, and here's what i love most about him: He loves and cherishes each of his characters. Certainly, terrible events befall them and many of them are assholes, but Hemingway always treats the characters with respect and grants them dignity. This may sound insignificant, but i think it's something few authors are able to do. I picture Hemingway cradling each of the people he wrote about in his hands. Which brings us to the first statement above, that he was an enourmous influence on writing last century. That may be, but not enourmous enough. If there are more writers who convey the simple honesty and gentleness of H. in their prose, please, please let me know.

Some specifics about For Whom The Bell Tolls.
The title comes from a John Donne poem, part of which H. quotes as introduction:
No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. (italics his)

.. picking up this post after it lay fallow for a few months ..

well, instead of just further lauding, let me just say this book is firmly in my Top Seven and move right on to the style of cursing i desperately want to adopt from it, what must surely be known as The Soiled Milk School of Epithets. eg, a Soiled Milk Schooler upon hearing that a compatriot of his is perhaps worried about tomorrow's raid on the bridge: "I obscenity in the milk of thy worry". In response to braggadocio: "I relieve myself in the milk of thy mother". And so on. Look for it by name!