“I heard one man with a fashionable haircut say he could swim the whole length backward. I heard his hipster wife dare him to do it. They had time for such games, having no children. But when he turned and made the attempt he was swept away within the minute.”
Original source: “The Lazy River”
Rounding out the “Bigend Trilogy,” Zero History is up to the standards you’d expect from William Gibson’s “in the present” stories. Reading through it, you can feel the mastery of his own style of that Gibson has: soulless, unsentimental, and over saturated with a sort of frenetic calm. As with most science fiction, the plot is more of a fixture, and characters are almost equally part of the set. The more pleasurable part is the atmosphere created, here, from places like a “private hotel” with ornate-weird interior decoration, fashion-fetishizing, London motorcycle couriers, and even a brief stint in blown-out rural America.
As with the previous books in the series – Pattern Recognition and Spook Country – the plot itself is the mystery of the book: trying to figure out why all these characters are being compelled to hunt down the secret “Gabriel’s Hounds” clothing maker. There’s some frenetic, tacked on action at the end (as usual) that makes for the major look into characters – what will they do when forced to make a “difficult choice” – but all of that is just background imagery for the more comfortable string of scenes Gibson paints in the rapid chapters.
No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Short and new enough to make you interested in reading some “new” fiction, but tedious like a low-budget indie film.
This collection of short stories has its ups and downs, and to read all the blurbs on it, many professionals liked it. Most of the characters are socially inept and haven’t seemed to discover happiness or how to perpetuate it in their short lives. They’re the kind of characters whose last words in a dialog are always “Oh.” And, of course, there’s no quotes around any dialog which gives it that extra bleakness.
Here’s a good example:
By the time I ran into Ed Borger at Trader Joe’s, Lyon was living at my house only half the week. Which is something Ed and I talked about with loaves of bread in our hands. He thouht this was great progress. I said we owed it all to him. He said his bread always got moldy before he could finish the loaf. I said he should freeze the bread to prevent this problem. He said, Won’t that ruin the bread? I said, No if you’re making toast with it. He said, You can toast it frozen? And I said, Yep.
Still, it’s kind of fun and calming to read, if only to see what kind of whacky thing happens next: mostly normal people doing non-mainstream (what’s the PC word for “perverted” or “abnormal”?) sex here and there. Sort of like a muted, calm Maury Povich show but all the guests were over-reflective, under-employed liberal arts types from boring 80’s childhoods who aren’t even funny enough to be like the 40 year old virgin.
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It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I gave up reading this one because it never seemed to get to a plot. And, you know, it was like a “bad things can happen” book that got a bit repetitive and (given how cynical we all are now-a-days, without even thinking about it) unoriginal. I feel like a schmuck for not reading a book written by a Nobel Prize winner, but those episodes of Mad Men aren’t going to watch themselves.