Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Reading Gibson

I'm about 3/4 done with William Gibson's Pattern Recognition. I'm finding it a lot easier to follow than Neuromancer, which I read about a month ago--although much of that reading took place on bumpy flights to and from Cleveland, so my concentration was not at its best. Anyway. Pattern Recognition is a lot like DeLillo in its concerns with corporate imagery (loving and hating logos), found art, and terrorism. But Pattern Recognition stays closer to the ground; it proceeds narratively rather than lyrically, though it is almost lyrical.* Gibson makes lots of interesting connections and creates a sort of shimmer around various terms and events. I like that he underplays the plot points connected with September 11, making this book one of the more successful treatments of that subject. However, it's also clear that his main character is little more than a mouthpiece for Gibson's observations about how the world works. Overall the novel appears to be an essay in the form of a narrative. Which is not a bad thing. I'd rather read this than a book of cult crit just about any day.

*Stuart Dybek does a wonderful job explaining the difference between these terms in the latest Missouri Review.

UPDATE: Having finished the book now, I can say that in the last hundred pages or so, Gibson outshimmers and out-DeLillos DeLillo. While seeming to leave me somewhat cold, the book has stayed with me in a way that more immediately emotional stories have not--which is also true of DeLillo's work, especially Mao II. So here's Gibson:

And then she hears the sound of a helicopter, from somewhere behind her and, turning, sees the long white beam of light sweeping the dead ground as it comes, like a lighthouse gone mad from loneliness, and searching that barren ground as foolishly, as randomly, as any grieving heart ever has.

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