booklist 2013: ZERO HISTORY, William Gibson

April 22nd, 2013 | stuff2013

This was a re-read, but it counts as booklist. Watching COSMOPOLIS again somehow sent me back to ZERO HISTORY, and I’ll probably re-read the entire trilogy that the book concludes.  Hubertus Bigend may, somehow, end up as William’s most enduring character, just because this simply drawn figure surrounds so much of 21C Western culture. 

Ben Hammersley and others would joke about “Bigend-Draperism,” summoning MAD MEN’s Don Draper.  I’ve been thinking this month about Bigend-Packerism, from COSMOPOLIS’ uber-banker Eric Packer. Bigend is fascinating for many reasons, not the least of which is that he’s a predatory neophile.  His cultural awareness must be total, as total as Packer’s financial vision, because he eats the new to live.

It all gives me furiously to think.

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April 3rd, 2013 | stuff2013

HOLY MOTORS may be the most French French film I’ve seen since the 1980s.  I found I needed to watch it twice to really get hold of it.  Afterwards, it haunts the mind: you can sit there and construct science-fictional or supernatural narratives around the thing, to pull it together.  From some angles, it’s hard not to conceive of it as a film about cinema and actors.  From another, it’s clearly a story of the surveillance society and the inexorable march of machinery towards the invisibly vigilant.  (And perversely miraculous.)  At four in the morning, it somehow seems obviously the third part to Wenders’ WINGS OF DESIRE and FARAWAY SO CLOSE, set in Paris after the end of Time and following the works of disintegrating angels.

booklist 2013: HARVEST, Jim Crace

March 12th, 2013 | stuff2013

It’s a difficult book to talk about, somehow.

It is, in its essence, a book about a change of time.  It is about a village on the cusp of eras, shifting from the medieval to the recognisably pre-modern world of enclosures and commercial farming.  When you’re in the middle of such shifts, you don’t necessarily see what is to be gained, only what is to be lost.  And the agents of those changes see only what is to be gained.  Perhaps there is a suggestion that this, too, is the action of nature, as sure as the turn of seasons and as pitiless.  There remains only to perform a final framing of how life used to be.

What matters, with this book, is the language. This is a thing of beautiful, sad sentences, golden like evenings at the end of summer.  It’s said to be intended as Crace’s final work of fiction, and it is a great summoning of powers at the close of the day.  Magnificent. |

booklist 2013: THE GORE SUPREMACY, James Wolcott

March 6th, 2013 | stuff2013

I’m behind on logging these.  I’m reading a little faster than I’m writing. 

I’ve never been Wolcott’s greatest fan, but this meditation on Gore Vidal and the role of the public intellectual, with its unexpected and violent twist of rage and excoriation in the middle, was a pure joy.  It’s an interesting reflection of the Deighton piece I mentioned the other week: a consideration of the last days of the old and eccentric monsters of letters.

booklist 2013: YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, Jonathan Ames

February 18th, 2013 | stuff2013

This novella is pitched as “a tribute to Raymond Chandler and to Donald Westlake,” but, while there is certainly a tincture of Parker and Marlowe here, it reads to me more like Ames looking at the likes of Jack Reacher and other modern hard-man crime characters and saying to himself, “what would that protagonist and their stories really be like?”

The end result is as black and sticky as graveyard dirt.  It almost but not quite tips into parody at a few points, but, although I don’t doubt the author had a chuckle to himself in a couple of places, it comes good as a study in steely-eyed extrapolation.  It is, in fact, a ruthless depiction of that “violent but good-hearted loner hero” and the actual consequences of that life.  Hugely entertaining grimness, cleverly written. 

There’s an excerpt here, which includes purchase links (ebook only).