Monday, 8 August 2016

All Tomorrow's Parties

William Gibson All Tomorrow's Parties (1999)
Most of William Gibson's novels have been stylish gibberish so far as I'm concerned. Idoru was the first he wrote which I'd call readable, and Pattern Recognition was fucking brilliant, and this was the one he wrote after Idoru but before Pattern Recognition so you can probably extrapolate a working model of my expectations from that.

Unfortunately though, it's business as usual - elegant prose and startlingly vivid imagery adding up to a whole gang of barely distinguishable characters doing something or other for a couple of hundred pages, but you can't quite keep track of who they are, what they're up to, or why, and then it's over. Virtual Light told the story of a guy who finds a pair of magic sunglasses, and Idoru was about Bono from U2 trying to marry that princess from the Super Mario Brothers game, and this is part of the same saga. The guy with the magic sunglasses is working in a flying convenience store, and the kid from Idoru has detected a great disturbance in the force, and the Golden Gate Bridge burns down at the end for some reason. The rest is mostly informed by William Gibson bidding for collectible military issue wristwatches on eBay. Also in this novel he predicts 3D printers and Pokémon Go - sort of - so that's nice, I suppose, and occasionally there's an interesting observation:

'Instead of what?'

'Bohemias. Alternative subcultures. They were a crucial aspect of industrial civilisation in the two previous centuries. They were where industrial civilisation went to dream. A sort of unconscious R&D, exploring alternate societal strategies. Each one would have a dress code, characteristic forms of artistic expression, a substance or substances of choice, and a set of sexual values at odds with those of the culture at large. And they did, frequently, have locales with which they became associated. But they became extinct.'


'We started picking them before they could ripen. A certain crucial growing period was lost, as marketing evolved and the mechanisms of recommodification became quicker, more rapacious. Authentic subcultures required backwaters, and time, and there are no more backwaters. They went the way of geography in general. Autonomous zones do offer a certain insulation from the monoculture, but they seem not to lend themselves to recommodification, not in the same way.'

So it's a novel about society and subculture, about that which moves from the underground to the mainstream and so on; or maybe that's just a tasty couple of paragraphs afloat on a sea of stylish Alphabetti Spaghetti. I don't know. I'm not sure even William Gibson knew.

Why you do this, William Gibson?

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