July 2002 Archives
So I got these twin messages from Hunter and Mary over the weekend, announcing Hunter's intention to pacify Switz-- er, that is, to join the bookblog. (Mary, we can edit that out in post, right?)
Ahem. So, Hunter has a unique perspective, is bloody smart, and is no slouch when it comes to voicing an opinion, as those Libyan separatists can certainly testify. Or well, they could have, if not for that whole Balisong inci-- oh, sorry, sorry, inside voice. Heh.
Um. Hunter's cool, froody, wafer thin, and minty fresh. He's a cleaning topping and a dessert wax. Thumbs up, Hunter, and welcome!
(I think that went well, guys, don't you?)
Nearing the End of the Week
When Turbiner, the author for whom McNihil converts the copyright-violating punk into a trophy audio cable, talks about the essence of noir-the-genre, he makes the point succinctly: "It was always about betrayal."
Betrayal is indeed the lifeblood of Noir. It moves the plot, it rounds out the characters, it's the essence of the obscenity in the word "connect." McNihil has betrayed his dead wife; McNihil wins over the punk before trophying him; November betrays the "trust" of the men she kills with her finger-zappers; Harrisch hands out betrayals like tchotschkes, big and small - he's made of them: the cube bunny, the squatter, McNihil himself, the train tracks... betrayal is the very essence of Harrisch's corporate culture, and the driving force behind TIAC and TOAW. Even Turbiner turns around and connects McNihil when Harrisch gets to him. There's gratitude for ya.
In fact, when articulating Harrisch's philosophy of business and capitalism, Jeter makes the point that the impetus of all commerce is to stick it to both your customers and your employees as much as you can while keeping yourself indispensable to them. Connect 'Em Till They Bleed: Pimp-Style Management, and all that. As a capitalist right-winger myself I found that hard to swallow, but nevertheless containing some truth.
Aaand on to the question: what points might Jeter be trying to make about today's world? Bearing in mind his thoughts on fitting punishment for copyright infringers, what do you think his perspective is on capitalism? Globalization? The wave of corporate sludge that's come to light in recent weeks? The Digital Rights Management (copy-protection technology) debate?
The Big Connecting Deal
Okay, for today the question is going to start with one big Glossy ring around 'connect' becoming an obscenity, and some of the more obscure "how does it relate to the world" dilemmas Mary raises like the foam outside the End Zone Hotel.
One of the big deals about the world of Noir is that it's a severe dystopia: a world not simply in decline, but near collapse. The Gloss has lost its innocence, and in a big way. In that vein, whatever the syllables you speak it with, you can't really understand the word fuck, or use it properly, until you know in your gut what it means in terms of cheapening; of using-and-throwing-away, a la the "cheap-and-nastiverse" that McNihil has shut out by customizing his eyes; a la Connect 'Em Till They Bleed: Pimp-Style Management for a New Century; a la "You are well and truly connected, my friend."
...And that's the whole point: forming connections in Noir's world is a stupid, an obscene endeavor that endangers and cheapens a person. That's what makes the skin-dissolving goo outside the EZ Hotel so horrifying to November, and so titillating to the rest of the world that it commands news time, despite being a quasi-regular occurrence: it's the ultimate in obscene connection, having started with hundreds of copulating bodies, and become an embodiment of homogeneity and the untilmate in surrender and loss of self. One of the whole points of the existence of prowlers is that they keep risky connection safely at arm's length. What does it say about a culture, when it develops machines to do its "fucking"?
It's worth noting that November's introduced to us in as tawdry and debased a way as possible: her fast-forward lifestyle has forced her to make truly horrid 'connections' (in the back rooms of the Gloss's trains) to survive, and they're epitomes of just how obscene connecting can be in her world.
...And yet connection remains inevitable; Harrisch winds up forging a connection with both McNihil and November, in order to consummate his dealings around TOAW. The DZ execs were rumored to have their business-card-handshakes wired to their genitalia. The cube-bunnies survive among the cubapts through their ability to facilitate connection on all levels. And what's the point of a better audio cable, if not a more effective connection? ;-D Layers and layers.
...Which plays into the rather grisly depiction of the penalties exacted by McNihil and his fellow asp-heads for copyright infringement. The need to prosecute copyright violators so viciously arose from too much connectivity, in a way... The "all information wants to be free" attitude dances pretty close to the attitudes of the neo-hippie commune in the 747 that McNihil destroyed, too - for them 'connect' wasn't a nasty word... And look what they got!
I personally think Jeter could have done a lot more with language than focus obsessively on the change in one word's meaning, but he certainly got his mileage out of this one. Anyway, end of lecture (boy, I do go on).
On to the question: between the 'every person is an island' linguistic gymnastics and the weird narrative riffing that Jeter does, never giving a clear, unambiguous decription of some concepts or scenes (that "sight" thing again), it's telling that so much is left unclear about stuff like the Wedge after reaching the end of Noir. Is this just poor storytelling, or is Jeter doing something more interesting with "disconnected" points of view and objectivity?
Questions Day 2
Hey, everyone, seems like there's either little interest or little coherent thought on Noir so far. I'm gonna assume the latter; it's a dense book. :-)
Okay, per Mary's request, I'll forego the 'connecting' discussion I had for today and work with some of the fairly opaque technobabble Jeter uses...
The concepts of TIAC (turd in a can), and later TOAW (turd on a wire), get fairly short shrift as far as descriptions go - partly to heighten the "oo, sinister and mysterious" aspect of it all, is my guess. The gist, though, is pretty simple: give the sucker/customer as little as possible, at as low a cost as is possible, for maximum possible payback.
TIAC is clear enough, but TOAW requires a bit more explanation: essentially the eggheads at DynaZauber figgered out which biochemical "switches" make addictions happen in the human brain. They wanted to flip those switches in such a way that relief could only come from getting an operation that would allow DZ to send electrical jolts into the brain (after payment, of course) and ease the addiction pangs for a short while. Essentially free for DZ, and leaving the "customer" with nothing at all in return but the need for more relief.
DZ and Harrisch wanted first Travelt's Prowler, then McNihil himself, to act as carriers of a tailor-made disease that would spread TOAW sensitivity throughout the Wedge (the proletarian world, as I read it), and make everyone slaves to the electrical "product" DZ would peddle.
Very much like the noh-flies ensured the supremacy of the railways by killing flight, DynaZauber wanted to make themselves indispensable by infecting everyone with a malady only DZ could treat.
So, on to the question: would people ever fall for / put up with that kind of pigeonholing? Viruses cause antivirus makers; ICBMs cause missile defenses; cryptography causes codebreakers; arms races are a fact of life.
Do you think we'll ever let ourselves get into that sort of vise?
Tomorrow: the connecting point. :-)
A little something about myself
Hey all -- thanks for the warm welcome. I'm thrilled to be here and can't wait to start reading August's book with everyone. I tried and tried to find a copy of Noir, but wasn't able to get my hands on it on such short notice.
What a great feeling it is to be among people who like to read! When most of my friends tell me that they need to catch up on their reading, odds are that they are talking about digging into the most recent issue of InStyle or People (um, not that there's anything wrong with those magazines...I love 'em, but just don't consider that to be reading).
A little bit about myself: I live outside of Boston and am a web manager for a medical research firm. In my spare time I love to read, watch old movies, attempt home improvements, and go to Red Sox games.
My top five favorite books of all time:
The Stand by Stephen King
How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis
So comforting to be back among the literate! Looking forward to getting to know everyone over the next book's discussion!
All righty, everyone, it's time to kick off the bookblog discussion of Noir!
First off, general impressions. Mary made the good point that once you get past the dark SF trappings and become familiar with K.W. Jeter's world, it reads a lot like a detective story. For the SF newbies or seldom-readers, how did it strike you? Like? Dislike? Moved to throw away? Moved to construct a shrine? Inquiring eyes wanna read!
Speaking of which (leading artfully into the first question), eyes, sight and appearance are a big deal in the world of Noir. McNihil's own modified sight, and its benefits and weaknesses; his dead wife's eyes with the X's in places of irises, and the peculiarly penetrating in-"sight" that the indeadted seem to have; the fast-forwarding numbers in November's palm that only she (and her collection agents, of course) can see; the memories Verrity planted in McNihil's mind of the burning hotel that he never actually saw, the cube bunny's ability to see things about McNihil that he would have otherwise thought were too subtle to notice, and of course the prowlers' main function: to see and experience what their flesh-and-blood users are either too wise or too cowardly to seek out for themselves.
...So, anyway, obviously sight, insight and eyes are a major theme throughout the novel. What did y'all think of Jeter's use of the theme? Heavy-handed, compelling, revolting, under your radar, how did it grab you?
Tomorrow: connecting around.
Another New Member!
We have another new member! Everyone, please join me in welcoming Kara to BookBlog. She doesn't have a blog of her own so I wasn't able to dig up any dirt on her, but I can tell you this: she is a book lover and writes copy for the web. We have several other writers among our membership, but I'd like to remind everyone that this site is for recreation only. No copyediting allowed.
By bringing Kara on board, Jeff has now become the official recruiter for BookBlog. Thanks to a post of his in the literature forum on TWoP, Kara stopped by and quickly became interested in joining our little club.
Now, perhaps we can coax Kara into giving us a little bit more information by way of introduction?
Again - Anyone not have the book yet?
I asked before, but people may have been sleeping as it was so early in the month...
Please post if you want to participate in the Noir discussion but haven't yet been able to snag a copy. :-)
Everyone enjoying the read?
Happy Birthday, Sarah!
I just thought I'd compose a mini-post to let everyone know Sarah's birthday was on July 11th. I realize this greeting is almost a week late, but you know the old saying: better late than never.
Hope it was a great day, Sarah!
I'm actually going to have a bit of free time this weekend, so I'd like to put together a BookBlog FAQ. So far, I've come up with three sections:
BookBlog: Questions about the site and the club.
Members: Info on using MT and stuff members need to know.
Moderators: Helpful hints for moderators.
Now I need some questions to answer. What do you think the most frequently asked questions for each of the above topics would be? Please post your question suggestions in the comments.
Any other ideas for the FAQ?
I'm not worthy!
Aw, thanks for the kind welcome! *waves hello*
I'm excited about joining the club - I LOVE to read so this will be a nice treat. I'm always in search of good books, but don't have time to go to houses for discussions and the like - the internet is much easier and a lot more fun most of the time.
I look forward to starting in August and have a suggestion for a book to add to the list. It's one of my favorites and I'm always up for reading it again - it's "A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving. GREAT book.
Look forward to getting to know you all over the next few weeks!!
A New Member!
I’m pleased to announce that Jaynee has joined our little group as a new member. She has all the qualifications necessary for bookblogging: a love of reading and the ability to string several words together to form a coherent sentence. You’ll be able to confirm this by checking out Cootiehog, her husband and wife (mostly wife) blog.
Some of Jaynee’s superior qualities include:
- living in New Jersey
- being a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan
- not being ashamed to proclaim her love of reality TV
- having three cats and a dog
- singing at the top of her lungs while driving
Jaynee will be joining us for our August selection since she won’t be able to acquire and read Noir
in time for next week’s discussion. However, we might be able to convince her to write a little introductory post for us by making nice nice and welcoming her to bookblog, the only blogging book club on the planet.
Jaynee, we’re glad you’re here!
Kicking off Noir
Hey, everyone, sorry for the late start to the month, but of course there aren't going to be any discussion questions until the 21st-ish, anyway, right? Is everyone who's got started enjoying the book?
I also wanted to ask, who of the gang here assembled is having trouble acquiring Noir? So far we've got Barbara and Jeff still waiting; anyone else?
Reading for Pleasure?
Hi Guys. I'm still waiting on my copy of Noir. Sure hope it comes soon. Thank goodness I have to the 21st!!!!
Meantime, I just finished Ya-Ya Sisterhood...of which I enjoyed the first half. "I want to live my life without ambition or anxiety. I want to live my life as a porch." I was sitting on my balcony when I read that....facing Reynolds Mountain at sunset. LOVELY.
But I hated the ending which reinforces the FACT (?!) that a woman's ultimate fulfillment can only be achieved when she has partnered up in marriage. Spinsterchicks hate that shit. And I am deeply offended by any author (or editor) who feels compelled to italicize the theme of the novel ...assuming I am too STOOPID to recognize it. AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHH. Glad I got that off my chest. Anybody else reading recreationally?