Posts tagged with ‘books’
Thomas Pynchon brings us to New York in the early days of the internet
It is 2001 in New York City, in the lull between the collapse of the dot-com boom and the terrible events of September 11th. Silicon Alley is a ghost town, Web 1.0 is having adolescent angst, Google has yet to IPO, Microsoft is still considered the Evil Empire. There may not be quite as much money around as there was at the height of the tech bubble, but there’s no shortage of swindlers looking to grab a piece of what’s left.
Maxine Tarnow is running a nice little fraud investigation business on the Upper West Side, chasing down different kinds of small-scale con artists. She used to be legally certified but her license got pulled a while back, which has actually turned out to be a blessing because now she can follow her own code of ethics—carry a Beretta, do business with sleazebags, hack into people’s bank accounts—without having too much guilt about any of it. Otherwise, just your average working mom—two boys in elementary school, an off-and-on situation with her sort of semi-ex-husband Horst, life as normal as it ever gets in the neighborhood—till Maxine starts looking into the finances of a computer-security firm and its billionaire geek CEO, whereupon things begin rapidly to jam onto the subway and head downtown. She soon finds herself mixed up with a drug runner in an art deco motorboat, a professional nose obsessed with Hitler’s aftershave, a neoliberal enforcer with footwear issues, plus elements of the Russian mob and various bloggers, hackers, code monkeys, and entrepreneurs, some of whom begin to show up mysteriously dead. Foul play, of course.
With occasional excursions into the DeepWeb and out to Long Island, Thomas Pynchon, channeling his inner Jewish mother, brings us a historical romance of New York in the early days of the internet, not that distant in calendar time but galactically remote from where we’ve journeyed to since.
Will perpetrators be revealed, forget about brought to justice? Will Maxine have to take the handgun out of her purse? Will she and Horst get back together? Will Jerry Seinfeld make an unscheduled guest appearance? Will accounts secular and karmic be brought into balance?
Hey. Who wants to know?
Better Living Through Plastic Explosives is Zsuzsi Gartner’s eagerly anticipated depth charge of deadly satire and trademark dark humour. Whether she takes on evolution and modern manhood, international adoption, real estate, the movie industry, science and faith, art, or terrorism, Gartner fillets the righteous and the ridiculous with dexterity in equal, heartbreaking, and glorious measure. Angels crash land, lovers speak IKEA, a mountain swallows tony West Coast properties, a killer stalks the great motivational speakers of North America. These stories ruthlessly expose our covert fears and fathomless desires and allow us to snort with laughter, while grieving, at the grotesque world we’d live in if we all got what we wanted.
I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors. If they have something to say, they will sooner or later find readers; if not, they won’t… . I very much love those mysterious volumes, both ancient and modern, that have no definite author but have had and continue to have an intense life of their own. They seem to me a sort of nighttime miracle, like the gifts of the Befana, which I waited for as a child.
True miracles are the ones whose makers will never be known.
Elena Ferrante, cited by James Wood in The New Yorker
Paul Higgins put together a great list of books and future thinkers, including one book I have just received in the mail, Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman — so go check it out.
Books are changing, and the nature of reading, what we take away from it, is changing too. Books used to be physically malleable things that we marked, physically, with our experiences: dog-earing them, underlining them, highlighting, and copying out. But the books will not be physical for very much longer.
The great misunderstanding of digitization is to believe that it is only the content and the appearance that matters. That, to reproduce the experience of the book, we needed to make a screen that looked like a page, that turned like a page, that contained words. And the reason that we’ve had difficulty for so long with the notion of eBooks is that that is not all that books are.
Books are journeys, and encoded experiences. The writer has spent months, perhaps years, producing this work out of themselves. That devastating last line of James Joyce’s Ulysses: ‘Trieste – Zurich – Paris 1914 – 1921.’ And the book is the medium of transmission of that experience, so that the reader, too, can experience it, and go on their own journey.
The books are subliming, they are going up into the air, and what will remain of them is our experiences. That experience is encoded in marginalia, in memory, and in data, and it will be shared because we are all connected now, and because sharing is a form of communal prosthetic memory.
When Walter Benjamin wrote that ‘what shrinks in an age where the work of art can be reproduced by technological means is its aura’, he was assuming that the aura diffused, that it was lost to the other reproductions. But digital technologies do not just disseminate, they recombine, and in this reunification of our reading experiences is the future of the book.
James Bridle, “Encoded Experiences”
[Originally published on I Read Where I Am]
(via John Borthwick)
These are dark and stormy times for the mass-market paperback, that squat little book that calls to mind the beach and airport newsstands.
Recession-minded readers who might have picked up a quick novel in the supermarket or drugstore are lately resisting the impulse purchase. Shelf space in bookstores and retail chains has been turned over to more expensive editions, like hardcovers and trade paperbacks, the sleeker, more glamorous cousin to the mass-market paperback. And while mass-market paperbacks have always been prized for their cheapness and disposability, something even more convenient has come along: the e-book.
A comprehensive survey released last month by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group revealed that while the publishing industry had expanded over all, publishers’ mass-market paperback sales had fallen 14 percent since 2008.
via The New York Times (Subscription may be required for some content)
Bernhard Rieder, via 81,498 Words: the Book as Data Object :: The Unbound Book