Posts Tagged ‘William Gibson’
October 6, 2016 | by Paul Grimstad
Listening to Steely Dan’s Gaucho.
The cover of Steely Dan’s 1975 LP Katy Lied shows an out-of-focus praying mantis floating amid bulbous plants. I used to stare at it as a kid, listening to the record in my dad’s leather reading chair and wondering who this “Steely” was. He sounded sort of like Bob Dylan, if Bob had just been defrosted out of a block of carbonite. (I was intensely devoted to The Empire Strikes Back, so carbonite was almost always on my mind.) Other Steely Dan records like Countdown to Ecstasy, Pretzel Logic, The Royal Scam, and Aja opened onto a strange and ominous world: double helixes in the sky, Haitian divorcées, the rise and fall of an LSD chef named Charlemagne, someone who drinks Scotch and then “dies behind the wheel.” The photo on the inside gatefold of the Greatest Hits showed two nasty-looking guys standing in what appeared to be a hotel dining room. Read More »
May 24, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Today in fancy Russian plagiarism scandals: upward of a thousand prosperous Russian bureaucrat types, all with doctoral degrees, stand accused of having bought their dissertations on the black market. Leon Neyfakh reports: “The alleged fraud was exposed by members of a volunteer organization that calls itself ‘Dissernet’ … Started in early 2013 by a handful of scientists and journalists, the group has undertaken the task of identifying and publicly shaming government functionaries, academic administrators, and members of Russia’s so-called elite who allegedly hold advanced degrees they did not earn through legitimate means … Some of the intellectual theft Dissernet has identified is comic in its brazenness and absurdity. Duma member Igor Igoshin allegedly earned his economics degree by turning someone else’s paper on the Russian chocolate industry into a thesis on meat; the dissertation replaced every mention of ‘chocolate’ with ‘beef,’ ‘dark chocolate’ with ‘home-grown beef,’ and ‘white chocolate’ with ‘imported beef.’ ”
- Finally, it’s back in print: the unforgettable story of an alchemical marriage and the horny old coot who watched it happen! Johann Valentin Andreae’s 1616 story, The Chemical Wedding, “opens as a winged woman, ‘so bright and beautiful, in a sky-coloured robe,’ invites Christian Rosencreutz—the real-life founder of the philosophical secret society of Rosicrucianism—to a ‘Royal Wedding.’ ‘If God Himself decree it, Then you must to the mountain wend Where three stately temples stand. From there you’ll know Which way to go. Be wise, take care, Wash well, look fair, Or else the Wedding cannot save you,’ says a letter which sends Christian on a seven-day journey to serve the Bridegroom and the Bride, in [John] Crowley’s new version of the text … ‘When Andreae confessed late in life to writing it he called it a ludibrium—a Latin word that can mean a joke, a skit, a jeux d’esprit, or a hoax. I don’t think he was trying to disown it, but he certainly didn’t seem to want it taken with full seriousness. And it’s the fun, the outlandish incident, the surprises, and the wonderful main character—Christian Rosenkreutz, an old self-doubting, curious, kindly, horny guy—all that’s what I wanted to bring to new readers.”
- American sitcoms have a congenital, national defect: they’re too optimistic to be really funny, because life is pain. But Willa Paskin sees a turn in the road: “There’s another way to understand what has happened to American comedy in recent years: it has become more British. The hallmark of the British sitcom is a quasi-unbearable protagonist who is an Everyman, only insofar as every man can laugh at him … U.K. sitcoms tend to be darker than American ones, encouraged by a powerful public broadcasting system whose aim is to serve the varying tastes of taxpayers, not the upbeat preferences of advertisers, and by a national psyche fixated on the immutability of the class system, not on a dream of self-improvement. Americans believe that things will get better. Brits laugh at how things stay the same. To become a hit in the United States, The Office not only had to transform the tragic, grating boss into a less tragic, less grating, more well-meaning boss; it had to cast off the message, central to the British original, that work is where you go to waste your life.”
- Late last year, debate simmered about Primo Levi’s 1987 death: Was it a suicide? Now Tim Parks, firmly in the yes camp, makes a compelling argument based solely on the height of the handrail Levi may or may not have “fallen” over: the rail, “as building regulations required, was 3'2″ (96.5 cm). Present building regulations in Europe require that handrail height be between 90 and 100 cm. In the U.S., handrail height is given as between 34 and 38 inches (86 to 97 cm). Levi was a small man (5'5″), hence the rail was proportionally high for him, well over half his height. Indeed, a handrail at navel height is a high handrail. Readers wishing to experiment without anxiety can try such a rail at ground level. They will find, as I did, that one has to climb to get to the other side. It is impossible to ‘fall’ over it.”
- William Gibson brings his cyberpunk sensibility to a new comic, Archangel, which of course features a time machine with an ominous name: “Described by its author as a ‘Band of Brothers [meets] Blackwater’ sci-fi conspiracy thriller, Archangel follows two clashing groups vying for the control/survival of the future through the conquest/alteration of the past … The year is a (thankfully alternate) 2016, a world ravaged by unseen nuclear devastation, with the human race hanging on the edge of survival. Junior Henderson, the power-hungry vice president to his despotic father, has just undergone facial reconstructive surgery. He and an expedition team of private military contractors travel to 1945 via The Splitter, a quantum teleportation device capable of creating tangent alternate timelines, to stop this reality—and ultimately shape the future in his own image.”
September 3, 2015 | by Sasha Abramsky
In his ninety-three years, Chimen Abramsky amassed a vast collection of socialist literature and Jewish history. Here, his grandson Sasha explores some of the rarities.
Much later in his life, Chimen turned his eye to cataloging his library. It was a task he stubbornly refused to finish, despite having cataloged many of the world’s most important Judaica libraries for Sotheby’s, despite having even compiled a catalog of catalogs that he would occasionally show to fellow bibliographers. “It takes the magic out of it. It becomes a thing to sell, not a real collection. Once you catalogue the book, it becomes a dead object almost,” was how the rare-books dealer Christopher Edwards, who knew Chimen decades later, interpreted this reluctance. Chimen loved being courted by would-be buyers; adored being taken out to restaurants and clubs, such as the Garrick in central London, where dealers could flatter him by talking about the importance of his collection. But when push came to shove, he did not want to admit that, apart from a few missing pieces (he bemoaned the fact that he did not have any original issues of Marx’s newspaper the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, published in Cologne during the revolutionary year of 1848 and into 1849), his collection—his life’s project—was complete. Even when his insurance agent, Will Burns, repeatedly wrote him letters requesting that he provide a catalog of his library, Chimen managed to find one excuse after another. He was too busy; he was traveling; he was ill; he would do it next month. “I had hoped to do it during the summer vacation,” he informed Burns in late October 1981, “but unfortunately, as Miriam had an accident in Israel, I was unable to do so. I hope to complete it towards the end of January.” He did not, and Burns wrote him several more letters on the matter before eventually giving up. The collection remained insured only as general contents; had disaster struck and the House of Books burned to the ground, Chimen would have found, to his horror, that his inability to provide a catalog was a costly oversight.
What Chimen did do, though, was pen a series of memoranda about how he had acquired some of his rarest prizes. He wrote, for example, about how, in the early 1950s, he had managed to buy William Morris’s complete collection of the Socialist League’s journal, The Commonweal, along with the wooden box, with a rexine cover dyed blue and lined with a white feltlike material, that Morris himself had constructed to house a 1539 Bible, and in which, ultimately, he kept his copies of the revolutionary newspaper. The pages of the publication—its words printed in double columns originally on a monthly basis, then later weekly, from 1886 until 1895, and filled with the revolutionary musings of Morris, Marx’s daughter Eleanor, and other radical luminaries of the late-Victorian years—had passed from Morris to his close friend, the typographer Emery Walker; from Walker to his daughter; and from her to a poet named Norman Hidden. Chimen eventually bought it from Hidden for £50. And there they stayed, in their Bible box, high on a wooden shelf in the upstairs hallway at 5 Hillway, for more than half a century. Read More »
November 24, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- A 1950 letter from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac—“16,000 amphetamine-fueled, stream-of-consciousness words” that inspired Kerouac to rewrite On the Road in a more breathless vein—is up for auction.
- A chat with William Gibson: “I’ve always embraced the fact of any imaginary future becoming archaic. Imaginary futures are about the moment of their creation, they aren’t about the real future. Ultimately every imaginary future will be read as an artifact of the moment of its creation.”
- The language of poker: Today’s players are the strong, silent types, “But many of the earliest tournament pros … were famous for blustery speeches, part of an aggressive style of banter meant to put their opponents ‘on tilt.’ And while these players were haranguing their opponents, they would watch closely to see what clues—‘tells’—leaked out under pressure.”
- What’s the meaning of the writing on the bathroom wall? “The most common type of graffiti was ‘presence-identifying’ (just scrawling your name, for example), but men were identifying their presence more than women. Women, on the other hand, wrote more insults … When a woman goes into a women’s restroom and finds herself surrounded by only women (in a room full of mirrors, no less), she may very well become hyper-aware of the fact that she is a woman. People might be putting on makeup, performing their gender, and behind closed doors, they’re dropping their pants. Meanwhile, next door in the men’s room, dudes are standing next to each other at the urinal, aggressively not making eye contact, trying to ignore the miasma of testosterone that I assume hangs in the air like a fog.”
- Are the British simply too polite to be any good at surrealism?
June 15, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
The living is easy—and it’s time for our summer issue! Whether you’re on the beach, in transit, or just enjoying the long days at home, this is an issue to get lost in: find fiction by Jonathan Lethem, Amie Barrodale, and David Gates and the continuing story of Roberto Bolaño’s lost novel The Third Reich, with original illustrations by Leanne Shapton.
Big news: For the first time, readers can buy a digital version of The Paris Review—for easy access anytime, anywhere. TPR digital can be read on your iPad, laptop, or mobile device. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s instant gratification!
If, like us, you still enjoy a little sand between the pages of your beach-house reading, buy a subscription to the paper magazine—and get a Paris Review beach towel!* (We’d tell you to tuck it into a TPR tote, but that might sound pushy.)
From the summer issue:
An expansive interview with William Gibson:
What was more important was to name [my landscape] something cool, because it was never going to work unless it had a really good name. So the first thing I did was sit down with a yellow pad and a Sharpie and start scribbling—infospace, dataspace. I think I got cyberspace on the third try, and I thought, Oh, that’s a really weird word. I liked the way it felt in my mouth—I thought it sounded like it meant something while still being essentially hollow.
A frank interview with Samuel R. Delany:
Finding time to work is the main problem … You write a decent book, and you’re hired as a creative-writing teacher. The next thing you know, you’re director of the program, which basically means you get less time in class and more administration, which nobody likes, so that you can hardly write anything anymore.
A portfolio of video art curated by Marilyn Minter. Poetry by Frederick Seidel, Cathy Park Hong, Kevin Prufer, Lia Purpura, D. Nurkse, and Iman Mersal.