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29 June 2005 @ 10:40 pm
Book Reviews: Pattern Recognition, The Hard Goodbye  

Pattern Recognition, by William Gibson

This is the story of a woman named Cayce Pollard, who is a) allergic to over-branded logos, b) able to determine the viability of potential marketing memes and logos, c) worried about her father who most likely died during the attack on 9/11 but is missing, and d) working to uncover the secrets behind a movie that is being released, anonymously, in tiny chunks across the Internet. Gibson does some interesting philosophizing about the nature of consumer culture, the Japanese obsession with Americana, the Russian mafia, and some Stephensonian dips into antique computer trivia. The plot is not particularly startling or gripping - the leisurely pace of the details and descriptive narrative are enough to keep you hooked in as much as you would like to be.

As an airplane read, this was pretty damn good. Beats the shit out of Neuromancer.

The Hard Goodbye, by Frank Miller (i.e. Sin City #1)

If you saw Sin City, you've basically read The Hard Goodbye (This would be Marv's story - the ugly, misogynistic son of a bitch played by Mickey Rourke). This is an overly gritty story about an ugly, misogynistic son of a bitch in a corrupt, hopeless world. Marv is not a hero, nor does he seem to be entirely sane. Unlike the portrayal in the movie, I was filled with contempt for Marv throughout the entire story. Marv is not a sympathetic character, because his existence is utterly Hobbesian - nasty, brutish, and short. Marv is the product of a diseased society on the brink of collapse, and his one moment of happiness deludes him into believing that there is something worth fighting for in his world besides himself. He fails in this, because he has no idea what it means to think of somebody else. His life is full of people who look out for him, trying to show him what it means to care and feel, and all he can do in return is maim and kill in a vain attempt to win their love.

That doesn't mean the story is bad - I really like the story. It's just not a story for everybody, and it can be incredibly depressing.
(Deleted comment)
Hoc Est Qui Sumusdiscoflamingo on July 1st, 2005 12:35 am (UTC)
We should start a club.
atelierlune on June 30th, 2005 02:49 pm (UTC)
More of this line of posting, please.

Though, I suppose I ought to reciprocate in kind.
Hoc Est Qui Sumusdiscoflamingo on July 1st, 2005 12:35 am (UTC)
Thanks. What part of it, specifically, did you find useful, entertaining, or worthwhile? I've been wanting to do some in-depth reviews for a while, and having time is encouraging me to live my dream, so to speak.
atelierlune on July 1st, 2005 02:03 am (UTC)
Specifically, I've never read any William Gibson (prefunctory readings haven't sparked my interest), and so it is interesting to hear about him. You'd think I'd be able to vibe with his gaijin-dom, but no. Not yet anyway.

Generally, I like hearing about books I haven't read yet, or books that I have read that I can talk more in depth about with others. Also, you road-test your stuff - knowing that a book is good airplane material is useful to me, for example. With the Miller book, I felt like I got an idea of the tone of the story, why I might not like it, and what sort of mood I should be in to take it up. There's no extra-literati BS in the reviews (I picked up a New York Times this weekend and was a little tired by the Book Review even though I like the in-depth-ness of it), though if you wanted to add some, I wouldn't mind, because you have a way of explaining things that never makes me (at least) feel stupid for not knowing or understanding the finer points. Plot summaries are concise but clear. Feel free to expand where applicable.

Pub-time. Gotta go.
jarnikles on July 1st, 2005 04:29 am (UTC)
gibson and japan
i dont know, but japan doesnt seem as focused on americana any more. there is still a high level of culture importation, but much of it is coming from europe, and to a lesser degree asia ( especially korea ). mind you, american movies are still big, but for the most part the obsession with the US that people think the japanese have is more a obsession with international communication than america itself. a lot of people are very keen on speaking with people around the world, and english is the best way to do it. sorry, this is completely offtopic. definite keep up the book reviews. i will try and do the same. i guess i start with sirens of titan. i just finished that the other day.
Hoc Est Qui Sumusdiscoflamingo on July 1st, 2005 04:47 pm (UTC)
Re: gibson and japan
Gibson's look is at WWII-era Americana among very wealthy businessmen - specifically, a bomber jacket that costs more than a car. There is a discussion about how Americana is no longer the dominant exterior cultural influence for the youngest Japanese generation, but there are only about three chapters in Japan.
elfdope on July 1st, 2005 06:10 am (UTC)
For me I think the Clive Owen's character (which I am forgetting) analysis of Marv is more accurate. Marv is simply born in a time when a large, dumb, aggressive male is relatively useless. In his world he is forced to be a thug, because he has no other way to be in society. He is an outcast forced to live a lonely loveless life, because his skills/traits are not only not valued but frowned upon. What makes him moderately likeable is the fact that even though he goes about things in a brutish thug way he does them in a heroic fashion.

In that way he reminds me of Michael Corleone's Luca Brasi replacement. In the book he is an ex-cop kicked off the force because he beat a pimp to death (with a huge metal flashlight) because the pimp was brutalizing his employees. In the same way Marv could never be a cop, because he would beat a suspect to death if he thought the guy was a child killer or rapist.

What I find most amazing with Marv is his attitudes towards women. Obviously he is too dumb to have a highly sophisticated approach to them, but he wants to protect them, but at the same time understands that many of them can take care of themselves. Unlike many thugs in his position I can never envision him raping a woman, or even beating her because she argued with him. For me that is what makes the story work. This big dumb lug dashing head long stupidly to avenge a woman's death for a small kindness she paid him, against these intelligent corrupt sexist fucks.

The other important thing is that he recognizes that he is fucked up, and that he may be doing the wrong thing. His vengeance is not the blind rage of a true thug, but more a recognized reaction to his circumstances. For me this is amazing for a man who is not intelligent or sane. Unlike a true savage he stares at his savagery and says god thats fucked up, and I wish I was smart enough to figure out a better way to do this. But he can't so instead of the normal noir investigator who pieces together the story by solid investigation he beats it out of people.

This makes him in many ways a new play on the noir detective.

As a story telling device it is quite good, because we don't know if the information he gains is true. Just as Marv doubts whether he should act on his information knowing that its fucked up, so does the reader. We worry that in the end he might go to deathrow having killed the wrong people, but hope that he is on the right trail. In the end we are happy he has pieced it together, because that means the killing was for something.

That's just one theory on why I liked the books. One might equally claim that this is just my embarrassed brain's way of justifying the fact that I really like the book for the titties. As far as comics go, it DOES have quite a few nice titty shots. I do like titties.

Sing a long
"Or is it the titties"
Hoc Est Qui Sumus: Devourdiscoflamingo on July 1st, 2005 05:10 pm (UTC)
You have a number of good points, many of which contradict my own. Therefore, I reject your reality and substitute my own ;-)

Seriously, we should write a book, or host a show. We could be the next Siskel and Ebert, only without the latent homoeroticism.
Oυτιςerragal on July 5th, 2005 04:55 pm (UTC)
Susan has mentioned to me the desire to have a group to discuss books (and possibly movies) without it ending up in the "I like Unicorns" sort of analysis. Perhaps LJ can accomodate us in this venture...
must look into that.
Hoc Est Qui Sumus: Devourdiscoflamingo on July 6th, 2005 11:51 pm (UTC)
jarnikles on July 12th, 2005 08:41 am (UTC)
i would love to have a forum to discuss books and literature, but i wouldn't want to rule out analyses involving unicorns.