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January 16, 2004

Warning: Litcrit Jargon Ahead

by Ron Hogan

pattern.jpgFrederic Jameson, one of the titans of postmodern theory, weighs in on William Gibson's shift from the near future of cyberspace to the present, Pattern Recognition, for the New Left Review. Your enjoyment of the article will be directly proportional to your tolerance for sentences like, "In any case, the representational apparatus of Science Fiction, having gone through innumerable generations of technological development and well-nigh viral mutation since the onset of that movement, is sending back more reliable information about the contemporary world than an exhausted realism (or an exhausted modernism either)."

There's a cute idea about eBay as the 21st century collective unconscious, but I don't agree that Gibson's "hped-up name-dropping" is necessarily that radical or noteworthy; he just happens to add a little more edginess to a trope Bret Easton Ellis pretty well ran into the ground and which Mark Leyner parodied quite effectively. (Actually, when Glamorama came out, I remarked quite loudly that Ellis' prose was turning into a [bad] imitation of the early '90s "Team Leyner" style.) And the two-paragraph aside about Bruce Sterling actually reads better than what Jameson has to say about Gibson.

I gotta say, though, that I loved Pattern Recognition when it came out last year, even if Gibson's cool hunting female protagonist was slightly less compelling than Ursula Van Urden in Alex Shakar's The Savage Girl. On the other hand, the plot--as always with his work--zips right along, and the usual problems with endings were noticeably absent. (Gibson's endings are sometimes like the cyperpunk equivalent of Spike Lee--at a certain point, the text gets "long enough" and then steps hard on the brakes.) And I, like thousands of other longtime Gibson fans, certainly had fun following his blog while it lasted.

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