Distrust That Particular Flavor Hardcover – Jan 3 2012
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"A provocative, surprising look at the lesser-known parts of a sci-fi superstar's writing career." ---Kirkus --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
About the Author
William Gibson is the author of books including Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive, and Burning Chrome.
Robertson Dean has recorded hundreds of audiobooks in almost every genre. He's been nominated for several Audie Awards, won nine Earphones Awards, and was named one of AudioFile magazine's Best Voices of 2010. He lives in Los Angeles, where he records books and acts in film, TV, and (especially) on stage. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
This collection, to me, is a lot like the drivel a Record Company will put together and market after the death of a popular Artist.(Unknown, previously un-released studio sessions, live performances, etc.) There will always be something there for the fans (and believe me, I AM one, and have been since Neuromancer) but "Distrust That Particular Flavor" comes off as "cashing in on the Brand that is William Gibson".
I personally, would rather re-read W.G.'s actual, crafted work (each read is a new read, right?) than hash-ups like this one appears (to me) to be.
That being said, the collection does have its moments... True, they are few, and in true W.G. form more emerge upon second (or third) read, but it is the opinion of this reader that, if you are a fan, you will most certainly find *something* in this collection, but download the pdf when it becomes available. (Kinda like "wait until it comes out on dvd".
Brian D. McCarthy
There is undoubtedly a strong cyberpunk-like beat in much of Gibson's narrative nonfiction. His poignant remembrance of his favorite SoHo (New York, NY) antiques store written within days of the 9/11 terrorist attacks ("Mr. Buk's Window") could have easily been part of one of his early "Sprawl" stories (Not surprisingly, he admits in a concise afterword that that antiques store would inspire him to finish writing the novel he had just started; "Pattern Recognition".).Read more ›
Distrust That Particular Flavor is a collection of essays and articles William Gibson had given over the years. If you have been touched by his mesmerizing prose and kaleidoscopic Futures he keeps weaving one trilogy at a time, you would want to read all of them. Instead of fine combing the net to locate them all, you can easily find them now in one printed source. I am a great fan, ever since I plunged into Neuromancer as a freshman in the nineties, and thought I had a complete collection of all of William Gibson's articles. Well, I was not even halfway done!
What I particularly appreciated was how Gibson took the risk to humbly come back to every essay of his with honest criticism. And I was thrilled to learn that we share a wrist-watch chronograph fetish (and now the Jaegers traded on the Bridge, in Virtual Light, make a whole different kind of sense).
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (especially for fans and aspiring SciFi writers).
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
For the most part, these articles, essays, and lectures are written in the first person, which was a revelatory experience for me. I'd never read any of the pieces in this collection, so it was like seeing something familiar with brand-new eyes. The insight contained within is invaluable; not only did I learn much about Gibson's mind and what makes him tick, I also unearthed a lot of background data for the events in his fiction. In that way, reading this book was much like listening to a director's commentary of a dearly loved film - I gained new perspective that emphasizes and deepens.
It's abundantly clear that Gibson is deeply intrigued by modern culture, whether it's technology, psychology, fashion, behavior, eBay, or YouTube, and reading his meticulous picking apart of trends is just as fascinating as experiencing his fiction. Gibson's sense of excitement and wonder are infectious, his attention to detail is razor keen, and his open-mindedness is inspiring. I was a fan of Gibson's work before Distrust That Particular Flavor, but I am now a fan of Gibson the man.
This is essential reading, not just for Gibson fans, but for anyone fascinated by the bizarrely intricate roller-coaster world we are living in.
Note on Amazon Kindle version: One chapter refers to pictures that do not appear. The Kindle version gets a "D". Amazon needs to get it's act together.
Perhaps that ability flows from his grasp of one of the recurring tropes that appear in these pieces. "All cultural change is essentially technologically driven," Gibson believes, a point he illustrates in "Googling the Cyborg," a speech delivered to the Vancouver Institute in 2006. In it, he describes what he calls the "Steam Engine Moment," a recognition that certain ideas have been around for a long time, but only blossom when they're destined to do so. He's less interested in the construction of physical robots as he is in the way our interactions with electronic media are creating what he calls an "Augmented Reality," offering us something approaching the universal library imagined by one of his literary heroes, Jose Luis Borges, for whose LABYRINTHS he contributed a preface that appears here ("A ridiculously unearned honor, to be asked to do this. I'm still embarrassed.").
Of writing about the future, Gibson told an audience at BookExpo America in 2010 that "imaginary futures are always, regardless of what the authors might think, about the day in which they're written." That's as true of George Orwell's NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, he argues, as it is of Gibson's own novel, NEUROMANCER, set in the 2030s, and published in the same year as Orwell's nightmare vision. He makes a similar point in an essay on H.G. Wells and his story, THE TIME MACHINE.
"Time moves in one direction, memory in another," Gibson observes of another one of his fascinations --- the notion, reflected as long ago as the time of the ancient cave painters, that ours is "that strange species that constructs artifacts to counter the natural flow of forgetting." In more than one piece, he notes, with an almost childlike awe, that we can turn on the radio or television and summon dead people back to life.
Gibson's travel pieces, revealing him as something of an idiosyncratic travel writer, are among the most entertaining ones here. "Disneyland with the Death Penalty" is his portrait of 1993-vintage Singapore, a "relentlessly G-rated experience, micromanaged by a state that has the look and feel of a very large corporation," and a place where economists can be tried for revealing the country's growth rate or a man sentenced to death for importing one kilogram of marijuana. He has a special affinity for Japan, the setting for some of his fiction, and a country he describes as "the global imagination's default setting for the future," even after the bursting of its economic bubble.
Although Gibson's writing doesn't typically veer too far into the personal, there's an amusing, if overlong, article for Wired, "My Obsession," recounting his fascination with bidding on mechanical watches on eBay. He also confesses his love of the music of Steely Dan ("Any `Mount of World"), describes an abiding affection for the city of London ("Metrophagy") and confesses, most shockingly, in "The Net is a Waste of Time," that at least as of 1996 he didn't use email ("In all truth, I have avoided it because am lazy and enjoy staring blankly into space...and because unanswered mail, e- or otherwise, is a source of discomfort.").
Gibson is nothing if not humble, as he reveals in an Introduction that explains how he came to the writing vocation. Admitting he's not entirely comfortable making the transition from fiction to nonfiction, he concedes he has "often felt as though I'm applying latex paint to the living room walls with a toothbrush." One especially enjoyable feature of the collection are the comments, ranging from a sentence or two to a few paragraphs, that Gibson appends to each of the pieces, reflecting on their provenance or the circumstances of their creation.
William Gibson doesn't reveal any preternatural gift here for gazing into the distant future with startling clarity. Instead, he has been blessed with an even more valuable talent: the ability to keenly observe the present and show us how the changes it's already spawning someday will insinuate themselves into our lives.
Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg
And I'm still waiting for the garage Kubrick to emerge.
Yet I didn't follow his nonfiction unless it happened to occur by surprise in something I was reading for a totally different reason (an issue of Rolling Stone, for example). And I couldn't get into his blog for the same reason I couldn't get into most people's blogs: it seemed like a waste of time, sometimes, when there is already too little time in my life, and though it was free and his books were not, the blog was not a hit of the Gibson fiction I was jones-ing for. It wasn't that his blogging wasn't interesting, but it was that *everyone* had a blog. If I were going to read his, then why not the blogs of dozens of other authors I admire? But doing that would leave me no time to read their actual *fiction*. I can't say I was surprised when Gibson stopped blogging and stated it was because it interfered with his writing fiction. I thought: Yeah, the OTHER reason I don't read people's blogs: because if they're writing them, and I'm reading them, not only don't I have time to read their novels, they're _not_ writing novels -- they're blogging.
Gibson continued to write books that, despite being rather different in prose-style from the novels that first put him on the map, still managed to tap into the kind of chronic unease and disconnection of our super-connected post 9/11 world with a more "normal" prose style... the better to insinuate the characters' predicaments and personalities into your head and have you thinking about them days after you finished the novel, just like with the first three cyberspace novels.
I saw the documentary "No Maps For These Territories" back in the early 00s, and Gibson readily admitted that fans often ask him why he doesn't write something like Neuromancer again. His startlingly upfront and honest answer was that he is not the person he was, when he was writing Neuromancer -- so he _can't_ write stuff like Neuromancer again. Fortunately I'm not one of the fans who found this disappointing, because I found the Bigend/Blue Ant trilogy of Pattern Recognition, Spook Country and Zero History among his most haunting work. (I admit the prose of the last trilogy is much more accessible to the average reader than that of Neuromancer or the rest of the Sprawl trilogy. Hell, it's much more accessible to _me_, though less challenging. With Neuromancer alone, I wished for a glossary like the one provided with my 1970s dog-eared copy of Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, which I bogarted from my older brother).
So I had high hopes for this collection and, intentionally unfamiliar with his blogging and published nonfiction, I guess I hoped for non-fiction in a similar vein to his fiction. And it IS nonfiction in the style of his fiction, more often than not. But, maybe because I find his prose so fantastic and have read and re-read all of his books multiple times, I was somewhat underwhelmed by this collection of Gibson's nonfiction work. He has a sharp eye for observation and an interesting analysis on everything he writes about. But it just wasn't as compelling for me as his novels. Some pieces are incredibly short. The inherent interest and content varies quite widely from piece to piece. The entire thing is worth reading, but it doesn't feel like it coheres, somehow. It was just missing something for me -- missing his fiction, I guess.
I found the whole experience of being underwhelmed by this book rather odd, because Gibson tends to include so much ADD-ish contextual details and information in his fiction, that it seems counterintuitive that his nonfiction would fail to be less than compelling for me. (I say "ADD-ish contextual details" as someone with ADD myself, which may be why I always liked his densely packed prose.) And he does that here, but somehow it didn't evoke as much for me -- it didn't pull at my psyche, plant his characters in my mind for days after finishing a novel, didn't bring me to tears like his best work has (both in the Sprawl trilogy AND in the Bigend/Blue Ant trilogy). It did, however, often make me laugh out loud, which his fiction has also often done for me.
If you are a big Gibson fan, read through all the "Look Inside!" materials here on Amazon before you buy this. It will give you an idea, though not complete, of the nonfiction in the book. You may or may not want to read more. Personally, totally subjectively, I am sorry I didn't like this more than I did. However, Gibson's own introduction to Distrust That Particular Flavor explains a bit, I think, of my underwhelming reaction to this collection. I'm quoting here from the introduction ("Introduction: African Thumb Piano"). Discontinuous passages have "...." between them.
"The door into fiction-writing space began to open more easily, and more regularly. A huge amount of the thing is simply practice, but that practice, for me, had to be practice in the actual writing of fiction. The itch to become a writer could be scratched, I suspected, too easily, with other kinds of writing. Self-discipline never having been my strong suit, I became un-characteristically strict with myself about writing only fiction.
Which is why I have never felt entirely comfortable with the pieces collected here.
They are violations of that early prime directive. They aren't fiction. Worse, they somehow aren't quite nonfiction either, it feels to me, because they were written from the fiction-writing place, the only writing place I had, with fiction-writing tools, the only writing tools I had. I didn't feel adequately professional, writing nonfiction. I felt as thought I was being paid to solo on some instrument vaguely related to one I actually knew how to play.
I had had no formal training in journalism. The idea of keeping a diary or journal had always made me uncomfortable. The idea of direct, unfiltered autobiography made me even more uncomfortable. By the time I began to occasionally be asked to write nonfiction, the membrane surrounding the fiction-writing place had been sanded to a workable thinness, was porous. On a good working day, I watched as some largely unconscious process turned reality, or what passed for it, into fantasy. Which was what I had wanted, how I had wanted to make my living. To write nonfiction felt worryingly counter to that....
When I taught myself to write fiction, I eventually accepted that I had learned to do what passes for the writing of fiction when I'm the one doing it. The volume on the imposter-syndrome module decreased. Writing nonfiction, I've often felt as though I'm applying latex paint to the living room walls with a tooth-brush. The volume on the module shoots up. Perhaps people will assume that the resulting texture is deliberate. Perhaps not. Writing fiction is a unique activity for me, a neurological territory, an altered state. Writing nonfiction isn't, quite, but I'm gradually coming to accept that I've learned to do what passes for the writing of nonfiction when I'm the one doing it."
I guess my feeling on this collection is that I'm not entirely comfortable with these pieces. It's like listening to an accomplished musician attempt to play familiar, loved music on a totally unfamiliar instrument on which they weren't properly trained; there are hints of their talent and their response to the loved music, but it's clearly missing something they would be able to pull out if they were playing their preferred instrument. Apparently, for me, reading William Gibson's fiction is a unique activity for me, a neurological territory and altered state in which, not only do I find his nonfiction uncomfortable, but in a peculiar way, it feels like it's almost an interloper. A very peculiar problem for a fan -- one I wish I didn't have.
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