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Message started by Gary A. Markette on Jan 10th, 2013, 1:26am

Title: Ever happen to you?
Post by Gary A. Markette on Jan 10th, 2013, 1:26am

I recently re-started reading Neuromancer--the cyberpunk 80's - 90's hit by William Gibson. I remember trying to read this when it first came out and giving up in disgust. Same thing happened this time. Look, I KNOW this is supposed to be a great book. I KNOW it influenced sci-fi movies tremendously (The Matrix; Johnny Mnemonic; many others). I KNOW that I'm supposed to like it.

I don't.

I think it pretentious and needlessly convoluted. Try as I might, I can't find a STORY. The character names seem too cutesy for such a "serious" treatment of future-shock. The writing is well crafted--Gibson knows what he's doing wih technique--but I just can't seem to wrap myself in the tale.

Ever have that happen to you? You pick up a book that EVERYONE says is "important," "a classic," "seminal to the genre." and you don't like it? How's that make you feel? Makes me feel like maybe I need to re-evaluate my preferences . . .

Title: Re: Ever happen to you?
Post by Webbie on Jan 11th, 2013, 12:59pm

Yep, it's happened to me also, not sure if it happened twice with the same book but it has happened. Mostly with vampire stories that aren't about vampires. Instead they are about the love life of, or the drama of, or some other, what seems to me, to be irrelevant fluff set in a vampire setting.

Title: Re: Ever happen to you?
Post by gschaade on Jan 12th, 2013, 3:17pm

I could never get into Thomas Pynchon's "V." Too many characters and too many story lines. I had read "The Crying of Lot 49" and greatly enjoyed it so "V." was very disappointing. I tried Joyce's "Ulysses" but I guess stream of consciousness isn't my bag. I started the Harry Potter books but soon learned why so many preteens liked them. The writing style just couldn't hold my attention.

Title: Re: Ever happen to you?
Post by Jeangoldstrom on Jan 12th, 2013, 8:59pm

Gary, you are so right about Neuromancer. I could not get any meaning out of it either.

And gschaade, I remember _trying_ to reach Pynchon's "V," and thinking What planet is this guy writing about? It's not the one where I live.

There were a lot of articles about the author of Catcher in the Rye when he died a year or so ago. In one of them, I read that two or three book critics (ones from major NY papers) got together and decided this was great stuff -- and their preachments convinced their fellow reviewers to fall into line, thus "a star is born." I thought Catcher was a charmer when I read it, but from what I see on the Net, today's students contemplate suicide as a desirable alternative to having to read Catcher at school. spoke to its era, I think -- but apparently not to this one. And it's status as a cultural icon was somewhat manufactured.

I wonder if Pynchon and Gibson had something like this going for them?

I remember when I was a reporter for a daily in Baltimore, our film critic would not review a film until she read what Pauline Kael had to say about it, and then she, too, fell into line.

Hm...."makes one think, eh, Hastings?" as (I think it is) Poirot would say.

Title: Re: Ever happen to you?
Post by ente per ente on Jan 13th, 2013, 9:52pm

Actually, when I read for the first time Neuromancer,  by  Gibson, for sure I didn't find  it an  easy read...there  was  a wide usage of  the Latin construction "accusativus respectus" ("accusative of respect"), that reminded myself of  the old  difficult  Greek  versions/playwrights  while  back  at school... and in fact it  took me  some years before I  read  again another book by  him...but once I got accustomed to it, well, I really  became a big  fan of that  author as I liked the  cyber-future  depicted in his  works  and    I  appreciated  his style more and more, indeed... :) :)

And  it was a great book, surely, just waiting to become  a  movie sooner or later, as far as I know  or  as  I read on internet  news from time to time... :)

Title: Re: Ever happen to you?
Post by Jeangoldstrom on Jan 14th, 2013, 2:15pm

ente per ente, I salute your perseverance in the struggle with Gibson. It seems it really paid off for you -- bravo! I have not got that kind of stick-to-it-iveness, sad to say. Even Faulkner is difficult to read, IMO. His works make me think of slogging through wet cement, knee deep. It amazes me that he was at one time a best-selling author. But I believe that was in the 1920s. At that time, there was no radio, far less TV or Internet. So for recreation people could...go bowling or read, I guess. It was a good time for writers.

And how about PHilip K. Dick? He ranges from wonderful to incomprehensible -- at least to me.

Title: Re: Ever happen to you?
Post by J. Davidson Hero on Jan 14th, 2013, 9:03pm

I agree it can be a bit of a slog just to read through some of these books, let alone give yourself enough background on what the author was doing artistically, or enough of the historical, social, and political contexts to be able to fully appreciate them.   Some of the mentioned authors are pushing the boundaries of fiction as an art form as well as exploring the human condition and are probably less concerned about spinning a good yarn that's entertaining for every reader. If that was their goal, they would have been writing to the lowest common denominator and turning out Hollywood-level tripe that we wouldn't be talking about today.  It's the innovative stuff that stands the test of time, and in 1984 Neuromancer was innovative.

I had a professor in college who was both a Pynchon and a Joyce scholar and I'm sure he could easily and in an entertaining way give us all a better understanding of the various levels of meaning and the complex artistry of the works of both authors.  20 years after taking his classes I'd be very hard-pressed to say much of anything meaningful about those books here myself without re-reading them, (and I don't think that would be much easier this time around) but I do and always will have a sense of the importance of those books.  Neuromancer as well.  It ushered in the era of cyberpunk and along with some other concurrent novels/stories changed Science Fiction in the 1980s. Would we think about Cyberspace, computer hackers, and AIs the way we do today if not for Gibson's Neuromancer?  

In the end I don't think you have to like or enjoy any of these particular books, but I think you can still appreciate that they are important.  Now in your specific case, Gary, if you want to be a cyberpunk expert and writer and therefore feel you must embrace the genre's seminal work, I still don't think it's a problem if you just don't like Neuromancer.  Many great writers/artists have created great works by rebelling against the works that came before them that the critics and scholars all touted.  Maybe you have the great anti-Neuromancer novel bouncing around in your brain at this very moment.  

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