It’s not yet a week into the New Year, but I’m thinking that 2014 could be a good one.
One of the reasons why I am feeling particularly optimistic is that two of my all time favourite writers will release new books this year. New novels from David Mitchell and William Gibson are occasions for rejoicing in my opinion and very much worth the wait for their publication whenever that may be.
David Mitchell’s new novel is called The Bone Clocks and is described thus:
‘This “rich and strange” novel will follow the story of Holly Sykes, who runs away from home in 1984 and 60 years later can be found in the far west of Ireland, raising a granddaughter as the world’s climate collapses.”
In between, Holly is encountered as a barmaid in a Swiss resort by an undergraduate sociopath in 1991; has a child with a foreign correspondent covering the Iraq War in 2003; and, widowed, becomes the confidante of a self-obsessed author of fading powers and reputation during the present decade. Holly’s life is repeatedly intersected by a slow-motion war between a cult of predatory soul-decanters and a band of vigilantes. Holly begins as an unwitting pawn in this war – but may prove to be its decisive weapon.
The publisher (Sceptre) said: “The arc of a life, a social seismograph, a fantasy of shadows and an inquiry into aging, mortality and survival, The Bone Clocks could only have been written by David Mitchell.”
Sounds good doesn’t it? But you’ll have to wait until early September to read it.
Over the past two mornings I have been watching on my iPad a long interview with William Gibson that was recorded at the New York Public Library in April 2013. I hadn’t known about this interview until I noticed a reference to it on The Guardian Books Blog recently, where readers of the blog were asked what books they were looking forward to in 2014. As soon as I saw the recommendation for William Gibson’s new book, apparently titled The Peripheral, I followed the link and watched an excerpt of the interview where Gibson reads a few pages from the first chapter entitled The Gone Haptics. I was so riveted by the excerpt that I felt compelled to watch the whole video. It is 1 hour 41 minutes long, but a really fascinating and revealing glimpse into the mind and methods of the acclaimed writer.
Rather than me describing it, there’s a good review of the interview on The Awl . However, it doesn’t mention some bits of the interview that I found really interesting.
William Gibson is an original prose stylist, his style being smart, dry and crisp with apt analogies. During the course of the interview, part of a track from Bruce Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town is played. The ensuing conversation was a revelation for me and also one of those moments when you say to yourself “Of course!” Gibson’s style is to literature what Springsteen’s lyrics are music.
PAUL HOLDENGRÄBER: Speaking of music, let’s listen to something.
(Bruce Springsteen, “Darkness on the Edge of Town”)
PAUL HOLDENGRÄBER: So you’ve said of this album that it had quite an important influence in some way, that’s Springsteen, and this album of Springsteen in particular. How so?
WILLIAM GIBSON: Around the same time I was looking—looking for an arena that I could write science fiction in, I was looking for voices that resonated for me that I had never encountered in my reading of science fiction and in that album I found that really abundantly. I mean, I would listen to that I think what I thought was, “Wow, what if there was a kind of science fiction in which this is the voice of the protagonist?”
Gibson goes on to say that “when I started trying to put my own science fiction together, it wasn’t as though these characters were springing fully formed from my brow, I couldn’t even figure out how to do characters, but Springsteen, who is a superb writer of fiction, a superb writer of fiction as a lyricist, and an absolute master of terse but intense characterization gave me, gave me that and, you know, I studied him very carefully, and Lou Reed as well..”
The above conversation was about William Gibson’s first novel Neuromancer wherein he is credited with coining the term “cyberspace” and is hailed as the Godfather of Cyberpunk. Gibson explains in the interview how he came up with the word cyberspace...
Dataspace didn’t work, and infospace didn’t work. Cyberspace. It sounded like it meant something, or it might mean something, but as I stared at it in red Sharpie on a yellow legal pad, my whole delight was that I knew that it meant absolutely nothing.
Anyway, if you’ve read William Gibson’s novels or not, I highly recommend watching the interview. William Gibson comes across as modest, humorous and quirky, and talks just like he writes.
Another book that I have been awaiting for over 8 years is a special edition of John Crowley’s wondrous novel Little, Big.
Yes, the Little, Big 25th Anniversary Edition, is by all accounts almost at the printing stage and will - cross fingers - be published this year. I subscribed to this edition way back in February 2005 and have been waiting patiently over the ensuing time. I’m sure it will be worth it – a book of superlative beauty and highly collectable.
By a curious coincidence, I learned of this edition on the William Gibson message board back in 2003/04, where Ron Drummond who is the publisher Incunabula and also the editor of the new edition, mentioned it in passing on one of the active threads at the time.
So that’s three things I am anticipating in 2014. What other thrills await me?
For a start, I’m heading off with a friend to Bendigo this Wednesday on a day outing, ostensibly to see the Modern Love Exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery. We’re utilising one of our Senior’s free travel vouchers, so it will be a bit of an adventure. I haven’t visited Bendigo for decades, if ever. And there is a Space Age Books connection. The Director of Bendigo Art Gallery is Karen Quinlan, whom my friend and I both knew when she and her sisters worked at Space Age in the 1970s/80s.
Gibson photo credit Michael O’Shea