Sunday, 25 November 2007

Humiliating, crushing defeat...

I'm overjoyed this morning to have reached the end of the Howard Years in Australian politics. The time of huge cuts to higher education, children-overboard, Iraq, AWB, Work Choices, lack of action on climate change and a general meanness of spirit that has made it harder to be an Aussie.

I've been waiting for this since 1998 and GOD DAMN IT I'm so fucking happy now.

Let's just hope that Rudd and his team are up to the task, and can keep the masses onside without making too many compromises.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

The Plague, by Albert Camus

The Stranger, the The Fall and now - The Plague. This particular part of my journey through Camus' works has been proclaimed as his most successful and accessible novel. From the liner notes and introduction, it seemed it would be impossible not to treat this "fable" as an "allegory of France's suffering under the Nazi occupation".

In fact, it's not that hard at all to read this outside of the context in which it was penned. Whether you give thought to metaphor or not, this is still a story of the human condition. A story of the ignorance and denial which can allow tragedy to take hold, the varied reactions to said tragedy and the solidarity that people find in the struggle against it.

I feel that you could learn a great deal about people, their motivations and behavior, if you studied a book like this carefully enough. I'm not going to claim that I've done that. Something that struck me quite deeply toward the end was Camus' description of happiness returning at full speed after such a long exile:

"Rambert realised that everything would be given back to him in a single moment and that joy is a searing emotion that cannot be savoured."

I've never lived through anything like The Plague that besets the town of Oran, but this description of happiness struck me as a great truth.

Anyway, enough ranting.. It's time for me to read something fun and light-hearted.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Spook Country, by William Gibson

The master of cyberpunk and modern lexicon, the man who coined the term cyberspace, has left me wanting more. Again.

Spook Country manages to skillfully combine a number of diverse elements such as indie rock and celebrity, locative art, LA, NY, espionage in post-9/11 USA and the viral marketing company Blue Ant (which also featured in Pattern Recognition). It's a tale of the world that is hidden beneath the surface of the everday, something that is symbolised very well by the locative art installations - art that can be viewed at various locations using GPS and a VR headset. Only somebody with a headset and a wi-fi connection would know they are walking past River Phoenix's dead body outside the Viper Room in LA.

When Pattern Recognition was released, Neil Gaiman appeared on the book's accolades stating that "Gibson casts a master extrapolator's eye on our present, and shows it to us as if for the first time". This is the real beauty of both that book and this new one. The 2006 that Gibson is showing us in Spook Country is real - a world of IPod's, GPS, viral marketing, etc.

While the plot itself is not earth-shattering, it's such a super-cool and interesting tale that you can't help but turn the pages quickly as the threads of each character's story converge. I felt myself wishing I could somehow be a part of this world beneath the surface of everyday mundanity, and when the book ended I really felt that it was all over too soon.

I think I'm going to go back and read Pattern Recognition again!