Friday, September 24, 2010

Zero History

I'm reading William Gibson's Zero History.  I have a feeling it will be highly regarded. I had that feeling even before it came out. I'm usually right too. Do you get that? I just feel when the time is right for the world to pay attention to a particular artist now.

Gibson may even be on top of his game, word-smith wise. Beautiful, balanced prose, though deceptively simple.

But it is one of the few books where I may give in and read a text version instead of the audio version, the reason being that it's less accessible than usual, he uses so many ten-dollar words. Within a couple of randomly selected pages these words appear: scrimshawed, scimitar, gutta-percha, cartouches, liminal, ferrule... I mean, sure he writes for a literate, perhaps even literary, audience, but geez...     

But then one of the perks of reading ebooks is that looking up a word is quick and easy. In the Kindle app, you just hold your finger on a word, and a definition pops ups instantly.

So it turns out he was making a trilogy (wonder if he knew it), the "Blue Ant trilogy". The first one, Pattern Recognition, was one of my favorites ever. The second one I didn't care for too much, can't even recall the title now. 
And the funny thing is that I can't explain, not even to myself, why my liking for them is so different, I can't point to any concrete differences which would cause it. It's just something in the whole tone or feel... very nebulous.
But i think it may have something to do with whether I like the characters. Whether they feel real, solid. Likeable. Interesting. Somebody I'd like to meet. 


Alex said...

Scrimshawed kinda sounds like a word I know, and has an inference.

Scimitar - nice car, also a fancy blade
Ferrule - Umbrella bit.

The others are reach for the dictionary things. Oh, Liminal as in sub-liminal.

eolake said...

[sim-i-ter] Show IPA
a curved, single-edged sword of Oriental origin.

Liminal means something like "near an edge". And I'm not sure I understand his use of it here, it refers to some watercolor paintings in a hotel hallway, their style is "too liminal"... Huh?

Alex said...

Merriam Webster Collegiate (on-line)
Definition of LIMINAL
1: of or relating to a sensory threshold
2: barely perceptible
3: of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition : in-between, transitional

Anonymous said...

Scrimshaw is the art of carving on bone or tusk. Lovely work and what I have seen is mostly nautical in style.

Ferrule is also a part of a fishing rod and I think a general term could be called a guide.

Gutta-percha was an early material used in golf balls.

The context he used the words in should make his meaning understandable. I like this sort of writing, as it pushes me to get an understanding of how rich the English language is.

Thank you for the link and I will be reading his work.

PS Working on a Mac you can hover the cursor ovr a word and press Control+Command+D (d) and the dictionary will bring up a definition.

eolake said...

Yes, it's lovely, but it only works in Apple's own apps. (Or perhaps in cocoa apps.)

Like when doing drag/drop, I have to remember when it's an Apple app, to wait a second. This is a feature, not a bug, in cocoa apps, to make sure you mean it, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Damn man, I am still struggling to get a handle on Safari, let alone trying other apps or browsers.
My "Best if by" date expired a couple of years ago.

ganesha games said...

A ferrule is also the metal part of a painting brush, which holds the brush hair together.

neeraj said...

"ferrum" is the Latin word for "iron". So, I guess, "ferrule" is a composite word of "ferrum" and "capsule", like "ferroconcrete" is a composite of "ferrum" and "concrete" ... my English-German dictionary gives me some expressions leading to that suggestion.

Oh, and my "Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English" says:

"metal ring or cap placed on the end of a stick (e.g. of an umbrella) or tube; band strentghening or forming a joint."

Bruce said...

Zero History completes William Gibson's third trilogy! Neoromancer was part of the first trilogy, Virtual Light was part of the second one.

eolake said...

Yes indeed.
In both of those trilogies I liked them all, but liked the second and third books even better than the first ones.
(Not that I think this means anything. Particularly since they are all very readable.)