I wrote previously about IDing a cover of a book I own from several seconds of noticing it as set-dressing in an unrelated production. Watching Law & Order recently, I caught a new one:
L&O S4E14 "Censure"
Yep, that's Lt. Anita Van Buren, under cover and reading a copy of the 1974 Bantam printing of Gravity's Rainbow. A book I owned for years.
I put down that book in sheer exasperation more times than I could count. When I moved, I finally realized that if I was going to ever read the damn thing, it would be on an eReader and I sold my copy, along with 75% of my library.
I watched the hell out of PBS's Ghostwriter as a kid, and I saw this episode below long before I knew who William Gibson (or, for that matter, Julia Stiles) was. Coming back to it, I find it a little weird that a kids' show would have a pre-teen character mentioning that she read Neuromancer. Yeah, the episode was the Internet Special of the series and she's supposed to be a bit of a delinquent -- can you guess who turns out to be the hacker? -- but that book is a chorus line of sex, drugs and violence. I wonder if this is one of those cases wherein whoever was supposed to check these things probably thought it was just some run-of-the-mill/made-up SF novel and let it slide. Either way, damn if I don't wish I had paid more attention and picked up the book when I was nine rather than nineteen. I'd be a millionaire by now. Or in a Turkish prison. Maybe both.
One of the first serious, popular looks at Philip K. Dick's work was this Rolling Stone profile from 1973. It was even featured on the cover, right under the cover article on Rod Stewart. Besides the reporting, the article featured this beautiful splash page. The scattered pills, the yin-yang necklace, the nightmarish file cabinet and that it's-not-there-it's-not-there-it's-not-there glance on PKD really make it for me.
Before I read PKD or Gibson or Ellis or Stephenson or any weird-ass author I can refer to as my favorite, there was William Sleator. I remember obtaining the first novel of his I read -- Interstellar Pig -- through one of those order-by-mail school book clubs. After that, I exhausted my local library's surprisingly well-stocked collection of his novels. Well, not that surprisingly; two of the librarians (the ones I would go there to hang out with) were pretty big on SF.
His novels were really unlike most young adult SF I'd read until that point. They were brutal: things changed for the young men and women involved, and they didn't always change for the best. People fought, people died, entire lives were altered by the choices of kids not who weren't too different from me. Endings weren't necessarily happy, and a moral ambiguity penetrated every action. In his 1974 Baby's-First-Kafka novel House of Stairs, a group of children were practically tortured with no savior in sight, left to suffer or escape by their own device. There was an independence to his novels that no other author could capture for me. For better or worse, nothing could stop a Sleator protagonist except themselves.
William Sleator died two days ago, at 66. But his books will live on and hopefully inspire more kids toward science and independence.
I played a lot of graphic adventure games as a kid. You remember the kind: you type (or, click, in the later ones) in what you want to do -- OPEN DOOR -- and the little guy on the screen opens the door. I was also universally bad at them. The Hugo games, Day of the Tentacle, The Dig, the lot of, I could get through the first act and that's about it. I'd watch my cousin, two years older, play Myst and Return to Zork and he could get through them pretty well. In college, I managed to get through two acts of Grim Fandango, if I remember correctly. Later, when ScummVM came out, I tried picking up a few games again -- Beneath a Steel Sky, Rise of the Dragon, the original Sam and Max, a re-try of Day of the Tentacle -- and I was as bad as I ever was. I absolutely loved these sorts of games, but they just weren't for me.
Which is why I am glad as hell this giant-ass tome exists. I have been ripping through it like nobody's business these last few days. The entries aren't simple reviews, but in-depth write-ups by people who clearly not just love the hell out of the individual games, but the history and craftsmanship of the adventure game. Not one entry exists in a vacuum, and the entries go into great detail about individual aspects of the game such as Gabriel Knight 3's infamous cat hair puzzle.
Anyhow, I can't suggest this book any harder. It's 770 pages of wonderful.
I have been totally hooked on this Vector Lovers (a.k.a. Martin Wheeler) track for a while now. So you enjoy it, too.
Also, you should totally pick up the just-released @FakeAPStylebook humorous joke-style book Write More Good. Here is @FakeAPStylebook/Write More Good contributor and creator of Armagideon Time (not to mention my friend and occasional COLG guest-poster) Andrew Weiss posing with a copy. Line his pockets with your filthy lucre, folks.
In February 1986, William Gibson sold the film rights to Neuromancer to Cabana Boys Production for $100,000 (if I remember correctly from a blog entry I can no longer locate and/or may be fabricating, he bought himself a new kitchen.) The rest of the story lays in this tax court document:
The company name was based on the fact that it was started by Ashley Tyler and Jeffrey Kinart, a pair of honest-to-goodness Beverly Hills cabana boys. The money came from the coffers of Mrs. Deborah Rosenberg (via her husband, renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Victor Rosenberg,) who the cabana boys met during the couple's stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel. They secured Timothy Leary and William Gibson himself as consultants and the film was to be written by Earl Mac Rauch, who previously penned the 1984 Peter Weller/John Lithgow postmodern pulp film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. The Cabana Boys Production of Neuromancer became the first failed production of the novel in what would eventually be a long line of failed attempts at adaptation. All that remains is this pre-pre-production promo featuring all the players mentioned above:
After nine splendid years of headaches, sore throats and money thrown toward my own demise, I've decided to Stop Smoking. Period. I spent the entire day on campus wearing a nicotine patch and it has been considerably less harsh than I thought it would be. I've “quit” twice before. The first time was a January several years back; it was a month-long group challenge of resolve, inspired by needing a month of recuperation from a December spent in the guise of Hedonismbot. The second time was just a few months ago when I stopped smoking for a week due to being more sick than I had ever been sick before. I was fine, honestly, until I had to actually leave the house and go to school, where I found myself surrounded by the vice. I gave in before the withdrawal tics turned me into a someone's Modern Dance thesis project.
...and now I'm done. Fin. Kaput. I swear that I will not turn into an evangelist and will still be as fervently pro-smoker's rights as I have ever been. I leave you with a small excerpt from David Sedaris' quitting essay “Letting Go” and one of the more bizarre Disney shorts I found while researching for this post on MetaFilter.
It’s one thing to give up smoking, and another to become a former smoker. That’s what I would be the moment I left the bar, and so I lingered awhile, looking at my garish disposable lighter and the crudded-up aluminum ashtray. When I eventually got up to leave, Hugh pointed out that I had five cigarettes left in my pack.
“Are you just going to leave them there on the table?”
I answered with a line I’d got years ago from a German woman. Her name was Tini Haffmans, and though she often apologized for the state of her English, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any better. When it came to verb conjugation, she was beyond reproach, but every so often she’d get a word wrong. The effect was not a loss of meaning but a heightening of it. I once asked if her neighbor smoked, and she thought for a moment before saying, “Karl has . . . finished with his smoking.”
She meant, of course, that he had quit, but I much preferred her mistaken version. “Finished” made it sound as if he’d been allotted a certain number of cigarettes, three hundred thousand, say, delivered at the time of his birth. If he’d started a year later or smoked more slowly, he might still be at it, but, as it stood, he had worked his way to the last one, and then moved on with his life. This, I thought, was how I would look at it. Yes, there were five more Kool Milds in that particular pack, and twenty-six cartons stashed away at home, but those were extra—an accounting error. In terms of my smoking, I had just finished with it.
I've had a New Yorker subscription for nearly a decade now and the single best humor writer I have read is Simon Rich. He has all the qualities of an author I would generally despise, for both aesthetic and personal reasons: preciousness, McSweeney's-style absurdity with double the wordcount, an age within two years of my own. And yet, even without looking at the byline, his pieces crack me up like no one else's in the magazine. Here is an excerpt from "Hey, Look", a log of imagined eavesdropping:
“Hey, look, that kid is reading ‘Howl,’ by Allen Ginsberg.”
“Wow. He must be some kind of rebel genius.”
“I’m impressed by the fact that he isn’t trying to call attention to himself.”
“Yeah, he’s just sitting silently in the corner, flipping the pages and nodding, with total comprehension.”
“It’s amazing. He’s so absorbed in his book that he isn’t even aware that a party is going on around him, with dancing and fun.”
“Why aren’t any girls going over and talking to him?”
“I guess they’re probably a little intimidated by his brilliance.”
“Well, who wouldn’t be?”
“I’m sure the girls will talk to him soon.”
“It’s only a matter of time.”
If your formative years were anything like my own, that should sound embarrassingly familiar. Here is the rest of his work for the New Yorker:
Dashiell Hammett wrote two seminal hardboiled detective fiction novels: Red Harvest and The Glass Key. The Glass Key was later made into two films; one in 1935 and another much more popular version in in 1942. The noir stylings of the 1942 version were used as the visual/thematic basis for the 1946 Bogart classic The Big Sleep, based on the Raymond Chandler novel.
The Big Sleep was then used as the framework for the Coen Brothers' film The Big Lebowski. That's not all for the Coen Brothers, however. A line of dialogue in Red Harvest was used as the title for their film Blood Simple and The Glass Key was used as the plot source for Miller's Crossing.
Akira Kurosawa's classic ronin film Yojimbo had two big influences. The plot clearly came from either The Glass Key or Red Harvest, depending on who you ask. The visual styling came from classic American Western films. The favor would be returned when Sergio Leone remade it as the Spaghetti Western A Fistful of Dollars. Yojimbo would later be taken back to its Prohibition-era roots when remade again as the Bruce Willis action-noir Last Man Standing.