thoughts on william gibson's pattern recognition

I recently finished reading Pattern Recognition for the second (or maybe third) time.

  • I was struck by the way Gibson has used obsession as a recurring theme throughout his work, somehow PR just crystallised that observation. I imagine his own obsessions such as buying watches on eBay drove their inclusion in his work, but you never know how things feed back and forth.
  • I think one of my favourite moments in PR actually happens outside the narrative - seeking out a jeweller to grind the brands off her jeans studs.
  • I can't help wondering what Cayce Pollard would think about iPods :) Would she have seen the phenominon approaching? How would see pick the end of its reign?

Then - literally the day after I finished reading the book - I happened upon Joe Clark's 'PR-otaku' page, which annotates PR. I found myself jotting down my own notes and reactions to the annotations....

Bigend is almost making sense here, but the entire narrative of Pattern Recognition disproves the LEAVE IT OUT ON THE WINDOWSILL AND SOMEBODY'LL COME ALONG AND IMPROVE it theory.

To some extent PR suggests more that leave it on the windowsill and someone will find it and mess with it or perhaps, leave it....and people will obsess over it. In many cases 'good or bad' are purposely made irrelevant. eg. Cayce's assertion about the first logo candidate - she is not emotional about whether the roll of carpet is blue, it simply is blue.

Similarly... she ends up dealing with many people who could be considered bad, even evil. But they simply *happen*, they happen to Cayce, they happen to the story. Many of them leave the story without any emotional investment. Baranov, Dorotea, the first travel consultant, Boone, the twins' father... they make extreme impacts but leave the narrative with the most cursory of flickers. Even the ones who may even have been killed.

Is Cayce really gonna remember the word Claymore later on?

Well she can spot a Prada item and identify the specific year/collection at a glance. Claymore is basically a brand so it makes sense that she would remember the brand.

Now the bullshit part: "[S]he might have told them she was weeping for her century, though whether the one past or the one present she doesn't know."

Yeah that bit is bullshit. Cayce cares on the individual level, her time is measured according to Cayce Central Standard and yearly collections. She wouldn't refer to a time in centuries, a period of time that long would be meaningless to her. Unless of course she has been infected by a mirror-world obsession with age.

[T]hree men, variously jacketed, their collars up, staring gravely into the open trunk of a small and uncharacteristically old mirror-world car. Not like Marcellus and Vincent gazing into the Kiss Me Deadly-esque glowing suitcase in Pulp Fiction, shurely?!

Hehehe.... both moments perfectly demonstrate the idea of McGuffin. Although it leads neatly into a theme of the extreme personal value given to objects by afficionados. eg. Cayce and her Rickson's jacket, Damien and the redesign of his apartment, all the footageheads, Voytek and his ZX81s, Taki's otaku coven and their love of pure information... and so on.

A meme that's worth the price of admission all by itself: The Tommy Hilfiger event horizon. But Tommy surely is the null point, the black hole [of diluted faux-patrician fashion labels]. There must be some Tommy Hilfiger event horizon, beyond which it is impossible to be more derivative, more removed from the source, more devoid of soul. Or so she hopes, and doesn?t know, but suspects in her heart that this in fact is what accounts for his long ubiquity.

Gibson really did sum up everything I always thought about Tommy Hilfinger.


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