Printer Friendly

Virtual Light.

Gravity's Rainbow

Can we talk? I mean, meat to meat, without goggles or gloves or Microsoft brain socket?

Tired of hauling itself around, meat dreams of flying, like a fax. Gravity sucks. Slugabed in the romper room, tethered to an all-news War Porn channel, flatlined by the adman/music-video consumer grid, home-shopping for friendship in the beer commercials, reading a Heavy Metal comic "sampling" on the CD carousel a customized sequence of Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore and Tom Petty's Jamming Me, even crouched in front of our very own software, as if it were a harpsichord, on-line and down-linked to all the other ghosts in the machine, jacked in instead of jacking off--we imagine, through the looking glass, inside where the information is, a weightless fourth dimension, some sort of Surf's Up, maybe a raft for Huck and Jim. We long for and intuit a digitized Xanadu: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

I'm the local stringer for Ceres Datacom network. I hold citizenship in it, though legally speaking it's sometimes more convenient to be treated as wholly owned depreciable hardware. Our life is information--even money is infomration. Our money and our life are one and the same. (Bruce Sterling, Schismatrix)

This is cyberspace. It was cartographed for the first time by William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer (1984) and elaborated thereafter in Count Zero (1986) and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988). It is an elsewhere dream of meat emancipated--into a "consensual hallucination" of the glowing cores and burning grids and neon clouds and crystal nerves and singing spheres of a Universe of Information; pyramids and shopping malls of data; the havens of the Matrix. All of Gibson's heroes are computer hackers, who project their "disembodied consciousness" into this 3-D chessboard "nonspace of the mind." Usually, they are thieves, doing mercenary work "for other wealthier thieves, employers who provided the exotic software required to penetrate the bright walls of corporate systems, opening windows into rich fields of data." But what they find beyond the "green cubes" of Mitsubishi banks and the logarithmic "spiral arms" of the military intelligence agencies, in the middle of their "fluid neon origami trick" of levitation, is the rush of warp velocity. These thrill-seeking cowboy cybernauts, biker buttonheads, "new age mutuant ninja hackers," all of them, are speed freaks. With no place to stand, suggests Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., co-editor of Science-Fiction Studies, they "must move, always move."

Understanding this is all imaginary. Other science-friction writers, before, during and after Gibson's trilogy, have also dreamed their way into what they called the Grid, Net, Web or Matrix, but none so lyrically. It's no longer possible to imagine computer space at all, embodied data, except on Gibson's terms. And his buddies hardly bother. Except for Pat Cadigan, to whom I'll return, theyhre a tight bunch of Wild Boys, anyway--Bruce Sterling, Larry McCaffery, John Shirley, Sam Delany, Lewis Shiner, Marc Laidlaw, Rudy Rucker--so white and middle class that maybe hacking in a form of suburban flight. As coltish coterie writers always have, they slum together, moving in a mass like long-maned ungulates from Texas to the coasts and back again, celebrating one another in interviews, anthologies and blurbs. If, on the evidence of their most recent novels, Gibson's Virtual Light and Sterling's Islands in the Net, a few have wearied of the repetition-complusion, this is what they get for having made the cover of Time, for having inspired an Oliver Stone TV miniseries, for having rippled the Net.

First you see video. Then you wear video. Then you eat video. Then you be video. (Pat Cadigan, "Pretty Boy Crossover")

Because cyberspace itself has become a commodity, bought and sold on the concept exchange of sci-fi, hackerdom, pomo academe and crash clubs. From it derives the whole idea of cyberpunk. As Herb Caen in the fifties, in the San Francisco Chronicle, coined "beatnik" to trivialize the Kerouacs and Ginsbergs, so in the eighties a columnist for The Washington Post coined "cyberpunk" to giggle at the Neuromantics. But this stuck, too: hard science and pop culture; "reality hacking" and new wave rock; blown minds and blown fuses; alienation, confrontation and chaos theory. Cyberpunk is an Outlaw Culture: against Late Capitalism and its marketing of our commodified emotions, the Grace of Hip. (From now on, let the machines be subjective.) And it's a Fashion Statement: black leather jackets, mirroshades, nose studs, nipple rings, tattoos. (After such mutilation, the meat might as well be left behind while a decentered self goes digital, in there where we never know what we look like, anyway.)

So, besides sci-fi, cyberpunk is a style of, and a take on, meat/machine interface: the Kiss of the Killer Cyborg. It's video games, performance art, trash culture, leather bars, designer drugs, hip-hop, film noir, Max Headroo, John Cage, crystal meth and gangster chic; Sex Pistols and RoboCops, Yamaha TX81Z FM tone generators and RX5 digital rhythm programmers, fractals and Mandelbrot. It's Mike Saenz's "adult" computer adventure, "Virtual Valerie," and Pepe Moreno's Batman computer comic, "Digital Justice"; the photoscan sequence in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and the vector graphics in Disney's Tron; the industrial noise of SPK and Skinny Puppy, Kraftwerk's "cyberpop" roborock and Steve Wilson's Buffalo River Grain Elevators; Mark Pauline's ram cars and robot scorpions and David Therrien's Crucifixion and Fetal-Cage crash machines. It's also, as we shall see, ineluctably pomo (postmodern).

Understand, too, that cyberspace isn't Virtual Reality. Not exactly. As an idea, VR's been around a long time in sci-fi, only called something else--from Aldous Huxley's "feelies" to Robert Heinlein's "waldoes." Philip K. Dick had an "empathy box." James Morrow some "dreambeans," John Varley his "memory cube," and Ray Bradbury fiddled variously with a happiness machine, and interactive soap and the crystal walls of "The Veldt," wherein he was eaten by an imaginary lion. You can check out similar retro visions in Karie Jacobson's anthology Simulations. But as a practicality, with eyephones, datagloves, bodysuits and feedback loops, entering a world of computer-generated simulations of everything from a "smart" bomber to a protein molecule, from cadavers (virtual surgery) to solar systems (virtual astronomy), VR is still at a clumsy holographic stage, with here and there some "telepresence" (seeing things from a robot's point of view), but yet to cross the "vibrotactile" threshold, not even up to the primitive standards of Gibson's "simstims," and nowhere near the great wet dream of "teledildonics" (virtual sex).

In the dark space of virtual reality, in this universe of organs without bodies, the human body floats like a chemical afterimage, with no purpose (the body is a terminal function), no final destiny, and no (evolutionary) role beyond that of a predator flipped into a useless parasite. Perhaps the last function of the body is to be sequenced as data . . .

(Arthur Kroker, Spasm)

Nevertheless, VR participates in the known world. What is generated is a model, based on something real (or at least agreed-upon, like Euclidean geometry). Whereas cyberspace, while likewise a representation of computer graphics, is modeled on nothing more than Gibson's imagination, or Bruce Sterling's, or Pat Cadigan's, or, in the technicolored panasonic Metaverse of Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson's. Cyberspace is a trope. Reading about this trope, we can't help noticing that what goes on at ground zero is at least as interesting as what happens in the Inner Spaciness (Tarzan and the Androids). Cyberlit's twenty-first century, like the postapocalyptic landscapes of Mad Max on the road or in the Thunderdome, is one big blasted heath. The whole world is a Third World. And its divine beings, before the advent of Artifical Intelligence, are the multinationals and gangster cartels, writing their own program in a spiderspeak of green decimals. Case, Neuromancer's cowboy, sees these multinationals, these "arcologies" and zaibatsus and yakuzas, as having "attained a kind of immortality," as having evolved in their hives of cybernetic memory like "vast single organisms, their DNA coded in silicon."

Throughout his cyberspace trilogy, Gibson's obsessed with the yakuza and everything else that's Japanese. But except for Chiba City, with its "bent medicals" and "black clinics," Tokyo sounds like everywhere in the twenty-first century, in the "Sprawl"; like Istanbul and Mexico City, New Delhi or Singapore. It's all one big Third World refuge black market fire sale--of seafood briquettes, shuriken dagger-stars, eyes, genitals, information, viruses, and narcotics like "wiz," Tennessee opium, endorphin analogs, Memphis Black and Blue Nine. For the poor, there's no escape to cyberspace; there are only simstim serial soaps . . . and the streets, which belong to the gangs (Gothicks, Kasuals, Dusters, Lobes) or to the cults (mostly obsessing about image addiction) or to the terrorists (like the "nihilistic technofetishists" who strike at "the media gestalt"). In cyberlit, the class war, like everything else, implodes.

No wonder Case leaves town with Molly, the "razor girl" with mirrow eyes, as Turner will with Angie, who can actually dream in cyberspace without a neural jack. But of course they take their dead and paranoia with them. If brain death doesn't get them from the Black Ice of the zaibatsu, voodoo horsemen like Baron Samedi, Lord of Graveyards, might. (Yes, voodoo. Having ascribed to digital technology some kind of consciousness, Gibson then seeds it with animisms.) And if not Baron Samedi, then maybe an Artificial Intelligence like Wintermute, who would sell out anybody for a soul of his own. Cyberlit loves AI: machine dreams. In Count Zero the only artist left in the universe is an AI who makes sad songs and Joseph Cornell-like boxes out of found "objects," like memory and waste. In Mona Lisa Overdrive, no sooner has the Matrix gotten to know itself than it discovers the Other: our cyber meets their space.

Maybe there is a machine that will take us away, take us completely, such us out through the electrodes out of the skill 'n' into the Machine and live there forever with all the other souls it's got stored there. . . . Each will have personal Rocket. Stored in its target-seeker will be the heretic's EEG, the spikes and susurrations of heartbeat, the ghost-blossomings of personal infrared, each Rocket will know its intended and hunt him. (Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow)

Sadly, most of this gestalt's missing from Virtual Light, Gibson's new novel and first mainstream best seller--though not the multinationals and the criminal cartels. Virtual Light is a chase-movie script about a pair of stolen glasses, through which you see the "data feed" on what it is you're looking at. Whatever the Matrix knows is downloaded and fed directly into your optic nerve. And what the reader sees is bad news for San Francisco, until Rydell, a rent-a-cop, and Chevette, a bicycle messenger, and Yamazaki, an anthropologist, and Sublett, a refugee from a trailer-park video sect that finds the face of God in old movies on television, join forces with an underground gaggle of computer hackers, calling themselves the Republic of Desire, to declare Virtual War on a Japanese yakuza conglomerate called Sunflower and a Southern California law-enforcement satellite called Death Star.

Once you've met the god-eating rock-dream chimeras of the Republic of Desire, you will realize that the godfather of cyberpunk has developed some doubts about hackers. But the future according to Gibson is still one big Third World, a lot like the Los Angeles Mike Davis describes in his nonfiction City of Quartz. All the sympathetic people in Gibson's novel seem to live, after equally devastating earthquakes and AIDS epidemics, on the Oakland Bay Bridge, literally "in the suspension," in a barrio/shantytown of steel bones, severed tendons, pawnbrokers, herbalists, dropouts, tattoo parlors, sushi bars and a dive called Cognitive Dissidents. Not for any of them, a Costa Rican "data haven" or Korean robot cleaning bug. Nor are they about to leave the hovel without packing a respirator and a fractal knife, because either the Sword of the Pig is waiting for them or the South Island Liberation Front, the wolf-men or the death cookies. Yamazaki the anthropologist clearly speaks for the author: "We are come not only past the century's closing ... the millennium's turning, but to the end of something else. Era? Paradigm? Everywhere the signs of closure. Modernity was ending. Here, on the bridge, it long since had."

Chevette the messenger girl is someone new in Gibson, not a gun moll, or Tonto to the Lone Cybernaut. She may have been inspired by Y.T., a jailbait skateboard Kourier in Neal Stephenson's Show Crash (1992), as Stephenson's "Metaverse" was clearly inspired by Gibson's cyberspace. Snow Crash is the most intellectually rambunctious cyberpunk novel since Neuromancer. In the future according to Stephenson, there is no law at all. A nightmare Los Angeles is divided into war zones: "Burbclaves," where the solid citizens hide out, behind private security guards, from a gridlocked cruise-missile spree-killing America; "Franchulates" (Franchise-Organized Quasi National Entities), like Uncle Enzo's Mafia, Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong and Narcolombia; "Sacrifice Zones," abandoned because their cleanup costs exceeded their total future economic value; and "Shantytowns," full of hard-core Third World unemployables breathing amino acids. The only way out of this L.A., if you are rich enough, is to "goggle" your way into the boundless inner VR world of Metaverse, where your phantasmal "avatar" can play with everybody else's.

Alas, someone's messing with this Metaverse. Not only has a giant Raft appeared along the California coast, a Boat People biomass of tens of thousands of refugees all speaking in tongues, but a new drug, Snow Crash, is blowing the minds of the Macintosh programming "technomedia" priesthood. In hacker lingo, "snow crash" is a systems virus that explodes the gridwork of your pixels. Here it also means an attack on the deep neurolinguistic structures of the hacker brain! Who'd do such a thing? Someone sounding like an amalgam of H. Ross Perot and L. Ron Hubbard, with the help of the Russian Orthodox Church and an Aleut whalekiller with his own H-bomb.

I'm nowhere near the matrix of a plot also involving ancient Sumer, the cult prostitutes of Asherah, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Sargon II, Noam Chomsky and George Steiner. Our only hope for a binary universe resides in a half-black, half-Korean samurai-Mafia pizza deliveryman-and-freelance-computer geek named Hiro Protagonist, and his 15-year-old blond Lolita-like cohort Y.T., who skateboards from one Burbclave to another by harpooning passing traffic. Not only do these two board the Raft; they also descend into the netherworld of "Flatland," which is both the electronic text of Metaverse and the Hypercard of our DNA, where the prophet Jeremiah will be drowned out by Vitaly Chernobyl's heavier-than-metal nuclear fuzz grunge band.

Religion as a virus? Actually, Scientology shows up a lot in cyberpunk. There are passing references in Gibson and Cadigan, and the Bruce Wagner Virtual Reality comic strip for Details that inspired the Wild Palms miniseries may also have had Hubbard, Scientology and Dianetics in mind in its portrait of Tony Kreutzer, the wealthy industrialist and former science-fiction writer who has his own TV network, with a VR sitcom; his own religion, the Church of Synthiotics; his own cult-parishioners, The New Realists; and his own fascistic paramilitaries, called The Fathers because they kidnap the children of their many enemies. All this, plus a rhino.

Much as Snow Crash blizzards my pixels, it still fits neatly into Csicsery-Ronay's gleeful putdown of the whole genre of shape-shifting crash-body out-riders on the digital frontier:

[How] many formulaic tales can one wade through in which a self-destructive but sensitive young protagonist with an (implant/prosthesis/telechtronic talent) that makes the evil (mega-corporations/police states/criminal underworlds) pursue him through (wasted urban landscapes/elite luxury enclaves/eccentric space stations) full of grotesque (haircuts/clothes/self-mutilations/rock music/sexual hobbies/designer drugs/telechtronic gadgets/nasty new weapons/exteriorized hallucinations) representing the (mores/fashions) of modern civilization in terminal decline, ultimately hooks up with rebellious and tough-talking (youth/artificial intelligence/rock cults) who offer the alternative, not of (community/socialism/traditional values/transcendental vision), but of supreme, life-affirming hipness, going with the flow which now flows in the machine, against the spectre of a world-subverting (artificial intelligence/multinational corporate web/evil genuis)?

Ahem. Well, Pat Cadigan's better than that. In Synners (1991), Cadigan takes VR the next chilling step: from flatscreen to headmount to brain socket. Boreholes into the limbic system! Manipulation of the parietal lobes! Taproots to the visual and auditory cortices! Coming soon to a brain near you. "Post-Millennarist Fundamentalists

Claim Sockets Facilitate Demonic Possession via Rock Music," reads one protest against this technologized Pleasure Principle. Another says: "Lobby for Decency Declares Brain an Erogenous Zone, Demands Mandatory Hatting." But the real problem with sockets is that they cause brain hemorrhage. And since almost everyone in Synners is plugged in somewhere or other to the Net, a sort of viral stroke goes on-line, and all systems look to crash. While severa characters confront this possibility with a very punk shrug of the black leather shoulders--"If you can't fuck it and it doesn't dance, eat it or throw it away"--others behave a whole lot more like readers of The Nation.

Hiding out in yet another postapocalyptic Sprawl, called the Mimosa, are the usual band of hackers, calling themselves "synners" because what they do is synthesize; they're in a constant state of hallucination. Fez and Keeley are male. Gator, a tattoo artist, and Sam, who gives new meaning to "laptop," and Gina, who makes music videos, are very much female. Gina, a terrific character, has lost her boyfriend, Mark, not only to the sockets but also to the Net. Mark never liked his body--"Meat ... had to expend so much energy and attention just dragging itself around that it tended to miss a lot"--but if the system crashes, so will he, because he's all system now. (Naturally, in a female cyberfiction, there are relationships, including father-daughter, unrequited love, and a romantic triangle that solves itself by cloning.) Meanwhile, waiting for every nonbody in the agitated Net is Dr. Artie Fish, the obligatory Artificial Intelligence, who's come to know itself because so much data overload from so many hackings woke up the Matrix! From the meat, Art needs help, and gets it after many references to Schrodinger and Heisenberg, plus some Bob Dylan and a "deja-voodoo" joke clearly aimed at William Gibson. Synners is nifty.

Images--millions of images--That's what I eat--Cyclotron shit--Ever try kicking the habit with apomorphine?--Now I got all the images of sex acts and torture ever took place anywhere and I can just blast it out and control you gooks right down to the molecule--I got orgasms--I got screams--I got all the images any hick poet ever shit out--My power's coming ... My power's coming ... My power's coming ... And I got millions of images of Me, Me, Me, meee ... (William Burroughs, Nova Express)

But now we must be less so. While you can probably imagine how the assistant professors of Problematizing the Ontologies in Transgressive Subtexts felt when they first saw cyberpunk, I went ahead and read Scott Bukatman's Terminal Identity: The Virtual Subject in Post-modern Science Fiction anyway, as well as Larry McCaffery's thick anthology of snippets and critical scrim, Storming the Reality Studio. Such a rattle of the signifying chains, it makes you worry about abysses of nonmeaning. Phenomenologically speaking, the constitution of being as an activity of interface! Surrealism without the unconscious! Aesthetics of immersion! Inscripted bodies! Disciplinary technologies! Decented self! Objective mirage! Machine subjectivity! Mediascape pastiche! Neologistic excess! Deathmetal technomutant morphing unto Paradigm Shift! No more texture, no more depth; no more town, history, paternity, morality, public sphere or tonal system; no more memory and no more meat, merely surfaces and speed and what Frederic Jameson calls "a peculiar kind of euphoria." How nice to be able to pretend to your disgruntled students that you're a swinger. (According to Brian McHale: "We can think of science fiction as postmodernism's noncanonized or 'low art' double, its sister-genre in the same sense that the popular detective thriller is modernist fiction's sister-genre.") And, without ever leaving the campus, to bamboozle left-wing friends into thinking you're still on the barricades. (Computers and Corporate Crime: "Tactics of the Byte in Vampire Capitalism.") And, without ever risking originality by engaging artifacts of genius, to persuade the tenure committee that you wear with flair the latest cut in brand-name mystagogic zoot suits. (Heidegger safari jacket, Foucault platform heels, Lacan epaulets, Walter Benjamin boutonniere!) The Wild Boys in the Matrix ought to be grateful that someone seems to take them seriously. Hell, maybe they even believe it.

Every time I hear another mention of Bataille's "paradigmatic tropes of sacrificial excess and bodily affirmation," I reach for my harmonica.

On his way to Diego's, Jeffrey discovers a woman harmed by information excess. All the symptoms are present: bleeding from the nose and ears, vomiting, deliriously disconnected speech, apparent disorientation, and the desire to touch everything. (Ted Mooney)

It was one thing when these French fries and Frankfurters found out that novels programmed on computers, open-ended and interactive, are the perfect children, fertilized in vitro, of every deconstructionist theory that ever opened in New Haven. George P. Landow explains all this in Hypertext. Barthes on "ideal textuality" in a "galaxy of signifiers," Derida on "multivocality" and "metatext," Baudrillard on the shift from "tactile" to "digital," Foucault (the pomo Eraser-head) on "bottomless networks," all could have been team-typing an instruction manual for the nonlinear, antihierarchical, centerless and marginless fictions we might each of us hack in the Metaverse, and of the sort that Landow, dismayingly, quotes. But we don't have to read any Hypertext fiction; Robert Coover did it for us, last August, The New York Times Book Review. Cyberpunk's another antimatter, and just look what they've done to our song.

Jameson, having been traumatized into a pomo frame of mind by the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles, sees in "the waning of affect" an end to bourgeois ego, social class, art, ideology and style; a snapping of Lacan's signifying chain; a substitution of "intensities" for "feelings"; and a dominating of our daily life, our psychic experience and our cultural languages "by categories of space rather than by categories of time." Guy Debord goes on about "the society of spectacle," as if he'd never heard of Octavio Paz on the baroque, or ever seen a cathederal or a pyramid, or read Simon Schama on hot-air ballooning before the French Revolution, or thought about spectacular symbols like the crescent

and the cross, the swastika and the dollar sign, a hammer and a sickle. From Baudrillard, orbital and gravitational metaphors in weightlessness. From Merleau-Ponty, "a layer of invisibility in the strict sense," made "present as a certain absence." From Paul de Man, the "vertiginous possibilities of the referential aberration." From Jean-Francois Lyotard, "incredulity." From Heidegger, never mind. From Bukatman himself, along with many "imbrications" and "diagetics," a "decentered self" and a "virtual subject" in "disembodied space," also a treatise on how sci-fi, with its heightened rhetoricity and relentless neologisms, "defamiliarizes" the startled reader, making possible a characteristically pomo queasiness about ontology.

Except where it is adopted as a necessary means of secret communication, the use of a special slang in any employment is probably to be accepted as evidence that the occupation in question is substantially make-believe. (Thorstein Veblen)

It's swell to hear in passing of some "slipstream" novelists who have variously interfaced with cyberpunk, like Pynchon, Atwood, DeLillo, Hoban, Wittig and, of course, Burroughs, that cutup, though one wonders exactly what happened to Doris Lessing and Kobo Abe, Italo Calvino and Stanislaw Lem, Borges and Nabokov, not to mention Constructivists in Russia and Futurists in Italy. Nor are the roots of punk in traditionally and new-wave sci-fi neglected, with even a nod to Bernard Wolfe's underrated Limbo, though one does miss Dune. And feminist critics like Vivian Sobchack, Donna Haraway, Veronica Hollinger, Barbara Creed and Claudia Springer, who have another tale to tell about "inscripted bodies," have more fun in both Storming the Reality Studio and Terminal Identity than the pomo guys doing pomo guy-things. For masculine laughter on this virtual subject, you have to look to Arthur Kroker's "theory-fiction" Spasm, with its inspired rants about Biosphere 2, Michael Jackson, latex sex, Madonna and the dead Elvis; "the dryware of sadomasochism lite" and "the recline of Western civilization," though even Canadian wild-man Krober buys into AI machine dreams, against all evidence that the genetic engineers are a lot further along, custom-compounding organic mutants, than the cyberneticists are anywhere near an artificial hand or eye, much less consciousness.

But the real story here is that pomo, having killed off all its fathers (a Marx, a Freud, a Sartre), having murdered every "master-narrative" it could get its hands on (scientific progress, the class struggle), now proposes its metafigural self as the master-narrative not only of science fiction but of everything else in the post-Toasties world. Who else cohabits so comfortably with the neologistic and the defamiliarizing, with a rhetoricity half so heightened, as these odor-eaters in the pump-up Nikes of the cybernauts? Virtual Criticism!--as if pomo had invented our agnosticism about reality itself; as if we'd never been lied to before; as if the shamans of the great religions hadn't experienced "out of body" ecstasies every bit as thrilling as cyberspace or designer drugs; as if we'd never before in our fossil subtext been lost, antsy, uncertain, improbable and downright pastiched, during the epochal "decenterings" of Mongol, plague, Copernicus and Darwin; as if, before postmodernism, there had never been the blues.

Information isn't knowledge, and information density isn't wisdom. It makes you wonder. When was this meeting where they voted out existential humanism, and voted in pomo? Why wasn't I invited? Isn't pomo really one big cover-up for the failure of the French to write a truly interesting novel ever since a sports car ate Albert Camus? Without gravity, can there be any grace? Instead of sitting around being valorized by pomo, why aren't the punks out there doing something about the ownership of the modes of production by Bell Atlantic, Liberty Media, Viacom, Nynex, Paramount, Barry Diller and Si Newhouse? Have any of these people, pomo or punk, during downtime, ever read Beloved or Midnight's Children or One Hundred Years of Solitude, spent a night as a volunteer in a homeless shelter, worked with AIDS patients, stopped a troop train or a lynching, saved a whale, sought to walk in the Virtual Shoes of a schoolteacher or a migrant worker or a physical therapist, engaged what's really out there instead of posturing in front of it, striking attitudes like matches? Are Shining Path and the Khmer Rouge punk? Postmodern? Is Virtual Reality the same thing as phone sex? What if technology, having been pixeled into sentience, proves to be just as full of false consciousness as all the rest of us? Is it really true that ten minutes of a Mozart piano sonata enhances abstract brain activity? Don't you, too, hope that when the last soft machine in cyberspace is about to disappear into the ultimate black hole of digital death, it will whistle The Magic Flute?
COPYRIGHT 1993 The Nation Company L.P.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Leonard, John
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 15, 1993
Previous Article:W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919.
Next Article:Spasm: Virtual Reality, Android Music and Electric Flesh.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |