Esther’s Space- journey through my life

April 13, 2008

Pattern Recognition

Boy, am I glad I decided to power through the last one hundred pages of Pattern Recognition before attempting to post on it! I somehow didn’t really see Russia coming, but it totally changes what I want to talk about.

In an attempt to corral some of my thoughts- here are things I wanted to highlight about the novel. We’ll see where it goes.

  • advertising– of course! the perfect way of bridging media and culture. Judging by Scott‘s post, there’s much to be learned in terms of the power of the image from Fitzpatrick’s article, but since I haven’t read it yet, I’ll have to keep quiet about that
  • location– like in Diamond Age, we’re set up in this Great Britain-as-old-stable-order versus Asia, here Japan-as-new-mode-of-thinking. With the U.S. referred to only in passing, as if it was a hegemony that has out-lived its purpose. Hopefully more on this.
  • temporal– as far as I can tell, this book is set in ~2002, in a world that looks very much like certain segments of the world as it was in 2002. This effectively brings the abstract ‘future’ to now.
  • references– throughout the novel Gibson continues to intersperse references that are completely alien to me, especially names of individuals who once were celebrities, or simply cultural references that are outside my scope of experience, such as Frank Geary (p 67)
  • black/grey clothes and fake military gear– all the cool people wear them, and the people that want to affect coolness. Revert back to simplicity blah blah, I know, but it also has to be embedded in some sense of nostalgia and the existence of a ‘simpler, clearer’ past. In the glut of postmodern fiction, this concept seems to have become largely a cliche, so why does Gibson even ‘go there’?

Location- I had it all mapped out- ‘there is something very specific that authors are trying to say about the future of life and technology as being the future, coming from Asia, but these ideas are forced to war with the cultural stability that England seems to represent.’ But Russia complicates this polarity a bit.  While this preivous statement still seems to be true. Especially if we want to think about how the literary canon (in English) is built upon the British classics, but as global technology invades the readers’ lives, there is increasing distance between the classic ‘literary’ way of reading life and the new way that ideas and ideals are moved across culture. I guess I’m trying to point toward the increasing love of animated cartoons in America, and not just anime, but Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama, American Dad. Didn’t I hear something about The Simpsons actually being animated in [I want to say] Korea? But, more relevantly, with the increase in popularity of animated cartoons television shows, there has been more widespread interest in reading manga and graphic novels. Coincidence? I think not. (who said that first?)

But back to Russia. This is Genius on Gibson’s part, and something that I’m only becoming aware of now, though the insight to recognize it in 2002 is pretty impressive. (though maybe it’s just particularly impressive to me, who was much less aware of such things in 2002)  Russia is striving to re-establish itself as an international force of its own. It does not want to be “Asian” “Eur-Asian” or “European.” The nation wants to be identified culturally and politically as “Russian.” They (whomever they might be) are striving to become the independent world force they were ‘before.’ But, as the novel explores, it’s a tough thing to restructure an entire nation’s (and a big one at that) modus operandi. One of my favorite lines from the book speaks to this:

There have always been two security operations around Stella and Nora. One is a branch, or subsidiary, of the group that protects Volkov himself. The flavor is ex-KGB, but in the sense that Putin is ex-KGB: lawyers first, then spies. (338)

This makes me think about the current relationship that Bush has with Putin.  And Putin’s new position in the government.  And the tension over the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia re-joining the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia and recognizing the Patriarchate.  Utterly delicious, though probably just for me.

Temporality- I’m not entirely sure how I want to talk about this, but it seems very important that Gibson is not trying to represent some future-world of technology, technological espionage, human vulgarity, and the “whole problem, with most of the dot-com people” of it being “all about money” (348).  Instead, these are problems of today, or at least the the today of the novel being published.  It’s striking, but I’m not sure how to carry the thought through to fruitful conclusion.  It’s that time of the semester.

In terms of references- they were frustrating because there were so many. And I refuse to try to use my laptop to search these unfamiliar names in order to figure out the reference and fit it into the narrative and read a novel at the same time, it is highly inefficient, and makes the novel lose its momentum. Interestingly, I found this site. It looks to be Joe Clark’s conversation with the novel. As far as I can tell, it is the online equivalent of my underlinings and margin notes. Seems like an awful lot of extra effort. But, while it proved some parallels with my own underlinings, points of interest, and points of confusion, I found his annotating largely useless to me. I have read the book, and, obviously, interacted with it differently than Joe did. But, his notes are too specific and abstract to be of use to an individual who has not read the book. So, this leaves the annotation logging as useful primarily as a personal documentation of reading response. I don’t think I’ll say more about that.



  1. Esther,

    Thanks for pointing all of this stuff out. I’m not very far in the book, but the only thing that I’ve really picked up on is the clothing. (This may be because I’m obsessed with the stuff.) I was uncertain at first where this book was taking place. I had heard of Notting Hill before, but wasn’t sure if that was in Great Britain or not. I looked it up and sure enough, it was there.

    I don’t think that I’ve gotten into the bulk of the novel yet, but reading your post has helped me establish a few things. I will also be looking out for the temporal aspect as I haven’t picked that up yet.

    Like you, I feel very disconnected from the made up celebrities. I think that it adds to the fiction, but makes me feel displaced since I can’t relate to the characters at all. I’m still trying to get over the fact that it’s written in present tense. It really threw me for a loop when I first started.

    Comment by Allison — April 14, 2008 @ 11:44 am

  2. Hi,
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    Comment by Brian — October 11, 2010 @ 8:30 am

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