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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The artist behind the art
I've been a fan of William Gibson's fiction for a long time, and have marveled at his ability to portray modern life as it almost is. He always seems a step ahead of what is current, in one way or another, and is able to communicate his ideas in a starkly written style that always manages to seem slightly ambiguous. However, with the release of this collection of...
Published on January 7, 2012 by flaviolius

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114 of 122 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good if You are a Gibson Fan
I really like William Gibson's books; I only know of one I haven't read. I have often wondered how he came to see things the way he does since I am about the same age, work in electronics, and I did not see so much of today's changes coming. I can't say I have an answer to that question after reading "Distrust That Particular Flavor". I did find this collection of essays...
Published on January 7, 2012 by Amazon Customer


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114 of 122 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good if You are a Gibson Fan, January 7, 2012
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This review is from: Distrust That Particular Flavor (Hardcover)
I really like William Gibson's books; I only know of one I haven't read. I have often wondered how he came to see things the way he does since I am about the same age, work in electronics, and I did not see so much of today's changes coming. I can't say I have an answer to that question after reading "Distrust That Particular Flavor". I did find this collection of essays interesting reading. This is not the book of the year, as one reviewer wrote. It is a collection of book introductions, talks, and magazine articles with afterwords comments added by Mr. Gibson where he gives his thoughts looking back at his works. It shows that Mr. Gibson, like the rest of us, is no clairvoyant. For the Gibson fan, buy it. For those who are trying to write the next big Sci-Fi novel and hoping to find Gibson's muse, move on. William Gibson appears to write things the old fashion way; hard work and a lot of typing.
Note on Amazon Kindle version: One chapter refers to pictures that do not appear. The Kindle version gets a "D". Amazon needs to get it's act together.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The artist behind the art, January 7, 2012
By 
This review is from: Distrust That Particular Flavor (Hardcover)
I've been a fan of William Gibson's fiction for a long time, and have marveled at his ability to portray modern life as it almost is. He always seems a step ahead of what is current, in one way or another, and is able to communicate his ideas in a starkly written style that always manages to seem slightly ambiguous. However, with the release of this collection of non-fiction, I realized I never gave much thought to Gibson himself....until now. Through reading these pieces, I've gained a new and deeper appreciation for Gibson's fiction.

For the most part, these articles, essays, and lectures are written in the first person, which was a revelatory experience for me. I'd never read any of the pieces in this collection, so it was like seeing something familiar with brand-new eyes. The insight contained within is invaluable; not only did I learn much about Gibson's mind and what makes him tick, I also unearthed a lot of background data for the events in his fiction. In that way, reading this book was much like listening to a director's commentary of a dearly loved film - I gained new perspective that emphasizes and deepens.

It's abundantly clear that Gibson is deeply intrigued by modern culture, whether it's technology, psychology, fashion, behavior, eBay, or YouTube, and reading his meticulous picking apart of trends is just as fascinating as experiencing his fiction. Gibson's sense of excitement and wonder are infectious, his attention to detail is razor keen, and his open-mindedness is inspiring. I was a fan of Gibson's work before Distrust That Particular Flavor, but I am now a fan of Gibson the man.

This is essential reading, not just for Gibson fans, but for anyone fascinated by the bizarrely intricate roller-coaster world we are living in.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty, insightful and refreshingly self-deprecating, January 9, 2012
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Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Distrust That Particular Flavor (Hardcover)
He is credited with coining the term "cyberspace" and has written novels like NEUROMANCER and MONA LISA OVERDRIVE that have given us a glimpse of a frequently unsettling future. Now, in DISTRUST THAT PARTICULAR FLAVOR, William Gibson offers his first nonfiction collection, an assortment of 25 often quirky pieces, ranging from articles for magazines like Wired, Fortune and Time, to essays, book introductions and speeches. Witty, insightful and refreshingly self-deprecating, they reveal that Gibson is as talented in reflecting on our own time as he is in envisioning our collective future.

Perhaps that ability flows from his grasp of one of the recurring tropes that appear in these pieces. "All cultural change is essentially technologically driven," Gibson believes, a point he illustrates in "Googling the Cyborg," a speech delivered to the Vancouver Institute in 2006. In it, he describes what he calls the "Steam Engine Moment," a recognition that certain ideas have been around for a long time, but only blossom when they're destined to do so. He's less interested in the construction of physical robots as he is in the way our interactions with electronic media are creating what he calls an "Augmented Reality," offering us something approaching the universal library imagined by one of his literary heroes, Jose Luis Borges, for whose LABYRINTHS he contributed a preface that appears here ("A ridiculously unearned honor, to be asked to do this. I'm still embarrassed.").

Of writing about the future, Gibson told an audience at BookExpo America in 2010 that "imaginary futures are always, regardless of what the authors might think, about the day in which they're written." That's as true of George Orwell's NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, he argues, as it is of Gibson's own novel, NEUROMANCER, set in the 2030s, and published in the same year as Orwell's nightmare vision. He makes a similar point in an essay on H.G. Wells and his story, THE TIME MACHINE.

"Time moves in one direction, memory in another," Gibson observes of another one of his fascinations --- the notion, reflected as long ago as the time of the ancient cave painters, that ours is "that strange species that constructs artifacts to counter the natural flow of forgetting." In more than one piece, he notes, with an almost childlike awe, that we can turn on the radio or television and summon dead people back to life.

Gibson's travel pieces, revealing him as something of an idiosyncratic travel writer, are among the most entertaining ones here. "Disneyland with the Death Penalty" is his portrait of 1993-vintage Singapore, a "relentlessly G-rated experience, micromanaged by a state that has the look and feel of a very large corporation," and a place where economists can be tried for revealing the country's growth rate or a man sentenced to death for importing one kilogram of marijuana. He has a special affinity for Japan, the setting for some of his fiction, and a country he describes as "the global imagination's default setting for the future," even after the bursting of its economic bubble.

Although Gibson's writing doesn't typically veer too far into the personal, there's an amusing, if overlong, article for Wired, "My Obsession," recounting his fascination with bidding on mechanical watches on eBay. He also confesses his love of the music of Steely Dan ("Any `Mount of World"), describes an abiding affection for the city of London ("Metrophagy") and confesses, most shockingly, in "The Net is a Waste of Time," that at least as of 1996 he didn't use email ("In all truth, I have avoided it because am lazy and enjoy staring blankly into space...and because unanswered mail, e- or otherwise, is a source of discomfort.").

Gibson is nothing if not humble, as he reveals in an Introduction that explains how he came to the writing vocation. Admitting he's not entirely comfortable making the transition from fiction to nonfiction, he concedes he has "often felt as though I'm applying latex paint to the living room walls with a toothbrush." One especially enjoyable feature of the collection are the comments, ranging from a sentence or two to a few paragraphs, that Gibson appends to each of the pieces, reflecting on their provenance or the circumstances of their creation.

William Gibson doesn't reveal any preternatural gift here for gazing into the distant future with startling clarity. Instead, he has been blessed with an even more valuable talent: the ability to keenly observe the present and show us how the changes it's already spawning someday will insinuate themselves into our lives.

Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing body of work., January 5, 2012
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This review is from: Distrust That Particular Flavor (Hardcover)
Gibson's ability to distill the essence of post modernity is frighteningly precise and frankly fills me with jealousy! I loved this work when it was first printed in various periodicals and I'm delighted to have it in a bound collection. Reading Gibson's non-fiction is like buying tire chains for your mind, a great collection of ideas, concepts and language that give you some traction in our slippery, dangerous, post-capitalist, deadly Disneyland of a world.

And I'm still waiting for the garage Kubrick to emerge.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars strangely underwhelming for a huge fan of his fiction, April 27, 2013
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I LOVE Gibson's fiction. I started, of course, with the Sprawl trilogy, back in the time of Sony cassette Walkmen. In the time that has elapsed -- the past 25 years -- Gibson's writing style has changed, but it has never lost its evocative edge nor the often wistful, yearning quality of many of his characters. I read every novel and short story he published, including the collaboration with Bruce Sterling (The Difference Engine, which I _loved_).

Yet I didn't follow his nonfiction unless it happened to occur by surprise in something I was reading for a totally different reason (an issue of Rolling Stone, for example). And I couldn't get into his blog for the same reason I couldn't get into most people's blogs: it seemed like a waste of time, sometimes, when there is already too little time in my life, and though it was free and his books were not, the blog was not a hit of the Gibson fiction I was jones-ing for. It wasn't that his blogging wasn't interesting, but it was that *everyone* had a blog. If I were going to read his, then why not the blogs of dozens of other authors I admire? But doing that would leave me no time to read their actual *fiction*. I can't say I was surprised when Gibson stopped blogging and stated it was because it interfered with his writing fiction. I thought: Yeah, the OTHER reason I don't read people's blogs: because if they're writing them, and I'm reading them, not only don't I have time to read their novels, they're _not_ writing novels -- they're blogging.

Gibson continued to write books that, despite being rather different in prose-style from the novels that first put him on the map, still managed to tap into the kind of chronic unease and disconnection of our super-connected post 9/11 world with a more "normal" prose style... the better to insinuate the characters' predicaments and personalities into your head and have you thinking about them days after you finished the novel, just like with the first three cyberspace novels.

I saw the documentary "No Maps For These Territories" back in the early 00s, and Gibson readily admitted that fans often ask him why he doesn't write something like Neuromancer again. His startlingly upfront and honest answer was that he is not the person he was, when he was writing Neuromancer -- so he _can't_ write stuff like Neuromancer again. Fortunately I'm not one of the fans who found this disappointing, because I found the Bigend/Blue Ant trilogy of Pattern Recognition, Spook Country and Zero History among his most haunting work. (I admit the prose of the last trilogy is much more accessible to the average reader than that of Neuromancer or the rest of the Sprawl trilogy. Hell, it's much more accessible to _me_, though less challenging. With Neuromancer alone, I wished for a glossary like the one provided with my 1970s dog-eared copy of Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, which I bogarted from my older brother).

So I had high hopes for this collection and, intentionally unfamiliar with his blogging and published nonfiction, I guess I hoped for non-fiction in a similar vein to his fiction. And it IS nonfiction in the style of his fiction, more often than not. But, maybe because I find his prose so fantastic and have read and re-read all of his books multiple times, I was somewhat underwhelmed by this collection of Gibson's nonfiction work. He has a sharp eye for observation and an interesting analysis on everything he writes about. But it just wasn't as compelling for me as his novels. Some pieces are incredibly short. The inherent interest and content varies quite widely from piece to piece. The entire thing is worth reading, but it doesn't feel like it coheres, somehow. It was just missing something for me -- missing his fiction, I guess.

I found the whole experience of being underwhelmed by this book rather odd, because Gibson tends to include so much ADD-ish contextual details and information in his fiction, that it seems counterintuitive that his nonfiction would fail to be less than compelling for me. (I say "ADD-ish contextual details" as someone with ADD myself, which may be why I always liked his densely packed prose.) And he does that here, but somehow it didn't evoke as much for me -- it didn't pull at my psyche, plant his characters in my mind for days after finishing a novel, didn't bring me to tears like his best work has (both in the Sprawl trilogy AND in the Bigend/Blue Ant trilogy). It did, however, often make me laugh out loud, which his fiction has also often done for me.

If you are a big Gibson fan, read through all the "Look Inside!" materials here on Amazon before you buy this. It will give you an idea, though not complete, of the nonfiction in the book. You may or may not want to read more. Personally, totally subjectively, I am sorry I didn't like this more than I did. However, Gibson's own introduction to Distrust That Particular Flavor explains a bit, I think, of my underwhelming reaction to this collection. I'm quoting here from the introduction ("Introduction: African Thumb Piano"). Discontinuous passages have "...." between them.

"The door into fiction-writing space began to open more easily, and more regularly. A huge amount of the thing is simply practice, but that practice, for me, had to be practice in the actual writing of fiction. The itch to become a writer could be scratched, I suspected, too easily, with other kinds of writing. Self-discipline never having been my strong suit, I became un-characteristically strict with myself about writing only fiction.

Which is why I have never felt entirely comfortable with the pieces collected here.

They are violations of that early prime directive. They aren't fiction. Worse, they somehow aren't quite nonfiction either, it feels to me, because they were written from the fiction-writing place, the only writing place I had, with fiction-writing tools, the only writing tools I had. I didn't feel adequately professional, writing nonfiction. I felt as thought I was being paid to solo on some instrument vaguely related to one I actually knew how to play.

I had had no formal training in journalism. The idea of keeping a diary or journal had always made me uncomfortable. The idea of direct, unfiltered autobiography made me even more uncomfortable. By the time I began to occasionally be asked to write nonfiction, the membrane surrounding the fiction-writing place had been sanded to a workable thinness, was porous. On a good working day, I watched as some largely unconscious process turned reality, or what passed for it, into fantasy. Which was what I had wanted, how I had wanted to make my living. To write nonfiction felt worryingly counter to that....

When I taught myself to write fiction, I eventually accepted that I had learned to do what passes for the writing of fiction when I'm the one doing it. The volume on the imposter-syndrome module decreased. Writing nonfiction, I've often felt as though I'm applying latex paint to the living room walls with a tooth-brush. The volume on the module shoots up. Perhaps people will assume that the resulting texture is deliberate. Perhaps not. Writing fiction is a unique activity for me, a neurological territory, an altered state. Writing nonfiction isn't, quite, but I'm gradually coming to accept that I've learned to do what passes for the writing of nonfiction when I'm the one doing it."

I guess my feeling on this collection is that I'm not entirely comfortable with these pieces. It's like listening to an accomplished musician attempt to play familiar, loved music on a totally unfamiliar instrument on which they weren't properly trained; there are hints of their talent and their response to the loved music, but it's clearly missing something they would be able to pull out if they were playing their preferred instrument. Apparently, for me, reading William Gibson's fiction is a unique activity for me, a neurological territory and altered state in which, not only do I find his nonfiction uncomfortable, but in a peculiar way, it feels like it's almost an interloper. A very peculiar problem for a fan -- one I wish I didn't have.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 21st Century Prose Haiku from William Gibson, January 12, 2012
This review is from: Distrust That Particular Flavor (Hardcover)
William Gibson has said more than once that science fiction possesses a unique toolkit for dealing with our science fictional present. He said that again when I asked why mainstream writers are turning increasingly to science fiction during a question and answer session held during his New York City literary event for this very book. He could have offered similar advice to journalists with respect to their narrative nonfiction and journalistic reporting; "Distrust That Particular Flavor" makes a most powerful case for that, in vivid, often concise, prose that will remind his most ardent fans of his early "Sprawl" stories and others collected in "Burning Chrome" and the novels "Neuromancer" and "Count Zero", and one that also evokes "Idoru", and other, later novels like "Zero History", in its relentless attention to detail. Any new book written by William Gibson should give readers ample cause for celebration, but this, his first foray into nonfiction, is not only a most distinguished collection of essays, but one that will be admired for years.

There is undoubtedly a strong cyberpunk-like beat in much of Gibson's narrative nonfiction. His poignant remembrance of his favorite SoHo (New York, NY) antiques store written within days of the 9/11 terrorist attacks ("Mr. Buk's Window") could have easily been part of one of his early "Sprawl" stories (Not surprisingly, he admits in a concise afterword that that antiques store would inspire him to finish writing the novel he had just started; "Pattern Recognition".). He has written a most concise tribute to "Steely Dan" ("Any `Mount of World") that not only pays tribute to the songwriting duo of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, but does so in such a way that anyone reading it will think that it is really a free verse poem instead of a most insightful piece of criticism. He finally explains his interest in Japanese culture in several compelling essays that explain why he thinks Japan represents our future. When he writes about his visits to Japan and Singapore, he does so in narratives that are so eerily reminiscent of his densely layered prose in novels like "Neuromancer", "Idoru", and even his most recent ones like "Pattern Recognition", and especially, "Zero History". Readers will be pleasantly surprised reading how he finally succumbed to the ample charms and distractions of the Web via eBay in his essay "The Net is a Waste of Time". And of course, he also discusses his longstanding admiration for writers as diverse as H. G. Wells, George Orwell, J. G. Ballard and Samuel Delany. In short, Gibson has given readers a concise introduction into his thought and an introductory trek that is one well worth taking.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We Find It Here, We Find It There, Inspirationwise, January 21, 2012
This review is from: Distrust That Particular Flavor (Hardcover)
Long known for his perspicacious unearthing of future trends, the man who coined the term "cyberspace" is back with a book remarkably similar to "Arguably" the final work of the late Christopher Hitchens. Both books feature short brilliant essays, in the case of Gibson, many of these essays are three pages or less. The work of Hitchens is emotional, and explosive, with scenarios that leap off the page to engage the reader. Gibson's new book, by contrast, is economic and spare, with a controlled precise prose propelled forward by the author's ability to glide the globe, moving with ease through Asia, Europe, the United States and his adopted Canada, noting, for example, that in science fiction, it may be easy to predict things, although not as easy to predict what things will do to us. Many people saw the rise of television, he writes, but few visualized the rise of "commercials, Hollywood Squares, and heavy metal music videos."

The book begins with a moderate dose of autobiography which readers of Gibson novels may already be familiar with, including the terrifying portrait of the writer's father choking to death in a restaurant in the days before the Heimlich Maneuver was invented. The pervading emotional tone, at least in the early chapters, is doubt - the uncertainty that accompanies the writer of contemporary fiction like a third dimension. The landscape Gibson creates is an undulating one that soon envelops music, with homage to Michael Brecker and Donald Fagin who formed the rock bank Steely Dan, and from there, traversing the world of technological innovation in cinema with an essay delivered to the Director's Guild of America - a work entitled Up The Line. Film, Gibson asserts, has built a financial base that allows it to withstand technological challenges, while the music industry has not. Here, it seems that Windows 8 is going to test this theory, as it prepares to let users rip movies onto PC hard drives, and we'll be better able to guage the level of industry outcry. In either case, Gibson takes flight again with an essay entitled Disneyland With The Death Penalty, a 1993 Clockwork Orange style look at Singapore, featuring a man sentenced to death for possessing 1 kilo of marijuana. The prose is abrupt, and you can feel Gibson's panic over the incident; soon enough, he's out of there.

Gibson calls Japan "the global imagination's default setting for the future.", and tells the story of Japanese schoolgirls armed with the latest cell phones, inventing the text message, and unleashing in turn a global culture shock. He maps out another future vision, writing that our successors will be dumbfounded by the way we confined innovation to specific devices. In the future, he predicts, refrigeration won't be monopolized by large box kitchen appliances. Groceries needing immediate refrigeration on the way home from the supermarket will be consigned- where else? to your refrigerated car trunk. The future, he believes, is already here - it just isn't distributed evenly. The proofs are all around us. Manhattan Island is a technology marvel, but in the American South, broadband access in the year 2011 was roughly equivalent to the distribution of household electricity in the year 1911. In other words, it may take 50 years for technological innovation to leach out into the countryside from major metropolitan areas. There's a scary thought, but one Gibson has made us ponder before.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proof positive that it was a good idea to ditch my Facebook account., August 12, 2014
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Can William Gibson stop being so damned perceptive and awesome? No, I take that back. I hope he never loses his flair for spotting the incredible among the ordinary, the mind-blowing amidst the banal. These essays are simply brilliant and should be required reading for anyone hoping to survive the Information Age with their sanity intact.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Way Things Are Going, April 11, 2012
By 
Bill Jordin (Suwanee, GA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Distrust That Particular Flavor (Hardcover)
Distrust That Particular Flavor (2012) is a collection of nonfiction articles and speeches. It has an introduction and twenty-five short works.

- "Introduction: African Thumb Piano" discloses how the author taught himself to write fiction. Once he began to sell stories, he was asked to write nonfiction and make speeches. He still feels like an impostor when producing nonfiction.

- "Rocket Radio" (2989) explains his struggles with technology and the internet.

- "Since 1948" (2002) describes his early years.

- "Any 'Mount of World" (2000) tells of collaboration and the product that results.

- "The Baddest Dude on Earth" (2002) is about the films of Takeshi Kitano.

- "Talk for Book Expo, New York" (1998) exposes the faulty visions of the Future.

- "Dead Man Sings" (1998) concerns ready access to the recorded past.

- "Up the Line" (2003) discusses the physiological basis of movies.

- "Disneyland and the Death Penalty" (1993) examines the despotic regime in Singapore.

- "Mr. Buk's Window" (2001) divulges his feelings after 1/11.

- "Shiny Balls of Mud: Hilaru Dorodango and Tokyu Hands" (2002) covers two unique aspects of Japan.

- "An Invitation" (2007) is a preface to a book by Jorge Luis Borges.

- "Metrophagy" The Art and Science of Digesting Great Cities" 2001) addresses a new literary form.

- Modern Boys and Mobile Girls" 2001) recounts the major changes in Japan.

- "My Obsession" (1999) confesses his long addiction to eBay.

- "My Own Private Tokyo" (2001) is another view of futuristic Japan.

- "The Road to Oceania" (2003) regards George Orwell's legacy.

- "Skip Spence's Jeans" (2003) speaks of a casual meeting in San Jose.

- "Terminal City" (2007) deals with a box of photos.

- "Introduction: "The Body"" (2005) discloses the author's impressions of Stelarc.

- "The Net is a Waste of Time" (1996) points out that very few have the leisure to surf the internet.

- "Time Machine Cuba" (2006) invokes his experiences during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

- "Will We Have Computer Chips in Our Heads?" (2000) discloses his reasons for thinking this to be unlikely.

- "William Gibson's Filmless Festival" (1999) illustrates his beliefs that the motion picture industry is going to have major competition from amateurs.

- "Johnny: Notes on a Process" (1995) shows the stresses of producing a major motion picture.

- "Googling the Cyborg" (2008) reveals his beliefs that technology is extending mankind's horizons.

These works are nonfiction with an oddly fictive twist. Most seem to have a vagueness that permeates the author's fiction. Most are also set in far away places. Naturally, these places later appear in his fiction.

As the author explains his views of science fiction, it is obvious that he uses the "if this goes on..." method of plotting. He describes the present in future terms. The technology is changed, but the social trends continue. Yet social change occurs, so SF cannot really predict future societies using this technique.

Japan is a common topic in these works. The author feels that Japan has been living in the future for a century and a half. They have become used to sudden changes.

Recommended for Gibson fans and for anyone else who enjoys pieces of history and autobiography. Read and enjoy!

-Bill Jordin
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another guy I wish were my neighbor, February 17, 2012
By 
D. P. S. Chubert (Fremont, California United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Distrust That Particular Flavor (Hardcover)
I'm pretty sure I've read all of this guy's novels, a couple of them a few times. If you ask me, they range from not too good (that would be his most recent- it just seemed so mailed in, I couldn't focus enough to pay attention- maybe it was my reader's mood at the time) to really fun and intriguing (like the one where the Bay Bridge has become a settled village sort of- can't remember the name). I point this all out so you know that although I like Gibson, I wouldn't call myself a slavish fan.

So, I had fun reading this book of essays. Gibson knows how to paint a picture- like the teenage girls in Tokyo, all identically kitted in black with white doctor coats and stethoscopes. It's true, there is something foreign to my mind about that. But on the other hand, I'm a teacher and let me tell you, hipster girls all working hard to hit a look, and to belong and to be seen, well that happens everywhere you go.

He's also intelligent about the relationship between the evolution of the human psyche and it's changing social and technological environment. It's a darned interesting issue. He's intelligent about his own experience, and his views on Japanese and English culture. And, his essayist style is light and pulls you along breezily. I picked this book up after I'd been cyphering out Emerson's essays and reading Henry James. I felt a little used up, and so I wanted intelligent but not a slog, and that's what Gibson gives you.
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Distrust That Particular Flavor
Distrust That Particular Flavor by William Gibson (Hardcover - January 3, 2012)
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