William Gibson Reading in NYC
On Thursday (2004-02-20), William Gibson came to NYC to read from his newest novel, Pattern Recognition. Kip from work, who is a total WG fanatic, told me about it, so that morning, I grabbed the first WG book I could find and my camera. We got to Barnes & Noble at around 6:40, in time to get decent seats. Disappointingly, nobody in the crowd had mirrorshades, wire woven into their hair, or body armor. Oh, well.
The gathered faithful
Wm. Gibson enters Shortly after 7, this tall, hunched, reedy man in a bulky overcoat shuffled in. After a brief second of confusion, I recognized him as WG, himself, the Father of Cyberpunk.
Gibson chats up the crowd After a brief introduction by the B&N guy, WG came up to the podium. Fortunately, the mic boom was very adjustable, so it could reach his mouth. He stammered a bit about this and that, pausing briefly to gloat over his correct use of “penultimate” (this was his penultimate stop). He explained that he'd been trying to read a different section every night, but that tonight he'd just read chapter 1. He was quite obviously road-weary.
Wm. Gibson reading from _Pattern Recognition_ As he started reading, he seemed to straighten up a bit. His voice is rather nasal (not that I could throw any stones here), but the rhythm of his reading matched well the prose. He was really reading, he stumbled here and there. The best part, though, was when he got to a passage that he liked, he would grin broadly, obviously pleased at his cleverness.
Wm. Gibson pondering the answer to a question After the reading, he took questions from the audience. Almost all of the question were about the meaning of this or that symbolism, or this or that theme that ran through his books. He had no ready answers to these questions. He would think about it for a while, then deflate the question. When asked about the name similarity between Neuromancer's Case and Pattern Recognition' Cayce, he told a little story about he stole the name from Edgar(?) Cayce. But then, he thought, people would think that there was some connection between the two. He smiled impishly; “Let them think that.”
Wm. Gibson looked at me!! The person next to me asked a question, and as WG looked over, I snapped a picture. He appears to think of himself as just a guy — he seemed surprised that people would want to take pictures of him.
Wm. Gibson pondering the answer to a question Other questions asked how WG approached this work: how did he choose what details to focus on in his prose, were his novels politically motivated, etc. He would ponder a moment, answer a bit, then ponder some more and answer some more. He was clearly doing some deep introspection when he pondered, as if he had never noticed his pattern of description. His answers, though, were intelligent and genuine. When asked if he was influenced by fellow Canadian Naomi Klein (author of No Logo), he replied that he had. He had seen a stack of copies of No Logo, and “instead of reading the book in order to figure out what it was about, like a normal person, he had wondered off thinking ‘no logo’, ‘no logo’.” He went on to wonder what you would have to do in order to have no logos at all on your person. This was the origin of Cayce Pollard. (This question, BTW, had clearly come up before.)
A Real Cyberpunk(tm)? After the questions, he offered to sign people's books. At that point, I finally discovered what appeared to be a Real Cyberpunk® in the crowd.
My signed copy of _Pattern Recognition_ I had lent out my reader's copy of Pattern Recognition, so B&N managed to get $15 out of me. Later that evening, the enormity of the situation struck Kip. “William Gibson signed something I own,” was his mantra that evening, and for a while after we arrived at work on Friday.
Sorry for the abysmal quality of the pictures, I forgot to set my camera to underexpose, so they all came out blurry.
All text and images Copyright © 2004 Jeremiah Blatz
(I'll get around to relicensing under Creative Commons eventually.)
Created 2004-02-21