Sunday, September 24, 2006

Preliminary Thoughts On The First Installment

Well, I hope you all enjoyed the first 27 pages and are looking forward to finding out what happens next.

To start with, I should cop to thinking that Cryptonomicon is a great book, as well as an authorial tour de force.

To pick up on something that Peter says in the first post, Lawrence Waterhouse is the least believable character Stephenson gives us. He has no internal life at all. He is almost a holy fool; no idea who Einstein is but, when faced with Turing's penis scheme he immediately starts wondering what the fitness explanation for homosexuality is. (Note that his theory is more bizarre than anything OJ has come up with.) His only purpose is to get yanked from place to place in order to serve the requirements of plot and history, and then to invent the computer. As we will see when we continue on, his grandson Randy is a much more interesting, fully realized character.

Bobby Shaftoe, on the other hand, is a great character.

I'm looking forward to Bret's post about monetary theory, and the theory of money implicit in coolies rushing all over the place to trade paper for silver.

[What do people want to do with our next installment? My preference is to go one week at a time, but still keep the assigned text pretty short to allow for a close reading.]


Blogger Bret said...

David wrote: "...but still keep the assigned text pretty short to allow for a close reading"

If we only read 27 pages a week, it'll take a year to get through it. I'd rather pick up the pace a bit. Could we plan to finish it within two months?

5:40 PM  
Blogger David said...

How 'bout up to page 105 for next week, and we try to do 100 pages a week thereafter. [Of course, the point is not so much reading as discussing.]

7:02 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Wha...? We're already finished the first segment? What happened to Duck, Skipper and SH? I might have known the diehard secularists would bum out in the end. No gravitas.

David, we'll argue more about Shaftoe as we go along and Randy was interesting in the sense that someone perpetually confused is interesting. But that does raise a point about the genre. Do you think I am supposed to take the plot and characters literally as in an adventure mystery or were they intentionally distorted in the name of some overall fantasy? Dr. Spock was a very interesting character too as long as you didn't confuse him with King Lear.

5:21 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Sorry, Mr. Spock

5:23 AM  
Blogger David said...

Peter: It works either way.

I'm not done discussing the first installment, and I hope our friends the secularists will be joining in. They might think, though, that not much happens during the first segment other than, you know, the invention of mathematics.

As for the genre, I'm all for genre but is Cryptonomicon science fiction? Stephenson is a science fiction writer, and he insists that Cryptonomicon is a science fiction book, but is it? Stephenson's argument is based on one discreet scene late in the book and, in any case, we're not obliged to accept his opinion.

My argument is that, if it is science fiction, it is social science fiction.

6:30 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

David wrote: "I'm looking forward to Bret's post about monetary theory..."

Everything takes longer than expected. Maybe tonight, but more probably I need a couple more days. It turns out the Chinese monetary system at the time was pretty fascinating and very complicated.

100 pages/week is fine by me.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Can you add me to the list of people who get emails when someone posts a comment to Read In Unison?

12:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

Bret: If I can. And if someone can tell me how. You might be able to do it through the dashboard when you log in.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

Bummer! It seems that blogger only allows one email address to receive comments. So, never mind.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Don't want to mess things up, but how about 200 pages a week? I have a sneaky, counter-intuitive suspicion that we need a little pressure and discipline to keep this excellent idea going for long. And we should all share duty in helping Duck out with the big words.

This has absolutley nothing to do with my excitement at the idea of getting through Cryptonomicion fast so we can then move on to the the spiritual writings of St. Theresa of Avila.

3:15 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

Seeing as I'm on page 700, 200 pages a week would be better for me. I'm easy.

But I think I'll skip the writings of St. Terry, thanks.

9:02 AM  
Blogger David said...

200 pages a week is fine, although I'd prefer to leave the current section as is (a) because it's Wednesday and (b) there's a lot of good stuff, including Randy, Charlene and beards.

7:27 AM  
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