Wednesday, July 16, 2014
A couple of years ago Seven Psychopaths was released in theaters. It was advertised as a silly heist movie but it was actually a meta-commentary about the writing process and how stories are formed. I saw it with my parents and, while we were surprised, we seemed to be the only people in the theater who were happy that the movie wasn't as advertised.
Zeitgeist reminds me strongly of the film: it's a narrative about narratives that folds in on itself and explodes into unexpected plot lines.
It's full of delightfully plausible implausibilites, atomic-age mysteries, and magic. Of the Sterling novels I've read this week it also has the strongest and most interesting characters - almost everyone in the story is somebody you want to know more about but you're only give exactly the amount of background information you really need to move on with the plot. The book is well-written with a wonderfully delicate touch that leaves a lot up to the reader.
There is some great lampooning of literary cliches as well as cultural cliche - in fact, the book may mostly BE about cliche and what it says about us. How much of any era is defined by it's tired metaphors and worn-out images? What combination of ephemeral fads coalesces together into something we retroactively call that era's zeitgeist? And how do you escape it instead of letting yourself get bogged down by it.
Zeitgeist is a fun book, a fast book, a good book, and (somewhat surprisingly) a meaningful book. I'm sure a lot of people looked at the neon cover and the name of the author and the flashbulb-bright buzzwords that litter the text and brushed it off as just another sci-fi/fantasy pulp but there's a lot more to it.
Maybe that explains the odd history of ownership of this particular copy, which came to me via Thriftbooks.com and before that spent time at a Goodwill Store in 2011, The Phoenix Public Library in 2001, and was apparently (according to the blue ball-point pen inscription) purchased from the library (perhaps due to low circulation because it's in great shape) by Shirley for Dave as a Christmas present in 2002. I'm glad to have it now and I'm glad it's passed through so many hands before falling into mine.
Sterling, Bruce. Zeitgeist. Bantam Books. New York: New York. 2000.