Monday, December 8, 2014

Onrushing weight

Chevette is one of my top five favorite Gibson characters, with Molly, Cayce, Hollis, and Kumiko generally filling in the other spots. It's really telling that many of Gibson's stories are written from what is primarily a male perspective but the women and girls in the stories become the real heroes and badasses. That's a huge part of why I like him, actually: he gives me actual, real, cool role models to aspire to - I only wish I'd found them when I was younger.

Chevette is probably the most realistic cool badass girl in any of Gibson's universes; she starts as a bridge-dweller and bike messenger in Virtual Light and ends up as a woman who is of and not of the bridge in All Tomorrow's Parties. Berry Rydell has no arc in the Bridge Trilogy, and Colin Laney's arc is from researcher to lunatic. Chevette moves from being an isolated and essentially feral child to a self-possessed and prematurely wise young woman with a kick like a mule during the course of the series. She's the one who grows, so she's the one we should be watching.

The bridge itself also undergoes some changes which the audience would do well to note - the way that squatter's paradise is transformed over the course of the trilogy is the same transformation that our current interstitial/liminal world of the internet is being warped and changed right now. In Virtual Light the bridge is mad and dangerous and hard; in All Tomorrow's Parties it's going the way of Times Square - slowly becoming Disneyland in spite of all its history. There's a lot there that's important, a lot to consider about the need for places uninfected by corporations and the need for freedom from industrialized individuality, and even though All Tomorrow's Parties is a product of 1999 it's got a message that is vital in the discussion of net neutrality.

But what's funny is that the message is secondary to the story and the story is secondary to the scenery. All Tomorrow's Parties has some of my all-time favorite Gibson images lurking in its pages, from an old man painting action figures inside of a cardboard box to flashes of an abandoned and cloudy California coastline to the visceral image of the Golden Gate Bridge swathed in flames while people on it try to survive, All Tomorrow's Parties is brimming with haunting images that rattle around behind your eyes and are hard to detach from. It, and really all of the Bridge Trilogy, is beautiful and full of language that renders stunning visuals of things that are hideous and lovely alike.

As a side note, I finished this book the first time through when I was sitting in a dusty gray Jeep in the California desert on my first trip out of town with my husband, who hadn't proposed to me by then. It was a quiet day, warm but getting cool as the sun set, and he had climbed down into a ravine with a friend while I finished my book and listened to the industrial and electronic music he was only just introducing me to. When he got back in the car and I talked to him about my book he put on another mix of music and we drove out of that little canyon listening to Apoptygma Berzerk's cover of Lou Reed's "All Tomorrow's Parties," a coincidence of timing and style that still makes me feel warm and happy and severely creeped out at exactly the same time. This little story doesn't have any meaning, there isn't any purpose to it. But all the same, you should listen to the song in all its incarnations at some point as you read the Bridge Trilogy: it's a perfect soundtrack to the world that Gibson wrote.

     - Alli

Gibson, William. All Tomorrow's Parties. Berkley Books. New York: New York. 2003. (1999)

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