Friday, February 20, 2004

Stephenson, Foucault, Quicksilver and Geneaology

Timothy Burke has an interesting entry looking at Neal Stephenson's latest book Quicksilver as an exemplar of Focauldian Genealogy. I'm not quite as inclined against pomo as Burke is nor was I quite as thrilled with Quicksilver as he seems to be, but I find his read of the book to be rather compelling.

I've had mixed feelings about Quicksilver. Stephenson is one of my very favorite authors, so to say that it's not my favorite of his books is not exactly strong criticism. Previously, though, I'd rank his books (in terms of my preference) in ascending chronological order (Big U being definitely the worst and Cryptonomicon definitely my favorite-- Snowcrash and Diamond Age I waffle on which I prefer; both I like quite a bit). So, the fact that Quicksilver didn't continue this trend was disappointing, but not necessarily the fairest criterion for judging the book overall.

There were many parts of the book that I loved, certainly some of Stephenson's trademark humor was still there (though less effective for me than in some previous books) and some of his wild digressions and rambling historical excursions were wonderful. But I just completely bogged down in the book, taking forever to read it-- (yes, it's long, but that hasn't been a problem in the past).

While I'm not one to necessarily demand overly plot-dominated writing, I did want something more active to guide me through the random adventures of the three protagonists. I'm sure they will all connect up more in the longrun-- but we may have to wait through 2 more books for it to tie together. Perhaps I'm just not patient enough. Like so many other novels I've read recently it's not a complete book-- it ends abrubtly with the other two parts due to be published quite soon. I'm not sure that I'll get them in hardcover, however. (6 months ago I wouldn't have believed that Stephenson could possibly drop from my automatically get in hardcover immediately list).

Oh, I guess I'm in a rambly mood right now. This is all just to say that Burke's blog entry has made me think some more about the book and helped me to appreciate it more-- a mark of good criticism.

Quicksilver and Foucault (via Crooked Timber)


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