Just finished Reading The Peripheral and it is always good to read a novel that feels wholly complete at its conclusion. Gibson has a mastery of the form that I cannot currently express, as I don’t have much space in my head of late for critical thinking. I do have that sense of the book’s completeness. There’s a sense at its conclusion of the benevolent omnipotent kindness of the most constructive players of simulation games from The Sims to Dwarf Fortress and Rim World, intertwined with those fantasies of what one would do if suddenly super-empowered by winning a lottery jackpot.
The lottery, winning a jackpot, runs through the book, with The Jackpot as a slow motion ruination of the whole world, as happens of course on a personal level to most of those who do win lottery jackpots. The first intervention by Coldiron from the future on behalf of Flynne and her brother is that their cousin win a lottery jackpot and the book loops around to the family having been positioned such that they can work to nudge the world away from the past of the future where “the Jackpot” of plague, climate change’s impacts and other things work the slow motion apocalypse of descent rendered in the continuum of Neverton, Lev and Lowbeer.
It is perhaps the inward-looking avoidance of evil and work toward the common good that represents the best part of goodness, the most solidly ethical path.
Lowbeer says that it is the fact of flynne’s ongoing unwillingness to deploy a thing as terrible as party-time that is important going forward. This is Lowbeer looking ahead to consider the most positive outcome and move onward from that. She invites Flynn to spend time considering what to do at the party when she does succeed in identifying the man on the balcony not its negative alternative. Lowbeer goes further in considering Flynne’s future, her ethics, that it’s important she continue to be incapable of using the chemical weapon because Lowbeer is being an optimist and looking forward to Flynne’s role in the new order that will come with their success in the current crisis and Flynne’s role in the long term work of avoiding the jackpot for her continuum.
There’s a balance in the novel of ethics and privileged where the latter emerges most clearly in those with less of the latter. There is the stub, which serves as a rich person’s game & unique gift from one person of the klept to another at its outset but grows into interpersonal partnership across time and difference to render Flynne’s continuum a radically better place and put the levers of change in their world into hands which least expected to ever wield them and which least sought them out. The old saying about those best qualified for positions of power are those which least seek for them.
There are perhaps a great many things to be said about Flynne’s relationship at the book’s close with Tommy, the Lawful Good uncorrupted Sheriff, hat conspicuously in hand in the presence of ladies, a throwback, an aspiration toward black and white morals in a deeply grey world. Their child signaling the continuing of the work for the world in the not-compound of their homes on the family land, the ongoing refusal to becoming uprooted from the place which shaped them into the people who chanced into control of their world.
Particularly nice to read a book and finish it on vacation and in a place mentally and physically where I can sit and think quietly about the book. I like to have the time to sit and write, to get my thoughts into some kind of order. I should start journaling again. I’m writing this on that little kindle tablet. Working on a good way to sync all the files here with my home and work computers, for exactly this sort of travel and writing.
There are a few quotes toward the end of the book that struck me in particular.
One of the things which is striking about the form of novels is their unmatched ability to render a world and to allow a full world to be rendered by the work of a single person, a single mind. Its the scale of this creation that sometimes floors me and which drives me however much I am driven to eventually write one, as a pinnacle of creative endeavors I aspire toward. The render too of wholly convincing people who are not just shades of yourself is also an unmatched feature of novelists’ powers along with a readers’ ability to flesh out, to shade in detail the notes which are sketched by the words the writer gives as well as the spaces those words leave empty.
It makes me want to read more, thinking more, write more, both about the things which I read and to try myself at making whole those pieces of story and character and ultimately a sort of life which fiction can allow one to bring into being thanks to language and imagination.
It’s always struck me that the best novels are unadaptable as they use most fully those features which cannot exist as well in other media. The inner lives and voices of people cannot be in film as well as they can be when passed as inner dialogue from writer to character to reader without it having shifted format save through the interface of language which is always the media of thought. In this way it seems that written fiction read silently is in this way the best media for transmission of minds, of thoughts, of people’s most true selves perhaps, that renders it, for me, the most sustainingly powerful of the Arts.
I’ll end this here for now and get up and enjoy some more of this sunny, relaxing day and go out to experience some of it, perhaps later as fodder for making some life out of words I’ve read and things which I have seen on days like this and the worse ones, the days against which betters onces like this are the bulwark of peace in life.