East Bay Book Club Message Board › Meeting Recap: January 2012 Contemporary Book Discussion (Pattern Recognitio

Meeting Recap: January 2012 Contemporary Book Discussion (Pattern Recognition by William Gibson)

Anthony
anthonylee06
Group Organizer
Union City, CA
Post #: 12
At the start of the East Bay Book Club’s first meeting of 2012, I mentioned that I would be doing something brand new: writing recaps of each book discussion meeting. I thought of this as I recalled instances of people who read a book in anticipation of a meeting they RSVPed for, only to cancel as a result of unforeseen circumstances. I figured that if they have to miss a meeting they really wanted to attend, maybe I could give them an idea of how the meeting went. Hence, for each book meeting, I will post in the message board a summary of the discussion in my own words. Those who also attended the meeting, or didn’t attend the meeting, are welcome to reply with their thoughts and comments. And don’t worry. Posting spoilers is allowed.

With that, let’s talk about the discussion of Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. This was a book that I was surprised many people enjoyed. I was one of the few people who didn’t like it. For me, it was because of two things.

One, the premise of an online community obsessing over the nature and purpose of anonymous video clips uploaded to the Internet is an interesting one, but I failed to understand what made the video clips so intriguing and mysterious. As a reader, I often like to imagine myself in the same situations I am reading about, but the description of this situation was quite vague. What was in the video clips? What kind of theories are going around the online underworld?

Two, the plot led to a rather strange finale involving the Russian mob. I was expecting that something so crucial to the state of the world was being protected. Instead, the revelation centers on two sisters and the artistic endeavor of one of them. I thought it was mildly interesting at least. Still, when I read a book, there has to be something worth reading for.

Among those who enjoyed Pattern Recognition, there were plenty of thoughtful discussion points. Several members noted that the novel contains references to technologies from various eras, all sounding fictional but are in fact real things that are just relatively obscure. It’s something that makes the story science-fiction, even though it’s a contemporary sci-fi story set in our present world. One member, Marty Pollard, said that this kind of story is really one that centers on ideas, rather than plot and character.

Speaking of ideas, there were plenty of personal observations and experiences brought up in relation to Pattern Recognition. Pam Norton talked about a daughter who was so interested in manga that she would spend time in manga message forums, sharing and discussing reedited and subtitled manga videos. Nancy Ali brought up an example with Star Trek fans analyzing their favorite fictional universe. With such real-life examples, it makes it somewhat easier to imagine a similar culture among Parkaboy and other characters in the novel studying anonymous video clips.

As for the concept of brand names, there was agreement that logos, trademarks, and the like had a way of bring people together or making them conform. Wendy Stock, who led the discussion, had one interesting question for the group. Why does Cayce Pollard, the novel’s protagonist, have an “allergic” reaction to logos specifically created between the years 1945 to 2000? I remember someone answering that the period may have to do with the Cold War, which is interesting given how Cayce is vigilant about dangerous people who are, for whatever reason, out to get her.

In the end, about five or six people, including myself, gave the book a thumbs down, but the other 12 people or so loved it. As I would often remind people, it doesn’t matter whether you enjoy the book or not. The only thing I hope for is that everyone enjoys the discussion, sharing their honest thoughts about the book. If anything, having differing opinions makes the meeting even more fun, and so far, everyone is real nice about it. Nobody should worry about sharing their opinion. As Organizer, I’ll keep everyone in line if need be.

So there you have it: my first ever recap of an East Bay Book Club book discussion meeting. Now it’s your turn to share your thoughts, whether or not you attended the meeting. Although face-to-face meetings are the way our regular books meetings will be, there’s nothing wrong with continuing the discussion in this message board. With that, I hope you enjoy this new feature of the club.
Pam N.
user 8845125
Oakland, CA
Post #: 7
It definitely was an interesting discussion. I would just add the modification that my daughter and her online friends were actually capturing anime from Japan, episode by episode, and collectively they produced American versions of the anime for followers in the U.S. She was the Japanese-English translator for the group. All of the workers in this collective were adolescents at the time. The interesting thing about this joint venture is that none of them knew each other in person, they all met online, and conducted all of their work online, for other online viewers.
Deb M.
DebMalbec
Berkeley, CA
Post #: 13
I read the book in its entirety and disliked it so vigorously that I did not want to hear a discussion. Besides the triviality of life revolving around an on-line film(yes, I know it does occur, but that does not make it any better), it irritated me that Cayce claimed to have a problem with branding - but all of her own possessions were identified by brand. Plain black clothing requiring brands? Perhaps this was tongue in cheek and I am just too literal.
Anthony
anthonylee06
Group Organizer
Union City, CA
Post #: 14
In the beginning, I thought there would be some new cool way to look at marketing, branding, and consumer culture. But throughout the book, I never got to that point. That was another reason the book failed to intrigue me.
Charlie K.
user 10225405
Oakland, CA
Post #: 12
I can only attribute the fact that I finished this book to an unwillingness to believe there wasn't going to be something somewhere in it that made it worth publishing as a novel. One of the many striking voids in this text was a total absence of irony. When I first read that Cayce was a "cool finder" I thought there might be something interesting in it, even though I have no interest at all in trash marketing. Then I read that we were supposed to be filled with awe that Cayce (or somebody she knew) was the first to notice a baseball cap turned backwards . . . Even if I hadn't fallen ill about then, I wouldn't have attended the meeting on this one. The book went directly into my "discard" bag.
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