Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Gone-Away World

On Klund's recommendation, I put myself on the waiting list for Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World. It purports to be sort of science fiction, but so far the first 120 pages have primarily been a flashback with no science fiction whatsoever. Regardless, it's very well written and I'm enjoying it immensely. More than anything, it reminds me of the parts of David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest" I read (its incompletion a result of work escalation). The parable about the three old hags and the cannibals has been worth the effort alone. And the explanation of modern production to accidents is inspired. But so far, this is my favorite part:

"Dick Washburn, known for evermore as Dickwash, is a type D pencilneck: a sassy wannabe paymaster with vestigial humanity. This makes him vastly less evil than a type B pencilneck (heartless bureaucratic machine, pro-class tennis) and somewhat less evil than a type C pencilneck (chortling lackey of the dehumanising system, ambient golf), but unquestionably more evil than pencilneck types M through E (real human screaming to escape a soul-devouring professional persona, varying degrees of desperation). No one I know has ever met the type A pencilneck, in much the same way that no one ever reports their own fatal accident; a type A pencilneck would be a person so entirely consumed by the mechanism in which he or she is employed that they had ceased to exist as a separate entity. They would be odourless, faceless, and undetectable, without ambition or restraint, and would take decisions entirely unfettered by human concerns, make choices for the company, of the company. A type A pencilneck would be the kind of person to sign off on torture and push the nuclear button for no more pressing reason than that it was his job--or hers--and it seemed the next logical step." (p 15).

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