Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Him: "So what are you reading now?"
Me: "A thousand-page novel about a role-playing video game by a dude named Neal Stephenson."
Him: (silence, shock): "You mean, a novel about, like, Call of Duty?"
Me: "Sort of — it's more like World of Warcraft."
Him: "Interesting." (Not meaning it, wondering if he still wants to be friends with such a huge nerd.)
Indeed, Neal Stephenson's novel Reamde, of which I have traversed about 200 pages, is on the surface, the dorkiest thing I can possibly imagine. I don't have a gaming bone in my body, so plowing through 200 pages of video-game-origin story would seem, to my self-who-didn't-just-read-those-200-pages, a complete bore.
But you know what? I'm enthralled. One of the marks of a great writer, in my opinion, is his/her ability to entrance readers who don't give a peacock's petute for the subject. And here with are with Mr. Stephenson. (And incidentally, I'm in the same boat with a book of essays by Jonathan Lethem, in which, at one point, he led me through a 50-page piece about James Brown, to whom I haven't allocated more than four or five thoughts in my whole life. But I loved Lethem's essay!)
Stephenson, as his loyal and passionate fans have been telling me for a long time, writes with such flair, that even his page-long (or longer) tangents are riveting. Whether he's explaining what an Application Programming Interface (API) is, or simply describing a room, he's clever and funny, and he's constantly keeping you on your toes so you don't find yourself skimming or fading out.
So, really, the point of this post is just to tell you that my first impressions of Stephenson are immensely positive. I'm very much looking forward to spending 850 more pages with him.
Have you read Stephenson? Impressions? Suggestions on where to go after Reamde (assuming I continue to enjoy it)?
Posted by Greg Zimmerman at 2:43 PM