Monday, January 01, 2007

Rediscovering Stephenson

One of the things I love about winter break is being able to catch up on my reading. I breezed through my new copy of iWoz with a bit more insite to the Wozster than I had before. FInding a place for it on my bokshelf reminded me to dust off my copy of Neal Stephenson's Baroque cycle. The fact that I love Stephenson's books should be no surprise to those that know me. They are rich in nerdy detail, convoluted in plot and double-clickable in character; that is the characters have enough depth to be interesting and sometimes unpredictable.

I often pick up Cryptonomicon and reread favorite passages: Randy's encounter with the Dentist, and his breakthrough moment in the jail visiting room with Amy. Avi's confrontation with Goto Dengo as to the source of WWII gold in the Japanese-built crypt in the Phillipines; Lawrence's spontaneous performance of Bach on a questionably-tempered pipe organ.

Picking up Quicksilver finds me in a very foreign literary land. Not having a degree in English, names like Pynchon mean little to me, so trying to plough through this type of literature dulls the blade of my skimming reader pretty quickly. Like my universtiry textbooks, there are pages that I finish reading and then stop, realizing I have no clue as to what they said. Then I have to trudge back to the place I took my first mis-step, align both visual and mental acuity, and attack the text with persistent vision leading to - usually - comprehension.

I look forward to finding the story of wootz, the makings of hardened steel. Stephenson makes this sound like a discovery that changed the face of battle in the entire world. Maybe he's right.