You may or may not know, but I’ve been reading the Gospels. I read through them once earlier and now I’m studying them, along with the New Testament.
No, I’m not a “Christian”. I’m just fascinated with Jesus.
So anyway, I’ve been having fun learning about what Jesus actually taught and how Paul, later on in the New Testament, altered it, even contradicted it, and threw in his own two cents. The rest of the New Testament is a ‘Yes, but…’ to the Gospels. I’m of the pretty firm opinion now that today’s “Christians” are actually Paulists. Very little, if not none, of the so-called Christian churches are based on Jesus, though they constantly say they are.
You’re 100% correct on the Catholic Church and the Protestant sects being Paulists. There’s a fascinating discussion of religion and Christianity in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash where one character makes a similar point to yours and adds that the resurrection is a) not important to Christ’s teachings and b) almost certainly fabricated. It’s not said in the novel, but I think we can safely say ‘by Paul.’
In Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson offers a fantastic definition of America through the imagined voice of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, previous holder of the record for “Most Successful Attack on America.” I say this to glorify neither Yamamoto nor bin Laden, but to recognize that both the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the World Trade Center grossly underestimated the nature of America:
Isoroku Yamamoto has given up on trying to make them understand that the Americans are grudge-holders on a level that is inconceivable to the Nipponese, who learn to swallow their pride before they learn to swallow solid food. Even if he could get Tojo and his mob of shabby, ignorant thugs to comprehend how pissed off the Americans are, they’d laugh it off. What’re they going to do about it? Throw a pie in your face, like the Three Stooges? Ha, ha, ha! Pass the sake and bring me another comfort girl!
Isoroku Yamamoto spent a lot of time playing poker with Yanks during his years in the States, smoking like a chimney to deaden the scent of their appalling aftershave. The Yanks are laughably rude and uncultured, of course; this hardly constitutes a sharp observation. Yamamoto, by contrast, attained some genuine insight as a side-effect of being robbed blind by Yanks at the poker table, realizing that the big freckled louts could be dreadfully cunning. Crude and stupid would be okay—perfectly understandable, in fact.
But crude and clever is intolerable; this is what makes those redheaded ape-men extra double super loathsome. Yamamoto is still trying to drill the notion into the heads of his partners in the big Nipponese scheme to conquer everything between Karachi and Denver. He wishes that they would get the message. A lot of the Navy men have been around the world a few times and seen it for themselves, but those Army guys have spent their careers mowing down Chinamen and raping their women and they honestly believe that the Americans are just the same except taller and smellier. Come on guys, Yamamoto keeps telling them, the world is not just a big Nanjing. But they don’t get it. If Yamamoto were running things, he’d make a rule: each Army officer would have to take some time out from bayoneting Neolithic savages in the jungle, go out on the wide Pacific in a ship, and swap 16-inch shells with an American task force for a while. Then maybe, they’d understand they’re in a real scrap here.
Every American, from the descendants of the first Asians who crossed the land bridge from Siberia to Alaska, to the descendants of Irish who escaped the Famine on the Death Ships, to the descendants of Africans who somehow escaped death during the Middle Passage only to defeat even greater odds by surviving slavery long enough to have children in the New World, is the result of colossal badasses mixing their genes together.
We are the sons and daughters of explorers, fighters, crazies, and supreme survivors. We are the ones who said, ‘Let’s try for something better’ despite the fact that ‘there be dragons,’ and the ones who, whenever possible, refused to lay down and die despite the lash and the rapists and the slave market.
And we don’t let insults go. As Yamamoto knew, and Tojo and Hirohito discovered, when the Sleeping Giant is awakened, it will move heaven and earth to gain revenge. Or, like Marcellus Wallace says, ‘if [he] goes to Indochina, I want a nigger waiting in a bowl of rice ready to pop a cap in his ass.’ Marcellus Wallace is a pure distillation of America. So is Barack Hussein Obama.
Neal Stephenson directed his readers to this article during the publication of The Baroque Cycle. He felt it was a great way to understand why he isn’t the most public of authors, but certainly not the recluse some make him out to be.
I certainly find a lot of myself in it.
Neal Stephenson’s new novel, Reamde, is the front-runner, if this is the final cover, for ugliest book cover evah.
Description from Amazon:
With Reamde, this visionary author whose mind-stretching fiction has been enthusiastically compared to the work of Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Kurt Vonnegut, and David Foster Wallace—not to mention William Gibson and Michael Crichton—once again blazes new ground with a high-stakes thriller that will enthrall his loyal audience, science and science fiction, and espionage fiction fans equally. The breathtaking tale of a wealthy tech entrepreneur caught in the very real crossfire of his own online fantasy war game, Reamde is a new high—and a new world—for the remarkable Neal Stephenson.
1056 pages. Well then.
I don’t know—I have a bad feeling about this one—it has pot-boiler written all over it. He’s been working on The Mongoliad for most of the last two years and had to bang this out quickly to fulfill a contract with William Morrow.
Who doesn’t need a clock to run for 10,000 years?
Combine it with an accurate orrey, a telescope, and a monastery and we’ll talk.
Teaching this tomorrow, so I’m re-reading today.
It’s amazing to me a) how prophetic this book was/is, and b) how much Stephenson has improved as a prose stylist since writing this book. He’s not bad here, obviously, but The Baroque Cycle challenged him in both content and form to rise to the challenge of writing Louis XIV, Franklin, Leibniz, Newton, Huygens, et al.
I detest when publishers bring out new editions of books and make changes. Sometimes they repaginate, which really chaps my ass as all my notes and ideas are useless when I try to teach a book to a group of students who may have different editions—Vonnegut’s books have gone through this several times, and the worst might be Penguin’s Great Books of the 20th Century edition of Gravity’s Rainbow that completely changed the pagination that had been the exact same from the 1st Hardcover and 1st PB through all the ‘new’ versions that would come out with new Pynchon books. And the cover and the faux hand-cut pages were horrifically ugly.
But Snow Crash’s newer editions removed a really strange thing: the definitions of ‘snow,’ crash,’ and ‘virus’ that Stephenson had used as opening to the 1st edition.
I wonder if he/they did it because the definition of snow he used is out of date: ‘b. The white specks on a television resulting from weak reception?’ I wonder if this allusion (as well as the original image that opens Neuromancer mean anything to anyone under the age of 25?
I would teach Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle if I could, but not many grad students where I teach would see much of a return on their investment—they are mainly middle and high school teachers, so giving them 1000 page novels they’ll never teach is a bit foolish. I have other challenges to set them that will reward all of us.
Oh indeed I have. I really like it. And in no way do I think I could teach it outside of a class devoted exclusively to Stephenson’s works.
I actually got an advanced reader’s copy with a CD of chants that are supposed to be what the avout sing. Neal has friends in a group in Seattle that composed and performed them. It’s interesting, but not exactly my cup of tea.
You can here some of that music here.
I’m hoping to get an ARC of Reamde, but my connection at Neal’s agent’s office seems to have changed jobs.
I would say that Baroque Cycle, especially the last volume, The System of the World, is my favorite as it’s the culmination of so many of his themes from Snow Crash onward. Right now, I’d say that Anathem is my favorite to read, but Snow Crash is definitely special.
I just wish the ending of The Diamond Age made any sense whatsoever.
Reamde is here.
Neal Stephenson’s agent just sent me the galleys.
I guess I better hurry up and burn through the rest of the 10th Anniversary Edition of American Gods, as wow, this will require my full attention.
Richard kept his head down.
Ok, it’s not ‘A screaming came across the sky’ or ‘riverrun, past Eve and Adams, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth, Castle and Environs.’ (both of which I’d like to have tattooed on my arm), but new prose by Neal Town Stephenson is always a good thing.
It does fit with my theory (generally proved by every novel since Snow Crash) that he starts every novel with an image of violence or something martial. This is probably the least thus connected, but still.
Quicksilver begins with Enoch seeing the hangman’s noose on Boston Common, and Anathem begins with Orolo asking about non-Fraas burning each other alive.
It’s not quite like I thought it would be.
It’s … interesting. Very of this moment, of this world, of this life today.
Prose is good, plot moves very quickly. I’m not quite convinced it’s not a potboiler, but I’m enjoying it.
Yep. It’s my second, but this one is single author. My last one sold DOZENS of copies. Currently ranked: #5,052,879 on Amazon. Woooo!
Totally doing this on spec. Who knows, maybe it’ll get published and get under 5 million on Amazon.