Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The New American Spook Country

Both this essay and the TIE Fighter piece were written over the summer right after I finished my 2L year. I was looking for something to read and decided to plow through a few books on 9/11 politics in America, both the legal and fictional aspects. There aren't very many authors with the guts to write fiction about post-9/11 America and those that do tend to get bogged down in nationalism, paranoia, and worst of all, glorifying the past.

It was with great pleasure to discover that one of the few to really address the issue head on is William Gibson. He is one of my personal heroes for having both been born in my area of South Carolina and being raised in my favorite part of the South: Appalachia. What surprised me was that many of the techniques and motifs he used were distinctly Southern ones that were employed in second generation post-Civil War books. Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, there are dozens but the story mostly remains the same. The American South was a pretty f***ed up place before the Civil War. It was pretty f***ed up afterwards too. But the rapidness of that change left a mark that you can still see throughout the South.

What Gibson wrote about in Spook Country was America as a whole in such a state of flux. Our government tapping phone lines and detaining people without cause. The technology of the internet rendering the celebrity a moot issue. A music box being used to carry trade secrets. Advertising firms that care more about their product being a secret than fully known. Everything has changed, overnight it seems, and the void of a way of life destroyed is the source of this strange mixture of paranoia and fear.

It is still, in my opinion, the best book about 9/11 yet written.


Geoffrey said...

I never realized that William Gibson grew up in a community that I competed with academically, athletically, and musically, in high school. That is awesome.

I'm ashamed that they don't have some sort of plaque.

I even asked a friend from there, and she didn't know who I was talking about. Shameful.

L.B. Jeffries said...

Damn, really? The guy is one of the unsung geniuses of the South, but I guess he has an awkward track record. He bailed on America during Vietnam and moved to Canada, only comes back intermittently since.

Still, the dude invented cyberpunk, steampunk, and is now charting the 9/11 fictional waters. Amazing for one person to do so much.