2014-09-26 - 8:44 a.m.
I made the mistake of reading William Gibson's Pattern Recognition directly after reading Marisha Pessl's Night Film. I imagine the Gibson would have struck me as deeply silly anyway -- despite him pulling the 911 card to try to bring some gravitas to the story -- but since both books are about chasing the mysterious underground filmmaker, I really couldn't avoid making comparisons.The film in Pattern Recognition sounds unimaginably boring, and the filmmaker herself turns out to be an uninteresting and severely brain-damaged person who doesn't really do anything. I finish what I start, but almost from the beginning, I'm asking myself, "Why do we care about this footage again? What difference does it make who this person is?" And after we find her, I have this feeling of "Who the hell cares?"
As opposed to Pessl's filmmaker, who may indeed be (probably is) a sociopath but he's also a fascinating character. It's easy to understand why a cult would develop around his footage. Even the movie posters included in the book's easter eggs contribute to the atmosphere of mystery and menace.
Now that I think of it, I wonder if Pessl has read Gibson and it caused her some of the same irritation. Oh, of course she has! Near the end, she even has a twist that invokes Gibson's disappointing discovery of the brain-damaged unable-to-speak filmmaker -- which is, of course, NOT the final answer. It's the cheap answer, guaranteed mystery-free, something to satisfy those who are happy with cheap answers.
But I probably wouldn't have even bothered to note down my thoughts about the two books, except for the curious parallel between the two main characters. Pessl, the thirtysomething woman, uses a disgraced middle-aged man in his midlife crisis years, who once had a brilliant career based in New York. So he believably has the freedom, the money, and the motivation to chase down the errant filmmaker.
Gibson, the middle-aged (maybe even old by now?) man, decides to lead with a thirtysomething woman. And this chick -- you can't take her seriously as anything BUT a chick -- is incredibly annoying. She's a coolhunter, a job which consists of charging her first class airfare and hotel room and even her clothing purchases to other people's corporate credit cards. She is sooooo precious that even seeing certain logos like Prada cause her to barf. And she doesn't do any actual work!
In other words, she has the kind of "consultant" job a rich man gives his mistress, so he can give her the money she demands without having to explain where it all went to his wife. Except she doesn't actually sleep with the guy who's giving her the credit card and the consultancy. It's just...stupid. Insulting to the intelligence. I mean, I get it. It's a fantasy story. Wouldn't it be nice to be paid for doing absolutely fuckall except be pretentious?
But I just don't have that much patience for out-and-out fantasy. Especially when it seems to be a guy's fantasy about a woman's fantasy. I feel like even fantasy should be psychologically real. This is a story for people who like well-written cartoons. If I wanted chick lit about shopping, there are entire shelves of the bookstore devoted to that stuff.
You could argue that the middle-aged white dude in crisis is a bit of a Mary Sue but at least it's a cliché based on actual psychology and physiology. It doesn't insult my intelligence in the same way that a woman being paid just to turn up her nose at somebody's logo design insults my intelligence.
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