Hard-Boiled Future

NeuromancerNeuromancer is the foundation stone of cyberpunk. William Gibson’s novel came out in 1984 before the genre even had a name, and won a lot of awards. The judges could tell this neo-noir about hackers in cyberspace was something special.

Gibson had been working in this direction for a while, finally perfecting the prototype with his 1982 story Burning Chrome. Contracted for a novel, he lashed his cyberpunk world to a heist plot. Neuromancer’s protagonist is the burnt out hacker Case, hustling through the nightlife of Japan in a suicidal spiral until a girl called Molly with mirror shades and blades in her fingers scoops him up for her ex-military boss.

They want him to take on some top level defences in cyberspace. The rest of the team is assembled, the heist set up, and then everything goes wrong when the team breaks into a rambling family mansion up in an orbital Las Vegas and the real mastermind behind it all is revealed.

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Foggy Notions

Burning the DaysSome men live like heroes. James Horowitz did school at West Point, flew fighter jets in the Korean War, wrote screenplays for Hollywood, skied in Aspen, loved in Paris, and knew film stars as friends. He wrote novels as James Salter that ached with sex and loss. Burning the Days is his autobiography.

Americans who write about books for a living call Salter a great prose stylist, a literary giant, a master. Whether you agree depends on your tolerance for misty poetics and heartfelt vagueness. Here’s a slice of prose:

A woman, burnished by the sun, walks down the street in early morning carrying an eel. Many times I have written of this eel, smooth and dying, dark with the mystery of shadowy banks and, on that particular day, covered with bits of gravel. The eel is a saint to me, oblivious, already in another world.’

If that makes your heart throb then this is the book for you. Those already frowning should steer clear.

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Love in a Gondola

Hemingway in ItalyIn 1921 a young journalist from Illinois arrived in Paris with a loving wife and a suitcase of tyro manuscripts. Seven years soaking up the avant-garde teachings of Ezra Pound and James Joyce turned him into the best prose stylist of his generation. Ernest Hemingway returned to America with a fresh literary approach, a book contract, and a younger, richer wife.

Most readers still associate Ernest Hemingway with the French capital, an image cemented by his posthumous memoir A Moveable Feast. Guides do walking excursions round his old haunts for the tourists.

Richard Owen has other ideas. In a new book he makes the case that Italy, not France, was the place closest to Hemingway’s heart.

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