Total Immersion, or: The Wire, William Gibson, and Being Open to the World

Some things happened, all of which influenced one another:

1) the Pulitzer Prizes were announced and we were looking at what won over breakfast. Chestnut was delighted to find that a book she'd read, All the Light We Cannot See, won one. Diana came downstairs and announced, "These sorts of prizes are biased against the genres that I'm interested in reading, and so I cannot support them."

2) I've been on a bit of a library tear, moving through recently published books (oh my!), reading a lot more contemporary fiction than I normally do, looking for something to love.

3) The last time I was at the library, I happened upon a copy of William Gibson's new novel, The Peripheral.

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I have tried to read William Gibson before, Neuromancer, and I was not successful. Part of that, I fear, was that going in, I thought, "I might not be able to make it through this, because I'm not much of a science fiction person." But as I watch Chestnut throw herself heedlessly (or is it willy-nilly) into all sorts of different books I get—inspired. I want to be shocked and amazed by what I am reading, and it seemed like a good way to do that might be to read somewhere I'm not used to.

So.

It wasn't easy, but it was wondrous—the experience of reading this, I mean. It started and I felt shoved out. I had no idea what was going on, everything seemed rough, and off-putting, and impossible to understand, but instead of letting that turn me back, I remembered something I loved about The Wire: I had no idea what was going on when I started it, or who was saying what, or what any of it meant. It was all about the language of it, for me—and I trusted that being immersed in the language, I would figure it out.

In The Peripheral, it felt so foreign, and I reminded myself to relax and it would, somehow, start to make sense. Total immersion is the best way to learn any language, right? It could work.

And it did. 

There is something so deeply gratifying about going to a place that's unfamiliar, and seeing things start to make sense. I loved reading this book. The people and the place and the fear and the struggle became intensely real to me. There's a richness to entering a world different from your own, and on leaving it I am slightly off, not clear on anything really. But changed. It's so nice when that happens.

4 thoughts on “Total Immersion, or: The Wire, William Gibson, and Being Open to the World

  1. Weird to see “The Wire” mentioned here tonight. I was thinking of it and Baltimore burning and rioting —
    Back to reading — I, too, am not a science fiction fan, and I love the idea of throwing oneself into reading something entirely outside of familiar genre.

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  2. If you are looking for something new, then I would suggest The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. I just finished it and thought it was terrific. I would suit anyone wanting to branch out of contemporary fiction, but not quite willing to go too far into the speculative fiction category.

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  3. Thank you for this recommendation! I’m a sci-fi fan and still found the beginning tough, but now I’m completely entranced.

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