Tired of reading the same recommended books from the usual sources? Just think of our weekly What We’re Reading column as your non-committal book club with FADER and some of your favorite bands. For this installment, FADER art director Harry Gassel talks about his love of William Gibson and comedy podcasts.
By William Gibson
I love William Gibson's Pattern Recognition. In it, Gibson—who is possibly most famous for coining the term Cyberspace—took his sharp science fiction lens and re-focused it on a then-contemporary, post-9/11 America. As the world caught up to Gibson's 30-year-old speculations on culture and technology, he surveyed the recent past, limited his conversations of styles and technology to the real and the possible, and unpacked a quickly changing world like Ethel and Lucy overwhelmed on the increasingly rapid production line.
I hadn't read some of his older work, though, so I picked up Count Zero, a sequel to his iconic Neuromancer that was published in 1986—five years before AOL started jacking Americans into a decidedly real cyberspace. Count Zero is very much classic Gibson, but honestly it's taking me a long time to get through this book. It's about an unspecified, nearish future in which rapid transit has condensed the continents, biosoftware has begun to merge man and machine with regenerative robotic limbs, and an elective surgery allows people to connect and navigate through an alternate-reality internet, like they're half hacker, half maverick pilot. The story jumps around three plot lines that, based on Gibson's narrative track-record, I'm guessing will start to intertwine and revolve around a shared mystery. In Count Zero, Gibson by necessity spends a lot of time introducing and defining new terms, but for me all the made-up lingo and slang obscures the real-life issues that he addresses more directly in recent work. Like the Gibson of Pattern Recognition, I think I'd rather look directly at our contemporary global corporations, military industrial complex, government, style and technology—it's sufficiently uncanny and terrifying as is.
The Todd Glass Show
I've been having trouble reading on my overcrowded morning commute, so I usually just listen to a podcast. "The Todd Glass Show," hosted by comedian Todd Glass, is, I think, one of the best. The basic structure is a very self-referential morning zoo format with classic showbiz intonation and tropes—think Frank Sinatra and Don Rickles plugging dates on local morning radio. Then it mixes in sometimes serious and well-researched roundtable discussions about things like identity politics and the differences between sensitivity and pandering to a homogenized political correctness or it just takes a couple minutes to enjoy stock audio of a baby laughing. For two to three hours, Glass, a coterie of young comedians and a rotating cast of more established guests propose and improvise segments and recurring bits, like imagining the misogynist shock jock Tom Leykis in everyday scenarios, or inventing hypothetical jazz age political pundits. The thrill here comes from being able to listen in to top comedians at the genesis of an idea—whether its a serious observation or an impromptu bit of silliness you can hear the spark that turns friction into humor. Todd Glass gently nudges his crew from one segment to another but leaves space for his cohorts and the moment to surprise. The temperature can rise and fall winding up into chaotic stupidity or sprawling into serious discourse granting each the airtime and respect it deserves in a way that feels both incredibly structured and pointedly anarchic at the same time.