10:46, Wednesday 13 Oct., 2004 Link
Currently half-way (not quite) through David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. The whole appears to be a giant left-branching sentence, hirmus (
characterized by the suspension of the completion of sense until its end), but more so: The fly the spider the cat the dog caught caught caught was swallowed by the old lady. Audacious, too, to continually suspend and open a new clause as the last was getting gripping; I've only noticed the joins once, every other time it's taken me by surprise (specifically, the penultimate first chapter, about two pages from the end, takes a sudden turn).
Here be spoilers. What's more interesting is the way each chapter is embedded in, and dismissed as fiction by, the next. It reminds me of a device Katherine Hayles used when I heard her talk (notes on a similar talk). Using Egan's Permuation City and the concept of the universe-as-a-computer, she said: Is the Sims a simulation? [Yes.] Is a game of chess, being played in a computer game, a simulation, or the simulation of a simulation? [Just a simulation.] If we're running on a computer, the computer being the universe, what's the difference between us, and a simulation running inside our program? [Given that, none.]
She proceeded to support this assertation using the various levels of simulation inside Permutation City, essentially proving a point about life (a simulation, in her hypothesis) using fiction (a simulation of a simulation, flattened to a simulation with the same weight). Beautifully circular, an argument so elegant I think my notes are covered with exclamation marks. Shockingly, I've lost them.
Hayle's How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics is absolutely cracking, by the way, a literary journey through the history and philosophy of cybernetics.
Ramble ramble ramble. I'm sure I mp3d the Tate Modern talks too, but those are missing along with my notes.