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William Gibson on reading, William Burroughs & cyberspace

Neuromancer first editionWilliam Gibson spoke at the New York public library last week and The Awl took the trouble of writing up much of what the author said. It’s interesting stuff from a writer who holds a very special position in the literary world.

I was probably 12 or 13 years old, and I went virtually every day to the three rotating wire paperback book racks in the small rural town in Virginia where I lived, to see if there were any new books. The library burnt to the ground forty years earlier, and had never been replaced, so that was my library. Even though I knew that the books on the racks were only changed once a month, I’d still go every day just in case something new had arrived. And I literally checked out everything. And I found a very cheaply assembled anthology of Beat writing, which I bought and took home and hid from my mother, because I could see from the content that she wouldn’t approve of it. So I started reading the Beats out of this rather badly assembled little anthology. And I really couldn’t make head nor tail out of most of it. But then I hit their excerpts from Naked Lunch, which made no sense to me at all. Like reading messages from Mars. But I could sense that it was in part built out of science fiction.

Gibson is active on social media. I love how people keep tweeting at him that there is an early manuscript of Neuromancer for sale on AbeBooks for $25,000 / approx £16,680. He’s not in the least bit interested.

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