When I started the blog, I thought it would be a good tool to help me write my dissertation, a non-judgmental space in which I could free-write and develop my ideas. But, if reading other blogs has taught me something is that the internet is very far from non-judgmental. So, what did I do? I opened it up even more, and started talking about my private life, too. Smart, eh?
I’m finding myself back to work, back to writing, and I’ve chosen to start thinking about the literature part of my dissertation. I’m talking about novels that engage with corporations in any way. So, initially, I was thinking of William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition, Scarlett Thomas’ Popco, and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. Upon revision and rethinking, I began to doubt the value of keeping Pattern Recognition: yeah, it does talk about corporations, their increasing involvement in people’s lives, and the ubiquity of branding, but it offers no way out, only an escapist fantasy. My ambition, you see, is not only to critique, but to investigate solutions to the present corporatist situation.
Gibson presents our contemporaneity very convincingly and astutely: advertising and branding have overtaken public space to such a degree that not only is there no corporate-free space left (well, except in Russia), but people are developing physiological reactions to it. The protagonist, Cayce, is allergic to advertising, to various degrees, depending on the level of public brand recognition, e.g., she’s most allergic to Bibendum, the Michelin mascot, but not so allergic to less known brands. The novel mirrors most people’s bafflement with the ubiquity of corporatism: it’s here, it’s everywhere, so there’s really nothing we can do about it. At least, that’s the sense I got at the end of the novel, when, after a globe-trotting search for an elusive artist who creates a highly aesteticized and esoteric film clips, she settles with her beau and lives happily ever after. Talk about a downer! Of course, the novel is much more complex and quite intricately devised, but its overall message is that corporatism is here to stay, and one can only escape from it temporarily by recognizing and enjoying authentic art. Or something like that. It’s not like I have a PhD in this stuff or something.
This morning, however, in the car, on my way to drop Eria at the dayhome, I had my ‘aha’ moment. I remembered why I wanted the novel there in the first place. Don’t get to excited; the reason is not as sexy as I make it seem. And after all, this blog is about me and not you *or* your sexy literary fantasies. So, no, no drumroll for this one: it’s actually a good presentation of the extent to which branding and advertising have seeped into daily lives and public space. It’s also a good precursor to Thomas’ PopCo, which goes beyond the “Houston, we have a problem” stance and offers a solution to the seeming inescapability of corporate life. So, I think Gibson stays. Not for long, though. We have more important stuff to do… Just kidding! What’s more important than literature?