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Season 4

Episode 39: “Go go go go go, the end.”: a conversation with Jim & Lionel

The Rise & Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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Dirt bike image in reverse contrast from unsplash

We begin by espousing the benefits of corduroy jackets, move on to quality problems at Jim’s childhood bagel shop, lambaste The Onion, and wave the flamethrower of curmudgeonliness at perceived modern production optimization techniques. We then talk about our varying perceptions of the state of Connecticut. Jim mentions Rein’s Deli, where a photo of his band hangs on the wall. Lionel remembers his time growing up in that state.

On to the sujet de la semaine–The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., a novel by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland. Jim is a fan of the character Grainne; a super powerful Irish witch who lives during the Elizabethan era, however, we feel that this book suffers from the caricatures in his other novels, regardless of Galland’s influence and writing. One of our key issues is the treatment of magic in the book, which is written like science fiction, but borders on fantasy. We praise his books The Diamond Age, and Anathem, but start to point to a common structure that speaks to the predictability of his plots. We compare his formula with other authors like Michael Crichton. Jim stops Lionel from spoiling the plot of Anathem which is a real surprise, even though it follows the Stephenson formula.

We contrast this novel with our previous two reads: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and The Midnight Library, as well as Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel.

The connection gets dropped and we pick up by talking again about 2010: The Year We Make Contact which was inarguably horrible and points back to the idea that we make the best decisions we can at the time.

Lionel asks Jim to read a J.G. Ballard’s short story called Prima Bella Donna, and then we make promises we probably won’t keep about reading Ulysses, The Dubliners, and Finnegan’s Wake. We talk about not finishing Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Lionel says Ballard narrative is impossible to predict and the style has such a light touch, it’s easy to get disoriented in exciting ways. The Martian Chronicles comes up as well, and Lionel implores Jim to read the first story in that Ray Bradbury collection. Jim brings the conversation back to D.O.D.O. and the philosophical idea behind it, which he finds fascinating, but ultimately thinks were not fleshed out enough.

Jim mentions that he’s been working on a short story called The Paradox Principal. Lionel says Jim has written lots of short stories the form of songs. They talk about the opposite sort of song that is generally not a short narrative but a kind of suggestion: the love song. Lionel talks about wanting to set up his home studio differently. We talk about our motivations for creating music and stories and everything we do in a world of abundance of creative effort and a relative shortage of audience. Lionel says Vangelis has one answer, which is we write so that we do not feel alone. We talk about how an audience of one can sometimes be enough.

Lionel mentions watching Generation Kill on Max. The story is based on a book he read, which he liked. He says the show is worth a visit. Jim says his TV watching time is radically curtailed. We rifle through a series of TV shows and guage our reactions. Back to Generation Kill, we briefly discuss the history of the second Iraq war. We both say we want to watch Shogun. We both remember how the first TV series captivated America at a time when Japan was seen as threatening to our economy. This brings up the issue of having to subscribe to an increasing number of platforms to see everything we want. We talk about possible alternatives.

We try our best to put an end to this madness, but end up relaunching a discussion of several more films before we lose our legs and topple over.