A First Novel Exposes the Hollow Core of the Global Big Ideas Industry

By Peter Mendelsund

The famend graphic designer Peter Mendelsund’s first novel manages to be breezy and profound in equal measure. That stability is — as the programmers say — a characteristic and never a bug, and it turns this homage to Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” right into a intelligent metafictional sendup of artists’ retreats and tech-industry assume tanks.

In a Middle Eastern desert, a neighborhood oligarch “or sheikh or some such” has funded the creation of a settlement referred to as the Freehold, an oasis of “ruins, malls, mines, camel rides, men and their retainers — in thobes, dishdashas, their heads banded by black agals — hunting with peregrines, Range Rovers out in the sands. (You get the picture.)” It’s additionally house to a world institution referred to as the Institute, which presents fellowships to thought leaders in varied disciplines. Among the present residents are the Brand Analyst, the Poet and a efficiency artist referred to as the Woman-Whose-Face-and-Hands-Are-Covered-in-Yarn.


Percy Frobisher has simply arrived, intent on dedicating himself to a venture of his personal, the nature of which is left unspecified for many of “Same Same.” The indelible ink stain he will get on the entrance of his required uniform causes an incredible deal of embarrassment and he makes sluggish progress on his venture, which he notates as a collection of absurd “fundaments” like “The project shall have a narrative component. Narrative is the key ingredient in all my work, as well as in all work like mine. Perhaps narrative is the key ingredient in all human endeavor. Idk.” His procrastination strategies embody taking medicine in an deserted resort, ogling one other fellow referred to as the Mysterious Woman and sneaking out of the Institute to go to the enigmatic Same Same store.

The novel’s title derives from the shopkeeper’s potential to copy and even enhance any merchandise Frobisher brings in. Our fellow will get his uniform cleaned and different gadgets repaired (or presumably changed) and might’t determine how. Perhaps the shopkeeper “may have amassed an enormous quantity of junk again there, storage bins from which he plucks (I wish to say: one of every thing? Four of every thing? Wtf). Or there’s a extremely high-end Three-D printer. A Xerox; a milling machine; laser lathe, stitching machine; a workers of … what number of?” Questions about creation and copy — mechanical, digital and in any other case — kind a recurring theme.

Frobisher’s troubles are compounded by a run-in with the Institute’s menacing director, whose tech-jargon Newspeak monologue about the fellows’ tasks serves as a grasp class on subtext achieved in a CAPS HEAVY rant that makes use of quite a bit of fancy phrases to say completely nothing. “Of course it will — no one, no fellow — while en-laddered here at the Institute — will be allowed to shirk hard work. But, more important, it will require your complete buy-in. FULL bandwidth. Every aspect of the process running in concert with the seamless integration of your talent/application stack within the Institute’s own, every layer contributing.” It’s one of the most completely tuned passages of fiction I’ve learn in a really very long time. The deteriorating environmental situations of the Institute and an approaching desert storm ratchet up the rigidity even additional.

In inviting a comparability to Mann’s masterpiece, Mendelsund has set a tough process for himself. Percy Frobisher is not any Hans Castorp; nor, it should be stated, is he meant to be. “Same Same” reaches literary heights of its personal, even when it often punches down at some straightforward targets. In utilizing nonsensical jargon to show the hole core of the world Big Ideas , Mendelsund has produced — or maybe reproduced — one thing completely satisfying. “Same Same” is a considerable e-book about vacancy. It reminds us that there’s no right here right here except we create it ourselves.

Source link Nytimes.com

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