We hit pause on recapping, and talk the intersection of education and technology with a genuine educational technologist, Professor Justin Reich (and the man who introduced Dukes + Bagg). Justin considers Stephenson’s take on the ancient debate about whether education resembles “filling a pail” or “kindling a flame” and notes his preoccupation with the probabilistic nature of education tech.
Bagg proposes Dukes would live in Dovetail in this scenario, and the UMBs set off to untangle this ambitious and elaborate neo-nano-steampunk plot. We note Stephenson’s obsessions with chaos v. order, hypocrisy v. moral relativism, and his love for characters whose ethnicity and racial identity are surprisingly matched.
After blowing off steam about the pronunciation of “Natick” in the audio book, Dukes and Bagg reflect on the challenges of reigning in Stephenson’s “firehose of talent” and speculate about which of the three (or four) possible ending climaxes should have been chosen for this book.
Chris and Jesse try to figure out where Zodiac sits in the upper-middlebrow spectrum. Dukes wishes he could have commuted around Chicago a la Sangamon Taylor, Stephenson’s protagonist, and we discuss whether the dorking is premature or not. We ask “do camel crickets leap at your face?”
Bagg and Dukes dive into the second half of Highsmith’s “mystery in reverse.” They discuss whether it should have been harder for Tom to get away with murder and how Tom’s rationalizations can feel too realistic.
Chris and Jesse talk salt pigs and the Queen Mary ocean liner before getting down to business, diving into Patricia Highsmith’s disturbing and keenly crafted 1955 novel. They discuss the difference between a hero and a protagonist, Highsmith’s ability to describe self-deception, and whether there is something at all likable about Tom Ripley.
Chris and Jesse pick up mostly where we left off (although “leaving off” suggests we’re keeping track of what we’re doing—spoiler alert: we’re not), as Hiro and Y.T. infiltrate the decommissioned USS Enterprise (the aircraft carrier, that is—all you trekkies put your hearts back in your chest cavities), searching for the Nam Shub of Enki and trying to get anyone to listen to Reason.
Released in 1992, Snow Crash is Neal Stephenson’s second major novel, but certainly his first breakaway hit. Snow Crash follows the exploits of Hiro Protagonist (yes, you read that right) and his partner Y.T., as they try to save the world from an “infocalypse,” delving into the differences and similarities between viruses biological, spiritual, and informational.
Upper Middle Brow launches TOMORROW! Yes, that’s right, tomorrow, November 22nd, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash with our very first episode. We’re excited, and we hope you are, too. Our trailer is below, and you can also find it where you download or listen to all fine podcasts. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you tomorrow.
Too often, authors, creators, and their audiences pigeonhole themselves and each other, claiming tiny slices of culture to inhabit: “literary,” “mass-market,” “popular,” “sophisticated,” “page-turner,” “beach read,” “dense,” “heavily plotted,” “post-plot,” “pretentious,” “lowbrow,” “highbrow.” We say “Enough!” We applaud the writers and artists who refuse to occupy one tranche…