William Gibson reminds us to read Jack Womack

Stealing from the Guardian as I do from time to time, I see that in their regular “The Books that Made Me”, William Gibson, under the heading “The book I think is most underrated” nominates, “Jack Womack’s Random Acts of Senseless Violence. A near future that chillingly predicted the foulest possible outcome of our past four years in the US”. This sent me to my bookshelves, which have housed not only this book, but also the remarkable “Let’s Put the Future Behind Us” and a book I read and enjoyed very much many years ago, “Elvissey”. Elvissey was the first Womack I ever read, and I read it without the context of Terraplane or the Dryco universe that Womack created. Amongst other things, it involves a world that has accorded Elvis deity status. It also involves another Earth where young Elvis is alive and kicking, but where the dominant religion is dualist, and the creator god is perceived being evil. Post-contact, Elvis isn’t too happy about being identified with Evil. From memory this is the least of the various subplots, but one that has stuck with me. Let’s read them again, thought I.

A whole writer had been removed from my shelves. Not a sign of Womack. Wait, no, I have just spotted Let’s Put the Future Behind Us, shelved out of alphabetical order because of its size. I am relieved a little, because how do you lose an entire writer? The others are gone though. I probably loaned Elvissey to my mate Stephen nearly 25 years ago. I have moved house, even countries, several times since then, so it makes sense that things have gone missing. I have also, very recently, taken to giving away some of my hoarde. It makes no sense to my wife, who is totally non-sentimental about possessions, something which I envy until she chucks my stuff out. But my oldest books, they were gathered before computers, before abebooks and amazon and the book depository. I’d start at Galaxy, then Abbeys, then the chainstores – Dymocks, Angus and Robertson, Grahames. There used to be book stores in Sydney owned by people or non-commercial groups – Pocket and Technical, City Lights, Adyar, a bunch of others whose names I can’t remember, and that’s before getting to the 2nd hand stores. Stores where they held onto things for ages, where you could find the last cheap copy of something by John Keel or Philip K Dick or Norman Spinrad or James Blish or whoever. Stephen and me, we’d spend a day roaming every couple of weeks, when we had some money.

The gaps now, I fill with my kindle, and I understand it. But it’s not the same. Its not hoarding if it’s books. Honest. And I will read all of the Womack books, and I will enjoy them, gosh darnit. I don’t have the leisure time of my youth to scour stores and find oddities that nobody I know reads. That’s just a fact. Perhaps when I am old, not so far away, I shall be the old man equivalent. From memory, those guys were more annoying that I was as a young whippersnapper.



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