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The Big U

2002-04-09 16:16:47+00 by Dan Lyke 7 comments

Via Jerry Kindall, Neal Stephenson's first novel is available online: The Big U. Obviously a first novel, the first chapter is really rough, subsequent chapters get better. I haven't finished it yet, but despite the sharp corners it's better than some widely published stuff I've read recently. I also remember reading (was it Columbine?) that if you get the in-jokes it's even better, but as a basic send-up of college it's got some nicely turned phrases.

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-04-09 18:33:06+00 by: Jerry Kindall [edit history]

The in-jokes relate to Boston University (check the Amazon reviews).

This, from Locus, probably explains some of the novel's problems:

"[When I wrote The Big U] it was July, and the weather was boiling hot and humid. There was no air conditioning, so I'm sitting there in my underwear, pounding this thing out as fast as I can go. The plastic backing of the carbon film ribbon was actually softening in the heat, and if it stopped moving, it would adhere to the guides it was threaded through and seize up, and I would have to completely disassemble the typewriter and get it unstuck. So there was this huge incentive not to ever stop typing. That manuscript is full of these long, rambling, incoherent sentences, which were probably just me typing in order to keep the ribbon moving! Later, of course, it came in for some heavy editing."

#Comment made: 2002-04-10 17:06:47+00 by: TC

I might have to pick it up. The word is that Quicksilver is being delayed again :(

#Comment made: 2002-04-10 17:45:10+00 by: Dan Lyke

I know you like dead trees, but the URL above works rather nicely to suck the whole thing into iSilo[Wiki](http://www.isilo.com/)...

Finished it. Typical Stephenson ending, his collaborator on his "Stephen Bury" works brings a much needed sense of plot that he just doesn't have writing alone. If I look at it as a rough first novel with no editing, it was kinda fun.

#Comment made: 2002-04-10 18:26:48+00 by: other_todd

T'werent me, Dan; I haven't read it. Debby has, though, and she says that though it is definitely rough (rumor has it that Stephenson didn't want it reprinted), she thinks he was going through a Pynchon period when he wrote it. Or was it a Nabokov period? No, I'm pretty sure it was Pynchon. Wouldn't sell me either way; I can't get through a Pynchon book OR a Nabokov book despite numerous attempts.

#Comment made: 2002-04-10 18:27:30+00 by: other_todd

Oh, wait: I did say that Zodiac is tons better if you get the Boston jokes, however. So maybe that's what you're thinking of.

#Comment made: 2002-04-10 18:49:29+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Is anyone other than me having problems accessing that URL? I can't seem to resolve www.csr.uvic.cc.ca.

#Comment made: 2002-04-10 20:33:34+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yep, seems to be down for me too right now. Wonder if it was an intranet thing that they didn't expect to be visible outside the community college.

And yep, I won't subject myself to Pynchon again either.