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2002
Methuen, Inc.
733 Third Avenue
New York, NY
10017
The Soft Machine - Cybernetic Fiction
My first experience with a William Burroughs novel was a random event. While browsing through a public library as a teenager, I pulled one of his novels off of a shelf and began to read a page somewhere midway through the book. My response was a feeling of confused elation. Even though the cut-up text did not seem to make much sense, it conveyed some promise of deeper meaning beyond what I had previously experienced. Years later, while reading Porush's The Soft Machine, his discussion of information theory put this experience in perspective. According to information theory: "we could maximize information by completely randomizing or disorganising, producing a situation similar to the kind of intentional chaos and potent randomizing William Burroughs performs through his his cut-up method." Porush's (as opposed to Burrough's book of the same name) Soft Machine analyzes the work of several authors who either use cybrenetic techniques or employ cybernetic metaphors in their writing. Works by William Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Roussel and John Barth are all examined here. The approach is mainly academic, and therefore pretty dry at times, but there is plenty of good theorizing. An excellent introduction to cybernetic fiction.
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