Virtual Reality, Android Music & Electric Flesh

by Arthur Kroker, Bruce Sterling,
196 pages,
ISBN: 031209681X

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Brief Reviews - Non-fiction
by Stanley Fogel

THOSE OF YOU with the sharpest of memories (intact, no doubt, because of an aversion to accelerated postmodem civilization and its discontents) will already know me. I am Books in Canada's designated Kroker reviewer. Any more literary spasms from Arthur Kroker (The Last Sex, which he co-edited, also appeared this year) and I may be emboldened to give up my day job.

Spasm: Virtual Reality, Android Music and Electric Flesh (New World Perspectives/Stewart House, 177 pages, $22.95 paper), like most of the Kroker output, strains to be read as "apocalypse now." Call it megalo(spas)manic. It begins "Spasm is the 1990s." Then it tries to articulate/synthesize/be/read/produce an era and sensibility that, we are relentlessly told, is new: "A new stellar history of TV genes, recombinant shopping, war meiosis, gene nostalgia (what molecular biologists call inversion), and advertising mimesis is at hand."

And, by the way, you antediluvian dunderheads, get rid of that music library you thought was leading edge. Spasm: The CD, which accompanies the book, is (immodestly) procla to be "Duchamp for the ears ... .. a kind of germ warfare for the ears," and a "theory cyclotron." It is explained at length as the hippest of the hip in musical experimentation. (The next time I'm in a restaurant and get served melody with nouvelle cuisine, I'm not tipping.)

Kroker and his pals (the writing in Spasm is not only Kroker's) too clearly yearn to canonize Kroker. But while he offers some pithy comments on contemporary life (TV, Americans) and contemporary artists (Linda Dawn Hammond, David Therrien), they'll last only on his curriculum vitae (academe's pedestrian mode of totting up intellectual contributions) and in the occasional "Noises Off"column (the Globe and Mail's recent and fatuous way of marking arty appearances).

Perversely, though, I think that Kroker's relentless attempt to reconstitute the language of critical theory is important ... especially in a context as arid as the university's.


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