The Goldbug Variations, Glenn Gould, and William Gillespie
I was supposed to be writing a blog about Richard Powers’s The Goldbug Variations, and how I finished the book while on a plane to Mexico, with Glenn Gould’s 50’s and 80’s recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations tinkling in my ears via the power of my new iPod, and how once again I was overwhelmed by Powers’s genius, in his ability to weave science and literature and music into a book that actually teaches you about fields you are unfamiliar with, and then compares bits from the knowledge you just learned to bits of things you already know about, making new metaphors that you now desperately need to resolve puzzles you never even knew existed before. It’s not my first Powers novel nor my favorite (that would be Gain), but it’s the only one with such a direct link to music, with a pattern roughly based on that of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, and which basically is a companion piece to Bach and specifically to Glenn Gould’s recordings (really, one cannot enjoy this book to its fullest without being familiar with and possibly simultaneously listening to Gould’s Goldberg Variations, as both works inform the reader/viewer about the other to a great degree).
But in researching the blog I wanted to write about, I got distracted and wound up being mesmerised by another author I’m sure will soon become a favorite of mine–William Gillespie, whose essay “Mapping The Gold Bug Variations” did a great job of covering all the bases I wanted to but also involved more research than I’d cared to do, including two interviews with Richard Powers that, like a smart-aleck, he only used a one-sentence quote from. I briefly checked out some works Gillespie had been involved with (including a book called 2002: A Palindrome Story in 2002 Words that is one giant palindrome), as well as his publishing company over at Spineless Books, and I’m going to be doing a lot of reading over at this site in the next week or two.