“Coming up with a word like neuromancer is something that would earn you a really fine vacation if you worked in an ad agency. It was a kind of booby-trapped portmanteau that contained considerable potential for cognitive dissonance, that pleasurable buzz of feeling slightly unsettled.
I believed that this could be induced at a number of levels in a text—at the microlevel with neologisms and portmanteaus, or using a familiar word in completely unfamiliar ways. There are a number of well-known techniques for doing this—all of the classic surrealist techniques, for instance, especially the game called exquisite corpse, where you pass a folded piece of paper around the room and write a line of poetry or a single word and fold it again and then the next person blindly adds to it. Sometimes it produces total gibberish, but it can be spookily apt. A lot of what I had to learn to do was play a game of exquisite corpse solitaire.” – William Gibson
Yesterday, as I was reading an interview with William Gibson to celebrate his birthday, I was struck by the quote above. Just last week, I was writing about the importance of making the familiar unknown. As someone who attempts to do that daily, I can attest to the difficulties of bypassing automation and designing one’s day to be infused with the “pleasurable buzz of feeling slightly unsettled.” I found the way in which Gibson summed up attempting to infuse cognitive dissonance in his texts so salient and similar to what we must all strive to do in life if our goal is to lead lives filled with wonder, awe and possibility: “A lot of what I had to learn to do was play a game of exquisite corpse solitaire.”
rethink & unsettle …*
Source: William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211 via Paris Review, published Summer 2011.