Sushi Barn

Lebbeus Woods, Quake City (1995)

The house had floodlights trained on it, bright as day and ugly as shit, though this was just the back of it. They’d painted everything white, she guessed to tie it together, but it didn’t. Looked like somebody had patched a factory, or maybe a car dealership, onto a McMansion, then stuck an interstate chain restaurant and a couple of swimming pools on top of that. There were sheds scattered, beside the gravel and farther back, and machinery too, under big tarps . . .

From, of course, William Gibson, The Peripheral, which my son Chris put me on to when I said I had finished Gibson’s Blue Ant trilogy.

What is happening at this point in the novel is that Flynne, from somewhere in the near future, is being abducted by a drug baron called Pickett. A plot connection with a yet more distant future. She will be rescued. We are yet only in the middle reaches of a complicated story.

The passage is remarkable only for its distillation of a manner, a style, a sense of the present moment, of which Gibson is acknowledged master. Flat, unadorned transitions and lazy similes in a music of trailing, unstressed cadences. Each sentence a sort of long trochee, a self-deflating object. The imagery itself, the heroine’s field of perception—gazing out the window of her abductor’s car—is a comic mashup of architectural junk, fake artefacts, labels, copies neither-more-nor-less authentic than the originals, ready-mades from our very real present. People in this world, even in dire situations, similarly encrypted by bad jeans, say, or an outdated and ugly camo-pattern headscarf.

All this rich absurdity condensed by Gibson into a single masterstroke, the name of the restaurant where Flynne, her brother and his friends—free-spirited ex-Marines and cyber-geeks who live in a depressed Appalachia of Walmarts and meths—meet and conspire. A restaurant called Sushi Barn.

Sushi Barn is how we live now.

Sushi Barn is out the window of our flat. The new LRT that has been “testing” now for a year on its overwrought way. The towers that dot the horizon, high-rise housing for big-fee-paying Chinese and Indian university students. Dogs pissing in the snow below that don’t look somehow like real dogs.

Sushi Barn is the sartorial settlement I have arrived at, not without self-mockery, of dark 501s, indigo chambray shirts, Italian scarves, and—from, of course, his Pattern Recognition—a William Gibson bomber jacket.

Sushi Barn is tetracycline and tauroursodeoxycholic acid, off-piste prescriptions of old first-generation antibiotic and synthesised Chinese black-bear gall-bladder powder, things I take every day under the instruction of Dr. De of Heart Failure Service—who I think is a real person.

In life, however, as in the restaurant at the end of The Peripheral, among the misfits and damaged souls, Sushi Barn is also the site of altruism, free ethical choice, responsibility, courage and love.