2 minute read Published:

Just in time for the publication of The Confusion, I finally finished Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver. It’s probably taken me longer to read it than Stephenson took to write it, even in long hand (Colophon: “The manuscript of The Baroque Cycle was written by hand on 100% cotton paper using three different fountain pens: a Waterman Gentleman, a Rotring, and a Jorg Hysek.”). I feel like I’ve been reading it in long eye, although the experience was much enhanced by The Metaweb, a wiki set up by Stephenson and others for the book, especially the Quicksilver annotations page. If you’ve ever wondered how to pronounce Qwghlm (hint: begins with a tongue-click and ends with a swallowing noise) this is where to find out.

Stephenson claims that Qwghlm (a pair of islands situated off the northwestern coast of Britain, which also features in Cryptonomicon) is a “a wholly fictitious and fanciful invention”. I’m not so sure. I get spam from Qwghlm almost very day (Subject: re: what is the url? tmnsnv nc zkhojqa, Subject: cait concrrring mkuxy bznhboayzggmc, or how about this one: Subject: Re: OLQJWQEM, an olive press). My guess is it won’t be long before I get a Qwghlm-style 419 email detailing hitherto unknown Qwghlmian ancestors and promising a share of an enormous cache of Spanish gold, or perhaps the ruby pendant presented to my great-grandfather John Alexander Tonjoroff (a senator in the Bulgarian Sobranje) by the then Prince Ferdinand in about 1886, and supposedly a family heirloom ever since.

I also only just discovered from the Quicksilver Metaweb that Stephenson was taking part in Writers Week at the festival in Adelaide whilst I was there in March (from the Neil Stephenson Sightings page). Sadly, I was probably in a pub somewhere nearby at the time. Or not so sadly.