Joyce Weisbecker’s work—which I was alerted to by a fellow tech historian, Marty Goldberg—is so little known that back in 2011, I declared Carol Shaw, who worked at Atari beginning in 1978 and later designed Activision’s classic game River Raid, to be “the first female professional video game designer.” Though Shaw’s work remains historically significant, it turns out that Joyce Weisbecker’s work predates it by roughly two years.
And she accomplished it without ever being on staff at RCA. “I know there were no other women at RCA doing the programming,” she says today. “A couple of guys did and they were employees. I think I was the only person outside the company that actually got paid to do a video game. So I was the first contractor . . . and possibly the first independent video game developer, because I came up with the idea and pitched it, and they said okay.”
In an upper-body shot alone, the fluidity of the arms, the supple curve of the hand, and the angle of the head will tell you all that you need to know about the actor’s dancing ability. It is the dance coaches and choreographers who carefully craft the illusion. Dancers train their entire careers for technical precision, flexibility, and proper posture, so working with an actor toward a believable dance moment on a timeline that is often only hours (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), weeks (“Goodbye Christopher Robin”), or months (“Red Sparrow”) becomes a high-stakes part of the process.
The first time I visited New York after turning 21, it was for a party at George Plimpton’s house. I’d only ever been inside one other Manhattan apartment before. Norman Mailer and Lou Reed were there. My best friend told Mailer he’d just read his novel Tough Guys Don’t Dance. “Why did you read that one?” Mailer asked. “I wrote it in a weekend, for money.” None of my friends had the temerity to talk to Lou Reed.
I found myself engaged in mutual elbowing with a man about my height in the crowd advancing on the bar. It was Plimpton. He got his glass of Dewar’s on the rocks and I my cup of wine. I put my cup on a table, lit a cigarette, and told Plimpton that his book The Curious Case of Sidd Finch — about a pitcher from the Himalayas with a 168-mph fastball — was the first novel I’d ever read. “What are you reading now?” he asked. I was reading Swann’s Way. “Well, then I pointed you in the right direction.” I picked up my drink and took a swig. It was a bitter slosh of cigarette butts and ash. Wrong cup.
Histories is, therefore, a novel, but a novel structured as a series of linked histories, where each chapter is told from the point of view of a different person – porter, nurse, chaplain, junior doctor, consultant oncologist (quite a few of the latter, perhaps because consultant oncologist is Guglani’s day job) – all working to keep the borderline-dysfunctional organism that is a hospital running smoothly. The action occurs over a single week, and after the bravura first chapter, which sets up Guglani’s main concerns in sentences which are economical, emotionally involving, insightful and rather beautiful, what drama there is happens largely off stage.
The new book Vacationland finds Hodgman operating in a new mode: memoir. The results are mixed in the way memoirs often are, even as it features his distinct voice and an unusual structure. It both falls victim to the genre’s trappings and maximizes on what can make it so uniquely powerful.