The City & The City by China Miéville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Something a little tangential to start with.
I was thinking about this quote I had rattling around in my head and knew that the original piece was said by a man to a woman but I couldn’t quite remember if it was in text or on film, in real life or in fiction but that I had heard/read it twice. In the end my google-fu turned up the film Bright Star which covers the relationship between John Keats and Fanny Brawne.
“The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out, it is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery.”
Keats says this to Brawne after she turns up for her first lesson in poetry and he starts to wonder if he’s really up to that kind of task or if it can really be taught.
Anyway, having finished The City & The City, that line got me thinking about something Mieville said in the past about monsters.
“So I want to have monsters as a metaphor but I also want monsters because monsters are cool. There’s no contradiction.”
AND THEN, also about something that I occasionally hear from my favourite DJ on my favourite radio station, what seems like one or two people on tumblr and a handful of my music-loving friends on twitter…which is usually some variation on “Participate, not document” in regard to going to gigs and the sea of fellow attendees with cameraphones held aloft videoing the proceedings (I’m a phone Luddite, so generally I may take an actual camera with me but I still treat my digital camera like it’s a disposable film camera and if I do take pictures, I tend to end up with about 5 or 6 choice moments that may or may not be a little blurry).
(And no, I don’t entirely know what my point with that tangent was.)
The sort of general theme of wallowing in the experience probably applies to most of my take on existence. Which, I suppose, makes sense. I wallow in it. I don’t think too much about what the lyrics to a song might mean, but I enjoy the feel of them in my mouth.
And that’s the kind of approach I had with this book. I realise that, yes, there must be undertones of various messages threaded throughout…but for me that’s not the point. When I’m there, inhabiting the brainspace of the main character Borlu, I’m there. In Beszel or Ul Qoma. Unseeing and seeing. Weirdly (or not) I hear Borlu’s dialogue in Mieville’s voice. Another thing that occurred to me was that I regard both cities as somewhere much like Istanbul, but not. More almost but not quite, which I guess may be the point since any place mentioned in a detective story automatically becomes the alternate reality of whatever real place it might have been set in.
I liked it though. At one point I thought that Yolanda and Mahalia were the same person. I wondered if fic had been written of Corwi and Dhatt working together. I was highly suspicious of that one character who asked those very insistent, pointed questions. Other things.
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Originally published at half girl, half robot. You can comment here or there.