I’m not an English lit person but I thought that I should write a non-research, non-expert post about China Mieville – as I’m slowly becoming immersed into his books. This is for two reasons mainly: first, I wonder whether the phenomenon of the author’s public boom-recognition is limited amongst academics or whether non-academics are fascinated by Mieville’s work to the same extent. After all, and as it was made clear in the plenary discussion during the Weird Council conference earlier this month (see video below), Mieville is an academic, he writes critical theory when he doesn’t write fiction and it’s interesting to ask what this means to his fiction and whether recognising this critical element in his fiction is essentially what makes reading pleasurable for academics (See for instance the fascinating comments, by conference delegates mostly, on Twitter #mieville2012, collated here as a nice story by Martin Eve). I think though that an additional factor for the pertinence of Mieville’s work eluded the plenary, for obvious reasons: his habitus, as a man in front of a camera in the numerous interview clips that can be found on YouTube, or as a key – photogenic – figure in the debate about the future of the book. I would think this is kind of important – he is basically the epitome of cool, in a dark way, of course.
I had difficulty reading Mieville’s prose (it seemed too flat to me, almost boring) until I listened to him read his work (For instance, listen to the ‘Three moments of an explosion’ here). Then I realised that there is a certain rhythm in his language that needs to be listened to – so I started reading loudly to myself. It all made sense.
The second reason for the post is today’s run. I often run with a friend who is Canadian and we end up talking about living in Britain and cultural differences – our primary issue being what we both perceive as, well, more or less rudeness. We’ve both noticed how in the UK runners don’t ususally acknowledge each other when their paths cross – similarly, cyclists rarely do. Today I counted encounters during my run and came home pleased with the two genuine nod&smile occurences (in 25 crossings with other runners). And I kept thinking of unseeing in everyday life, I kept thinking of The City and the City.
* This post specially dedicated to a good friend who moans that he needs a dictionary to access my writing.
** I didn’t attend the conference.