FIRST SENTENCE*: “Deep inside the town there open up, so to speak, double streets, doppelganger streets, mandacious and delusive streets.”
– Bruno Schulz, “The Cinnamon Shops” aka The Street of Crocodiles
WHY I READ THIS: TwitterStorm resulting in ReadAlong, see my post announcement here.
What an unusual book!
WHAT’s it ABOUT: I’m going to quote the goodreads.com blurb which happens to be the blurb on the back cover:
When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them more than their lives. What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.
And I reference this because I think it is accurate. (and better than what I could come up with.) I didn’t read this blurb before I started it and I’m not sure I read it even when I purchased the book back in April of this year. I wish I had. But I prefer to go in blind and so that is what I do.
(I am also of the opinion that the “A Conversation with China Miéville” doesn’t spoil it either if you happen to be the sort to read everything about a book before you begin a book. Even when the intro to this “A Conversation” is a READER BEWARE! I read it after and couldn’t find a thing in it that would spoil the experience.)
But perhaps it is because I was confused and mildly apathetic about the setting throughout this read. There. I said it. I am giving this three stars on its merit of its being extremely creative, on the vocabulary lesson I received, and the high praise it has and continues to receive from other readers that I respect.
I do not give it the fourth star because it lacked the necessary tension I want to feel when there is DANGER! and HIGH-RISK-of-BODILY-HARM! or something scary that might befall my beloved characters. The characters didn’t share enough of themselves for me to belove them. (That doesn’t quite sound right but it works for me, so I’m keeping it.) And I don’t give it the fifth star because I only liked it at the end and thus, the three star meaning “I liked it” is perfect.
I wish I had liked it more. I wanted to like this one more. Thus, I won’t give up on this author. I am looking forward to giving him more of my time. I have been told Embassytown might be a good second read but I also was invested in the Kraken excerpt that was included in this edition and so might be tempted to that one. Besides, I love the Kraken Black Spiced Rum commercials – which might have spoiled it for me because I didn’t know that the Kraken was a giant octopus..
Back to The City and the City. This is supposed to be a readalong with two parts but I kept reading! there was no way I could drag this one out. I had to get ‘er done. But hey! This post is long enough – I’ll wait to explore further in a later post when we catch up with everyone else. Next post will be July 22 which happens to be Pi Approximation Day. This is the perfect day to attempt to make a pie if you want to and never have. Because you can always say it is “APPROXIMATELY a pie”.
mendacious – not telling the truth; lying
machicolation – an opening between the corbels of a projecting parapet
encomia – glowing and warmly enthusiastic praise
nous – p.77 “Have the nous to understand” – common sense
amphora – ancient Greek jar with large oval body, narrow neck and two handles
polysemic – multiple meanings
‘laddered stockings’ – (Thanks RUTHIELLA!) – what the Brits call a run in a stocking.
spiv – (British) a man who lives by his wits without regular employment –or– a slacker
caryatid – a draped female figure supporting an entablature
boscage – a growth of trees or shrubs
astrolabe – a compact instrument used to observe and calculate the position of celestial bodies before the invention of the sextant
enervate – lacking physical, mental or moral vigor
idiolect – the language or speech pattern of one individual at a particular period of life
orrery – an apparatus showing the relative positions and motions of bodies in the solar system by balls moved by a clockwork
lingam – a stylized phallic symbol that is worshipped in Hinduism as a sign of generative power
contumely – harsh language arising from haughtiness
* Actually the quote on the page before the Part One BESźEL page before the book ever begins…