Posts tagged interview
“ I was just discussing this new global novel that’s coming out, which is written very carefully so it can sell to all markets. It offends no one. It’s a literary novel that is so neutral that it means the same in Israel and Pakistan, and everywhere else. It’s depressing. I just feel I’m a writer of a particular place and I can’t really disguise it. There’s a big history in literature—and Joyce is the most obvious example—of writing obsessively about two miles of town. Even though Joyce hadn’t lived there in 30 years. And there’s the same history with New York novelists of course. It’s just love, right? You write about what you care about.”
“ It’s harder to imagine the past that went away than it is to imagine the future. What we were prior to our latest batch of technology is, in a way, unknowable. It would be harder to accurately imagine what New York City was like the day before the advent of broadcast television than to imagine what it will be like after life-size broadcast holography comes online. But actually the New York without the television is more mysterious, because we’ve already been there and nobody paid any attention. That world is gone.”
“ When it comes to the debt crisis,” says Eco, “and I’m speaking as someone who doesn’t understand anything about the economy, we must remember that it is culture, not war, that cements our [European] identity. The French, the Italians, the Germans, the Spanish and the English have spent centuries killing each other. Today, we’ve been at peace for 70 years and no one realises how amazing that is any more. Indeed, the very idea of a war between Spain and France, or Italy and Germany, provokes hilarity. The United States needed a civil war to unite properly. I hope that culture and the [European] market will do the same for us.”
“ But once you understand that taxes and money largely begin with war it becomes easier to see what really happened. After all, every Mafiosi understands this. If you want to take a relation of violent extortion, sheer power, and turn it into something moral, and most of all, make it seem like the victims are to blame, you turn it into a relation of debt. “You owe me, but I’ll cut you a break for now…” Most human beings in history have probably been told this by their debtors. And the crucial thing is: what possible reply can you make but, “wait a minute, who owes what to who here?” And of course for thousands of years, that’s what the victims have said, but the moment you do, you are using the rulers’ language, you’re admitting that debt and morality really are the same thing. That’s the situation the religious thinkers were stuck with, so they started with the language of debt, and then they tried to turn it around and make it into something else.”
Two of my favourite things collided some months ago when BLDGBLOG interviewed China Mieville. Both should probably need no introduction, but just in case: Geoff Manaugh writes the former, a blog about architectures real and imagined and the ways they affect world & society. This is something I attempted to do in a much more haphazard way in the thesis I wrote last year. So it’s something of a pleasure and a busman’s holiday to read the site, for me, but I honestly think anyone would enjoy it if they haven’t.
China Mieville writes weird fiction - if you came across him a decade ago with Perdido Street Station; though you might equally say fantasy, westerns, YA, SF or even literary fiction. He’s a big guy though; I say we let him write whatever he likes. All of his work is heavily informed by the settings he creates, and he’s often called a city writer (the city invariably being London, his place of residence). If you’re new to him, and aren’t particularly interested in overtly SF/fantasy tropes, I’d suggest The City And The City, which gets a good airing here, because of the obvious parallels.
Here’s a fine and enticing teaser of the conversation:
BLDGBLOG: Let’s go back to the idea of the police procedural. It’s intriguing to compare how a police officer and a novelist might look at the city—the sorts of details they both might notice or the narratives they both might pick up on. Broadly speaking, each engages in detection—a kind of hermeneutics of urban space. How did this idea of urban investigation—the “mythic urbanology” you mentioned earlier—shape your writing of The City and The City?
Miéville: On the question of the police procedural and detection, for me, the big touchstones here were detective fiction, not real police. Obviously they are related, but they’re related in a very convoluted, mediated way.
What I wanted to do was write something that had a great deal of fidelity—hopefully not camp fidelity, but absolute rigorous fidelity—to certain generic protocols of policing and criminology. That was the drive, much more than trying to find out how police really do their investigations. The way a cop inhabits the city is doubtless a fascinating thing, but what was much more important to me for this book was the way that the genre of crime, as an aesthetic field, relates to the city.
The whole notion of decoding the city—the notion that, in a crime drama, the city is a text of clues, in a kind of constant, quantum oscillation between possibilities, with the moment of the solution really being a collapse and, in a sense, a kind of tragedy—was really important to me.
Disgustingly talented, down to earth fellow with a nice line in melodies. Can’t stand him, obviously.
I always liked this one.
- via Spoiler Alert Radio.
(UPDATE: Since I first listened to this, Spoiler Alert cut the interview in half. But I uploaded it again because I’m amazingly technically proficient*.)
*Does Dreamworks face.