mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Looking for Jake

"The most basic thing to do in writing a not-this-world reality is refrain from this-NAmerican-society language. The next step is to have your characters think differently from us."

Mieville has no trouble refraining from this-NAmerican-society language because he's British for one thing, and a stylist for another. Maybe that's part of my problem with the lesser Bujolds: they either don't know the range of styles available to them or can't use them or won't. A lot of won't, I think: for too long good prose in American has meant simple, unadorned, and to my mind flavourless. Nothing must get in the way of conveying information. Probably quite a lot of don't know as well: because when here-writers try for high style they too often fall flat on their faces. No one made them read 16th-18th century writers in sufficient quantity for them to form a proper periodic sentence, let alone medieval literature to get a notion of how medievals talk. Then they write medieval or Renaissance-influenced fic. Disaster.

To my mind British writers always have a- here's that word again- flavour to their language even when they're writing plain. Even someone like Lessing, who drives me screaming up a wall with the deadly grey Soviet functionality of her style, still doesn't write like a sociologist manqué. True, a Brit author's flavour may be that of rancid meat, as it is in Pullman just-off-the-top-of-my-head, but it's there. So Mieville doesn't write bland NAmerican: fine.

But he does write a tried-and-true Brit. There's nothing new in his style, or not new to me. Fictional characters who talk like his characters aren't usually talking about what his characters are talking about, but their thinking processes are exactly the same. To that extent Mieville feels very here and now to me. I find more concrete difference in the Chinese curiosities that paleaswater retold than in Mieville's apocalyptic Londoners.

I also don't find anything terribly strange in the settei of his stories. Reduced to basics, many are plots Stephen King could have written. A haunted ball room. A guy persecuted by a charity site. A window into the past. Hell, even physical alteration into Boschian grotesques as state punishment: just a step beyond lopping off noses and amputating hands. Mieville does it better and to my mind far more readably than King- enough to make Mieville 'literature' even- but the fundamental ideas aren't that different. So his is not wholly a not-this-world reality; it's the familiar not-this-world reality of horror fic.

The Familiar *was* strange and memorable, but it also did the best job of portraying that psychic vision of a rotting London that Mieville excels at. If there's a character that sets the stories apart for me, it's Mieville's London.

But but but. The people- the male people, by default, who walk through this blighted place are all limited by, well, the limitations of being a bloke. I don't know if that's conscious or unconscious on Mieville's part but it gives me a sense of monotarinai- not quite enough. Not nearly enough. The male eye of M's characters doesn't see enough; it doesn't admit whole spectra of emotion and nuance; it- cough- isn't a mangaka's eye. (Not necessarily a female mangaka's either. Just not Japanese.) Like, the guy in Looking for Jake. My obvious response is, what's up with him and Jake. Why is Jake so important? Why is he so happy to see Jake whenever he does? The answer is obvious to subtext-sensitive me. I'm just not sure that it's obvious to Mieville too.
Tags: chinese, reading_07

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