Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Just finishing off my lecture on China Miéville's The City & The City. It's a brand new lecture for the new first year unit, 'Reading the City'.
One of the reasons I've been really excited to give this lecture is that it opens up the debate about how genre fiction can operate in terms of tearing down, rather than maintaining genre distinctions. Miéville's work, which to an extent wears its intellectualism on its sleeve, is a great example for looking at the literary nature of genre fiction, thus voiding the particularly stubborn distinction between genre and 'literary' fiction. All fiction belongs to a range of genres - it's just that we don't always recognise it.
But one thing keeps nagging at me as I work on the lecture. Is The City & The City good fantasy? Of course, it's not simply a fantasy novel, but if one were to evaluate it as fantasy, would it work? I'm still in two minds. So much of the construction of the two (maybe three) cities works effectively in terms of fantasy, but now and then, a little doubt creeps in and I think this is in part because of the nature of the noir detective story and the political 'isms' that really drive the novel. The general populations are somewhat distanced and generalised so that although there are tantalizing glimpses into the day-to-day lives of Besz and Ul Qoman, the implications of the fantastic in the day to day aren't quite realised.
However, it would certainly be unfair to judge the novel purely as fantasy. There is more than one genre to The City & The City!
Of course, as one's writing, one sometimes needs a quick break and sustenance. I just discovered these no-bake, oatmeal and chocolate cookies and they are brilliant for lecture-writing energy. Just in case you happen to be writing a lecture any time soon.