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  1.  (11256.1)
    @Vornaskotti: Is that THE YEAR OF OUR WAR you're talking about? If so, I thought there was just that one novel.
  2.  (11256.2)
    @Miranda: Nope, it's apparently a short series, reading the second one now!
  3.  (11256.3)
    We were having a discussion about City and the City on my Facebook so bringing it over here so we can Spoiler Alert it.
    City Creed posted;
    "I had not. Bless google books. I'm currently writing up a lit review for my masters dissertation and that one is going to come in very handy.
    It's funny you mention children though. imo the moment in TC&TC where Borlu is reminiscing about his childhood throwing lizards across the alterity is one of the most exquisite and important moments of the book - where all its principal concerns come together.
    What's funny to me is, for all their problems, there is a sense in which Beszel and Ul Qoma are better governed than any real city. That tension in the contradiction between the brutally impartial, immutable law of Breach and the pragmatic, very human exceptions made for children, the Gearys et al, is what holds these spaces together and makes them work.
    The chaotic interpolation of values and perspectives. A socially constructed reality that is atemporal, indeterminate and subversive of binary ontologies. There is something radical in the extent to which inhabitants of the Cities consent to the arbitrary demands of the invisible, intangible and unreal - thereby granting them a ghostly kind of being.
    I have a whole other thesis on Orciny as a critique of Utopian thinking but unspoilered FB is probably not the place. There may in fact be no place..."

    I think the consent is the key. The whole system and keying in of the two cities relies on consent. This is brought home when Borlu breaches and it is the inability to consent to Unser that makes them part of Breach, but the cities only exist because the residents consent to dress and carry themselves in certain ways.

    At the end, when Bowden is walking between the cities, he is essentially carrying out a Harold Garfinkel ethnomethodology Breaching experiment.

    "Breaching experiments[edit]
    According to George Ritzer, Breaching experiments are experiments where "social reality is violated in order to shed light on the methods by which people construct social reality."[47] In Garfinkel's work, Garfinkel encouraged his students to attempt breaching experiments in order to provide examples of basic ethnomethodology.[48] According to Garfinkel, these experiments are important because they help us understand '"the socially standardized and standardizing, 'seen but unnoticed,' expected, background features of everyday scenes.'"[49] He highlights many of these experiments in his books.

    The following is an example of one of Garfinkel's breaching experiments from his book, Studies in Ethnomethodology.

    Case 3: "On Friday night my husband and I were watching television. My husband remarked that he was tired. I asked, 'How are you tired? Physically, mentally, or just bored?'"

    S: I don't know, I guess physically, mainly.

    E: You mean that your muscles ache or your bones?

    S: I guess so. Don't be so technical. (After more watching)

    S: All these old movies have the same kind of old iron bedstead in them.

    E: What do you mean? Do you mean all old movies, or some of them, or just the ones you have seen?

    S: What's the matter with you? You know what I mean.

    E: I wish you would be more specific.

    S: you know what I mean! Drop dead!"[50]" from Wikipedia
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeApr 22nd 2014
    I'd not come across Garfinkel. From that wiki page, my emphasis:
    "The violation of the expectancy of shared verbal understanding between friends results in the subject expressing confusion and irritation."

    That violation of expectancy seems to be the most important common aspect. I'm sort of suspicious of that on its own though. I have heard people use versions of the same argument to rationalise purely obnoxious behaviour.

    Here's what the book says about Bowden, my emphasis again:

    'How expert a citizen, how consummate an urban dweller and observer, to mediate those million unnoticed mannerisms that marked out civic specificity, to refuse either aggregate of behaviours.'

    Bowden withdraws his expertly informed consent to the social construct. He becomes effectively invisible, some sort of sinister presence/absence in the urban space. I'm going to say like a ghost because I think the hauntological concerns of the book justify it, but you could also draw a comparison with, eg, Tom O'Bedlam (Old Tom) in The Invisibles and his ability to pass unseen in busy city streets. I guess, and maybe I'm talking out of my arse here, I feel like the difference between Garfinkel and Bowden is that Bowden is not trying to cause anyone to re-evaluate their preconceptions - he just wants to get away with murder. To do so, his identity must be confrontingly indeterminate.

    I loved every page of The City & The City, it's just such a richly rewarding read on so many levels - the hapless unifs, the "Gallimaufrian" archaeology of atemporality, Orciny as Utopia, and the enigmatic Breach and its associated conventions as an embodiment of that Foucauldian disciplinary power which operates primarily through social and cultural means: Through the physical architecture of cities, through the structure of the local information space (think cell towers and wifi hotspots and what they might indicate about the power relations in their locales) but also by assigning specific semiotic significance to urban locations and behaviour. Anyone who has read Warren Ellis's Spirit Tracks will have some acquaintance with the idea. Beyond their simple grosstopography, our cities' are a kind of dense, mutable, diachronic text. A ghost book, if you will.

    On a personal note, I've spent the last five years (and several more some time before that) living in Glasgow. It's obviously got nothing on Beszel, Ul Qoma, Jerusalem or pre-reunification Berlin but it is still a city with some very deep underlying social and cultural divides. Despite that, it is also a place where people are generally flexible enough to allow for pragmatic, if sometimes covert, exceptions to the codes that govern social interaction. I think most city dwellers know that feeling of living on the same street as someone, but in a totally different world. Once you've been here a little while it becomes obvious just how much people on opposite sides of this particular alterity need each other in order to affirm their own identity. It comes up in Le Guin's The Dispossessed but I've never seen it handled with such powerful elegance as in TC&TC
  4.  (11256.5)
    I think you're probably right re. Bowden, though I can't shake the feeling that some ethnomethodology has sneaked in there in terms of breach (I'm not trying to shoehorn this. It just feels like there are some parallels, particularly in relation to this
    In a famous series of ethnomethodology experiments, college students were asked to pretend that they were guests in their own home without telling their families what they were doing. They were instructed to be polite, impersonal, use terms of formal address (Mr. and Mrs.), and to only speak after being spoken to. When the experiment was over, several students reported that their families treated the episode as a joke. One family thought their daughter was being extra nice because she wanted something, while another’s believed their son was hiding something serious. Other parents reacted with anger, shock, and bewilderment, accusing their children of being impolite, mean, and inconsiderate. This experiment allowed the students to see that even the informal norms that govern our behavior inside our own homes are carefully structured. By violating the norms of the household, the norms become clearly visible.
    What your saying about consensus and practicality I recognise in other more subtle settings. I'll write more when I've grabbed some sleep.
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeApr 25th 2014
    Just been catching up on (loving) Disenchanted and came across this snippet from the wiki page about Gobs:

    they can’t justifiably feel the city is “theirs” unless measured in relation to those whose it isn’t.

    Which strikes me as reflecting the same sort of idea I think Mieville is suggesting in TC&TC - that the power relations generated by in-group identity require constant attention to a kind of paradoxical inclusion/exclusion of the Other. That is, inhabitants of Beszel and Ul Qoma must simultaneously recognize and implicitly accept the presence of the Other while utterly rejecting it and internally denying its reality, in order to truly feel ownership of the space they inhabit. Hence deliberately Orwellian doublethink vocabulary like Unseeing.

    ^The City & The City sortaspoiler.

    Same goes for Gobs to some extent, eh? It occurred to me that that kind of felt ownership of Vermintown might mean Greens living in the city are a little bit beefier than the average scrawn elsewhere. They have to protect their social/cultural dominance of the infrastructure and the public space or they'll all start to shrink.

    sorry if that's a bit out of nowhere, just an idle thought while I was browsing.
    • CommentTimeMay 1st 2014
    @StefanJ :D haven't read the rest but this one looks quite promising.

    Halfway through Jeff Vandermeer's ANNIHILATION, which is probably one of the best crafted novels I've read in ages... super-intelligent, fantastic plotting, very atmospheric and suspenseful, great worldbuilding... fucking awesome...
  5.  (11256.8)
    How is 'The Death of Bunny Munro' ?? I have it on my shelf and have been meaning to read it.
    • CommentTimeMay 12th 2014
    Rereading Jonathan strange and Mr. Norrell, which still stands as one of my all-time favourite books. Like wrapping up in a warm blanket.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeMay 12th 2014 edited
    Finished The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow. Steampunk with magic in the Victorian age. The queen's necromancer, her bodyguard, and a "mentath" take on an evil conspiracy. Not badly written. Fairly interesting characters. But the worldbuilding was substandard. Not sorry I read it, but I won't read other in the series.

    Started Bone in the Throat by Anthony Bourdain. A crime thriller about a New York sous-chef caught up in a mob killing.

    I've got Christopher Moore's The Serpent of Venice in the queue.
  6.  (11256.11)
    Ended up with far too many books on the go. Just finishing Jeff Vandermeer's Wonderbook. I don't know if other writers have seen this yet. It's very well illustrated and full of advice, and some big names involved. Well worth a look.

    I'm also reading A.S Byatt's Children's Book. I'm finding the sheer number of characters being introduced is really leaching the pace out of it. I've been distracted by having to review a couple of books, and might not get back into it.

    Also How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran. Very funny and the autobiographical sections about growing up in the 90s is very familiar.
    • CommentTimeMay 25th 2014 edited
    I finished reading Simon Ings City of the Iron Fish a couple of days ago, and that was a jarring experience. The book was quite enjoyable, I loved the themes and the storytelling, but what made it thoroughly weird was how similar the themes were to my novel Kaiken yllä etana, which I published last October. I picked it up after couple of the long time scifi people who read my novel pointed out that it was a bit similar. Well, to me it was similar enough that it made me question if I have read Ings book earlier, and then just totally forgotten it - but no. I can track where most of the ideas for my novel came from and how it grew up to be what it was, which makes this all kinds of awesome. Nevertheless, the list of similarities was uncanny. I actually e-mailed Ings through his agent and we had an e-mail chuckle over the idea particles ricocheting around the noösphere.

    Spoilers ahoy, here's a list of contact points for the novels. Obviously there were major differences with themes and specifics, and dare I say the central message/payload of the book.

    - It takes part in a world that seems to be just one city, there doesn't seem to be much outside of it.
    - The geography of the world changes and is in flux, it's vaguely anachronistic and it seems to be disintegrating slowly.
    - People don't really want to go to explore, but just live their own lives, at times reminiscing of the good old days where things were quite a lot better.
    - There apparently used to be a "static" world back when, maybe, which was totally different and which is now unattainable.
    - The main character falls into a self-dug hole of alienation, both from his parents and his friends.
    - There is a grand project to restore the world to which the main protagonist takes part in.
    - There's a group of people who dress conspicuously, seem to come from nowhere and who seem to be working against the project and the powers that be.
    - In the end the world disintegrates or changes, without overt explanation or exposition of what the whole deal was about. There's a stampede and panic that kills a lot of people.
    - The epilogue takes part on an island, where the main character meets people he's lost down the road, and it ends with him hopping on a boat.

    Then again, whereas City of the Iron Fish seems to be about stagnation, art, meaning, history and rebirth, that takes place in some sort of 19th century timeline, my novel is about memory, association, language, psycogeography and people creating their realities, that takes place in art decoish 80's world.
    • CommentAuthorSteerpike
    • CommentTimeMay 25th 2014
    Still working through David Corbett's The Art of Character: Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, and TV and am pleased I ran across it. Gave up on All God's Children: Inside the Dark and Violent World of Street Families, whose big takeaway seems to be "We provide too much social services, so kids from good middle-class homes live on the street as a lark and live out fantasy lives based on comics, D&D and video games. Not like when I was homeless I tell you what." Read Benjamin Black's The Black-Eyed Blonde: A Philip Marlowe Novel and was underwhelmed.

    Currently working through The Revolution of Every Day, fiction but based on squatters in New York's Lower East Side. It's for what I call The Goddamn Story, due to how long I've been working on it and how little progress I've made.
  7.  (11256.14)
    I very rarely give up on books midway, there's only a handful of those that I remember from my adult age, but I just had to put aside Michael Cisco's The Tyrant. Don't know if it was the sweltering summer heat that made it hard to concentrate on this, or the full pages without any punctuation, or the weird run on sentences, or the fact that the first fifth of the book came across as some sort of steampunk stream of consciousness without a hint where it was going. I usually do like text that's challenging and books that have heft, but this one was just not for me.
  8.  (11256.15)
    Currently reading Geoff Ryman's amazing novel AIR, about a worldwide next step in wireless communication that comes to an isolated rural Chinese village. It's a wonderful tale of adjusting to the consequences of new technology when you're neither young enough to accept it as natural or old enough to reject the technology as pointless.

    Also hope to get in a look at Kevin Phillips' AMERICAN THEOCRACY, a study in how the trifecta of overdependence on oil technology, fundamentalist Christianity, and massive public indebtedness spell doom for American society. It promises to be horrfiyingly prescient given that it was written during George W. Bush's turn in the White House.
    • CommentTimeAug 18th 2014
    Just finished Susannah Clarke's Johnathan Strange and Mr Norrell . I enjoyed it a lot - rich, beautifully detailed, and with a nicely deft approach to describing magic. The ending felt a bit rushed though, which was a shame given that the rest of the book worked so well for being a slow burner. Also, the deliberately archaic spelling was kinda jarring, especially when read on a kindle! Still, minor gripes -I'm already looking forward to re-reading it over a cold winter.

    Onto Margaret Attwood's The Year of the Flood next. Which will no doubt be as cheery and uplifting as its predecessor!
    • CommentTimeAug 18th 2014 edited
    @curb, one of my all-time favourite books. If you find you need another Clarke fix, check out The Ladies of Grace Adieu. Just a selection of short stories.

    I'm currently reading The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero (aka "Oh, Hi, Mark"). It's a bit disturbing that, on a producer and general person level, Tommy Wiseau reminds me of a boss I had once. Complete disregard for people's thoughts or feelings, stubborn to a fault, unable to handle criticism, and as a person incredibly shitty (Wiseau is apparently the type that would eat a $150 meal and only tip the server $5 and say "be happy with what you get". I'm finding all the things about Wiseau that people take as the shenanigans of a beloved eccentric to be that of an egotistical shitbag who gets away with things because he has money.

    That said, there is definitely a morbid curiosity that is making me read more. It's like some terrible car wreck because every move he's making on this film is so wrong. Instead of renting film equipment like everyone does, he blows half a million on buying it. Instead of shooting in a nearby alley or rooftop, he has both made by set designers on a small budget. He put up signs telling crew to not talk with cast. Hell, he even had his own personal toilet made just for him instead of, you know, using the bathroom in the building they were shooting in. He would demand that cast be ready for shooting at 8am and wander on set at around 1pm. It's crazy.

    And his acting. Christ. The guy needed half a day to learn how to look at a character and say hi because he just could not do it.

    • CommentTimeAug 19th 2014

    Thanks, I shall check that out for sure. More Norrellverse is a good thing! Looking forward to the TV adaptation as well - be interesting to see what they can squeeze in and what gets left out.
    • CommentTimeAug 20th 2014
    @curb - if you found ye olde spelling jarring, try The Wake by Paul Kingsworth. I got it because Uncle Warren mentioned it in his newsletter, and I love constructed languages. Reading the text - a sort of modernized-for-comprehensibility Old English - makes me think in an icelandic accent, with echoes of western Norwegian, and it's delightful. I suspect some of the archaisms scans easier for a scandinavian than an english native, but for me it's well worth the effort so far.
    • CommentTimeAug 22nd 2014
    See, I could get behind that kind of gnarly wyrdness, where it's a central part of a book. It just felt like unnecessary ornamentation in the case of JSAMN.