Sunday, April 16, 2017

Let's Get Weird!

I had two conflicting thoughts when I finished China Mieville's The Last Days of New Paris.  On the one hand, at a mere 200 pages (and surprisingly breezy ones at that) it's nice to know that people new to Mieville can enjoy his weird universe(s) in novella form, as opposed to the slightly overwhelming tomes he's better known for.

On the other hand, while writing something "light" isn't a crime, it also seems like a missed opportunity to really dig into the themes he's working with here -- how the point of difficult art isn't just to obfuscate and confuse, but rather to counter the preening banality of what the Nazis (yes, those Nazis) embodied.

Interesting moments abound, but too much of Last Days feels like a book report on lesser-known Surrealists who've dropped out of the canon of modernism.  It feels like a 700 baggy monster is precisely what's called for here to do justice to both the characters and the larger themes of accessible versus problematic art.

Also, I wish he'd included more plates of art work and done more analysis of them.  That feels like another missed opportunity.

Still, I enjoyed it.  But I'd still suggest one of his shorter but relatively meatier novels, The City & The City, as the best place to start with his important, kaleidoscopic body of work.

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