6 March 2016

The city

The conceit of China Mielville's The City and The City has grown on me since I'd read and was mesmerized by it nearly five years ago. In its magic realist drama, sister cities and their inhabitants share a weird, parallel-space relationship that is both unreal and metaphorical.

I'm not sure where I first heard of Italo Calvino, but he had often registered on my radar like Borges or Eco. Finally, mimicking the mass order of Kafka May of last year after my Prague trip, I ordered a three-box set of Calvino containing: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, Invisible Cities, and The Baron in the Trees. Invisible Cities presents dozens of one-to-three page descriptions of cities that could only exist as metaphor. Highly poetic invocations of unreal living conditions that more clearly represent society than any realist literature might.

I have just started reading China Mieville's second Bas-Lag book, The Scar. Early on, we're introduced to a mile-square ocean city made of all manner of joined boats. Alleys are rope bridges connecting skiffs and freighters; suburban neighborhoods are carved from successive living quarters; harbors are built by absence. Such organic growth is fascinating.

This weekend we walked the beltline. It passes through many neighborhoods I know, and yet I was often disoriented. Crossing a different path completely changes the experience. Whenever I visit an Atlanta neighborhood I've never been in, I like to imagine that I don't know what city it is. It makes me view Atlanta with unbiased eyes and avoid assumptions. The beltline experience was similar.

[ posted by sstrader on 6 March 2016 at 9:43:27 PM in Culture & Society , Language & Literature ]