LevGrossman

Monday, May 30th, 2011

You, Me and China Miéville Down by the School Yard

Today my office is closed. My wife has gone to Princeton (to hand out prizes at graduation, because she does it so exceptionally well) and taken the baby. My book is done.

That means that from now until 6:00 (when Sophie comes back) I have literally nothing to do. My time is my own. I can’t remember the last time that happened. It’s been at least two years.

It’s amazing. I feel sort of floaty.

I mean, subtract five hours for Minecraft and that’s still a ton of time to fill.

[There's a code in our house for this level of total self-indulgence: "lobster parts." The story goes, a friend of ours' wife went away for a couple of days, taking their two kids. Said friend -- who teaches economics at an ancient, storied university -- spent the entire two days sitting on a couch watching action movies and eating lobster. Later that week the lobster parts were discovered under the couch. He hadn't even gotten up to throw them away.]

So far I’ve mostly lain on my bed.

Pretty soon I’m going to get back to blogging about my life and opinions about books and also that one time when I drank too much. For now let me just remind you that I’m talking to China Miéville on stage on Wednesday night in Williamsburg. China is, of course, one of today’s great literary border-crossers (one who, interestingly, writes obsessively about literal border-crossing), which is something I have a consuming interest in. And he’s one of those writers — not at all common — who’s also a great theorist of and talker-about his own work and the context wherein it lies.

Also the ladies like his looks. I’m really looking forward to this. Come hang out!

If you’ve got questions for China, stick’em in comments. And before you ask, we will definitely be covering Could They Beat Up China Miéville?


4 comments on “You, Me and China Miéville Down by the School Yard

  1. M says:

    anyone with an accent on their name must be good
    have fun with the rest of your 21 minutes

  2. Jangus says:

    I have unimaginable amounts of time logged on minecraft :P my friends and I actually have a server (hosted on my friends family computer haha). I could email you the IP some time if you want to check it out! If you did, I’d be in nerd heaven btw. playing minecraft with my favorite author, can it get any better?!

    Also, any expected release date/month/time period fir the new book?

  3. Ryan says:

    I’m curious about his blog, “rejectamentalist manifesto.” What equipment does he use, or are these photos not original? Do the photos come first, or does he come across certain lines in his reading and then match them to photos. What’s his method, if there is one?

    (My favorite post was this one, for anyone not familiar with his blog, http://chinamieville.net/post/6028207838…)

    And of course, what is he going to write next?

    (I also posted this on your goodreads site).

  4. Much genre writing is bad, the cheapest kind of tooth-rotting candy for the mind. But even a cursory stroll through a used bookshop reveals hundreds of novels published as short a time ago as the nineteen forties and fifties, praised as great art (if the pull-quotes on their dust-jackets can be trusted), now unread, unknown, lost to an merciless oblivion among the cobwebs and dust bunnies. The tinny praise of another era haunts any writer with the immanence of his own demise: “The Black Antipodes surpasses even North to Tarbunda to stand as Edith Platt McCucheon’s masterpiece,” raves the Washington Post Book World from the balmy post-war summer of 1947. And you stand daunted, holding Edith Platt McCutcheon’s book in your hand, pondering extinction. For Ms. McCutcheon’s work is indeed extinct, vanished from the earth as absolutely the dwarf hippopotamus or the Irish Elk.

    Mickey Spillane’s I, The Jury was also published in 1947.

    No one called it a masterpiece; but it’s still in print.

    The trick for me is finding the middle ground. Literature can be entertaining – the books themselves have been proving that from Persuasion and Anna Karenina to Atonement and The Corrections — and those books are my Holy Grail: great literature that’s fun to read.

    I have finally come to believe that there’s some middle ground, some leafy suburb between the woods and canyons of literature and the grid-lock city streets of genre fiction (not to mention the graffiti-smeared urban blight of the sub-genre world).

    That middle ground is my favorite landscape, and I would define it upward as a type of literature, rather than downward as a classier version of trash … in human terms: a young heir in jeans and a t-shirt, rather than a bum in a tuxedo. And of course it’s a sliding scale, with almost infinite gradations. The work I prefer, the work which has no official title, perches right on the border of literature, the rough undeveloped sections of that suburb.I realize now that almost all the writers I love at least own property in this fringe area: genre writers like Deighton, LeCarre, P.D. James, Dennis Lehane and Philip K. Dick; and masters who understand the power of plot, from Defoe to Tolstoy, to Faulkner to Graham Greene and John Fowles, to contemporary writers like Vikram Chandra and Michael Chabon. And you.

    I’m working hard and saving my money: I’m hoping to buy a little piece of property there myself.

    I hope I don’t bring the real estate values down too much.

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