Using the five senses

Right now I’m reading China Miéville, and I’ve heard a lot of good things, but I’m quickly learning that he has this beautiful language that leaves me staring off in the distance, wondering. And yet at the same time, I don’t have the attention for it. His story is stunted within me because, even though I think his language is beautiful and grand, I find it so superfluous at times that I have trouble paying attention.

For example:

The city reeked. But today was market day down in Aspic Hole, and the pungent slick of dung-smell and rot that rolled over New Crobuzon was, in these streets, for these hours, improved with paprika and fresh tomato, hot oil and fish and cinnamon, cured meat, banana and onion. (Miéville 7)

Do you smell it? I do. And the astonishing part was it took no more than listing some foods and some spices. It took nothing more than a list. I really like how when you read this sentence aloud (or in your head) and you can feel the rhythm that carries you along.

Then I read something like this:

It did not help that she was not an aficionado of Bonetown. The cross-bred architecture of that outlandish quarter confused her: a syncresis of industrialism and the gaudy domestic ostentation of the slightly rich, the peeling concrete of forgotten docklands and the stretched skins of shantytown tents. (Miéville 1)

I was not confused, but it felt abstract. I had trouble picturing the area. Single words stuck out with a definite meaning, others were smooshed into abstract definitions as my mind picked apart pieces that I recognized, struggling to comprehend ones I didn’t know. Maybe it’s because my vocabulary is not large enough. Maybe it was too abstract. Maybe the words themselves aren’t the best choice, not creating enough of an image, not detailed enough.

I just know that sometimes while I read, I am astonished. I love the language. And then other times, I struggle to read. Look at something once, twice. My eyes roaming the page because it’s too hard to keep going.

It’s definitely going to be something to push through. I can already tell Miéville puts a lot of effort into his writing, and there are a lot of other techniques that I really like about him. I’ll mentions some more as I go along.

Miéville, C. Perdido Street Station. London, Great Britain: Del Rey, 2000. Print.



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