Sandra K. Rankin
srankin at uark.edu
Sat Nov 18 10:56:47 MST 2006
That issue of "aesthetics" in PERDIDO is probably the issue
that I've been trying to grasp. I'm most attracted
to a character that you didn't mention: the spider-Weaver,
whose entire reason for being is "aesthetics" (supposedly)
and yet the Weaver is the one character who "connects" the
various points of history (past, present, future). I love
the Weaver's character, and yet I suspect that I "shouldn't,"
from a Marxist standpoint, or from a "sane" standpoint.
I would fear the "sublime," capricious, Weaver in real life.
And I reject the idea of art for the sake of art--but maybe
the Weaver is the idea of art for history's sake, for the sake
of praxis that heals and transforms. In some ways, however,
I suspect the Weaver is the most anit-historical, the most
"postmodern" character of all in PERDIDO, the most Nietzschean--
the "mad-artist-god." Or the most mystical--but maybe po-mo,
similar to Taoism, IS mystical (and mystifying), i.e."Leap into
the boundless and make it your home."
Really, I'm at a loss. PERDIDO seems at once po-mo
and anti-po-mo. This may be a crucial question,
is China's complex narrative dialectical or
self-contradictory and "confused"? Or am I confused,
while China knows exactly what he's doing and why?
I did feel some sympathy for the slake-moths.
What choice did they have about who/what they
were and what they did? (Like any "vampire," or
like any entirely instinctual animal, or any rationalized,
irrational human being mired in bourgeios ideology).
In other words, I didn't see them as entirely "evil."
And the last slake-moth alive certainly elicits
some "pity" from us, I think. It has lost its
"siblings" and therefore fails to heal itself when it can.
Yet if the slake-moths are a symbol for commodi-
fication, a collective "capitalist monster," then we ought
to "wish" then dead, right, or, if we can, destroy them, right?
(I think of Fanon and the WRETCHED OF THE EARTH;
I think of the society of the spectacle, Deboard and
Baudrillard; I think of Marx's analysis of the commodity
fetish. I think of the real people whom capitalism
and capitalists, and their ideological complicitors, maim and
kill--the voracious barbarism that is capitalism.)
It seems to me that China is very much dealing
with a dialectic between individuality and collectivity:
thus we get examples of "bad" collectivities, i.e,
the Construct Council, and maybe the slake-moths.
And yet, in some sort of "perverse" way I wonder
if the slake-moths are an example of "good"
collectivity, within themselves. They need one
another, and look out for one another. (But,
the ruling-class does that as well when they
are threatened--or they temporarily pretend to.)
Then there's the Cymek garuda collectivity.
They're socialistic, and yet highly individualistic. And
they're also "hunters"--not entirely
"utopian." They're certainly no "blueprint" for
what a socialist society would be, or could be like.
More like pre-capitalist communalism?
Yag the garuda and the Weaver are the most "isolated" of
all the characters--Yag seeks a "splendid
isolation," but ultimately finds that an impossibility.
What to make of that ending when Yag
decides to become "human," to join a community
of sorts? (But is Yag's "change" similar to one
"racialized" individual deciding to join the dominant "race"?)
The Weaver, in contrast to Yag, is oblivious to its
"autistic" isolation, does nt suffer from its isolation.
I'm at a loss as to where to begin, where I can
place my foot down on solid ground and begin.
That IS the po-mo condition, isn't it? Does China,
a Marxist, re-create that condition in his text,
or is it "just me"? I feel like I know just enough
about Marxism to know that there is a lot that
I do not know. Maybe, China, who knows a
great deal more than I is "confused" too?--
as you said, he has "aesthetic anxiety," regarding much
more than anxiety about the genre of fantasy and
anxiety about Tolkien, but about the place of
aesthetics within Marxism--particularly in the po-mo
world of global capitalism (po-mo an actual possibility
only in the wealthiest nations, yet the poorest of
nations, and nations within nations, suffer most from
po-mo as a material reality).
I need to do some reading on "anti-aesthetic"
aesthetic. To me, China/PERDIDO seems very much
involved with aesthetics in the sense of taking
pleasure in language (is this decadence, or not?) at
the sentence level and at the level of each word. Much of
PERDIDO reads "like poetry"--highly alliterative, accentual
(like G.M. Hopkins/and middle-English--or old English?).
China seems to revel in neologisms, and in the way
words sound, etc. (I'm not glorifying poetry over prose,
or suggesting that "literary" or "aesthetic" = poetry.)
Maybe what China is doing is showing us:
here is what a po-mo hybrid heterotopia looks like. It looks
a lot like our world today. It's mostly a nightmare.
Therefore, China is doing the Adorno-thing: negating
the negation--and resisting the utopian blueprint for
bourgois comfort? (Does Adorno = an anti-aesthetic
IRON COUNCIL, btw, is great--but I think it's helpful to
read the first two Bas-Lag novels first. I look forward to re-reading
IRON C. with your observation about "aesthetic anxiety" in mind.
Part of my writer's block is due to my sense of aesthetic
anxiety, that what I "do" as a writer who participates in
cultural criticism doesn't accomplish anything in the real world
because I'm only dabbling in the "real" world, to my eventual
economic benefit, such as it may or may not be for a beginning
Marxist critic--yet I realize the real and the "real" do intersect
and affect one another. I hope that there is real-world hope in
keeping alive, in print/art/language, revolutionary hope.
Does Mieville do this? I want to say that he does. Perhaps the
best answer is "yes"and "no"? Back to po-mo, and undecidability,
again, or to a Marxist negative and positive hermeneutic?
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