It’s been a busy October here, with an absolutely mind-boggling number of events at work, some of them huge (Ta-Nehisi Coates, Patti Smith, and Ethan Hawke next month. Quoting my friend, ‘what is even my life?’).
When I get this busy, I have a desire to only read comics and short stories. There is no attention span for anything else. Luckily, I finally picked up all my holds at the local comic shop (goodbye, groceries), so we are all set there. This year has also been pretty good for short stories. For example, almost every day I ask myself why I am not reading Clarice Lispector’s complete stories right now. I’ve only seen good reviews, one from none other than Jeff Vandermeer. But right now, I’m not reading them because I’m reading China Miéville’s short stories instead.
What is amazing about Miéville’s stories is that their strangeness is on the exact same wavelength as the strangeness in my brain. I mean the sense of eerie, the aesthetic of weirdness. I imagine someone has already written a paper on this, but everyone is weird in their own ways. Some might like their weird with a touch of grotesque. Some people like weird with a side of unease. Some are into clowns.
There are some stories in this collection where the weird appears not where you expect it (see Watching God). There are also stories that remind you that Miéville, in fact, has horror novels under his belt. Dowager of Bees sent a shiver down my spine at least once. In The Slopes has a certain Lovecraftian feel to it.
Miéville plays as much with form as he does with content and genre. Essentially, he shows that there are many ways to write and enjoy a short story. This is a great collection for a close read, something I’ve been meaning to do more as I write my own little pieces. If I could pick an author to emulate, it would be Miéville. Even his stuff I did not particularly enjoy (Kraken) was impressive and made me happy for this ever-present weirdness in literature.