Contented Reader

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The City & the City

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The City & the City

China Mieville

Del Rey

Over-the-Rhine is a neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Or, to be more precise, Over-the-Rhine is two neighborhoods in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Over-the-Rhine is a stylish, trendy neighborhood, a place popular with artists and young professionals and visionaries.  It’s a place where you might go to see a play, or to have a really good meal.  It’s home to Cincinnati’s opera and ballet and symphony, and also to several theaters that show really daring, really original work.  Art galleries, home decor stores, good restaurants on every corner.  People come from far away to shop for local vegetables and artisanal sausage at the public market.  You can buy a really nice condo there, and be prepared to pay top dollar for it.

Over-the-Rhine is a blighted neighborhood, a place where multi-generational poverty sits on the stoop waiting for nothing.  It’s a place where you might go to buy crack, or to pick up a very cheap prostitute.  Rapes and murders are commonplace; robberies and muggings are the closest thing many residents have to a career path.  Several homeless shelters open each morning to send hundreds of beggars onto every street.  That cluster of local toughs on the corner is probably a gang, and they’re probably all better-armed than the police.

One street might be all blight; turn a corner, and it’s all hipsters.  Or maybe you’ll walk past the low-rent corner store to the wine bar without even seeing it, or vice versa.  The two worlds inhabit the same space, but rarely intersect.

It wasn’t hard for me to find The City & the City completely plausible.  Two cities sharing the same geographic space, inhabitants who are carefully taught from their childhood to ‘unsee’ anything that is part of the other city?  That isn’t fantasy, that’s my real life.  And I think that anyone who lives in a city, anywhere, will be able to think of ways in which the city is a thoroughly divided as the cities of Besz and Ul Qoma in this novel.

 

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Written by Contented Reader

September 10, 2011 at 10:46 am

Posted in Reviews

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