Monday, April 21, 2008

Drum & Bass, Dungeons & Dragons, Surrealism, and Socialism

This is my kind of guy: China Miéville, whose interview can be read at His novel King Rat has a jungle soundtrack woven into its pages ("I chose it because I love it. It’s rhythmically, thematically, aesthetically powerful. It’s a music constructed on theft, it’s a mongrel of a hundred snatches of stolen music. That’s what sampling is. And there are places in King Rat where I snatched a bunch of real lyrics, and looped them over each other, so the writing mimicked the music. It wasn’t entirely conscious, though—consciously, I was trying to mimic the rhythm of the music. Drum’n’bass is a music born out of the working-class—and unemployed—culture in London. Obviously it’s politically important to me not to pathologize, demonize, or fetishize working-class culture, but I didn’t choose to use it for political reasons so much as because it’s where the music’s at").

I'm looking forward to reading his Perdido Street Station novel, which I expect will be a twisted slice of grade-A steampunk. In addition to giving shout-outs to D&D, D&B, and occult author Arthur Machen, in 2001 Miéville ran for British Parliament as the Socialist Alliance candidate. In the interview he talks about hitting a lot of museums as a child, and developing a love for Surrealism.

Modern visual art IS the visual art that is relative today; furthermore, in my conceptual scheme it represents man's most successful effort at transcending the narrow meat and potatoes Earth(and for the average citizen, more cost-effective than rocket science). When Miéville mentioned the school, I think it was the first time that I appreciated the links between surrealism, the dada movement, and socialism (and not just that smart people like them). :)

I do remember an easy quote I can cull from the true authority on the matter (Wikipedia on Surrealism):

"As they developed their philosophy they felt that while Dada rejected categories and labels, Surrealism would advocate the idea that ordinary and depictive expressions are vital and important, but that the sense of their arrangement must be open to the full range of imagination according to the Hegelian Dialectic. They also looked to the Marxist dialectic and the work of such theorists as Walter Benjamin and Herbert Marcuse" (emphasis added).

Now here's a little digression, but it's remarkably funny how few shout-outs Hegel gets. It makes it all the more gratifying when you see it. Here, we are discussing the imagination and leftist politics. The 20th century philosopher Hilary Putnam mentions Kant more than Hegel in his Reason, Truth, and History. But it's in the preface where he expressly acknowledges the real influences. It kicks off a summary of Putnam's philosophy thusly: "to make the metaphor even more Hegelian..." and then basically describes a snake eating its tail ("the mind and the world jointly make up the mind and the world"). Jorge Borges' Circular Ruins come to mind; M.C. Escher comes to mind, heck, Godel - Escher - Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter comes to mind. Trust me, Putnam's metaphysics have Hegelian overtones and are twisted-inside-out, moebius-strip loopy and brilliant, like the things mentioned above.

1 comment:

Kathryn said...

That article about China was very interesting. He sounds a lot like you, actually! When are you starting on your novel? ;-)

P.S. I've noticed you added the word verification. Argh. It always takes me 2 times to get it right. Not stupid, though. Seriously, I promise.