The tale of the Emperor's new clothes goes thusly: "An Emperor who cares for nothing but his appearance and attire hires two tailors who promise him the finest suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or "just hopelessly stupid". The Emperor cannot see the cloth himself, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing unfit for his position or stupid; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor then marches in procession before his subjects, who play along with the pretense. Suddenly, a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others."
I am curious right now about whether this effect is occurring with a book.
*breathes a deep breath* Let's go....
I want to preface this by saying that I adore China Miéville. I love his geeky credentials. I love the way he is so proud to be a part of genre literature. I love the way he is prepared to talk back to the establishment and make them listen. I thoroughly enjoyed The City and The City, which still remains the one and only novel of his I have read.
But not the only novel I have started. I started Embassytown the night I received it at the (much-derided) pre-publication launch. I read the first one hundred or so pages on the train on the way home. When I arrived home I put it down and have not yet felt inclined to pick it up and finish it.
I found it dense and virtually unreadable. I enjoyed the unfettered joy in language on display, but found the novel itself cold and difficult. I am quite prepared to stand up here now and tell you all that I felt stupid because I didn't appreciate it, and I was mighty curious as to the reviews that would emerge of the novel. Would the reviews deal with the difficulty in immersing yourself in Miéville's latest novel? Would they call him out at all for the fact that language gets in the way of enjoyment?
So far, all the reviews I've read have been *glowing*. China's best novel to date; a tour de force; a glorious novel that is sure to pick up awards; the most likely genre novel of recent times to be placed on the Booker shortlist..... And I found myself scratching my head.
Am I the only one who hasn't appreciated it? (with the caveat that I've only read the first hundred pages or so!) Or is everyone else falling under the spell of New Clothes and declaring the novel perfect, even if they believe, deep down, that it is not the book they say it is?
I know this is controversial and likely to be shouted down (I'm particularly waiting from comments from Martin, Kev and Larry, who have all told me I am wrong on many occasions *winks*) but I would be interested in two discussions.
The first being:
Is Embassytown worth pursuing? Does it all click into place? I want to hear reasoned arguments as to whether I can find anything of value if I pick it up again?
The second being:
Do you think the case of the Emperor's New Clothes occurs with novels? Have you been mystified about the success of a novel, and wondered if everyone is part of some strange conspiracy to talk it up? Which novel was it for you?
You can even yell at me for being stupid if you wish! But please do remember - I ADORE China. He's ace. I'm not attacking the author in any way, shape or form!