[Cross-posted over yonder]
[Edit: Superfluous Swaddling Removed]
A broken Mr. Dorrit, recently of Marshalsea prison, moved over the French countryside. Ensconced in his “snug corner,” he
fell to castle-building as he rode along. It was evident that he had a very large castle in hand. All day long he was running towers up, taking towers down, adding a wing here, putting on a battlement there, looking to the walls, strengthening the defences, giving ornamental touches to the interior, making in all respects a superb castle of it...
On the heels of last week’s discussion on alternative histories, I’m inspired by China Mieville’s The Scar to ask a similar question about a similar speculative endeavour: building castles in the air. New Crobuzon’s one of the best realized castle-in-the-air I’ve ever encountered. Its effectiveness, I’d wager, stems from the manner in which it seems not to have been created but evolved. I once spent three months in Urbino and as soon as that city--with its unreal angles and centuries old inhumanly steep streets of inlaid brick ladders--seeps into your brain, the obsession with cities as agglutinate as German concept-nouns inevitably follows. So it has. (So much so I’m even fascinated by Jon Jerde’s excessively colorful simulations.)
For the sake of clarity, I’ll call these “evolved cities,” as “representations of fictional cities earthed in a faux-historical developmental process such that it’s as compellingly complex and un-invented-seeming as Drieser’s Chicago or Chandler’s Los Angeles” sounds deeply stupid. So, yes, literary representations of similarly “evolved cities.” I’ve located a number myself, including Marco Polo’s in Calvino’s Invisible Cities--although I’m looking for fully realized cities, so Calvino can’t really count--William Gibson’s suburb-on-a-bridge in Virtual Light; Gormenghast Castle in Peake’s Titus Groans and Gormenghast; the Orange/Los Angeles/San Diego County mall-complex in Robinson’s The Gold Coast; etc. The unflattering way to phrase this request would be that I’m looking for works which’ll foster the felt-immersion of a fourteen-year-old’s first encounter with Tolkien or an undergraduate’s first flipping of Ulysses.
So come on already! This is a p-a-r-t-y! Your quarter/semester/Monday’s done and what would you rather do than discuss your favorite fictional environs? Don’t tell me you’re all off watching The Scholar.
A Highly Personal (and Possibly Inappropriate) P.S.: If anyone’s ever figured out all the film references on John Vanderslice’s Cellar Door and wouldn’t mind sharing them, I’d be forever in your debt. I’ve connected the obvious--"Promising Actress” and Mulholland Drive and “When It Hits My Blood” and Requiem for a Dream--but outside of the obvious I’m as dense as ever.