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Squid is the new black. How pelagic!

December 11, 2010

The book cover is gorgeous.
Squid. They’re everywhere. They are the new black.

Do you know how, when you learn a new word, you come across it everywhere? Like the word used to be invisible — it had to be there, but it didn’t register on your word screen until you finally learned what it meant.

That’s how squid have been for me. I read Kraken by China Miéville (what an awesome name, no? and it’s a guy, which makes it even cooler) and now I run into squid on flickr, T-shirts, other books, even TV commercials. You know that Jameson whiskey one? Where John Jameson loses a barrel of whiskey from his boat and dives in after it, only to encounter a giant, uh, octopus. I guess that’s not a squid, but it’s close enough.

I love Kraken. It absolutely blew me away for its weird and wonderful use of language. It actively gets in the way; sentences are oddly constructed and difficult to parse, with non- or newly-invented words scattered everywhere:

Squiddity. Now that’s a word.
Heresiopolitan.
Lacunaed. Yes, lacuna now has a verb form.
Chronophlogiston.
Pelagic. Do you know what it means? I didn’t, until I looked it up. You get a gold star if you already know.
Hurripilations. I adore this word.
Metropolitopoiesis.
Groupuscules.
Goddery.
Unimbloodyportant.

The twisted sentences, the ones you have to read twice or thrice to follow the thread of thought, are themselves illustrations of a theme of the book: meaning is layered, lacunaed, meaningless, the opposite of what it means, exactly what it means. When reviews criticize the book for being difficult to read, I want to shout, “That’s the point!”

I won’t give much, because you have to read the book, you just have to.

. . . . “So it’s the office intrusion that particularly bothers you . . . .”
She stared at him. “Yeah,” she said. “That and the thing with the horrible death thing.”

Bit out of your remit, this, isn’t it? Where’s the goddery?

Outside in the corridor furniture was tugged skew-whiff by a rubble of piscine bodies.

Oh, Lord. Go read the book. You’ll be seeing squid everywhere.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2010 5:04 pm

    Pelagic. Hmmm. It makes me thing of what it would feel like to hold part of a squid. Or an octopus. I don’t get a gold star, do I.

    anonymous

  2. May 15, 2011 12:36 am

    Love China Mieville. Read Kraken in January and promptly started a blog named chronophlogiston on Weebly. Just picked up his City and The City. Have read all his Bas-Lag novels…also very good for picking up ‘newly created’ words.

  3. September 1, 2012 12:31 am

    His every word is a meal, – each sentence a banquet.
    I was not at all surprised that Mervyn Peake is a literary hero of China Meiville

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