Choosing to Be Happy (but mostly Perdido Street Station)

TW: Assault/Rape (non graphic); Spoilers

It took me a month, but I wrote a long critique of the infamous final part of China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station. I have been very open in the past about being a survivor of multiple rapes and sexual assaults, which means that it’s hard for me not to take unnecessarily violent portrayals of rape personally. That being said, I disagreed with a lot of reviewers on the chapter and why it was problematic.

I wrote a critique. Then I threw it out. Last night, I pounded out a 2,000 word essay titled “Four Stages of Mourning the ‘Judgment’ of Perdido Street Station.” It was personal, and painful, but in finishing it, I achieved catharsis from writing for the first time ever.

I’ve written extensively about my experiences as a slightly younger woman during what I sometimes call my ‘lost years’. I have never published any of those descriptions or reactions, but that body of work is probably my most prolific. Someday I might throw them into the light, but not now. This essay, which occurred after so many of those dark things were dredged out of me and I struggled to fight them back to where they belong, will be tucked away in that folder to maybe never be read again.

Writing has never been cathartic, or healing for me. I have tried to find some therapeutic use for it, but it often feels like throwing my fears into the air and rearranging them. Yet I continue to do it. Maybe there is something darkly fun about reminding myself of what I’ve been through, and what I have had to do to survive.

This morning, I woke up at 4 AM and watched the sky lighten over the tar paper covering my neighbor’s moldering garage. I decided, as I often do nowadays, that I was glad I was still there to see it. I decided I would put away the critiques of misogyny in older science fiction movies I was working on, and the paper on tentacular rape because right now there are other things I would rather be writing. And then I relocated a gigantic sac spider’s hunting grounds to the hallway because it was ruining my cup of tea.

I am going to briefly cover what I found so problematic about the handling of rape in Perdido Street Station, because I think it’s important to have it somewhere out there, floating around. Then I am going to back off from feminist commentary and critiquing the use of rape in media for a while. It makes me unhappy, and I need to focus on my fiction more, anyway.

So, in the book: Isaac’s imaginings of what happened to Yagharek’s victim are intrusive and unnecessary. That was the largest of my problems with the narrative. They may have been tolerable if they had come after the survivor talked more about it herself, or we had any emotional discourse from the possibly assaulted Lin. Instead, Lin is an empty shell of what she once was and unable to talk about what happened to her.

That being said, I still have conflicting feelings about how survivors talking about their feelings or their experiences would have felt or looked or what reactions would have been. Yet there is something deeply disturbing about being left alone with only Isaac’s idealizations of what it means to be raped.

Secondly, many reviewers and fellow readers seemed irrevocably offended at having rooted for a rapist the entire book. This was mystifying to me. To be put it briefly: as viewer and readers, we root constantly for rapists and men that assault women knowingly. Even women that assault men. And in real life? Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, and on and on and on.

Having been raped, and having told people close to me about being assaulted, it is also unbelievable to me how much self denial must occur for this to become shocking. Many people knowingly harbor and accept men that assault women, ignoring their crimes in the face of possible social exclusion.

There is a lot more to be said and many more complexities, but I am not the person to do it right now. As long as Perdido Street Station is going to continue being an important book, it’s important to keep discussing its ending. People are still finishing it for the first time, and posting their reactions, and I appreciate that, and I hope it continues.

That’s all I have to say right now. Now I’m going to go work on my book.

Every time I write a blog post, I am reminded why I hate doing so. Hey, anyone else remember when the Dungeons & Dragons film came out the same year as 3rd Edition? Now you do, you’re welcome.

J.M.

P.S. Here are some photos I took of the park oasis near my house very near the center of the city. Just so everyone can know I have yet to improve as a photographer:

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