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"The "straight passage" is a crucial moment, I believe. For those missing pieces here and there, it grounds the Eusa story in something concrete, and though we've known it all along, quite plainly puts forward the severity of the gap between our world and theirs. This moment both pulled me closer to Riddley's world in terms of pathos, and firmly planted me outside of that world. Without the magic of Riddley's language, the passage seemed almost naked to me, sad in its matter-of-factness. Oh, I thought, I'm one of them, and so far away."

Passages like this make the manifold idiocies of the Onion AV Club's discussion series on Riddley Walker much easier to bear. (No, fans have not come up with some inventive notions of where the book's places *might* go in modern England, you fool, those *are* the damn places, as Hoban makes entirely sodding clear). Still, there's enough insight to make the series worth keeping an eye on, and the idiocies have damn near stirred me into action on a long-threatened plan to scribble down some thoughts in this yere LJ...

Date: 2010-04-27 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, the site I saw does have a few location-matches that are kind of speculative, even if the great majority are totally concrete. But yeah, it's not as if there isn't a freakin' map.

Date: 2010-04-27 10:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
(Also, obviously I encourage any and all writing about Riddley.)

Date: 2010-04-27 10:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Is the map in all editions though? I have the special edition with the glossary (neither as useful nor as spoilery as the AV Club peeps seem to think, except as a kinda pointer on how to start understanding Riddleyspeak), and Hoban's sample of early-Riddley in plain English (dreadful*), and the map - wasn't sure if it came as standard in all versions.

Anyway, I thought Hoban admitted somewhere that speculative places were because he had got the location slightly wrong of a few villages he had only whizzed through in the wee small hours. But I might be disremembering the results of a booze-fuelled late-night trawl through fansites.

*on language: a possibly obvious thought that anyway only just occurred to me is that a modern-language Riddley would've been not just terrible but impossible. You just can't have that - is "gnostic" the word I want? - mindset where there are hidden truths to be uncovered through visions and rites and rituals and Aiding the Quiries in a world where everyone appears to talk and think just like us. In the early versions Riddley spoke like an educated, articulate 20th-century Westerner, and we know how that goes; soon people will be making rational and rigorous inquiries into things, then they'll reinvent the scientific method, and sooner or later they'll have all the old civilised glories back again (possibly shortly before exploding themselves all over again, too). The finished book leaves it open what's going to happen - reinvent science and maths and world war? keep scratching along at not much above subsistence level? - and I don't see how that could have been done without the language jolting us out of our familiar notions of how human progress goes.

Date: 2010-04-27 11:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've had two different editions, both unexpanded paperbacks (one a UK edition, one US) and they both had the map in. I'm pretty sure it's standard.

The language: yes. I mean, there's this idea that deep knowledge about the world by looking into the structure of language (and as it turns out in the book, that's true just often enough to get you into trouble.) I mean, it's not as if we're immune to this sort of punning ourselves; shallow pomo criticism loves to indulge in a Telling Pun, and much of modern philosophy is about catching leaps of logic that we don't notice because they're embedded in conventional language structures. In Riddley's language this is a lot more obvious, and it's really apparent how much the world is interpretation for these people... until, bang, you slam face-first into hard chemistry.

Date: 2010-04-27 11:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Mmm. I might come back to this one when it's not half-midnight with beer running low. But you've just reminded me of my major gripe when rereading the thing a few months back, which was that isn't the rediscovery of gunpowder a wee bit deus ex machina? We go through this entire epic trek to try to rediscover the roots of the One Big 1, which is clearly something that has been going on for some time with annual mutant-torturings and god knows what else, and then the charcoal-burner shows up and says "oh, gunpowder? Yeah, we've had the secret of that all along. Here, I'll knock you up a grenade right now, no trubba".

On the other hand, the only reason he can do it is that Salt-4 has finally come back to England, and IIRC he does it at the same time the Prime Mincer's mob are also fatally reinventing gunpowder, so maybe there's a point being made there about how inventions tend to crop up in several places at once when the times and the technology are right. And also a pessimistic point about Riddley's people being predestined to repeat the same damn mistakes. But still, the episode felt a bit glib and contrived in light of what had come before.

Date: 2010-04-28 12:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There is a bit of reified-zeitgeist going on, yeah, but... hm. Goodparley sort of points out that it's awfully convenient. "Wel wel wel here I been stressing myself and straining and wearying and worrying this long time and all that time this here knowing ben right unner my nose. 1 Littl 1 who wudve thot it." And earlier when Granser sings the song that starts the whole discussion that leads to them pulling out the yellerboy, he's "Looking at me sydling wylst he sung it like he wantit me to take noatis." So I think both sides are a little bit more savvy about what's going on than their overt discussion suggests.

I guess the deal is, the Mincery is pretty primitive as governments go, and there's no way it can be carrying out a long-term Secret Research Project without leaking secrets like a sieve. And Granser's supposed sacrosanct charcoal-burner secret lore takes about five minutes to extract. And Granser can hardly be unaware of the implications of Goodparley's downfall, yet he takes them in with over-the-top overtures of friendship. So I get the impression that there's been secret-trading going on between charcoal-burners and Mincery already, and a lot of this sequence is a puppet-show.


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