Book Review

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

a blog from when the [first?] lockdown eased

Written July 26th

As happens whenever I read a science fiction or fantasy novel, I take a reasonable amount of pleasure while I’m “in” the book, and then feel waves of shame and contempt whenever I put it down.

Genre fiction isn’t quite literature, in the same way that a mass-produced poster found on millions of student walls isn’t visual art, i.e. something made to be treated as if disposable isn’t isn’t isn’t isn’t-

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It’s Sunday the twenty sixth of July and it is hot. It is the Summer. It is warm and balmy and some shops are reopening and some restaurants are open in the province, outside of the city, and and and-

I don’t really know how i’ve slipped into this habit, this new habit which involves me sitting down and squeezing out a thousand or two thousand words tentatively related to a book I’ve been reading and then hitting “save draft” and leaving it in the WordPress drafts section for months.

There are over twenty right now, sitting there un-proofed and unpublished, with some – I think – going back all the way to May.

The mass protests of early June were a reason – I told myself – to stop posting these, but then that became an excuse, and then time continued to pass and I kept spinning to myself the narrative that I wasn’t writing any more, but that wasn’t – isn’t – true, I’m writing and I’m producing, I’m just not hitting publish on the blogs I write and I’m not finishing any of the longer or more serious or more emotive or emotional pieces that I’ve been working on over the past few months.

That’s not true, that’s not fair, I’ve spent hours and hours and hours working on and editing the pleasure of regret but every time I do that it has emoitonal consequences for days at a stretch, sometimes weeks, because it’s a fucking emotive text – for me – and there is a real fear of its publication having social consequences, much like I feared with Bad Boy Poet, though they never came to pass, thank god.

I think, I don’t know, the poetry, the book of poetry, was less raw than this one.

Poetry, rather than prose, somehow feels more artificial, certainly I find myself attuned to the inherent artifice of literature as an artistic/creative space when I read poetry.

Prose is the language that, socially, we think of ourselves as speaking in, as thinking in.

We think in prose, we create in poetry.

That doesn’t make sense as a statement or as a worldview, but I know what I was trying to express and why it felt right to type it that way even though I know it won’t make sense to me looking back over it whenever I get round to posting things on this blog again because actually the statement doesn’t even really make sense to the me of two minutes later still on the 26th of July thinking about if there’s anything more useful more important more human to saaaaaaaaaaay

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I have been reduced, by the pandemic, we have all been reduced, society has been reduced.

By removing so many aspects of ones life involuntarily, I have become more aware of all the fucking aspects of my life which I voluntarily removed without a real decision-making process.

Other than my lover and my colleagues in my precarious job (and technically the clients at my precarious job, but those don’t count actually imo) I haven’t interacted properly with anyone since last Autumn.

Though I’ve had phone calls and video calls, I don’t have a single person (other than my lover and our dog) here who I know well, who I know on a personal level.

In many ways, that was freeing when I came here: the tension and worry I felt in places where I might be unexpectedly found or run into (or whatever) was nice to be removed from, but what I allowed myself to forget was that actually it’s sometimes good and useful and important to interact with people without like, i dunno, denying important personal truths.

And though, yes, I am doing Spanish conversation classes online and I’m making a point to speak on the telephone at least once to a friend or to my sister once a month, digital interaction is not a great substitute for personal interaction; face time is not face-to-face time. And still, now, on the days when I’m not working I find myself slipping into a torpor, a slow dull feeling of inaction and directionlessness, because because because-

And reading sci-fi/fantasy is a very easy slip, escape, out from the reality of the life in which I’m in.

The Fifth Season, the first book in the massively acclaimed Broken Earth Trilogy is a lot of fun, and also very affecting, being set in the far distant future of an Earth-like planet that is slowly going through what looks set to be a final mass extinction event.

There are humans with the ability to move rocks with their mind and there are weird little pokemon-esque creatures that are both flesh and rock but able to move through rock like air, and there is secrecy and exploitation and adventure and, yes, it is fun, and next time I’m in a non-second-hand bookstore (it’s too recent to be in those) I will buy the second and likely the third parts of this trilogy and make time in my busy schedule to fly through them in a few days (as I did with this one lolololol), but I won’t feel like it takes me forward, like it moves my life onward or gives me more wisdom or more understanding or more humanity; genre fiction like this might be good fiction, and it may make allegorical points about current society, but fiction this detached from lived experience can only ever be distraction, it can never be engagement. And this, maybe, is why it’s easier to read fantasy when doing the last stretch of work on the pleasure of regret, a work so far removed from fantasy; reading fantasy works as a balm when I’ve spent significant time recently engaging not only with writing about the worst and lowest periods of my life, but also writing from the worst and lowest periods of my life.

This is too many words, few of them insightful.

The blog is disintegrating.

Well, it is for me, not for you lol – when will this be published? The Winter?

If so, remember, Scott of the future, that it was hot once lol. It will be hot again.

1 comment on “The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

  1. Pingback: The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin – Triumph Of The Now

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