Saturday, April 9, 2011

The city is alive ...

The city is a central character in Steve Mosby's The Cutting Crew. He spends quite a bit of the narrative detailing the form, geography, history, myths and sense of place of the nameless city the story is set in. He uses the metaphor of the body a lot, talking about the city consisting of organs, muscles, arteries and so on - a living organic thing, pulsating with life. Here is a passage from near the beginning.

There were nights when he’d drive me out of the city and up into the hills nearby. We’d park and both look out over the buildings and the lights and the people below us, and it would seem to me that in some awful way the city was alive: that there was a dark heart flexing and thumping underneath the skin of concrete and soil. ... The more we talked and worked, the more I could sense the city’s heart beat. It made me feel powerless and awful and weak.

I was supposed to be in control of this city – this enormous creature that was bad from top to bottom – and it wanted none of it. Maybe it would let us get away with the little stuff, but the evil was too ingrained: any concerted attempt to dig it out would bring the buildings crashing down. That’s what Sean said: it was like the human body if you removed all the water – all you’d be left with is a pile of sand.

That was how he saw the city, and after a while that’s how I began to see it too. Partly it was because of the way things worked: everything was so orchestrated and coordinated that it was often difficult
not to see a design under it all. But sometimes you only had to walk down the streets to start imagining them as veins and arteries, and on those occasions I often wondered if I could kneel down, press my hand to the pavement and feel the slow thud of the city’s pulse.

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