When I began the semester, it was Catherynne M. Valente’s book about a sexually transmitted city, Palimpsest, that I was worried about teaching. Well, worried is maybe too strong of a word, but there are some texts that require tighter classroom management than others, and I was prepared for Palimpsest to be one of those. Still, after explicating all the quaint sexual punning in The Canterbury Tales and teaching a law school seminar on the speech clause of the first amendment that included a lecture on the constitutional necessity of wearing g-strings and pasties while dancing nude, I was sure I could handle it. More importantly, the book was too perfect for the course – The Fantastic as Place – to leave it off the syllabus out of cowardice.
Palimpsest, as it turned out, wasn’t a problem. No, the book that almost broke my class was China Miéville’s The City and the City.