I’ve have been thinking about two things consistently in The Ravickians as I try to relate Ravicka to our world: text messaging and gentrification. These two ideas seem unrelated and they probably are so I’ll discuss them separately.
The absence of cell phones seems particularly apparent in this book. Of course, none of the books we have read this semester have mentioned cell phones at all, but given the emphasis on courier communication in this book, the absence seems purposeful. The vast majority of the communicative exchanges facilitated by couriers that we see in this book could easily fit inside an SMS and are equally uninformative. Like cell phones, couriers seem to be readily available at most times. In our universe, cell phones/text messages have rapidly changed the way that we interact with language. Text message interactions seem to give us the illusion of real communication when in actuality they are an extremely inefficient means of communicating. I read the last section of the book as a series of courier exchanges between several characters and almost all of them could have been text messages as well. A good deal of these exchanges are merely call and response type communications (“-Ana Patova? -Yes”) and it is very difficult to extract information from them. In a text so focused on language and situated at the forefront of some major shift, I wonder if the use of courier communication is meant to comment on our own deteriorating communicative abilities as a result of constant text messaging (maybe a huge stretch).
Like those living in most major cities in the United States, though Ravickians live comparatively near each other, different people experience very different images of the city. This mirrors my experience in NYC, where the predominately well-off and white folks in my social sphere who lived in gentrified neighborhoods almost never ventured into poorer neighborhoods (or even poorer boroughs). Due to the gentrification of certain neighborhoods, wealthy folks never spent any real time around poor folks and though they had an image of the city in their head, they were oblivious to life in New York for those with less money. This concept of people living in the same city but seeing it very differently comes up quite frequently in The Ravickians. On page 76, the narrator considers this, saying, “the city is a system of streets, canals and vertical structures. It has a published shape, represented on many walls in many districts and handed out in folks at the Tourist Bureau, and it bears and imaginary form. You will guess imaginary forms to be divergent: mine does not resemble yours. But if I love the same city you love, our maps should be interchangeable.” The crumbling of the architecture in Ravicka seems an inverse of gentrification efforts in major cities where architecture is renovated and re-marketed. Also, the Ravickians who are mysteriously missing from the city proper seem to mirror poor folks who are constantly being displaced from gentrified neighborhoods in the United States.