Saturday, August 27, 2011

From Drunken Binges to Wine Tasting: Reading and Re-reading Lafferty’s Short Stories

When I first started reading Lafferty’s short stories, I was collecting them ‘One At a Time’ in second-hand 1970s anthologies. I had been wowed by a few early on, and, without realising I was doing it, I from then on approached his stories with an all too flippant take-it-or-leave-it mentality. I wanted thrills and laughs and if the story didn’t seem to deliver right off, I was unduly disappointed and dismissive. Sometimes they would surprise me by meeting my expectations in a new way or by doing wholly new things to me, which subsequently created new contours in my expectations. Even so, I didn’t really want to work too hard for anything or be all that challenged. I skipped along the surface of my reading of his tales, lingering only over the ones that immediately took my fancy and largely forgetting the rest.

Now I know better. More than a decade on from the reading of my first Lafferty story (probably back in about 1998—it sounds so pathetic next to some of his extant readership that goes all the way back to the 70s or 80s!), having also read so many other authors in that time as well, I now know what an outrageously rare writer he is and what a distinct and priceless treasure each individual story is. Ok, yes, I’m speaking besottedly as a fanboy. There are no doubt some of his short stories that are only ‘OK’ no matter how you spin it. Still, there is huge truth to my initial exaggeration.

First of all, so many (indeed, most) stories I was less than bowled over by in the past, I have, on second or third readings, found to be either moved up the scale very considerably or, really, to be one of his best stories and I simply blockheadedly missed it the first time round. Secondly, I seriously doubt that there exists a story written by the man that does not contain a Laffertian gem the world would be significantly poorer not to own: an exquisite turn of phrase that only he could turn; a wonderfully descriptive sentence or paragraph in his utterly unique style; an inimitable scenario, setting, or character that only he could have madly concocted; a distinctively fresh philosophical musing from a mind so sharp it cut the crap like no other; a slice of life seen through the strangest eyes the world has known; or, as often as not, a tiny little micro-tall-tale (such an impossible-sounding term is perfectly—perhaps only—suited to Lafferty’s fiction) that we would definitely not want, upon discovery, to have missing from the overall Laffertian lore-trove.

Lafferty’s stories honestly deserve our loving time and attention, without distraction and with commitment. I am finally re-reading all my Lafferty short story collections (Nine Hundred Grandmothers, Strange Doings, Does Anyone Else Have Something Further to Add?, Ringing Changes, and Lafferty In Orbit—as well as a handful of Drumm booklets—and oh! how I wish I could afford to own the collections Golden Gate, Iron Tears, and Through Elegant Eyes). These days, I am savouring each individual story for all its worth, getting every sliver and slaver of meat and juice, then cracking the bone to luxuriantly suck out the marrow, and, finally, worrying the shivered bones themselves as a pleasant desert. I am reminded of C. S. Lewis’s Dr. Ransom eating the exotic fruits and nuts of the floating islands of the edenic planet Perelandra: of some he said they were a mystical experience that deserved a ritual benediction, while others were simply a hearty meal that called for a hearty ‘Amen!’, but every bite was a blessing like he’d rarely tasted back on Earth.

So it is with Lafferty’s short stories when they have become a vintage to the seasoned reader. In the early days of reading him we are soon drunk on how quick we quaff them, happily bloated and bleary-eyed from our binging. Sure, his glint-eyed and grinning stories, full of grotesquery and grandeur, certainly lend themselves to this brackish boyish racket. All the same, re-reading them in later days, our gaze a-sparkle, we tend to swirl and smell and sip and swish and swallow. Oh, it is still a heady and high time and the tales are as ruddy and rowdy and gladly mad as ever. But now we take our time with each story. Swirl and smell and sip and swish and swallow. Slowly. Each one. Each and every one.


Andrew Ferguson said...

Let's do it. Where are we starting, Nine Hundred Grandmothers?

I tried this a few years back, going chronologically by date written (which often bears little relation to date published). Interesting to watch him develop as a writer, and less arbitrary than the selections made by collection editors, but not the easiest method to organize.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Yes, I would love to read them all chronologically, but I don't own even half of them probably (though I do own perhaps a good dozen or score not collected anywhere else that I know of - from anthologies and magazines - and some of those are my very favourites).

But yeah, I'm only on the fourth story of 900 Grans and I was gonna go by book chronology - so, 900, then Strange Doings, then Does Anyone Else Have Something Further to Add?. Then the only other two I own are Ringing Changes and Lafferty In Orbit.

Shall I write a short post on each individual story, then everyone can add their own comments? (Or you could be a guest blogger and write the short post to which the rest of us comment?)

Just thinkin' out loud...

Andrew Ferguson said...

Hmm. I'd be glad to do a guest post now and then, especially for stories (like Nine Hundred Grandmothers itself) that I've done some work on. But I'd hate to preclude others from introducing their favorites (like in the previous thread with Frog on the Mountain). Eager to see what folks can come up with!

Andrew Ferguson said...

I'm thinking it may be time to dust off the Lafferty wiki. My goal for it was to have a resource that demonstrates the many, many links that join together Lafferty's stories into one larger work—so you could see not only story pages that would list characters, locations, so on, but also have pages for all those characters, locations, so on, to provide the fullest possible picture of Lafferty's World. (Which is to say that Lafferty's works were always hypertext.)

But I only got so far as creating a list of works, and even that I haven't updated with my findings of the past year. Working one story at a time though, it might be possible to at least start filling in pieces here and there and get something in place.

Anyway, the site is; the list of works is
Anyone interested in helping out should register there and either get in touch with me here, or message me there (Epiktistes). I'd especially love it if anyone can clear out a bunch of the template crap and make it less of an eyesore.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Oh, I'd love to have as many guest blog posts as there are people who would like to do it (subject to a quick read by me first, mainly to smooth out type-os and such). So maybe you could start with one on '900 Grandmothers'? Just email it to me and I'll post it here, credited to your name (and link to a website if you have one or want to do that - certainly I would link to your Lafferty dissertaion).

Yes, YES, on Lafferty's stories as 'hypertext'! So utterly true.

I'll gladly contribute to the wicki when and how I can.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Speaking of the hypertext quality of his fiction: I'm reading Aurelia right now and seeing all the planets renamed - and some I think I've not heard mentioned elsewhere (and also missing some, such as Astrobe and Camiroi). And, interestingly, the novel mentions a Trader Planet, 'Kleptis'. Aurelia was published a year or two before Annals of Klepsis, so I'm assuming Lafferty just hadn't settled on that spelling yet.

And speaking of chronology: do you have any idea when the novels were actually written by Lafferty (as opposed to merely when they were published)? For example, were his eighties novels actually written in the eighties or had they been written earlier and were only now being published? Just curious if you know anything about that.

Kevin Cheek said...

A fully populated Lafferty Wiki would be a wonderful thing indeed! I also enjoy this blog and comments format, because of the conversational aspect. Most of my comments here have been inspired by the immediate context of the conversation at hand.

Back to the re-reading with glee: I find Lafferty's stories bear re-reading far more than most authors. I believe it has to do both with the richness of his language, which I get more clearly on each re-reading, and with the depth of his ideas, which aren't always obvious on first reading.

The first Lafferty story which made me stand up and shout eternal fandom and loyalty to his writing was "Days of Grass, Days of Straw" (about 19 years old at the time - around 1984-ish). That made me start searching out his work. Turns out I had read others earlier, that I had liked, but that hadn't flipped the switch. For example, I just reread "Mad Man" and recognized it from an anthology I had read in early high school. I had liked the story at the time and the idea of it stayed with me for decades. I just didn't recognize the Lafferty name at the time, and forgot it was his until I just stumbled across it again.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Glad you like the conversational, contextual nature of the comments threads here on the blog, Kevin - I like that too. The discussion board over at the RAL Devotional page has never seemed to accomplish that sort of thing. I was part of an email discussion group on Lafferty for a wee while also, and it too didn't seem to manage the flowing exchange these threads sometimes have. I've seen it facilitated well on other blogs too, so I think it's something about being provoked by a particular entry to fire off a comment that then sparks replies and so on - usually until it kind of finds its natural end.

Yes, the language and depth of his stories make re-reading essential, enjoyable, enlightening.

Great story about your first reads. It was kind of similar for me, although I didn't discover him until my mid twenties in the late nineties. Read this really obscure one in Asimov's s.f. mag called 'New People' and felt unsure. Read things like 'Barnaby's Clock' and 'Parthen' in anthologies and started to really chuckle. Read things like 'And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire', 'Nine Hundred Grandmothers', and 'Symposium' and started to find him hugely intriguing on a philosophical/theological level as well. I was already well seduced, perhaps without consciously knowing it, when I read things like 'Configuration of the North Shore' and 'In Deepest Glass' and totally flipped out at what he could do with mere mortal imagination and words. There truly seemed no limit with him. (I didn't discover 'Days of Grass, Days of Straw until some time later but it too was on this awe-inspiring level for me).

I've discovered new (for me) stories this very year that are still blowing my mind with delight, discomfort, weirdness, and wonder (e.g. 'You Can't Go Back', 'Ifrit', 'Horns On Their Heads', 'Endangered Species', 'Slippery').

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Oh, and 'Jack Bang's Eyes' - I need to post a sample of that story - Jack Bang is one of my all-time favourite Lafferty characters and he's hiding away there in an obscure Drumm Booklet (for which small-press publication I'm thankful, don't get me wrong!).

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Whoops, no, I'm sorry, it's not Jack Bang of the title of the story who is one of my fave characters but rather Flip O'Grady, the robe-wearing, penny-flipping chimpanzee.

Andrew Ferguson said...

I'll do up something in the next couple days.

Aurelia is most definitely a Camiroi girl (see the curriculum in "Primary Education"); I've wondered why he never just directly said it. Maybe he wanted the connection understated? His cosmos certainly seems in continual flux, one of the things I'm interested in tracking is how he develops the model that eventually emerges in Klepsis.

As for chronologies--that's a tough question, because often he would write one, fail to find a buyer for it, then have it sit around for a while till it found interest (or not), at which point he'd more or less heavily revise it for press. That said, the 80s novels--Klepsis, Sindbad, Serpent's Egg, East of Laughter--all were conceived and carried out in the first few years of that decade. Aurelia was written and published in a little over a year, including the time it took to type and send a new manuscript after the original was misplaced.

Back to anthologies:
Know it's expensive now, but everyone really _ought_ to find a copy of Iron Tears, which has some really top notch stories that are otherwise scattered far and wide. Selenium Ghosts of the Eighteen Seventies, in particular, is one of his very finest; Funnyfingers a rollicking heartbreaker; World as Will and Wallpaper one of his most ghoulish dystopias; Lord Torpedo, Lord Gyroscope one of the taller tales; Gray Ghost...anyway. A really strong collection.

Kevin Cheek said...

I never got the impression that Lafferty considered his cosmos to be as consistent as, say Cordwainer Smith's. He used elements of his cosmos as fitted the needs of a particular story, and perhaps invented stories based on peculiar elements he discovered (created) in a previous story in the same setting. That has always been my guess about the two Camiroi stories, or the two stories on Paravata.

An opinion I have come to in reading bunches of Lafferty, is that story serves message more strongly in his writing than that of most other SF authors--more towards the C S Lewis end of the continuum than the Zelazny end. I've always assumed that his characters went through their trials and tribulations to meet the needs of the idea behind the story, and that the end was always in sight from the beginning of the story.

Jay said...

I've been avoiding this recently because I haven't read East of Laughter yet and didn't want it spoiled. So, responding to threads of conversation as I come to them.

*YES, re-reading Lafferty (the short stories in particular) is wonderful. I do have all those collections you mentioned except for "Through Elegant Eyes" (Barnaby's lot aren't my favorite, except for Austro) and I love them all, with Ringing Changes probably being the Least Best (because of too much Barnaby, although it does have "Days of Grass, Days of Straw" and some other great ones), and with Lafferty in Orbit and Iron Tears having really disappointing editing issues. But I re-read all of Strange Doings and Does Anyone Else Have Something Further to Add? during plane rides for my campus visits last March, and I was really impressed by some of the stories that I didn't remember particularly vividly from the first reading. "The Man With Speckled Eyes," "Ride a Tin Can," "How They Gave it Back," etc. Not to mention the ones I loved the first time, "The Transcendent Tigers," "This Grand Carcass Yet," "In the Garden," "Nor Limestone Islands" . . . I could go on. I haven't really come across much that disappoints on second reading.

*I read my first Lafferty story in 2008, so I'm way behind all y'all. But in my defense, I was 11 years old in 1998, busy watching the Tennessee Volunteers win the national championship (woo!!!!!!!!!!)!

*I'd totally be into helping with a Wiki or going through and posting on various stories. Time is an issue, as I'm in my first semester of a Ph.D program that isn't centered on Lafferty. But I will make time if humanly possible. I love this stuff. Also, I've been collecting some Lafferty quotes, and I swear I'm going to post a blog for only Lafferty quotes, but I never have gotten around to it. I have two novels and four or five short stories worth of quotes so far.

*Re: Kleptis. I also noticed a "Willy McGilley" character in "Adam Had Three Brothers." I wonder if this was prior to all the others in which there's no "e."

*Serious recommendations for "Slippery," "Horns on Their Heads," "The World as Will and Wallpaper," and "Funnyfingers," echoing Daniel and Andrew. I also read "Gray Ghost" every Halloween. Probably should re-read "Selenium Ghosts" though, it didn't stick too well.

*Anyone who doesn't get the allusion in the title of "The World as Will and Wallpaper" is seriously missing out. I was rolling when I saw that.

*Personally, I prefer "This Grand Carcass Yet" to "Lord Torpedo, Lord Gyroscope," as they're similar stories, but both are great. And "Or Little Ducks Each Day" is worth a mention, in a different vein.

*Love Flip O'Grady.

*So far, my favorites that aren't collected together have been "The Funny Face Murders" and "Three Shadows of the Wolf."

*Wondering what Andrew thinks of "From the Thunder Colt's Mouth." I think it's a really great sample of Lafferty's world-building attitude.

*Need to get Aurelia at some point.

Andrew Ferguson said...

@Kevin: True. It should always be remembered with Lafferty that there is no single or consensus reality, and many characters know each other and even interact despite existing in different iterations of the real. No reason that can't be extended to topography as well.

(Also, I strongly suspect that Lafferty's planets exist mostly to illustrate inner states or potentialities within mankind, if not outright alternatives to it. Klepsis is very much a case in point.)

@Jay: "Adam Had Three Brothers" was a very early story, one of a batch he cooked up in Fall 1957, probably for a correspondence course. There were a number of stories about the Wreckville gang, circling around the Plugged Nickel pub and the gang of conmen who filled it ("Aloys" is a great one here). At one stage Willy, or a character very like him, appeared in the story "Johnny Crookedhouse" under the name Charlie O'Malley.

"Selenium Ghosts" was one of Ray's personal favorites, one he ranked up with "Continued on Next Rock" and "Narrow Valley" as his very best. I think I'm starting to get the hang of what he's doing with it on deeper levels--brooding on memory and data degradation--but even on the surface he's inventing an new media technology and embedding within it the entire mythology of the cinema and all its genres. And he streaks all this through with a much older tale still, one of the universal dramas.

"Three Shadows of the Wolf" is an abbreviated version of what was originally a novel called Loup Garou. The story is probably better for the tightening, though the novel does more work than normal in developing atmosphere.

My favorite uncollected story that occurs to me right now is "Bubbles When They Burst."

"Thunder-Colt" seems to take place in an iteration of the Argo universe even more lurid and grotesque than Devil Is Dead's. As such, yes, the world-making and -unmaking is phenomenal, not to mention deeply unsettling (it makes me think a bit of Sorrentino's Mulligan Stew). I do wonder if it's one of the Duffey lives where he winds up in perdition.

@All: Generally the deal with the wiki is, you register for a free account at wikidot, then give me your account name so I can invite you to co-edit. Then we all just shape it as time allows.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Dudes: yer warmin' ma heart-cockles with all this chat.

@Kevin: 'An opinion I have come to... is that story serves message more strongly in his writing than that of most other SF authors--more towards the C S Lewis end of the continuum than the Zelazny end. I've always assumed that his characters went through their trials and tribulations to meet the needs of the idea behind the story, and that the end was always in sight from the beginning of the story.'

Ha, well, you've opened a GIANT can of worms there! That deserves its own blog post and discussion thread. Care to guest blog that one? I suppose it could be that short if you want - but if you want to do that, just decide if that's the wording you want (which is fine) and whether you want to add or clarify anything. But I probably won't post it right away as I have a number of my own posts coming up soon. It might be more like a few weeks. Just a thought!

@Jay: ha, well, I admit I was missing the sultry sound of your voice (Monsters, Inc. reference). No problems, I do have TONS of spoilers going on here lately and, look out, I've got a huge two-part post on East of Laughter in the wings! I'm trying to polish it up and post the parts over the next few days.

That you've only come to him since 2008 and are this besotted is encouraging about ongoing new readership for Laff's work.

Heh heh, I too have thousands of words transcribed from various works, short quotes to quite long, that I'm waiting for the right time to post. His stuff is so utterly quotable! (Which, considering how inaccessible he can seem at first, is rather surprising come to think of it.) That would be a fantastic blog (a great addition to the very small Lafferty web presence), so I hope you do it.

So glad you love Flip O'Grady, 'Slippery', and 'Horns On Their Heads' also. There are so many stories you mentioned that I don't possess - argh!

When I first came across 'The World As Will and Wallpaper' I was being taught by a philosophy tutor whose top-philosopher was Schopenhauer. I merely mentioned the story title to him and he erupted in a snorting chuckle.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

@Andrew: thanks for the Camiroi tip. Man, I love the way you're this living repository for Lafferty minutiae (as well as insight)!!!

Re: novels - I strongly suspected they were from an earlier time; early 80s is useful to know as it does mean they represent a later strain of writing than all the more famous ones (the 1968 trio, 4th Mansions, & Easterwine). I very much look forward to analysing the progression of his writing in style as well as outlook someday. I'm still convinced there's not at all a slowing down of quality in the later writing (Klepsis alone would have convinced me of that - it still my get my vote someday for his richest, fullest, most cohering novel - but I'd have to qualify how I mean 'cohering' as there are other novels with much more coherent 'plots').

Re: anthologies - yeah, if I have the cash at Christmas time, I'm so torn whether to not buy Flame Is Green and Sinbad and just buy Iron Tears instead - I LOVE the stories I've read on google books so far. (I had also been thinking of Golden Gate but I take it you find the former superior?)

Love your thought on the planets illustrating inner states.

Man, I love the way you're this living repository for Lafferty factoid minutiae (as well as literary insight)!!! Wonderful to hear of these late 50s first stories and what Laff thought of as his own best stories.

Is this Loup Garou a finished novel? I do hope so and that it will see light of day!

I just discovered 'Bubbles When They Burst' this summer (in Galaxy or Asimov's, I'm not at home just now to check) and I thought it was a gem. I'm just so amazed that there are so many uncollected ones out there that really should be well known as some of his best stuff.

I remember not loving 'Thundercolt' as an actual story, but loving it instead in terms of what he was 'saying' (and, indeed, how he was saying it - 'Royal Pop History: Are You Splendid Enough?' - genius!). (Which, of course, brings up Kevin's comments about message vs. story.) I suspect I'll love it all round on a re-read a decade later.

I shall get onto the wicki as soon as I can, promise!

All Three of Yous: now that I've got you all in one place, let me ask officially and solicitously: will you please write guest blog posts here? I think starting with a short post about a Lafferty story of your choice (first come, first serve - Andrew's already got '900 Grandmothers') is a great way to begin. There's no rush. I'm sure we'll have to space them out so we all have opportunity to comment on them. And I would eventually be able to link to a hypertext list of all the stories that have been introduced and commented on for future visitors to join in.

Again, just a thought and no problem either way.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Just realised I stated the 'Man, I love the way you're...' approbation twice. It bears repeating though, so that's fine.

Jay said...

Never read (or even previously heard of) "Bubbles When They Burst." How do I find that one?

Just signed up for wikidot under "Willy McGilly."

I personally will claim Iron Tears to be superior to Golden Gate.

I'd be totally into writing guest posts about individual stories. And the first that comes to mind isn't even one of my two favorites ("What's the Name of That Town" and "Land of the Great Horses"). I'll take "Frog on the Mountain," if that's cool. And, come to think of it, if signing up for two is okay, I'd also like "All Hollow Though You Be." I don't want to start a trend of people claiming 37 stories (because I'm sorely tempted to do just that), but I figure "All Hollow" probably isn't one of the first ones that others will want.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Alright, Jay's got 'Frog' and 'All Hollow'.

I think I'll start off a bit away from my very faves too and claim 'Ginny Wrapped In the Sun'.

(By the way, Jay, my very recent re-reading of 'Land of the Great Horses' actually reminded me that I'd already had a second go through in which I was very impressed with the story - but I'd forgotten about that re-reading and was still espousing my initial reaction - how weird and wrong! I still think '900 Grandmothers' has just an inch of an edge over it but 'Great Horses' is definitely top notch Lafferty and I'm glad you pushed me to re-evaluate it. Ursula Le Guin agrees with me (she anthologised '900' in the Norton s.f. anthology) and Harlan Ellison agrees with you (having anthologised 'Horses' in his first Dangerous Visions). We're in good company!)

Jay said...

I have to say, I see "Ginny" in an entirely new light after having read Revelation 12. But I haven't re-read the story since reading Revelation 12. Will look forward to your post.

And glad to see you coming around a bit. And to see that we're in good company!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Yeah, I was basically unimpressed with 'Ginny' the first time I read it quite a few years ago. This time, I read Rev. 12 first as you had mentioned that before (thanks for the tip!), and I was pretty blown away with the *weird* resonance with that Bible story. Even the title of the story is a hilarious cartoonization of the original story in Revelation (which itself is already and apocalyptic fable-picture!) And 'Ginny' is just an all round very good story. Classic Lafferty. As with so many in the past, I just kind of missed it the first time around because of rather foolish 'expectations'.

Kevin Cheek said...

Hmm, I'd have to sign up for one of my three favorites: "Days of Grass, Days of Straw," "Narrow Valley," or "Hole on the Corner." Flipping an invisible, three-sided coin, I'll take "Days of Grass, Days of Straw" because it is the story that started me on this delightfully delirious madness.

"If you're wonderin' what I'm doin, holdin up this lamp post
flippin' this here quarter trying to make up my mind

Heads I'll go to Tennesee, tails I'll buy a drink
if it lands on the edge, I'll sit here talking to you"

Sorry, sometimes the lyrics of Tom Waits and Lafferty work well together (no claims of similar status or quality)

Kevin Cheek said...

I just created a wikidot account. I couldn't decide between using Aloysius Shiplap or Charles Cogsworth for an alias. I went with Aloysius Shiplap and made a promise to try to be more outstanding.

Gregorio said...

I registered at wikidot under the alias of Diogenes Pontifex, who along with Audifax O’Hanlon, is excluded from the Institute of Impure Science by the "minimum decency rule."

Jay said...

Just sayin', I love the whole minimal decency rule, and I've quoted it a number of times. And a google search tells me I'm not the only one.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Yes, I love the wry, sly, satirical humour of the Minimum Decency Rule.

After Gregorio helped me check Diognes Pontifex (my same initials: D. P.) off my list, I was only left with:

Freddy Foley
Captain Roadstrum
Flip O’Grady
Atrox Fabulinus
Dog-Ape Plappergeist
Barnaby Sheen
Rimrock Ansel

From which I hesitantly settled on Captain Roadstrum as my wiki name. It was utterly satisfying to receive an email starting 'Dear Captain Roadstrum,'.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

@Kevin: meant to say I would love to see a study of Tom Waits in relation to R. A. Lafferty someday. There are definite similarities and overlaps as well as divergences. (Also a comparison with Captain Beefheart would be great.)

Kevin Cheek said...

I am indeed in rare company when I see R. A. Lafferty and Captain Beefheart mentioned in the same sentence!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

@Kevin: Ha ha, yes, well, I think Lafferty probably would have despised the good Captain's experimental and intuitive avant garde amalgamation of old blues, r&b, Stravinski-type classical orchestral, and 60s rock n roll. (Has anyone else noticed Ray's consistent lampooning rejection of rock n roll? As a life-long punk rocker myself, I can still honestly say I love the way he does it and think it's probably a needed rebuke. Lafferty is definitely the most punk rock writer ever.)

Yet they were both true geniuses of genuine formal innovation and unique vision that fit no commercial niche but was critically acclaimed. Some people found Beefheart's stuff just too seemingly insane and random to take - others saw that he (like Lafferty) was actually doing something deeper and more beautiful than the popular radio music that he (like Lafferty) felt was putting the nation into a catatonic state. Plus Beefheart's lyrics are full of woolly weird associations of animals and humans and folk wisdom and fun and funniness and the grotesque and thus have a strange resonance with Lafferty's writing as well.

'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it.'
(R. A. Lafferty, The Devil is Dead)