Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Daily Lafferty - # 1

‘You can set your own rules for being a genius, and then you can be one.’

-R. A. Lafferty, ‘The Day After the World Ended’ (1979)


Kevin Cheek said...

The flip side to this quote comes from Walt Kelly (I can neither find the quote on line nor find my copy of the book, so I'll quote from memory):
"An editor once told me that success is being able to reach your goals. If that is true, there are an awful lot of people out there with very low success thresholds."
(or something close to that)

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Yeah, to be fair, in the context of the essay I think Lafferty is being at least half-facetious. But even on its own out of context I feel this statement describes something about Lafferty's own trend-bucking genius. Obviously his personal thresholds were high.

In another essay he wryly says something similar to the Kelly paraphrase above:

'Fiction writing... is one of the trades that can be mastered by nearly anyone of sufficient interest and will... And, considering some of the guys who have become adept at the trade, we will say that it can be learned by almost anybody.'

-It's Down the Slippery Cellar Stairs

Kevin Cheek said...

R. A. Lafferty and Walt Kelly, two absolutely original American voices--or is that two original absolutely American voices--both really.

Andrew said...

I would say, on the contrary, that Lafferty is being in no way facetious here. At the end of More than Melchisedech, or alternately the final volume Argo, Lafferty more or less subscribes to Havelock Ellis's theory of equivalent intelligence, which states that barring brain damage, all people are more or less of, you guessed it, equal intelligence—we just all turn it to different ends. As such, there is nothing preventing any human from declaring himself a genius, because we are all geniuses to begin with, it just takes the boldness (which, sadly, the vast majority of Flatlanders lack) to make the declaration and follow through from there.

Re: Walt Kelly, I deeply respect and enjoy his work but cannot see him on the same level as Ray, because though Kelly told great stories, he did not innovate in form to the same extent, or even to the extent allowed by his chosen medium. The great geniuses of the comic strip, for me, were first Winsor McKay, and second George Herriman, with everyone else (foremost Frank King, Charles Schulz, and Bill Watterson) a fair way behind.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Fair point, Andrew. I'm glad you clarified that. I wholeheartedly agree that you can see in his works that he thinks every human is a genius and it's only a question of how that is employed (or squandered). But the half-facetious element I still think may be coming out in that essay is the 'rules for genius' part, the aesthetic standard by which we measure ourselves - if it's not the right one(s) we will squander the genius gifted to us. I'm pretty sure that point comes out in spades in his work with his wry critiques of 'new art' of various sorts.

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