Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Daily Lafferty # 9

"You are a double-decked, seven-stranded, copper-bottomed, four-dimension liar!" Runkis roared out that day.
"Yes, I know," Lado said. He was pleased when praised for his specialty. He was the best liar in the neighborhood, and had the most fun out of it.

-R. A. Lafferty, 'The Man Who Never Was' (1967)


Kevin Cheek said...

This quote reminded me of Freddy Foley calling the Patrick Auclaire the "liar on the mountain."

Did Lafferty view himself as somewhat akin to the Patricks--not in the secret society mystic sense, but in the standing outside, knowing better, and trying to guide us normal everymen in the right direction?

And his stories could lie exuberantly!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Yes, yes, exactly, Kevin! So glad you see that too. This quote totally made me think of Lafferty himself as a writer. And it reminded me also of the 'Liar on the Mountain'. I think Lafferty *is* a Patrick, ha!

I'm finding that so many of his characters are *him* to one degree or another, especially in terms of 'lying' or storytelling - so Lafferty is both Bertigrew Bagley and the Liar on the Mountain in Fourth Mansions. He is Epiktistes (and one or two members of the Institute I can't recall just now) in Arrive At Easterwine. And he is the Scribbling Giant Atrox Fabulinas from East of Laughter as well as the Forger Denis Lollardy (who eventually becomes the new Head Scribbling Giant).

I'm sure there are other characters from other stories. I plan to do some posts on this in the future.

Kevin Cheek said...

I have noticed that Lafferty's self-caricatures are rarely if ever the central, dynamic character of a story. Like the Patricks, his characters guide or observe from the sidelines. This is most obvious in the Barnaby Sheen stories.

Thinking of Patricks, I had a friend growing up--the mother of my best friend--who I always thought of as very much like a Patrick. She was a constant fly in the ointment in city council meetings and the letters to the editor page. She had tremendous intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom. She tried to guide society from the extreme edges. Yet she did all of this from a political, social, economic, and even religious viewpoint far to the left of (insert name of favorite left-wing hero here). She embodied erudite humanist ideals. She cared deeply for humanity and had the intelligence to see clearly some of the ways in which us everylouts were going wrong, yet she, like the Patricks, was never called--the political and business establishments never took her seriously.

I pose you this question: Is it possible to have a Liberal Patrick--perhaps even a vast network of them?

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

ha, ha, great question! I am not one of those people who thinks all things good, wholesome, holy, and godly are on the Right of politics. (I have no allegiance to the Left either.) If Patricks are rather deeply fallible and flawed (more than just finitely limited), then I suppose they could sit (rather uncomfortably I would have thought) on the Right or Left.

In the 'Wings Not of Fire, But Weak and Feeble' thread we've been talking about the perplexity of 'devils' and monsters aboard the 'salvation ship' of the Church. Gregorio wisely commented:

'Lafferty may be alluding to the fact that the Church offers its salvific mission universally, and must be capacious to carry all of humanity within her bows, even those who will eventually reject the Church, and that in many cases this eventual rejection will pertain particularly to many who will be firmly ensconced within the Church. Here I recall the parable of the wheat and tares which Christ warns us will only be ultimately separated at the Eschaton.'

Going even beyond those bows, perhaps even non-Christian/non-theist folks like Neil Gaiman may be a Patrick (in this Laffertian scheme of things)! So many people who do not at this time have any desire to even be in the church have the qualities you described your friend's mother having. I think Lafferty acknowledges this all the time in his fiction. He calls all alike to repentance as it were, and leaves the 'final assessment' for the last day.

Anyway, his 'Patricks' in Fourth Mansions are one of my favouritest mythical beings I have ever encountered in fiction. They really blew me away. And I agree that Lafferty as a character is always on the sidelines. He even often critiques his own 'lying' or 'scribbling' in the stories through other characters or even the one that resembles him. It's always self-effacing and usually quite humorous - whilst still candidly acknowledging that he's clearly been handed a very unusual and potent gift of storytelling and writing!

Andrew said...

As storyteller he definitely performs the roles of various characters such as Daniel mentions above, and you can add to that Snuffles the bear, the sea-louse in Serpent's Egg, the blind storyteller on Klepsis, &c., &c, but FWIW, Lafferty in one interview distinguishes himself from Bagley, though acknowledging the resemblance. As he calls himself "Laff" in the Barnaby Sheen stories, I think when he wants to self-insert, he self-inserts.

(Although having said that, his childhood self does make an appearance in the opening chapter of "In a Green Tree" as Paul Rafferty, one of the kids in the roll call. The Rafferty name disappears from the roll call that ends the first volume presumably because that would have been the Lafferty family's first time in Tulsa, and they had at least one move back to Iowa before permanently settling in Oklahoma.)

Incidentally, Bagley makes another appearance in of the best of the unpublished stories, "The Rod and the Ring," where he is one participant in the titular game, in which to win is to destroy the actual world.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Yeah, Andrew, I don't think there's any kind of one-to-one correspondence between any of his characters and Lafferty (save 'Laff' in Barnaby & Co.). It's just that major writerly/storyteller/sub-creator aspects of some of the characters have strong resonance with Lafferty as artist. I'm not surprised he said that about Bagley - I found O'Claire in his mountainous spatial-dimensional tall-tale creativity to be the strongest resonance with Lafferty himself.

('Liar on the Mountain' is maybe my favourite chapter of that book, and, along with a variety of other chapters from various novels, I think it would be great anthologised separately here and there.)

I noticed the Snuffles-Lafferty connection very strongly on my recent re-reading of that story. (It still baffles [and thrills] me, but it's getting clearer!)

Here's looking forward to that golden day when all may read, sans academic pilgrimage, such a story as 'The Rod and the Ring'.

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