Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ah, for the Halcyon Days...

Hey Lafferty friends, I was just re-reading the long comment thread on my post about Fourth Mansions and I gotta say - I miss the chat and community over this great man's works!  It's been a while.  That thread honestly made an incredibly powerful and coherent symposium on Lafferty and his themes (and I know we had a few more just as ripe after that).  'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it' (The Devil Is Dead).

'Wha' happened?'  Is the Fellowship (of the, what, about half dozen of us?) breaking up?  Heh.  I'm joking.  I know we've all been super busy with all our responsibilities (me as much as anyone).  We just simply, honestly don't have time for it right now.  BUT...

Let's meet up here again this summer and get back to the Lafferty POW WOW!  What say you, friends, earthlings, Laffertians?

As Epiktistes, our patron sentient computer, said:

'Oh, come along, reader of the High Journal; if you do not love words, how will you love the communication?  How will you, forgive me my tropes, communicate the love?' (Arrive At Easterwine)


Kevin Cheek said...

Sorry about the absence of my comments recently. Been a little busy (gee, I know that's never happened to any of you, has it).

I did just finish re-reading Arrive at Easterwine. It's been about 25 years since I last read the book. It seemed to hold together much better on the second reading. He stated in the beginning that his task was threefold: to find a leader, a love, and a liaison. Each third of the book (roughly) is devoted to one of these. The fact that there is no real satisfying conclusion to any of those searches is his way of saying humanity is not ready for the understanding yet. All in all, a much better experience the second time through for me. I immediately thrust the book into the hands of my father, demanding his opinion upon completion. I will see

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

No need to apologise! Great to hear from you. I felt much the same about Easterwine on a re-read this past summer. That happens with so much Lafferty: you're initially so bowled over by the undiluted weirdness (perhaps especially in his novels) that you don't always notice that he often has an explicitly stated plan that he follows carefully or a fairly clear idea that he's tracing consistently. I love the threefold experiment of Easterwine and how he says it's actually important that they fail. I think he's maybe saying something about how our failures can show us our true needs and their true satisfactions.

I'm on the last story of Golden Gate and Other Stories and I must say, this is really one of the very best collections of Laff's stuff. No one's every really talked about it, so I never knew. It has been a huge pleasure to really savour these stories (reading some again that I'd read elsewhere and encountering many for the first time - so many mindblowing moments and a somehow surprising lot of pathos and poignancy). 'Tongues of the Matagorda', 'Make Sure the Eyes Are Big Enough', 'Bequest of Wings', and 'One-Eyed Mockingbird' come to mind as favourites (besides some that are already my faves such as 'Days of Grass, Days of Straw').

By the way, Kevin, my 16-year-old daughter looked over my shoulder whilst I was reading the Fourth Mansions thread earlier and saw your comment 'Better to exercise your monsters than exorcise your monsters' and said: 'What a great comment! Huh, dad? What a GREAT saying!' And I was all 'I know, I know! Right?'

Kevin Cheek said...

Thank you for the nod on my Fourth Mansions comment. That is my favorite Lafferty book by far.

I have a deep regret about Golden Gate and Other Stories: I loaned my copy to a friend who was one of the last surviving proto-hippies--I wanted him to read "Ishmael into the Barrens." Have never seen it again, and lost touch with the friend some decades ago.

On Arrive at Easterwine, you are right about how Epikt says at the beginning of the book that all three experiments will fail. Lafferty spelled out the progress of the narrative within the first chapter. Then he held to it--reminding us from time to time that it was all metaphor anyway. For example, the bit about the sicaform snow crystals and the snow castles and how they almost revealed the true form, but not quite--we weren't quite ready to see them. Then he told us that this was just his narration of the events--in reality about a half inch of snow fell, and there were some oddly shaped crystals in the first few seconds of it--that was all. Yet I read those passages to my wife. She commented that under the wild imagery, this was a deeply biblical book.

One thing I love is Epikt's voice throughout the book. You never forget that he is looking at Humanity from an outsider's perspective. Amazing that Lafferty could keep that voice consistent for the whole book!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Yeah, glad you notice that about Epikt's voice. I think he's one of Lafferty's better characterisations. I've always LOVED the snow towers scene (although I didn't even remember that part was metaphorical when I first read it - so it was slightly disappointing to find it so on a second read - adds to the poignancy though, I guess). And yeah, as it Easterwine being biblical, there's so much repeated (encoded) emphasis on atonement and the Hole Spirit and so on. I LOVE the ghastly vision in the end turned into a view full of hope for cosmic new birth.

'Ishmael' was much better on a second read for me. I'd always liked its philosophy but wasn't as sure about the story. But it has a lot of very fine prose moments and cool inventiveness. The Pope and Co. interlude is really quite comically touching and well written.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Dear me, I need to go to bed. That was meant to say 'as *to* Easterwine being...' and the 'Hol*y* Spirit'! Ha! I think the 'Hole Spirit' would be more like the great Ouden, the nothingness monster, the diabolical point big-0 in Past Master (and the demoniac crew in 'And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire' who said humanity had gone into the hole and then pulled it in behind them - or something like that).

Teddy said...

More of a Scribe than a Scholar, I offer . . .

Dan Knight’s Introduction to the First Issue of his Short-lived, Extremely Scarce and Very Awesome Magazine in Tribute to R.A. Lafferty : THE BOOMER FLATS GAZETTE

“We few! We happy few!”
- Henry V

It was never intended that our Fellowship, the Fellowship of the Argo, of Epikt and Roadstrum, of Dana and Okla, should be an exclusive thing. The table was prepared and the bar was stocked for as big a bash as ever was seen. There was something for everyone. A magical feast. Take as much as you want. Stuff your pockets and fill your purse. It would make no difference. There would be just as much when you were done as when you started. This is fish and loaves stuff. (Are not all good stories fish and loaves stuff by their very definition?)

Well, the feast was readied and the invitations were sent out and a most peculiar thing came about. All of the folks to whom they were sent found excuses not to come. The Host was a gracious man. “Perhaps I have not worded the thing properly,” he said. So another round of invitations were prepared and dispatched. Years passed (feasts like this don’t just happen overnight, you know). The Gracious Host is still waiting. The beer is still cold and the pheasant warm. The steaks are thick, the hot sauce is the hottest around, and the bread is fresh, fresh, fresh! But the hall is still empty and perhaps it will always remain so.

Or at least almost so. They would be easy to miss in such a vast place. But here and there, sometimes alone and sometimes in small groups, figures move through the magic place. Tasting. Drinking. Stopping here and there to sample that most prodigious board. And when they meet, at the intersection of the Great Tables, there is much back slapping and laughing and joy at what they have found. Family of the Empty Hall. You can hear them if you listen close by the doors.

But why wait at the door?

Did I not say that the beer was cold? That the whiskey was the whiskeyist and the wine--ah, the wine, there’s been no cheap-jacking about the wine! So come. One day the Hall may indeed fill with guests. And they will require guides. The Invitation is yours. The Fellowship awaits.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Teddy! That was amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. Someone needs to get the Boomer Flats Gazette up and running again.

'This is fish and loaves stuff.' Yes! (Speaking of scholarship - I think there may literally and literarily be something to this connection of the way Lafferty writes to creational miracles like the loaves and fish, which Andrew Ferguson explores in his latest paper on Lafferty and Ricoeur.)

I love the way Dan Knight riffs here on Jesus' parable about the banquet too. So poignant! Reading Swanwick's 'Despair and the Duck Lady' and the tributes in At the Sleep Sailor - and now this - have had me nearly in tears lately, ha! Such a passionate love for Lafferty abounds and abides in a few out there.

And Teddy, I haven't forgotten your prospectus! Comments forthcoming...

Teddy said...

What I meant to say in my previous post is that I am more Scribe than Scholar. But you are welcome. Yes, who will pick up the Boomer Flats Gazette Flag and carry-on? I remember Andrew and I once discussed possible names for a Lafferty journal. In fact, last year I published seven issues of "a little magazine with the simple aim of restoring the world" called "The BARQUE" somewhat in the spirit of The BARK from the Argo Legend. The issues generally concerned the Latin Liturgy, Traditionalism, Modernist bible translations, Laffertyana, Conspiracy Theory, Recusant History, Flat-Earth Cosmography, some "fish and loaves stuff" and other odds and ends. But between getting married, buying a house, and preparing for our Bambino coming in May, I havnt had much time or money for another issue. Did I mention that Boomer Flats is my all time favorite Lafferty.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Yes, I took you to mean that, Teddy. I've done short-lived zines before also and had actually just recently thought of doing a Lafferty-themed one mostly made of quotes. Who knows?

Always interesting to hear what are the different fans' favourite stories. I think 'Boomer' was one of many that I wasn't terribly impressed with first time round because I just wasn't paying attention, so I look forward to a revised opinion based on a re-read soon.

I recently re-read 'Narrow Valley' for the first time in many years and had always thought it was good, but not great - I was SO WRONG! It's definitely one of the best. Again, I had read 'Ride a Tin Can' many years ago and in re-read recently I realised that I didn't even really remember the events of the story at all! And it too just BLEW MY MIND - such a powerful tale, exquisitely wrought.

Usually ones I've always loved remain amazing on re-reads, such as 'In Deepest Glass: An Informal History of Stained Glass' that I just re-read the other day and was more impressed than ever. Still one of my faves. However, re-reading 'Symposium', which had heretofore always been a fave, I was slightly disappointed - a fine Lafferty yarn, but perhaps not worthy of the sort of 'great' or 'one of the best' category I had put it in.

Any other faves, Teddy?

Teddy said...

I have wanted to read 'In Deepest Glass' for the longest while now but I havnt quite got my hands on it yet. Do re-read 'Boomer Flats', I know you wont balk at the Green Snake Snorter! Next to 'Boomer', from what I've read of Ray's short stories, I especially love 'About a Secret Crocodile', 'And Now Walk Gently Through the Fire', and 'Holy Woman'. And of course I am partial to all the Argo Legend/Finnegan Cycle/Melchisedech World Drama short stories, novellas, and fragments. My favorite essays are 'Notes from the Golden Age' and 'Tolkien as Christian'. O the Laff scholarship to come . . .

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Teddy, I'm pretty dang sure you of all people are going to really appreciate 'In Deepest Glass' - worth the few bucks to get hold of.

'About a Secret Crocodile' is another one I thought was kind of good but not amazing on first read and later came to repent of that view. 'Walk Now Gently' remains one of my faves from the first and all subsequent readings. It was about my third story I'd read by Laff and was the one that made me go: ok, I'm gonna find everything I can from this utterly intriguing writer.

I've never read 'Holy Woman' - is that in one of the Argo-themed short story collections? I'll have to look back over what I've got of Laff's non-fiction and think about what's my fave. I know I like 'Riddle Writers of the Ishmus' and 'It's Down the Slippery Cellar Stairs' a lot. Didn't know he wrote about Tolkien! Must read this.

Ah, the Laff scholarship to come...

(I think this needs to become the new refrain at the end of all comments on this blog, switching between 'O' and 'Ah'. Heh heh.)

Teddy said...

'Tolkien as Christian' might shock you. 'Holy Woman' is wonderful. It might be one of the better of Ray's early stories (1962 or so?) or the most charming of his last published ones. All the facts of its origin are not in as I havnt retrieved the original from Tulsa yet. A friend sent me a scan of it published in Strange Plasma. It was included in a limited edition of Dan Knight's 'Dotty' and hence it will be included in my own edition of it. It is debatable whether it is to be included in the Argo Legend proper, but the teller of the tale is one Sour John who is a patron of the Old Wooden Ship in Galveston and is named in 'The Devil is Dead'. Plus I think it is the perfect appendage or coda? to the dolorous tale of Dotty O'Toole Peisson, Worlds Greatest Galveston-style piano player.

For what it's worth, I might as well mention here some of my other favorite Scribbling Giants : H.L. Mencken, Kenneth Patchen, Father Robert Persons S.J., William Blake, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Tu Fu.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Cool, can't wait to read the whole Argo legend some day. I have to admit I've never read any of your other fave Scribbling Giants and only heard of Mencken and Blake. Mine are Chesterton, Flannery O'Connor, George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis, Gene Wolfe, Cormac McCarthy, John Milton, George Herbert, and Blaise Pascal. (Probably Aquinas and Kierkegaard will make that list some day when I finally read more than excerpts from them.)

X said...

'The Princess and the Goblin" recently popped up on my must-read list. And I have always wanted to read more by Cormac McCarthy besides ‘The Road’ which I liked very much. I’ve never read Lewis, Wolfe, Herbert, Pascal, or Kierkegaard. I accidently left Joseph Conrad out of my last list. Myself, I'm a little more Belloc than Chesterton, more Flann than Flannery. Might I recommend to you a writer whom in his day was regarded as "The American Chesterton" and to this day remains the most maligned and misunderstood figure in the Catholic Church in America across the entire spectrum of Lib, Con, Trad : Father Leonard Feeney. (What might Gregorio say if he were here?) An indomitable Priest and Irish bard, Father wrote some of the most touching short-stories, whimsical verses, outstanding literary criticisms, scathing polemics, and colorful yet doctrinally pure Catholic devotional books ever penned. His Seven Year Stand on the Commons is Legendary. 'The Leonard Feeney Omnibus' is a good place to start and ‘London is a Place’ is magisterial, check out Chapter V ‘Clouds over London.’ It’s all online.

Do acquaint yourself with Kenneth Patchen as well, especially 'Journal of Albion Moonlight', and his Collected Poems. "No more ringing protests and no more passionate love poems have been written in our time." I attended a celebration of his life and art in Cleveland in '07 and was extremely fortunate to come home with some of his actual painted poems. As far as I know these particular verses from one of Patchen's one of a kind painted poems (currently on my wall) appear here on the web for the first time :

The Broom of Bells
Has swept a path for her
From village windows
The voices of children
Fill her name with cool flowers
Thus at sweet evening
Welcome we this lovely one

Father Robert Persons, Saint Edmund Campion’s partner on the English Mission, establisher of underground Printing Presses in treacherous Elizabethan England, Rector of the English College in Rome, is probably the greatest prose-stylist in English up until the 19th century. His ‘Book of Resolution’ and ‘Christian Directory’ were so powerful at converting those who had strayed from the True Faith, that the Anglican establishment had to craft a “pacified” version of it that went through something like fifty printings. I highly recommend the South African scholar, Victor Houliston’s book ‘Catholic Resistance in Elizabethan England: Robert Person’s Jesuit Polemic 1580-1610’.

X said...

Tu Fu - The Poet Sage, ‘China’s greatest poet’. Read Rexroth’s translations in ‘One Hundred Poems from the Chinese’ then A.C. Graham’s ‘Poet’s of the Late T’ang’ and then William Hung’s prose translations. Rexroth said it best, “Tu Fu comes from a saner, older, more secular culture than Homer and it is not a new discovery with him that the gods, the abstractions and forces of nature, are frivolous, lewd, vicious, quarrelsome, and cruel, and only mens stead-fastness, love, magnanimity, calm, and compassion redeem the nightbound world. It is not a discovery, culturally or historically, but it is the essence of his being as a poet. If Isaiah is the greatest religious poet, Tu Fu is not religious at all. But for me his response to the human situation is the only kind of religion likely to outlast this century. Reverence for life, it has been called. I have saturated myself with his poetry for forty-five years. I am sure he has made me a better man, as a moral agent and as a perceiving organism. I say this because I feel that, above a certain level of attainment, the greatest poetry answers out of hand the problems of the critic and the esthetician. Poetry like Tu Fu s is the answer to the question, What is the purpose of art?”

Louis-Ferdinand Celine : the towering Breton Genius and “Saint” of Satire is the only other 20th century writer besides Lafferty worthy of the Rabelaisian crown. (Though Celine preferred Villon.) Really, many regard him as the greatest writer who ever lived and I’m finding it harder to contend with that statement, even in translation, though I’m struggling to read it in the French. Where to start? ‘Journey to the End of the Night’, then ‘Death on the Installment Plan’, or, if you are not “sufficiently up-to-date, modern, liberal, global, cozy-cornerish, democratic, casually sophisticated, and politically liberated” read his banned pamphlets, ‘Bagatelles’ being his best.

Pardon the long Apologia but I didnt want to seem like some obscurantist. When one studies these Artist's work one discovers that they are every bit the neglected Giant that Laff is. Is this what attracts me to them? Maybe. Really though, they all share an intensity and pureness which is what I admire most.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Wait, sorry, who is speaking here? Who is 'X'? I was assuming 'X' = 'Teddy', but then you said 'for forty-five years' and I thought Teddy said he was 30 (or so) in his preface for the proposed reprint of the Argo legend. Just want to make sure who I'm talking to, ha!

Teddy said...

I draft and preview my web comments with an x. I failed to change the name. My mistake. Rexroth read Tu Fu for 45 years. I have read him for six.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Ah, I get it - it was Rexroth saying that about Tu Fu. Anyway, thanks for the survey - I may check some out when I get a chance. By the bye, I am really interested in Flann O'Brien and Belloc - just haven't read them yet. Some have said they find a strong resonance with the former's The Third Policeman and the works of Lafferty.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Oh, right, Teddy, I didn't realise the Celine chap was a self-professed anti-Semite. I'm not at all interested in that. I don't think I have to be a 'liberal' or whatever to detest bigotry and racism. As long as none of the other author's you recommend are blatantly intentionally bigoted like that, I'll shall keep them in mind. (I know that unfortunately some otherwise great authors have been infected with tinges of anti-Semitism or what have you, but it's when they totally, explicitly embrace it and feel justified in it that I draw the line and really don't have interest in reading them.)

Teddy said...

Peace, friend. I’m not interested in carrying this conversation any further.

Teddy said...

At least not here and definitely at some other time.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Cool, Teddy. I always appreciate your comments. Just wanted to be clear on that particular issue. Look forward to comments and dialogue in the future - here and elsewhere...

Kevin Cheek said...

The mention of Rexroth an Patchen reminded me of something I heard on Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac" radio show some months or years ago:

—by John Updike

Rexroth and Patchen and Fearing -- their mothers
Perhaps could distinguish their sons from the others,
But I am unable. My inner eye pictures
A three-bodied sun-lover issuing strictures,
Berating “Tom” Eliot, translating tanka,
Imbibing espresso and sneering at Sanka,
Six arms, thirty fingers, all writing abundantly
What pops into heads each named Kenneth, redundantly.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Ha ha, Updike's verse is great. I can't believe he had this little side gig going of wonderfully witty poetry in addition to his monumental work as a serious novelist.

I've always thought it too bad Laff was mostly such an abominable versifier. But it works - it kind of should be doggerel to offset the real poetic gift he displays in his incredible prose.

Having said that, there are definitely plenty of one-liners in these little couplets of Laff's that are wonderful - often becoming titles to the stories they're in. Also, the Drumm Booklet Laughing Kelly and Other Verses has some hilariously brilliant stuff - very woolly.

Kevin Cheek said...

Question on Laff's titles: I read an article on Cordwainer Smith the other day in which Frederik Pohl admitted to making up several of the titles for Smith's stories. Evidently, Smith would submit some of his stories with a working title or no title, then Pohl would use some element of the story as a title of the story when he published them. Some examples are: "The Dead Lady of Clown town," "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell," and "Think Blue, Count Two." My question is: Did that happen to Lafferty's stories? How many of his great titles were pulled out of the text of the story by the editors?

By the way, the article (really the introduction by Frederik Pohl to a volume of Cordwainer Smith stories) goes on to say:
"... What I wish I could decode in the work of Cordwainer Smith is far more complicated. His concerns went beyond current life and contemporary politics, and maybe beyond human experience entirely. Religion. Metaphysics. Ultimate meaning. The search for truth. When you set out to catch ultimate truth in a net of words, you need a lot of patience and a lot of skill. The quarry is elusive. Worse than that. You need a lot of faith, too, and a lot of stubbornness..."

The same applies even more strongly to Lafferty's works!

Kevin Cheek said...

Oh yes, the Cordwainer Smith introduction by Frederik Pohl is at:

Teddy said...

My father is 63 and plays old mens baseball. He hands out copies of Updike's "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" to his teammates. Besides David B. Hart's article in First Things : "A Perfect Game - The metaphysical meaning of baseball", it is one of the better pieces I have read on the game. Other than this, I havnt read Updike. I do know that Patchen deserves alot more than Updike's write-off given here, a write-off Patchen has received from the literary establishment in general. (a sign of talent?) Kevin, have you read Patchen? Who are some of your favorite writers?

Laff an Abominable versifier? I will not have it. Some of his widest ranging and best verse can be found in Archipelago.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

As to Laff's story titles, Andrew had this to say over on the comments of the 'where to start reading Lafferty' post I did recently:

'Lafferty's own title for "The Transcendent Tigers" was "Needle"--relevant but not nearly as intriguing as the title it was published under, no? Once in a great while an editor did him a good turn, and it was often with new titles for stories—"Among the Hairy Earthmen" for "The Long Afternoon"; "Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne" for "Sundown on the Roads."'

Then Andrew added:

'(On the other hand, sometimes it was a blessing that Ray stuck to his guns, as when the acquisitions editor who bought Fourth Mansions wanted to publish it as The Brain-Weavers. Why buy it at all if you're going to misunderstand it that badly?)'

(And another great Cordwainer comparison to Lafferty, Kevin.)

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Teddy, your dad sounds cool. And yes, you've caught me exaggerating. And I haven't read Archipelago, so maybe that's my problem.

I don't think Lafferty's actually abominable at versifying - just pretty clumsy at times. But I love some of it. The opening to 'Symposium' has been stuck in my head for over ten years, ever since I first read it:

"Perversity," cried ancient Swift,
"Of lifeless things!"
And cursed a skewer

But some of them
With lilt and lift
Are fuller up with life than you are

(That's from memory - pretty close though, I think.)

Teddy said...

I figured you were exaggerating. Funny, the Paean from Archipelago, which is my favorite, ends with a "you are."

And some are dead, and some are done,
Or (fallen to heroics fewer)
Still oddly seek the All-in-One
And some are better folks than you are.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

That's a great one. I can feel the poignancy even having not read the work it caps. Huh - he definitely liked the 'ewer' and 'you are' pseudo-rhyme!

Teddy said...

For the complete Poem see Paean in the Archipelago section of the Argo Legend Prospectus about half way through. It sets the tone for the entire Legend.

Kevin Cheek said...

Who are my favorite scribbling giants? I am far less well read than I should be. Of course I love Lafferty. I truly love the book Bridge of Birds by Bary Hughart, which I see as one of the most carefully structured books in the English Language. I also love the short fiction of Cordwainer Smith, Ray Bradbury (even though he is overly popular, that boy can WRITE), Ursula K. LeGuin--The Dispossessed and The Lathe of Heaven are among my favorite novels. Of course Steinbeck delights me as well as Franz Kafka, occasional bits of Pushkin, odd bits of Dostoyevsky, etc. I do love Lewis Carroll and Mark Twain. e. e. cummings and Lawrence Ferlinghetti excite me no end. I have read all three Kenneths for a class on Literature of the Beat Generation and recall loving them, but it has been far too many years since I picked any of them up (1986). At the top of my American writers are (of course) Lafferty, Richard Brautigan, and Kurt Vonnegut. Howard Waldrop and Edward Abbey have moments up there as well, but only at their greatest moments. It would be informative to study the parallels and divergences between Vonnegut, Brautigan, and Lafferty. Brautigan especially wrote from an embrace of the belly of the cultural beast that Lafferty so often railed against, (especially in such stories as "And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire" and "Ishmael Into the Barrens"--contrast either of those with something like Brautigan's The Abortion, an Historical Romance 1968). Yet at times there is a folk-tale inspired lyricism that both authors share. All three share a delight in language and play with simple declarative sentences in ways that catch the reader by delighted surprise.

Off the top of my head, that's a good list. I'm sure I've left several off. I'll have to respond again in a different mood and see who I mention.

Kevin Cheek said...

I was clearing out an old storage unit today and stumbled across two extra copies of Ringing Changes. We had mentioned establishing an international Lafferty lending exchange library type thingy some ages ago. Who needs a copy?

Kevin Cheek said...

Your mention of Tu Fu also reminded me of Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds. He based his book on traditional Chinese poetry and folk tale, borrowing heavily and refitting the material to his plot. For example, here is a snippet where he reused a prayer written for a little girl's funeral in 1616 AD:

Miser Shen looked at me in a puzzled fashion, as though he was trying to remember who I was and why he was there. Then his eyes cleared, and he said: "You are the priest? I am looking for the priest, and they said he would be here."

It seemed to be important to him, so I said: "Yes, I am the priest."

"My little girl has been murdered by the Duke of Ch'in," said Miser Shen. "They say that I will feel better if I send a prayer to her, but I do not know how to write."
"I shall write down your prayer for you, my son," I said.

Miser Shen's lips moved silently in the torchlight, as though he were rehearsing something, and then he said in a high nervous voice: 37

"Alas, great is my sorrow! Your name is Ah Chen, and you have been taken from me, and now I will never see you again. When you were born I was not truly pleased because you were a girl and I am a farmer, and a farmer needs strong sons to help with his work, but before a year had passed you had stolen my heart. You grew more teeth, and you grew daily in wisdom. You said 'Mommy' and 'Daddy', and your pronunciation was perfect. When you were three you would knock at the door and then run back and ask: 'Who is it?' When you were four you played the host when your uncle came for a visit. Lifting your cup you said 'Ching!', and when the wine was poured you said 'Kan pei!' We roared with laughter, and you blushed and covered your face with your hands, but I know that you thought yourself very clever.

"Ah Chen, they tell me that I must try to forget you, but it is very hard to forget you. You carried a toy basket, and sat at a low stool to eat porridge. You repeated the Great Learning, and you bowed to Buddha. You played at guessing games, and romped around the house. You were very brave and when you fell and cut your knee you did not cry, because you did not think it was right. Whenever you picked up a piece of fruit or some rice you first looked at peoples' faces to see if it was all right before putting it in your mouth, and you were very careful not to tear your clothes. But then one day the Duke of Ch'in raised our taxes, and your foolish father was sent to plead with him. Do you remember how worried we all were when the flood broke our dikes and the sickness killed our pigs? I told the duke of these things, and many more, and the duke believed that we really were too poor to pay our taxes. Peasants who cannot pay taxes are useless to the Duke of Ch'in, so he destroyed our village as an example to others, and it was the foolishness of your father that led to your death.

Kevin Cheek said...

"Ah Chen, now you are all alone in Hell waiting to be judged and I know that you must be very frightened, but you must try not to cry or make loud noises. By some evil fate neither your mother nor myself was killed, but do you remember Auntie Yang, the midwife? She was also killed, and she was very fond of you and she has no little girls of her own to look after, so it is all right to try to find her and to offer her your hand and ask her to take care of you. When you come before the Yama Kings you should clasp your hands together and plead to them: 'I am young and I am innocent. I was born in a poor family and I was content with scanty meals. I never wasted a single grain of rice, and I was never willfully careless of my clothing and shoes. If evil spirits bully me, may thou protect me!' You should put it just that way, and I am sure that evil spirits will not harm you.

"Ah Chen, I have soup here for you! I am burning paper money for you to use! Now the priest is setting down my prayer because I cannot write, and I will burn it and send it to you although you cannot read, for that is the custom. If you hear my prayer will you come to see me in my dreams? If fate so wills that you must yet lead an earthly life I pray that you will come again to your mother's womb. Meanwhile I can only cry, 'Ah Chen, your father is here!' It is very hard to forget you, and I can but weep for you and call your name."

Miser Shen fell silent for a long time. Then he looked up at me with fevered eyes and said:

"Did I say it right? I seem to be confused in my mind, and something seems to be wrong, but I practiced my prayer for a long time and I wanted to say it right."

"You said it perfectly!" I told him, and he seemed greatly relieved.

Miser Shen spoke no more. His eyes closed and his breathing grew faint, and in a few minutes he gave a little sigh, and the spirit of Miser Shen passed from the red dust of earth.

Teddy said...

Always excited to find a fan of Li Kao and Number Ten Ox. To this day, one of my personal favorite usedbookfinds, was a hardback edition of 'The Story of the Stone' in an old road side bookshop next to a Waterpark I was heading down to near the Cape when I was in high school. Never read 'Eight Skilled Gentlemen' though. I really like Ernest Bramah as well. (Golden Hours and the Wallet in particular). Really though, it would be informative to study the parallels and divergences between Lafferty and Everyone Else! Are there any writers of speculative fiction or fantasy from the second half of the twentieth century besides Lafferty that didnt write from the "belly of the cultural beast"? Are there any other "eclectic conservative" (Ray's words) writers out there from the last fifty years?

Thanks for sharing your reading interests Kevin.

Kevin Cheek said...

Well, there's Orson Scott Card, whose political views I have real trouble with, but whose writing I sometimes really like (and sometimes cant tolerate either). One of his stories that I see as one of his best is "Atlantis" ( Not sure how eclectic, but Very conservative in his views.

Teddy said...

Never read Card but judging by his Wiki he's a little more of a Nutty Ute for Newt than an Eclectic Conservativus. I was thinking more along the lines of a Dunsany, Eddison, or Junger. Never read Leguin either, though I have a DVD copy of the surviving reel of the original Lathe of Heaven which I thought was pretty cool. Kevin, I thought you might like one of these stones thrown by Lafferty.

NO STONE UNTHROWN from Strange Skies

U.K.L.G. and R.A.H.

The Queen of adult juvenilers
And while-a-time's uptightly whilers.
But what is she, to use the fine line?
A bit more mannish-writing Heinlein.

And he's to put it vicey-versula
A bit less mannish-writing Ursula.

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