Friday, March 30, 2012

"Good increase to you!" (On finishing an unhurried re-read of Nine Hundred Grandmothers)

"We have enjoyed every minute of our short visit.  Do not despair!  We will not abandon you to your emptiness.  Our token force will return home and report.  In another week we will visit you in substantial numbers.  We will teach you the full happiness of human proximity, the glory of fruitfulness, the blessing of adequate population.  We will teach you to fill up the horrible empty places of your planet."

The Skandia were thinning out.  The last of them were taking cheering farewells of disconsolate Earth friends.

"We will be back," they said as they passed their last fertility charms into avid hands.  "We'll be back and teach you everything so you can be as happy as we are.  Good increase to you!"

"Good increase to you!" cried the Earth people to the disappearing Skandia.  Oh, it would be a lonesome world without all those nice people!  With them you had the feeling that they were really close to you.

"We'll be back!" said the Skandia leader, and disappeared from the monument.  "We'll be back next week and a lot more of us," and then they were gone.

"--And next time we'll bring the kids!" came the last fading Skandia voice from the sky.

-R. A. Lafferty, 'Guesting Time' (1965)

These are the very last words of the very last short story in Lafferty's seminal and celebrated collection Nine Hundred Grandmothers (1970).  I have just finished a slow and intermittent re-reading of this collection and am left feeling 'mellow' (to use one of Lafferty's terms for someone 'in his cups' and feeling 'high' from the buzz).  I'm left feeling mellow, and also open-ended, quite thoughtful, and frankly rather preternatural, as if some gateway onto another world (a woolly and wily one, not a misty and ephemeral one) had winked open and shut before my vision and left my mind wondering if it had glimpsed what it had seemed to glimpse:  were those titanic yet easy-earthy characters real?  Did those burly and burlesque feats of time and space and personage occur?  One chuckles.  And one shudders.  (And one wonders.)

This closing scene seems so fitting somehow, with its emphasis on fruitful increase and promised return.  It provides a wryly jokey and poignantly hopeful ending to a book full of tensions dark and bright, hilarious and horrific.  The endpiece of the collection, fittingly, does not provide closure, but rather prophecy and invitation.  (It also evokes for me the very last words of the last book of Gene Wolfe's monumental, twelve-volume Solar Cycle and a similar feeling they left me with at the end of that epic journey:  'Good fishing!  Good fishing!  Good fishing!  Good fishing!')

Though I have read a handful of favourites from this collection over and over again, many of the stories had remained at a first-read level for me from the time of my initial obtaining of this volume some eight years ago.  My memories of the stories had become vague, even for the ones I thought were quite good.  Not a single one failed to surprise and delight me afresh on this re-read.  I admit I was actually surprised by that.  This collection really holds up.  

There had been no stories I outright disliked on my first read years ago, but there were a number of them I mistook for lesser specimens.  There is at least one story that has gone from my 'pretty good' to 'very best' category:  the much-anthologised 'Narrow Valley'.  But every single story opened up totally fresh to me:  there was tons more depth of theme than I had realised, loads more complexity, lots more wonder and humour and a whole lot more downright writerly mastery of skill and craft than I had really taken in on the first go.  (That's a common reaction - aside from a few clear favourites, first-time readers of a collection of Laff's yarns are usually left with an indescribable feeling that something very deep, dark, and delightful just swam past them, leaving them in a strange wake, strangely wakeful.)

Well, I hope to write a brief description and reflection on each of the twenty-one tales in the near future.  Until then, 'Good increase to you!'

(There are no triple-breasted women in this collection, but it's still a nice cover.)


Steve said...

I'm reading Okla Hannali right now and enjoying it a whole lot more than I thought I would. But I know next to nothing about the saga of the American Indian. How much of this is history?

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Hi Steve, I still haven't read it but I'm hoping to this summer.

But here's a passage from a 1979 interview with Lafferty:

Just how accurate is the historical background to OKLA HANNALI?

I maintain that the historical background of OKLA HANNALI is absolutely accurate. Hannali himself and his family are fictitious, but they are composites of real types. And most of the characters in the book are historical persons and I know the descendants of many of them. There were more than thirty years of observation and reading on the general subject before I began to write. I had Indian classmates in every class I was ever in, and Indian co-workers on every job I have ever held, and there is more evidence to be gathered here in Tulsa than anywhere. Of course, there are different versions of some of the events, but in selecting the most convincing ones I have tried to be as accurate as possible. The different versions still reflect the different sides of Indian civil wars of more than a hundred years ago, and they are not going to be reconciled. Historical opinion is always partly subjective, however, and all historical evidence can be interpreted in several ways.

Kevin Cheek said...

Thank you for posting Lafferty's comments! Okla Hannali has long been one of my favorite books--one of the greatest books of the American experience, and according to many reviewers one of the greatest books of the Native American experience. I recently gave Okla Hannali a close re-reading with one hand on wikipedia and the other on the book. This was in order to propose adopting it for the History department at my kids' high school. What I found confirmed my suspicions: Most of the names (allowing for variation in spelling) were absolutely real, and while Lafferty's point of view on some of their accomplishments may be different from the popularly adopted ones on some of them (look up Pushmataha for example), I suspect that Lafferty's stories are merely more complete. I cannot recommend Okla Hannali highly enough! It is one of those books (typical of Lafferty) where the enjoyment is available on more levels than I can count off hand--his sheer wordcraft, the way in incorporates sort of a Choctaw ramble, the characters, the outrageous seeming but just right dialogue, the historical story and insights, the spiritual progression, the celebration of the individual, they're all there and more!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Thanks for your recommendation / review, Kevin. I'm planning to read it this summer as part of a Southern / Southwestern American triptych: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, Suttree by Cormac McCarthy, and Okla Hannali by Lafferty. It's gonna be grand.

I did read the first few pages of Okla a while ago and saw the 'Choctaw ramble' - amazing.

Kevin Cheek said...

On the topic of stories in Nine Hundred Grandmothers: I've always thought Lafferty used Camiroi in the same way More used Utopia--as a fictional society set up in direct opposition to and satire of those aspects of modern society he wanted to comment on.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Yeah, Kevin, I'm actually looking forward to trying to unravel the complexity of Camiroi a bit. At first I thought it was a jokey example of what Laff thought was a better society than ours. Then I thought what you're saying - it's a satirical utopia. Then on this re-read of *both* Camiroi stories, I realised he actually spells it out quite a bit in 'Polity and Custom' - and it seems to be somewhere in between!? (Also, Andrew Ferguson pointed out Aurelia is from Camiroi - which checks out - so that has to be factored too.)

Kevin Cheek said...

I think a good rule of thumb is that when an author presents a society that looks better than ours, look at the elements being presented as better view them as commentary on our current society rather than as realistic solution--diagnosis rather than prescription.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

'Diagnosis rather than prescription' - definitely. Especially in this case, given that Lafferty is such a tall hyperbolist and kidder!

Kevin Cheek said...

Apply that point of view to a re-read of LeGuin's The Dispossessed. It might bring you to liking it much more.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Ah, but it wasn't the utopianism or politics or philosophy or worldview that I found so objectionable in The Dispossessed. It was the writing, story, and imagination. The exquisite artistry of language, description, narratives, characters, imagination and so on in her Earthsea Quartet make those books some of the best literature I've read. The Dispossessed looks paltry next to them. There is almost zero sense of wonder and depth of mystery in The Dispossessed to me. When it audibly professes mystery or what have you, it sounds the least convincing.

So sorry for such a harsh and summary dismissal of a work you love, Kevin! I know that hurts - I hate when I'm on the receiving end of that, ha! I could go through the novel and point out all its many strengths and give a much more fair assessment, yet I would be forcing myself to do so. The strong impression it left me with was as above and that's what really counts. I hope I can find some science fiction by her that shares the mythical power and depth of the fantasy of hers that I've read (without losing the sophistication she obviously aspires to and sometimes achieves in a work like The Dispossessed).

Kevin Cheek said...

Well, my favorites of hers are The Lathe of Heaven and The Dispossessed tied at first place, followed by Left Hand of Darkness and the Earthsea trilogy tied at second, then probably a bunch of her short stories, with "The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas" and "The Direction of the Road" at the top of that bunch, followed by Always Coming Home and then the rest of her stuff after that. Just my opinion. I've been accused of liking academic sounding stuff sometimes. Of course on the other hand, I revel in some of Lafferty's more exciting stuff like "Days of Grass, Days of Straw," "Frog on the Mountain," etc. Could be I just have peculiar tastes.

Jubilantly peculiar.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

I plan to read both Lathe and Left Hand some day. I personally have no problem with academic sounding stuff if it pushes certain buttons for me. I think some parts of Laff's stuff comes across this way actually - his fiction can at times be like a far too expositional story, almost lacking narrative - or, if thought about from a different angle, it actually sounds like one of the most entertaining *lectures* you've ever heard!

As to his 'more exciting' stuff (and back on topic for 900 Grans, ha!), I note you recently mentioned how important his story 'Through Other Eyes' is. I've obviously recently re-read that in this collection and, MAN, what a pungent yarn! I'd been impressed with it the first time, years ago, but this time round it blew me away with its imagination and profundity. It definitely goes a long way towards negating any occasional little remarks in Lafferty's fiction that may have looked more or less sexist.

Teddy said...

Laff on 'Through Other Eyes' from an Introduction to the new Dutch edition of Nine Hundred Grandmothers, 1977.

"This is the first, and possibly the best science fiction story I ever wrote. That's the way I see it. You might see it as something else, as a scrap of waste-land, as a premmigan, as a new color named 'red', as a Valery. This is the first appearance of Valery Mok who is destined to outlive the world by one week."

Kevin Cheek said...

A very happy Easter to everyone!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

I wish everyone a very happy Easter also!

Teddy, sorry I haven't responded until now - thanks so much for that wonderful little intro by Laff. I love the way this little community of 'Lafferteans' pools together our arcane resources into a fine little clearing house of Lafferty esoterica.

Anonymous said...

I think I will read Nine Hundred Grandmothers next. I recently picked up a copy randomly for $1.25, and look forward to it!

Kevin Cheek said...

Them's jealousy-makin' words 'round here.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

That's an insanely 'lucky' find, sir or ma'am! Thanks for sharing, hope you enjoy, and we'd be delighted to hear back from you as to what you thought.

(Kevin, your comment was hilarious - and true!)

Steve said...

Oy, thanks for the Okla comments. I need to come back more often. Also, great post up there most recently. It was a good bio-article, and I think your comments thereon were spot on.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Thanks, Steve! So glad to know someone read my commentary on his fine article! I know I got carried away with word count, but I'm pleased someone managed to slog through and benefit.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am a bit more than halfway through Nine Hundred Grandmothers. All the stories have been pretty solid so far, but the real stand-outs to me were The Six Fingers of Time and Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne. Looking forward to the rest!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Thanks for the update! Six Fingers is a fave of mine and Charlemagne is a classic. Would love to hear what you think of the rest.

Anonymous said...

Land of the Great Horses was a very clever story ... I think that a little more exposition and playing with the idea of the "Angelenos" would have made the story stronger. It was too cool of an idea to let go of so suddenly!

Ginny Wrapped in the Sun was definitely odd, and one of the stories I most feel will benefit from a reread. Other than the reversion of Ginny to a primitive state, I am not sure what is going on. Frog on the Mountain is my least favorite of the stories so far, but it is by no means a bad story. It is pretty clear that Chavo is the fourth beast, even from early on in the tale; the anticlimactic (or, rather, open-ended) conclusion just left me wanting to know who won! Kind of a petty reason to dislike the story, I know.

All the People was downright brilliant; it starts off in such a strange fashion, and in a few short pages gets across so much. You can really feel the urgency of those at the Center, preparing for the alien invasion ... reading a story from the perspective of a robot who doesn't know what he is (or that he is just a few days "old") was a lot of fun.

Primary Education of the Camiroi was very snarky. I really enjoy the different tricks Lafferty uses in his stories: the sudden jump to text passages, brief dramatis personae, the interviews, etc.

Slow Tuesday Night was very interesting. Drastically accelerated economies and a singularity point of processing speed (both machine and human) are some of the more fascinating ideas found in modern cyberpunk works; it is pretty impressive that Lafferty was so far ahead of the likes of Charles Stross in detailing this kind of world.

Snuffles was alright, but not up to par with some of the other stories. It was definitely the most grotesque, and the story most approaching a sort of "fantastical horror".

Charlemagne might be my favorite. I have a background in philosophy, and found the bashing of Ockham particularly amusing!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Wow! Thanks so much for all these comments!

Great Horses - he does that; hurls out brilliant ideas half-cocked and let's them hang with a twinkle in his eye. He might be the only writer I let get away with this - I actually think it's all part of his craft, not just laziness.

Ginny - It wasn't until a second or third read that I appreciated how well written and exciting both this and Great Horses were. I still don't know what Ginny's about much, but I love it more. (Image-wise, it's modelled on Revelation 12, which is pretty spectacular how Laff is ludicly using that passage.)

Frog - one of my faves, but I love almost every 'planet' story by Laff for some reason. Similar to your reaction about the ending, I once read it aloud to my children and they literally erupted in groans and shouts when I told them it was over. They couldn't stand not knowing who one. Again, all part of Laff's plan, to leave so many tales open-ended - frustrating in a way but achieves other things. I've never really minded it somehow.

All the People - yep. Such a tight, bright little s.f. number with a freshness. The last two lines have always been favourites of mine in his whole corpus: 'For he knew them now, coming in like snow. They were arriving in the world by hundreds, and not arriving by birth.' He has many of these sudden snatches of pretty powerful poetry and mythopoeia for me.

Primary - yes, I love all the overt textual tropes too - amazing, considering the huge oral storytelling foundation to his work. He so *literary* at the same time as being a tall tale yarn spinner.

Slow Tuesday - I don't know much about cyberpunk, but I once found some government report online about the internet and it referenced this very story by Laff in the same way you just did! Now I can't find the report again!

Snuffles - it's probably still my favourite in the collection! You'll find this disparity of opinion on stories between Laff fans again and again - never ceases to amaze and amuse me.

Charlemagne - you'll find Laff playing with the philosophers again and again. The dude was just too erudite!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

correction: my kids wanted to know who *won* at the end of Frog on the Mountain...

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

another correction (!): He *is* so literary at the same time as being a tall tale yarn spinner.

(Without the 'is' it sounds like a twist on the old rap song: 'Me so literary'.)

Anonymous said...

"Charlemagne - you'll find Laff playing with the philosophers again and again. The dude was just too erudite!"

In this sense he is very much in the tradition of Chesterton and Lewis. These Christian fantasists and science fictionists were also very well-read scholars. Tolkien goes without saying as well, as he was philologist first, and a novelist second. It is very interesting comparing these authors who came from a more traditional education, with more contemporary science fiction authors who have the Internet as their main source of ideas and allusions.

I am a bit sad that 900 GMs is going so quickly; a quick search shows that Lafferty's other short story collections are difficult to find, and expensive. Hope I get lucky again!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

I hope you get lucky too! The interesting difference between Lafferty and his predecessors like Tolkien, Lewis, and Chesterton is that what spare formal education he had was in electrical engineering. By background and life experience he appears to be a much more blue collar working class sort of fellow than those others. His erudition seems to have been garnered all on his own from his extensive reading and study from the time he was young - and obviously a prodigiously natural aptitude for it.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting facts on his upbringing! What are some good biographical sources for Lafferty that you are aware of?

To continue my review of the stories:

Name of the Snake: A very "classic" science fiction tale-as-moral-lesson; if a Utopia seems too good to be true, it most likely is! This story reminded me of the classic Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man" (1962).

Narrow Valley: This story was fantastic, and one of my favorites of the collection. It is the most "pleasantly" surreal thus far. There is something about distortions of the everyday world that make for great tales, and I was saddened to find out that the "Luftspiegelungthal" region of the Black Forest in Germany isn't a real phenomenon!

Polity and Custom: While not as inventive as the previous story concerning the Camiroi (educational system), this was still a very fun tale. The last line, in which Holly recommends that the next survey group contain no members of the first (since they most likely have outstanding death sentences) was hysterical!

In Our Block: Another "pleasantly surreal" story. I like to think that the family members with odd powers are aliens who get their kicks partaking in (and excelling at!) the mundane work-a-day world of the American Midwest.

Hog Belly Honey: This was a weird one. The nature of the narrator is hard to pin down, as he spouts of just enough truth and nonsense to be considered a genius and a fool, human and not human, by turns. The line concerning "involuted matrix, Maimonides-conditioned, third-aspect numbers in the Cauchy sequence with simultaneous non-temporal involvement in the Fieschi manifold" is priceless.

Seven Day Terror: These kids remind me of the terrible children in The Reefs of Earth. I imagine demonic, highly intelligent children are a favorite device of Lafferty's. They are a good way to inject a story with some weirdness, that is for sure. I also enjoyed the return of the "eminent scientists" from The Narrow Valley.

The Hole in the Corner: Yikes! This was, though very funny at times, a very grotesque story. The use for the coriander seed was a nice touch, though I am not entirely sure what the relation between the "hole" of the title and the forms of the characters are.

What's the Name of that Town: Another fantastic, exceedingly well-constructed story. I honestly didn't pay a ton of attention to the "items" the first time around; how they are brought to bear as evidence for the past-Chicago was very well done. In addition, the philosophical concept of evidence, and whether such an exercise of working from a lack of evidence to the knowledge of a non-existent (though historical) thing is now going to weigh on my mind all day ...

I have a few more stories, but I can say already that this has been one of the most enjoyable collections I have read in a while.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Ah, well, the biographical knowledge comes from tons of little intros written to his stories (mostly by others, some by him) and from some interviews. There's never much in one place. Your question nudges me that I need to do a post pooling all these together conveniently.

So glad to hear this is one of the most enjoyable collections you've read in a while! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the rest of the stories you've read. You realise, of course, that you can't stop now - we have to hear what you think of the last several!

Snake - one I always liked for its overt Christian theological theme, but which struck me as much more deeply mythic and a little more complex when I read it the second time. But yes, a tale in the 'classic' and even Twilight Zone ballpark. (Reminding me that I'd love to see some of his stories made into TV episodes - nearly impossible probably, but we can dream.)

Narrow Valley - everyone loves this one on the first go, but for some reason it was about my third time through that it shot up to probably in my top five or ten. What a packed pack of tall ones! Love it.

Camiroi part two (Polity) - I thought it was the lesser of the two first time round, then on a second read I found it had some crazy deep cosmic philosophy going on that I hadn't even spotted before.

In Our Block - I think it's pretty clear they're aliens. But what Laff does with physical space in so many of these stories - incredible! Because of the 'earthy' sort of way he bends and piles space and time, I wouldn't call his stuff 'surreal' but I understand that people use that term when groping to describe his weirdness. (By the bye, Neil Gaiman selected this one in an anthology called My Favorite Fantasy Story where big name authors each chose theirs.)

Hog Belly - thought it was good not great first time; on a recent re-read thought it was one of his best for sheer prose and a cracking, odd tale - an extremely impressive juxtaposition of two strongly sketched characters, each with a strongly distinct voice. A bit of a literary wonder for me. The imagination is giddy and fun and disturbing too.

Seven Day - yes, Reefs and a number of short stories feature these sorts of scary wild kids. He keeps me guessing about them. They're not always entirely demonic and I think they show up the adults now and again in various ways. This one has always been a fave.

Hole on the Corner - yes, exactly, very funny and terrifying and grotesque and imaginatively exciting all at once. Always been a fave. (You may be interested to know Laff's short stories were collected in quite a few horror anthologies of 70s and 80s - he can make your mind scream whilst your belly laughs at times.)

Name of that Town - yeah, the surprise of it the first time you read it is great and so clever. I think his philosophical exploration of 'working from a lack of evidence to the knowledge of a non-existent (though historical) thing' is very intentional and taps in to a major theme woven through his body of work: his mysterious notion that our world is suffering from a cultural 'amnesia'. Very profound and baffling stuff - I think there's a bit of prep for this in Chesterton and Lewis.

May I ask what other Lafferty you've read besides this and Reefs of Earth?

Anonymous said...

I actually think some of the stories would be great for TV. In Our Block is short, and while "impossible" in real life, the feats of the aliens can be done with a little camera trickery. It is short, goofy, has pretty female characters. A recipe for a great Twilight Zone-esque episode! Avoiding the ones with a lot of word play and philosophical allusions, and focusing on the ones with interesting characters and visuals would do the trick.

"May I ask what other Lafferty you've read besides this and Reefs of Earth?"

That's it, actually! I have Annals of Klepsis lying around, but I haven't started it yet. I was struck by the really odd cover (this one, lots of eyeballs and hands: at a used bookstore and it ended up being a winner.

Anonymous said...

I had one other thought: in Polity and Custom, there is no #6 insult for use in the debates. There has to be one, since in one of the examples, a debater calls his opponent a "2 and a 6". Did Lafferty leave this out just to frustrate us, or is the answer to what a "6" is there in the story somewhere?

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

You're probably right about Laff on TV - I once saw a comment on the web many years ago that 'Seven Day Terror' was written into a teleplay for some TV series in the 70s or 80s but never filmed. Mere rumour? I haven't been able to find that comment again.

Klepsis is quite possibly my very favourite of his novels - certainly in some respects at least. It's POTENT Lafferty weirdness, yet I found it highly readable.

I noticed that too in Polity and didn't stop to puzzle it out. It could go either way with Laff I suspect.

Anonymous said...

All done! The last three closed out strong.

Through Other Eyes - I found this story to have some of the best, most vivid prose of the whole collection. Very weird imagery, especially through Valery's eyes. Good stuff.

One at a Time - Despite the fact that it was about bar brawls, wenches, and drinking, this was a pretty heartwarming "tall tale". McSkee is the sort of larger-than-life friend we all want. The line about how being either broke or dead one at a time isn't so bad, but being both at once is ignominious; fantastic!

Guesting Time - A really odd one to finish! Not sure what the lesson here is, but Earth better do some preparation for the Skandia kids ...

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Glad to hear it rounded out well for you. All three of those were good to me the first time but GREAT the second time. They're three of his very tallest really. I think we often (probably unconsciously) think of really strange and weird art tending to sort of 'stretch' things, making them gauzy or vague or ethereal somehow - 'tripped out', psychedelic, what have you. These last three stories are perfect examples of how Lafferty's weirdness tends to have the opposite effect in ways: he takes time and space and possibility and perspective and stacks it, piles it up, packs it in, bunches it up, gets a high shine on it, makes it growl and grunt, bite and claw, lick and nuzzle - his speculation and fantasising are just pungent and bristly to me, not so much 'far out'. (And as you noted, there's often a warmth to it. Roger Zelazny mentioned that too in an oft-quoted blurb.)

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous! I hope you'll keep stopping by and commenting. Especially to let us know what Lafferty you read next.

Andrew said...

Very late on this, but can confirm that the missing insult #6 in Polity is a misprint. Don't have the text in front of me though but it's of a piece with the others.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Ah, thanks for that bit of info, Andrew. It makes me wonder how many other little misprints are out there puzzling us as to whether the seeming oddity or anomaly is a Laffertian trademark or a simple printing error.

I've often wondered this as Laff is truly original from the ground up in his writing - language, syntax, narration, etc. His stuff is way too innovative to allow for even the littlest misprints (in fact, the littler the worse). That's why it's such a shame that probably half his published stuff is indeed riddled with errata.

Andrew said...

The editors of that time were not always fastidious and often capricious--I'm trying to make sure that all future volumes have been thoroughly checked by editors with training in textual criticism, so that many of these little typos or questionable editorial decisions can be amended. (With, of course, the necessary scholarly apparatus showing all the emendations made, and all the variant texts, so on. It's a hugely time consuming and not all that interesting process, but enormously important in making sure that what appears is as close as can be to what was intended to appear.)

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Well, that is most certainly the ideal, boring though it may be for some poor souls that have to do it! I'm sure this kind of painstaking professionalism is put into the 'greats' like Joyce or Hemingway or you name it. I can only hope that the literary would would see Lafferty to be worth the same level of care and effort. I think he most certainly is, not even just from a fanboy perspective, but trying to gauge him from the larger literary landscape. I think American Letters 'needs' him and that really the only way we can truly 'get' him is through this kind of textual care. Anything less and we're just not going to perceive his true greatness - so say I.

As always, Andrew, I sincerely hope all your passion, commitment, and intellectually back-breaking detail work pays off. Persevere, brother! (And thanks.)

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Speaking of American Letters 'needing' Lafferty: I almost wonder if he is our Marcia Marquez, our Rushdie, our Okri (or Tutuola). (Gene Wolfe once remarked that the literary world would love Lafferty if his surname were Latino.) I wonder if in time the 'majority world' will find Lafferty one of the American writers most amenable to a global literature that shares a certain spiritual and 'open' view of the cosmos in common, rooted in part in ancient folk traditions of the land.

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