Friday, March 29, 2013

The Re-Doomer Who Wrangles for Us a Second and Better Doom (wishing you a Laffertian Good Friday)

Know that religion is a repetitious act or it is nothing. The “re” is the holy prefix, since nothing is successful the first time. It must be forever the “re,” the returning, the restructuring, the re-lexion, the reconstitution, the building back from defeat. We will rebuild in the dark and in the light; we will work without ceasing.

Even our mysterious Maker was the Re-deemer, the re-doomer who wrangles for us a second and better doom, the ransomer, the re-buyer, the re-d-emptor. We are sold and we are ransomed, we are lost and we are found. We are dead and we are re-surrected, which is to say “surged up again.”

-R. A. Lafferty, 'And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire' (1972)

Sacred Visions (1991).  Contents:  Gus / Jack McDevitt -- Pope of the Chimps / Robert Silverberg -- Curious elation / Michael Cassutt -- Trinity / Nancy Kress -- Saint Theresa of the aliens / James Patrick Kelly -- Our lady of the endless sky / Jeff Duntemann -- Seraph from its sepulcher / Gene Wolfe -- Case of conscience / James Blish -- Xorinda the witch / Andrew Greeley -- Canticle for Leibowitz / Walter M. Miller, Jr. -- Quest for Saint Aquin / Anthony Boucher -- Walk now gently through the fire / R. A. Lafferty.


Kevin said...

Nobody, and I mean NOBODY had a way with words like R. A. Lafferty! I love words, I love etymology, and I love the etymogony (the study (sometimes fictitious, but always pointed) of the birth of certain words) in Lafferty's work. But I dare not try it myself. It would only sound silly, or pompous, or (most likely) both.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

ha, your comment was actually a felicitous little logophilic tribute to Lafferty's inimitable gift, Kevin!

Ross said...

"Know that religion is a repetitious act or it is nothing."

Interesting words, indeed, for those of us whose primary religious practice is chanting. (I chant "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo," a Buddhist practice.)

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Yes, interesting, Ross. Lafferty was a Roman Catholic so he no doubt knew of Gregorian chanting. (Being a 'low church' sort of chap myself, I'm not sure what other Christian chanting there may be.) Thanks for stopping by and commenting...

Ross said...

Thanks for doing this blog. It breaks my heart that Lafferty's work has fallen into obscurity. Someone needs to keep the flame burning, and you're doing it. I hope there will be a resurgence of interest in the work of this amazing author.

Kevin said...

I was thinking about that today. I have seen an artist's work suddenly become popular upon the artist's death. However these resurgences don't happen without great effort on the part of someone. We (especially Daniel here and Andrew Ferguson) are in the middle of making that (redoubled) effort.

Martin said...

Sometimes when people try and situate Lafferty, they mix in all this mournful boilerplate. You know? They'll say the substance in question is so strong and hairy that most people can't appreciate it. As if you've gotta get baptized in some secret church before these stories work.

I keep on reading him to my friends, and I don't really hang with lit-crit people or theologians, or even many sf people sometimes. People who love stories seem to love Lafferty. Period. I'm continually amazed at the broad appeal of these things... first sentence and they've done the baptizing for me. People are legitimately amazed when I tell them you've got to work at searching out his collections.

The effort's gonna be longish, but not difficult at its core. These are the storiest of stories. They tell themselves. (Thanks for the torch holding, friends. This blog's rad.)

Kevin said...

Martin, you've hit it on the head: "These are the storiest of stories. They tell themselves." Avery accurate synopsis of Lafferty's writing, and perhaps all the introduction someone really needs.

My own baptism by text came from stumbling into his stories in old anthologies some 30 years ago and thinking "I've gotta get more of this guy's writing." I suspect that's true of almost all of us here. The secret church, the symbolic handshakes, the hidden symbols and obscure offices all come later when we start seeking out other rabid (are any other kind?) Lafferty fans.
Under-Aardvark of the Albuquerque Order of Left-Bank Badgers.

Martin said...

One time I actually ran into a rabid Lafferty fan by chance. This bookstore in my town was going out of business, selling everything for a dollar, so the whole place was packed. Some dignified gent rolls up to me in the L's and asks me if I've seen any Lafferty. I'm like, "Sorry, it'd be in my pile, and I'd have the death grip on it."

So we just stared at each other, realizing we were both inside the whale already. Personally, when the idea of Lafferty enters my brain, I have a huge prosletyzing spiel to unload. I think we perceived our spiels were unnecessary at the same time, and the weirdness hit pretty hard. So we kind of parted in respectful silence.

Kind of a "Man who was Thursday" moment, I guess. There's probably more fans than any of us think. I'd love some secret handshakes and decoder rings. Something to give us time while we figure out what to say.

Kevin said...

Personally, I've always wanted a "Fargo North, Decoder" ring--but that's an "Electric Company" reference, not Lafferty. Though for erudite weirdness, I assume one could draw parallels...

Do you recall a particular story that drew you in and made you shout "This is what it's all about" or some such?

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Ross, it's my pleasure! Glad you've joined us.

Martin, all very, very well said. In my enthusiasm for anlaysing Lafferty at a 'lit crit' and theological level, I may give off the impression he's far more abstruse and arcane than many of his stories really feel. As you point out. And I too have won over a number of people to him, one person at a time, just by loaning a story here and there until they're hooked.

I love your story of meeting the other Laff fan at the book sale. As Kevin said, I'd love to hear of your intro to Laff (and yours too, Ross). For me it was just like Kevin's story. Some of the first stories I encountered were 'Parthen', 'And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire', 'Barnaby's Clock', 'Symposium', and '900 Grandmothers'. Each and every one of them made me laugh out loud at one or more points and also blew me away with their mind-bending events and perspectives. Anyway, I'm glad you've joined our little open secret here too.

Kevin said...

Another Lafferty - Pinkwater connection just came up, though in a very smart-allecky fashion. A comment appeared on Daniel Pinkwater's forum (
Walter Jackson Freeman II, M.D.

I was introduced to your work by Raphael Aloysius Lafferty. I find your work quite cerebral. I was wondering if you ever do public readings of your work. I’d be glad to attend and would hope to pick your brain afterward.

To which Daniel Pinkwater replies:
You are not the first one to have this idea. You can submit your bid to the firm of Burke and Hare LLP, auction to be concluded at a date to be determined.

All very innocent seeming (if a little offputting) until you look up wikipedia articles on Walter Jackson Freeman II, M.D. and Burke and Hare.

But at least Lafferty got a mention--presumably by a sophomoric and only perhaps rabid fan.

Kevin said...

Random thought of the day (OK, not so random really). I'm re-reading Arrive at Easterwine. It appears Glasser is cut from the same cloth as Albert in "Eurema's Dam." Now we never learn Glasser's first name and never read Albert's last name...

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