Saturday, November 29, 2014

Another brief short story review - 'The Wagons' (1959)

As his first to be published, this story is an incredible start to Lafferty's career.  First published in the New Mexico Quarterly Review, Spring 1959, it is a very 'literary' story that is yet about oral storytelling, especially American Frontier tall tales and Native American myth-making.  It is a sly story that uses lying exaggerations about local ecology to tell truths about the same.  It begins Lafferty's long career of widening his readers' gaze to include so much more detail and depth and layers than we are wont to include.  It is also a very quietly touching story of fathers and sons, of both learning from each other, from what each perspective uniquely brings, especially mature erudition from the older and enthusiastic invention from the younger. Indeed, the story also sets up profound discourses:  between Platonic Forms and Aristotelian minutiae, between the 'scientific' knowledge of the anthropologist and and the 'folk wisdom' of the 'native', and so on.

'The Wagons' deserves to be widely known and would make a good introduction to Lafferty's work for general readers.  It could very easily be included in a Norton Anthology of American Literature or the like.  

For more (and better) insights on this story, see

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