Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Short Story Review # 2: The Wooly World of Barnaby Sheen (1973)

Rating:  3/5

This has always been a minor favourite of mine.  I like other stories from this cycle (most of them collected in Through Elegant Eyes: Stories of Austro and the Men Who Know Everything) far better, but each one is crucial to the whole that they together build, and this one in particular is just fun to me.  It does get a little deeper with each reading.  It is overtly theological in theme, especially as regards creations and creators, but, as with Lafferty's similarly themed story 'Snuffles' (1960), it is rather baffling as to its theological point.  Yet fascinating.  This one feels quite light and playful though, just touching on the themes, getting you thinking in that direction, rather than fully immersing you in theological ruminations.  It is consequently not the masterwork that 'Snuffles' clearly is.  In addition to the theology, this is one of many stories that exhibit Lafferty's absolute delight in geology.  Indeed, Barnaby expresses that it is only to study some geological issues that he has created this two-ton, cubic meter chunk of world.  Laff paints a nice little picture of this odd creation with its periscopic microscopes protruding from its transparent dome.  The ghostly figure of Mary Mondo hovering over that little world issuing her various Latin fiats was more suggestive to me this time, adding some weight.  But it seems to me essentially a humorous little prank story, an entertaining diversion.  (It also pairs nicely with its companion story in this cycle, a yarn with very similar theme and tone:  'The Ungodly Mice of Doctor Drakos'.)

Interestingly, despite its title and premise, this story didn't strike me as being about 'world-building' all that much, which is generally the mega-/meta-theme of Lafferty's entire body of work.  I didn't really get the sense of being invited to participate in building new worlds that you often get from Lafferty.  We do, however, get the bang, the explosion, that so many stories in this cycle, and elsewhere, do include.  Indeed, it seems more about minor world-destruction than creation, but again in a merely playful way and not leading to 'new worlds from old'.  But I'm probably missing something.

* Discussion of 'The Wooly World of Barnaby Sheen' on Facebook

* Comments for 'The Wooly World of Barnaby Sheen' on ralafferty.org

(From Interior Art by Joe Staton for Through Elegant Eyes)

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