Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Offering a few of my extra copies of Lafferty as perks...

Well, I'm offering a few of my extra copies of Lafferty books as perks for contributors to my Indiegogo PhD campaign: www.indiegogo.com/projects/ecomonstrous-phd. I was writing up a wee piece about it to put on that site, but found it didn't really fit there. So I'm putting it here! It's always fun for a rabid Lafferty fan to have an excuse to sum up the genius of Lafferty and his works. Here it is:

I’ve suggested that what makes this PhD unique is not only the idea of the ‘ecomonstrous’ itself, but also that one of the main authors being researched is the largely unknown R. A. Lafferty (1914-2002).  Despite his obscurity, Lafferty has some famous and influential fans among his cult following. Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison, Gene Wolfe, and even the actor Bill Hader have all gushed about how Lafferty was a literary ‘mad genius’.  

Take Gaiman’s obituary for Lafferty in the Washington Post:  

R.A. Lafferty [...] was undoubtedly the finest writer of whatever it was that he did that ever there was. He was a genius, an oddball, a madman. His stories [...] are without precedent [...] comparisons are pointless. The world only got one Lafferty. [...] Funny, wise and odd, his tales are unique. [...] He was a genre in himself, and a Lafferty story is unlike any story by anybody else: tall tales from the Irish by way of Heaven, the far stars and Tulsa, Okla.’

Or take Bill Hader’s characteristically funny comments about Lafferty’s fiction in the New York Times in 2008:

It’s hilarious, incredibly funny and at the same time it’s insanely dark. [...] You get such a sense of joy and boundless imagination in every sentence – even if the story doesn’t totally cohere, you feel like it’s about something. It’s so incredibly Tulsa. You get that feeling when you see a Flaming Lips show. It’s not like we’re dark and hurt and twisted. It’s like, “I’ve got blood on my face – come on, y’all, this is awesome.”’

Alas, Lafferty is almost totally out of print these days, except for expensive limited edition print runs. Used copies of his books from the 60s to the 80s can be very expensive. Lafferty’s odd genius is probably most easily encountered in the hundreds of short stories he wrote, but the only extra copies I have available are of a few of his novels.  They’ll throw you in the deep end with Lafferty, but I’ve heard of quite a number of fans first encountering him through his novels and becoming hooked.  So for the more daring among you, here’s your chance to give it a go!  (Or for the Lafferty fans already out there, a chance to pick up a title or two you may not’ve managed to obtain yet.)

(click on photo for larger, clearer image)

  • Past Master (1968) - x 2 - Utopia in the future, on another planet:  time travel, monsters, androids, aliens, spaceships - but in a way only Lafferty could do!  Bizarre journeys, sardonic homilies, gory battles, and weird wonders!  Philosophies and grotesqueries galore!  And more! (Plus, you gotta love the pulpy cover of this 1970s mass-market paperback edition.)

  • Not To Mention Camels (1976) - This is truly one of Lafferty’s WEIRDEST works.  It makes Past Master look like a conventional novel.  It’s about multiple worlds, written in a highly analytical and yet bloody way as only Lafferty would write it. A bit of a brain-melter to be honest. Its anti-hero is a particularly unlikable politician jumping from one version of himself to another in different versions of the worlds - and sometimes the utterly freakish places between worlds.  It gets pretty gruesome and dark at moments, but its biting satire of personality cults and media lords can be kind of wickedly funny, and its wilder passages provide their own grotesque pleasures.  If you read it, you definitely have to round it out with some of Lafferty’s more redemptive works.  (This copy’s a print-on-demand paperback from 2000 by Wildside Press, but I actually kind of like this cover art.)

  • Okla Hannali (1972) - This novel is a different kettle of fish from the previous two.  It may well someday find its place in the canon of 20th century American Literature alongside other classics of the American frontier.  It’s the only book of Lafferty’s that has actually never gone out of print.  It’s a work of historical fiction about the 19th century Choctaw tribe, especially one Paul Bunyan-esque leader and his family, but it mixes in elements of ‘tall tales’ and folklore in such a way that makes it something of a rare example of ‘magical realism’ from the USA.  It is tragic, poignant, comic, thrilling, consciousness-raising, and historically astute by turns. I found that its cumulative effect stirred me with both melancholy and wonder. It genuinely deserves to be more widely known.  (This is a fairly sturdy print-on-demand paperback from the University of Oklahoma Press.)

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