Tuesday, November 15, 2016

In the funny paper.

"There was the invisible dog of the patrick Bertigrew Bagley, who was more ape than dog, and who could sometimes be seen if one knew how to look. Foley saw him now, and the plappergeist winked solemnly at him. Freddy knew who he was then. He was the island-ape who used to be in the Katzenjammer Kids in the funny paper. But all grotesque funny paper characters have independent and exterior existence, unknown usually to their drawers. It was good to have the dog, the ape, the polter-plappergeist on your side. He was smarter and more mischievous than other dogs or apes, and he could kill effectively." 
-from Fourth Mansions

Over 100 years later, it's still hard to find Katzenjammer Kids comics.

Some future fan/scholar will have to do the hard work of digging through thousands of microfiche newspapers. What's microfiche? What's a newspaper?

I've become increasingly convinced (after reading My Heart Leaps Up) that early 20th century popular culture (nostalgic trash) is one major key to one major Lafferty door. Anyone annotating a Lafferty book better brush up on newspaper strips and big bands. A quick search reveals only one candidate for a Katzenjammer island ape, and this is only preserved in a Turkish translation!


This may or may not be the right ape. Perhaps future Lafferty scholars (or Katzenjammer scholars) will someday make the identification.

I've often thought that there's an interesting essay to be written by someone willing to wrestle with all of Laff's references to comics, uses of comics in his stories, and sometimes comics-logic. Alas, I don't think that I'll ever write that essay, but I'll be first in line to read it if someone else takes up the challenge!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Lafferty blurbs Wolfe.

From Endangered Species:

From Pandora by Holly Hollander:

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


From "The Effigy Histories:"

"...for he had the various shapes and attitudes of a person who knows everything. Those shapes and attitudes are intuitive, and they are always to be recognized. And they cannot be faked.
 And Karl Effigy did not know everything, because all his pleasant Histories were nonsense, and so were his pleasant explanations of them."

From "The Casey Machine"

""In times before this, several other organizations of illuminated persons have known everything. They knew everything, before their own deaths, by making a Particular Judgment in their own lives. But we become masters of our own judgment in a way the earlier ones could not, because we live in an age of electronic amplification and switching and data control. We are able to project it all, and to repeat it. Yes, and we are able to sell it."


Besides  “The Men Who Knew Everything," there are others in Lafferty's fictions who knew everything. Diogenes Pontifex, that elegant man not quite of the Institute, is said to have been a man who knew everything. The other elegantly indecent non-member of the Institute, Audifax O’Hanlon, is described as “quite ordinary except for one double-edged gift: he knew everything that had been, and everything that would be.”

Oread Funnyfingers went to school only for seemliness. She already knew everything. Charley Longbank, friend of collector Leo Nation, is also offhandedly described as one who knew everything.

(See “Hole on the Corner,” Arrive at Easterwine, “Funnyfingers,” “All Pieces of the River Shore.”)

In Reefs of Earth, we read: “As a high master of the Bagarthatch, John Pandemonium was supposed to be a pangnostic, one who knew everything.”

In Archipelago, we are introduced to the Dirty Five “as mythology knows them.” We are told that, “Between them they knew everything, had thought all thoughts, had done all things, or at least had them in mind to do.”

Melchisedech Duffey “knew everything, of course, but that was no special achievement. A lot of them knew everything.”

Hans, one of the Five, “knew everything before everyone else.” Hans also studied under Professor Kirol von Weinsberg, “the last man who knew everything.”

“There can never be another one, as knowledge has so constantly multiplied that it is no longer possible for one man to know it all. It is necessary that there be a new sort of man who is satisfied with only knowing a part of it. It is necessary, but the Professor wouldn't be so satisfied, and neither would Hans.”

In The Devil is Dead, “Papa Devil knew everything.”

There are probably others that I've missed and many further connections to be made.

And as is evidenced in "The Effigy Histories" and "The Casey Machine" (part of More than Melchisedech, the whole of which I haven't tackled yet) excerpts above, there are artificial (and vile) ways of knowing everything and/or ways to know everything but also have it all completely wrong.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Links Links Links

Posting this here to remind myself that I have a Lafferty blog.

Discoveries this morning...

---Among Lafferty's surviving personal papers:
"Photo-reproduction of an illustration featuring goats and ducks, and a helicopter flying upside down."

---Michael Dirda was on the World Fantasy Committee that awarded Lafferty his Lifetime Achievement Award.
"I'm a great fan of R.A. Lafferty -- in fact, I was on the World Fantasy Awards committee that got him a Lifetime Achievement Award."

---Jo Walton's L shelves begin with Lafferty.
"You know how you sometimes get medication that says “do not exceed 4 tablets in 24 hours”? Lafferty is like that for me. The best way to read him is to keep a collection on your bedside table and read one story every night."

---A man named George Barlow wrote a significant intro to Laff in '73. FoL should translate and publish this.
"Ce qui m'a toujours gêné chez Eliot, ce qui me gêne aussi chez Lafferty, c'est la conjonction d'une extrême érudition et d'une extrême désinvolture : chez l'un comme chez l'autre, la plus grande richesse dans le plus grand désordre exige du lecteur des efforts d'autant plus difficiles que ni la raison (claire perception d'un enchaînement logique) ni la sensibilité (identification à des tribulations humaines) ne sont mobilisés pour les soutenir."

---More French Lafferty stuff here:

---Paul Cook gives Lafferty some love in a sf history lecture:
"I would equate in spirit many of R.A. Lafferty's short stories with those of magical realist Jorge Luis Borges. They are that good. Lafferty, however, has more humor than does Borges."

---Lafferty gets some love from The Believer.
"2015 saw a spate of reissues (including these deluxe editions) of the wonderfully odd stories of long out-of-print wunderkind R.A. Lafferty. Another writer whose work has been classed as science fiction but whose true metier was ideas stretched to their greatest possibilities, Lafferty wrote in imitable laser-blasts of prose equal parts playful and transfixing. These collections are an affirmation for an enduring cult of devotees for whom Lafferty is the American equal of a Borges or Cortázar."

---Anthony has been posting wonderful "illustration notes" on his blog. Start with this one, then read through them all.
"Since I've started making art again, everything I have created has been for Feast of Laughter."

---Not Laff-related, but I'll sign off with this great Percy quote:
"Who says I despair? That is to say, I would reverse Kierkegaard's aphorism that the worst despair is that despair which is unconscious of itself as despair, and instead say that the best despair and the beginning of hope is to be conscious of despair in the very air we breathe, and to look around for something better. I like to eat crawfish and drink beer. That's despair?"

Saturday, April 16, 2016

King's Cross Station by G.K. Chesterton

This circled cosmos whereof man is god
   Has suns and stars of green and gold and red,
And cloudlands of great smoke, that range o'er range
  Far floating, hide its iron heavens o'erhead.

 God! shall we ever honour what we are, 
  And see one moment ere the age expire,
The vision of man shouting and erect, 
  Whirled by the shrieking steeds of flood and fire?

Or must Fate act the same grey farce again, 
  And wait, till one, amid Time's wrecks and scars,
Speaks to a ruin here, 'What poet-race
  Shot such cyclopean arches at the stars?'

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Algis Budrys, F&SF November 1983

How can a structure of fiction limn reality more clearly than reality does? Ah, well, that's the magic in it, you see...

  R.A. Lafferty could explain it to you, and probably has. Raphael Aloysius Lafferty has thought more, said more, and written down more intricate thoughts than anyone else in SF -- possibly than anyone else in SF ever, past or future -- and his career alone would serve to terminally blur all the nice distinctions between sorts of literature and of genres within those sorts. There is no question but that the man is an SF writer -- all that he does all day, apparently, is to speculate, although the front of his mind may at times rest -- and equally no question that you could go mad attempting to define what kind of SF he writes.

  Well, scholars, your task has been made even more piquant, and certainly no easier, by the appearance of Four Stories, one of the most chapped chap-books it has ever been my pleasure to behold.

  Available at $2.00 postpaid from Chris Drumm, P.O. Box 445, Polk City, IA 50226, these are four stories copyright 1983 by Lafferty and hitherto unpublished. "The Last Astronomer" is relatively straightforward; it's about the life and the last day of High Rider Charles-Wain, the last astronomer to survive the shattering discoveries that the universe is really quite small, interstellar distances are ludicrously short, and that Terrestrial "astronomy fiction" has long been the favorite humorous reading matter on Mars.

  "In the Turpentine Trees," however, begins to take on matters of some weight. It raises the questions of how a person might go about becoming God, how often it might have been done, and why it's not done more often. Furthermore, it provides answers.

  "Bird-Master" either is or is not a recasting of certain American Indian legends, reflecting another interest of Lafferty's. Or rather reflecting that aspect of Lafferty's one interest, which is everything. It's fine, and besides being risible is haunting. The story which is in some ways the slightest of the four, but will be discussed more often because it has an easily encapsulated idea, is "Faith Sufficient," about a fake faith-healer who exposes faith-healing fakes, but at a crucial moment depends on the intervention of a mouse who can move mountains. (Say that line aloud three times quickly, and you will do to your tongue what Lafferty does to the mind.)

  There you are. You can't do a study of Lafferty without being conversant with this material; I would judge that "In the Turpentine Trees," at least in some ways crosses beyond the borders of what commercial SF media finds publishable, and so is an indispensible benchmark of just how much craziness we will indulge, and of what kind. So send Drumm the $2.00. I don't know how he got hold of this material, but I'm sure it's legit. Also available is his R.A. Lafferty Checklist, at $1.25: 32 pages, with notes.

  The pages, if other Drumm publications are any criterion, are covered with very small type, achieved by photo-reducing typewritten copy. It comes out 16 characters to the inch -- 25% smaller than elite. Four Stories has over 37 pages, each page 4 1/2" x 7', with very tight margins. The whole thing looks like something produced in a basement on 8 1/2" x 11" paper ingeniously folded, sewn (literally), and then trimmed by tearing the edges against a steel rule. The checklists -- there are four others -- are equally marvelous to behold. (The Hal Clement @ 50c, is eight pages on cardstock; the Mack Reynolds and Thomas M. Disch, at $1.00 each, are 24 pages; the Algis Budrys, at 75c, is 16 pages and even includes my crime fiction, plus running corrections of errata.) All this apparently began with book dealer Drumm's publication of a catalog ($1.00, refundable with purchase) and has since gotten out of hand.

  It seems somehow inevitable that the Laffertys of this world find the Drumms and the Drumms find the Budryses. But if we didn't have Lafferty to prepare our minds for that realization -- and if Lafferty didn't have SF preparing the ground for him -- we wouldn't be equipped to understand that inevitability.

Death to Everyone, or, 3 Suggestions for Masters Theses, or, "Any action in which I am prepared to lose my life resembles war."

"Electric circuitry has overthrown the regime of "time" and "space" and pours upon us instantly and continuously the concerns of all other men." -Marshall McLuhan

"It’s a border-town tale, a narrative of liminal spaces: the estranging distance between the relative safety of the town and the folkloric weirdness of the countryside, and beyond that the line of the border itself—possibly the Rio Grande between Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, if a real rather than idealized geography is in view. But it also exists within the liminal space between realism and fantasy: almost as if, at this early stage, Lafferty has to establish where that line might be, before he can charge directly across it."
                                                -Andrew Ferguson, on "Cabrito"

"Pope Pius II wrote frankly in his "History of Frederick III": "States cannot alter their borders except by war." Several years ago Prime Minister Kekkonen of Finland met with Khrushchev and tried to ask him if little Karelia (the border province between Finland and Russia, lost in 1939) which was sorely missed by the Finns, might not be returned to Finland. Khrushchev who liked Kekkonen very much (Kekkonen visited him in Crimea every year) smiled and answered: "Mr. Kekkonen, you ought to know from history that the borders between states can only be changed by war." People in the world today don't like to hear this, but I think that both the Renaissance Pope and the last Russian Czar are right."
                                                 -Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, from Planetary Service

I have just finished The Medium is the Massage by McLuhan/Fiore. I am currently several chapters into ERH's Planetary Service. I am always thinking of Lafferty. Specifically, right now, I am halfway through Archipelago.

Planetary Service is about a future of peace, of what it means to live in a world post-war, and how borders can ever be challenged and changed without war.

ERH does give honor to borders, to their historic importance, but it is also clear that he is ready for their abolition.

"This contradiction lies across my entire generation: we were all soldiers for the borders of our countries, and we were all already burned by the insight that many borders would have to fall. And these are the words about borders which Peguy left us before his death: "And must I, to rescue from eternal flames the bodies of the damned who despair in torment, give up my own body unto the eternal fire, then, God, throw me into these eternal flames: and need I, to save from the torment those souls damned to stay forever distant, and who despair in their estrangement from You, let my own soul stay estranged, then let my own soul move into the eternal distance, for we can only save our souls together." Here you have one of God's heroes who will not leave any borders standing, not even the borders of hell. And everyone should first pause, considering Peguy's battle, and this contradiction. Only then shall we become serious."

Thesis #1. Lafferty's work exists on borders and boundaries, often charging directly across them.


Archipelago is Lafferty's most explicit war novel. Yet, somewhere along the writing process he forgot to include the war in the novel. I remember reading that Lafferty acknowledged this somewhere. I don't remember where.

This afternoon, I listened to this podcast: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2016/02/23/podcast-178-c-s-lewis-j-r-r-tolkien-and-the-inklings-mastermind-group/

Philip and Carol Zaleski wrote a book about the Inklings. Listening to them in this podcast, I didn't learn anything that I didn't already know. BUT! I did take pause when they mentioned that Tolkien and Lewis and all of the other writers in the Inklings were War writers even though they are not often categorized as such. Again, nothing new. But it made me realize that not enough attention is given to Lafferty as a war writer.

Most of the Inklings were WWI vets. Lafferty was a WWII vet. ERH and others make the point that this entire period of world civil war was all a continuation of the same. Both WWI and WWII vets had to deal with many of the same struggles. A new world ensued.

Unfortunately, most of us engaged in any sort of lit crit (pro or armchair) don't know a thing at all about risking our lives for anything. Most of us do not know the sort of heightened fellowship and camaraderie of men at war.

"The disappearance of war threatens us with the loss of the ability to distinguish between play and seriousness. Let us admit openly: war is the prime example of deadly earnestness, absolute earnestness. Any action in which I am prepared to lose my life resembles war." -ERH

Thesis #2. Lafferty is a war writer. Losing life is just the beginning.


"World and soul join one another, that is they must join in order to provide meaning. For the world is meaningless. The world would just be uncreated chaos were it not for those who stood up with their lives to provide meaning; every time anew it would become an uncreated chaos in which speech decayed and every border became insurmountable. Chaos does not precede God's creation. No, chaos occurs when we little devils abolish God's word." -ERH

Thesis #3. Chaos occurs when we little devils abolish God's word.



I wrote all of the above a month or so ago. I never did return and shape it into anything more cohesive or convincing. Scratches and sketches. I present it here just the same. Blah.

I'm not sure exactly where I was going with the last one. I think maybe that I was grasping at instances in which Lafferty touches on ACTIVE world-building and that world-destruction is just as real an activity. Maybe.

Yesterday, I started reading E.M. Cioran's The Trouble With Being Born.

Cioran: "Unmaking, decreating, is the only task man may take upon himself, if he aspires, as everything suggests, to distinguish himself from the Creator."

Yesterday evening, a friend killed himself. And sure enough, I along with him am shattered, unmade.

So it goes.

"We'd just as soon drink whiskey tonight, and beer tomorrow," said Finnegan.