Friday, July 11, 2014

"He dismembers so that we may all re-member."

"Lafferty’s workings are always grotesque; like the Laestrygonians, he delights in bloody slaughter, whether of his own characters or of the conventions of his genre. But his destruction is also always in the context of carnivalized creation—whether as writer, bard, or pseudo-ursine, he dismembers so that we may all re-member." -Andrew Ferguson

(I'm finally reading his dissertation; love his reading of Space Chantey on pages 39-48)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"Reality, raw murderous reality broke into her contrived world."

What to make of Chapter Six of Space Chantey?

In chapter six, "raw murderous reality" breaks into Lafferty's contrived world. A horrible realism presents itself in the "gang-shag" of Aeaea, the "brutish murder of a concept and a person." It is sad and horrible and quite frightening. In the context of a long whopper of a tall tale, what does it mean that this is the place that Lafferty invokes reality? When all of the men (and woman) have so thoroughly become animals that there is no humanity left in them. I don't want to make too much of this, but it's there to reckon with. Things get very serious for a moment.

"But now the murder howl had gone over the space-ways, and they were all outlaws to be hunted. And decent people would no more give them haven."

Further, it's obvious throughout the chapter that Lafferty is tearing down a philosophy, "total subjectivity," but I don't have the training to put a name on it or to know who Lafferty is poking fun at. I'm afraid that I often confuse Contingency with Accidence and I never have been able to fit any Primary Essence into Quiddity. My eyes glaze over as I babble on.

The carnal reality of the animals is a pointed contrast to the "thinking makes it so" subjectivity of the witch. Material reality cannot be wished away. And the way in which this message comes across is brutally direct. And as horrific as things get, Lafferty still got a deep chuckle out of me at "Aeaea, whichever is you, the voice in the air, or the bloody thing on the ground, there is a flaw in your philosophy. You really are dead, you know."

Philosopher friends, I'd love to hear from you about this chapter.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

"You show signs of levity, and that is the one thing not permitted here. This place is for serious persons only."

"The mere questioner has knocked his head against the limits of human thought; and cracked it."

"So we sit perhaps in a starry chamber of silence, while the laughter of the heavens is too loud for us to hear."

"Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly."

"Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial."

I could keep quoting Chesterton all day long. Lafferty is thoroughly Chestertonian.

Space Chantey is frivolous through and through in the best sense. It is, as Kevin has pointed out, deeply silly. I suppose that I have to quibble a bit, then, with Kevin's father's distinction between "frivolously silly" and "deeply silly" (though this is a minor quibble since I completely grant the point being made.)

"Under the sun," Space Chantey is about as frivolous as things get, completely unnecessary, a new and useless thing with no practical purpose about it, a tall tale stretched to its limits, a perfect joyous creation. As such, it gets to the "fundamental thing" in man. As such, it is one of the things that will last.

Lewis: "Dance and game [and Lafferty novels] are frivolous, unimportant down here; for ‘down here’ is not their natural place. Here, they are a moment’s rest from the life we were placed here to live.

But in this world everything is upside down. That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is likest that which in a better country is the End of ends. Joy is the serious business of Heaven."

This story of a space-faring adventurer reminds us and demonstrates for us what it means to be in love with a full life, to live recklessly with no fear of death, to live exaggeratedly, with confidence that being clubbed by giants and eaten by cannibals are only preludes to greater deaths. With the Great Road-Storm, we have now opened our dull eye, "And the eye came alive and gave a really joyous wink." "We go again!"

Like Chesterton's angels, Lafferty's heroes soar because they take themselves lightly. They "show signs of levity." The chapter in which Roadstrum and his crew escape the hell planet is remarkable for its brevity and lack of action. No stunning feats of derring-do are needed. No epic action. No. Rather, our heroes laugh their way out of hell, they mock hell for its littleness and lack. "Man-a-bleeding, but they broke out of that place! You say it can't be done, but they did it. Their expectations had been too high, and no second-rate Hell could hold them."

Now, I'm going to go poking around the Internet to see what has been written about Space Chantey. I'd like to believe that someone out there has done a thorough job of comparing the book with its inspiration, The Odyssey. It's been 20 years since I read The Odyssey. I remember enough of it to catch many of the echos and allusions in the structure and acts of Space Chantey, but I probably also missed a lot of fun little details.