Continuing my Sunday evening "Lafferty and a drink" sessions....
"And a maiden doesn't look much like dew on crazy-weed in the morning, Magdalen," Robert Derby said, "but we recognize these identities."
I read "Continued on Next Rock" this afternoon. I didn't have anything fermented in the house to drink besides some sauerkraut. The thought of a sauerkraut shake didn't appeal to me. So, since it was yet early afternoon, my kind eldest daughter put on a pot of coffee for me. Cheap stuff, Wegmans Columbian, drip brewed with well water from the tap. A splash of raw farm milk freshly squeezed from a friend's fresh cow, more cream to it than you'd find in any processed moo juice. For a "sweetener", I paired the coffee with a pipeful of McClelland's VBC (vanilla black cavendish), a mild aromatic tobacco with a pleasant room note.
Relaxed, I was able to enter into a fever dream of a story. Only briefly did I wish that I had been better prepared with cheap whiskey at hand.
This was my first time reading "Next Rock" and, despite its popularity and frequent mentions, I didn't really know what it was about and didn't know what to expect. For some reason, I had gotten the mistaken notion that "rock" was slang for planet. So, I was surprised. For the first few pages, I thought that we were being given a quirky twist on a straight archaeological dig story. I kept waiting for the sf punch. And it never does quite come, at least not in the way I expected. Instead, we get Midwest mythopoeia, a mash-up of Creek and Greek mythos. If only someone would come up with a word starting in Buffalo and ending with punk that could work as a convenient shorthand to describe this type of story!
The heart of the story is etched in stone. It's the part that convinced me to love the story (and I was rather "meh" toward the story until the first rock is read). I read and re-read the poem and then read it aloud to my wife. And, as is often the case with Lafferty, this reading aloud, giving breath to the words, made the story alive, vibrant and real and really funny.
It was especially fun to read to my wife because she is a fan of a Billy Collins poem that doesn't do anything for me. It sends her into giggle fits.
The text: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/litany/
And Collins reading it: http://youtu.be/56Iq3PbSWZY
Lafferty and Collins are having fun in a similar way in their respective works, though Lafferty's is the more rambunctious, the funnier, and possibly the superiorly poetic. Anyhow, it's another bit of fun artistic overlap, an instance of Lafferty in asynchronous conversation with the poets who came before him and the poets who would come after, including one poet who is widely respected at both the critical and popular level (a rare feat these days)! I say we ask Billy Collins to submit something to FoL3! "Eros and Anteros: Lafferty's Masterful Demonstration of Anterotic Imagery In Amateur Poetics" ;-)