Friday, June 12, 2015

'the musics'

Excerpts from Lafferty's review of the anthology Some Things Dark and Dangerous:

"All are suspense stories, wonder stories; all are mystery stories, in a sense, though none is a conventional detective story and certainly none is a formula story. Three of them might be called Science Fiction (at the name of which all honest hearts must leap with pleasure!); all are pretty much Blood and Thunder (“as simple as the thunger of Heaven and the blood of men” as Chesterton once defended the type). 

At this point, from the covert enemies of the Lively Arts, there come two automatic protests, and we must answer them.

Is there any real importance in producing another collection of old stories even if it is ‘good material sunk out of sight’?

Is there any importance at all (while the eschatological things are standing up tall and crying for attention) to be found in the inferior and trivial art form of the suspense story, a surrogate or life-escapist device?

(Really, it is no more life-escapist than are any other cultural accretions since the breechclout and the fist-axe; and it retains more of the clout and the axe than do most other forms.)

The first answer is that there may be importance in collections of old and valid fact and fiction. No great book has ever come about in any other way than this. It was the mechanism of Scripture, of all the Epics, of the Arabian Nights, of the works of the Bard and of the Comedist who produced no more than superior collections of old material. Not that this is a great book, but it would be a great book if it stood alone of its kind. And the Iliad would not be a great book if it stood with a dozen others of like sort.

The second answer is that there may be intrinsic importance in the suspense story. The whole life affair is a suspense story, and this cannot be said about any other sort of literature. And it can itself be eschatological."

-----

"And the suspense story has had noble practitioners. A writing acquaintance (an unbeliever) once gave me the opinion that God the Father, on the basis of some hundred striking narrations in both Testaments, would have to be classed as one of the three greatest masters of the suspense story. And I have it on peculiar authority that He enjoys these things Himself, and that there is much in literature that He does not enjoy.

God the Father, however, is not represented directly in this collection."

-----

"If man is the only creature who laughs (this may be argued; poltergeist and several animals snigger and chortle; likely all the higher creatures laugh; certainly the Creator does), man is not the only creature who experiences suspense. All the animals, all the creatures experience it. It is the necessary tension, and without it the limbs would be unstrung.

But it may be that man is the only creature who has experienced changes (two changes) in the nature of Suspense. One was at the time of the Fall (those of other orientation may call it the Hiatus or the Amnesia or they may call it nothing at all, but they must recognize that something happened then). At the time of the Fall, man went into a state of Suspended Animation. Or perhaps it was a state of Animated Suspense. It must have been a frighteningly powerful state from the disguised memories we still carry of it. Certain animals and persons and intermediate spirits are in that case yet."

-----

"The second change in the nature of Suspense was at the time of the Redemption (those of other orientation may call it the End of an Era or the Anamnesis, but they must recognize that something happened then). The suspense was not abolished; perhaps it was sanctified. Some of the dread was removed, but the bow itself was not unstrung. The tension was likely increased, but tension in grace became more possible. Suspense is now a requirement of the pleasure principle, of the victory principle, of the high comedy of being. And it will be a requirement of the Vision, which will not be static. It is a necessity to the feeling of immediacy, to the constant newness of outlook and experience. It is at the heart (the courage) of things.

Suspense is not the same thing as uncertainty, not the same as apprehension, not the same as doubt, not quite the same thing as danger, certainly not the same as fear.

Might bold claims, those! Can one stand and produce on the subject? No, I cannot, and probably you cannot produce for any powerful interest of your own. But in this collection, and others like it, there are fleeting pieces of something important, and they must be caught on the fly. We lack the right words for all these things (Suspense is not the right word), and we lack the means of tying them together. The Lively Arts, the Lively Sciences, the Lively Eschatologies, the Lively Congresses of every sort are all of one thing which the Greeks called simply ‘the musics’ and for which we lack any correct word."


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