Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It is impossible, but it is so.

Lafferty's early story, "All the People," begins with a man, Anthony Trotz, interviewing four persons on the possibility of knowing everyone.

A politician: "He might learn that many faces and names, but he would not know the men."

A philosopher: "The mind is limited by the brain. It is skull-bound. It can accumulate no more than its cranial capacity, though not one tenth of that is ordinarily used. An unbodied mind would (in esoteric theory) be unlimited."

A priest: "The only emancipated man is the corporally dead man. And the dead man, if he attains the beatific vision, knows all other persons who have ever been since time began."

A psychologist: "Naturally not. But unnaturally he might seem to."

Anthony Trotz: "There is no way out of it. I know everybody in the world. It is impossible, but it is so."

The story unveils itself slowly and mysteriously, teasing out the implications and understandings of these early conversations as Trotz goes to work and wrestles with knowing everybody in the world. Re-reading the story immediately, it is abundantly clear how masterfully Lafferty sets everything up. This is a quick and quirky story of an "experience with the unbodied mind, or the possibility of it." Along the way, it brings up serious philosophical questions of what it means to know one another and, maybe more significantly, what it means to know oneself. All served up with a heaping of humor and a clever twist end that packs a punch. Highly recommended.

(Galaxy Magazine, April 1961)

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