Saturday, August 9, 2014

"I look at you and I ask whether I can ever enter into an alien mind and think as it thinks."

I finished Reefs of Earth earlier in the week. It is delightful from first to last. Ostensibly, it's about a group of aliens, mostly children, and their murderous adventures through Earth's backwoods. It is that. It is best described as a ROMP and as such, the focus on children is wildly appropriate.

Reefs uses its alien misanthropes (that word isn't quite correct) as a lens through which Lafferty can present the alienness of humanity in all of its strangeness. We see our petty sins and sour seriousness contrasted with rambunctious life. Earth-sickness may not be the contagion of Original Sin but it is something that kills the high spirit. Earth's Gravity inevitably tends to kill Pucan Levity.

"I ask the same question," Henry said. "From my viewpoint, I'm the man, you're the alien. How weird are the ways of Earth! Or as it is written, 'Can anything good come from Earth?'"

Some quick thoughts:
- It's mentioned briefly that Willy McGilly and others are Pucas. I wonder if Pucas are mentioned elsewhere in Lafferty stories.
- I admit to loving the gleeful violence. "We got to start killing people," Charles said. "We can't keep leaving everybody to last."
- I'd love it if people started calling me Pandemonium John.
- "Pirates are perhaps the greatest invention of Earth people"
- One drinking reference merits a closer look but I can't find it now.
- Catherine de Medici

I should have written something sooner after finishing. I've been on vacation with my family and details of the novel are already slipping. I was reading for the joy of it and didn't dog-ear more than one page (the tobacco reference I posted) or mark or write down favorite quotes. I console myself with the thought of many future re-reads.

I've also read at least half a dozen new-to-me Lafferty stories in the past few weeks. I probably won't give them their proper posts anytime soon. I do want to mention, though, that I followed Kevin's advice and have read a few stories out loud to my children. The three I've read are "The Hole on the Corner," "Narrow Valley," and "Nine Hundred Grandmothers." It's been a fun experience watching their smiles and giggles. They groan because they are frustrated by the lack of tidy conclusions in these stories. But they are happy groans of longing, little signals that they've tasted something satisfying and wish to dwell in those moments longer instead of being shunted back to the ordinary of bedtime.

"That had also been the case with the Puca."

  "It was in this big room that the dead people would gather and sit and talk when they were tired of lying in one position. They cracked old bones to get the marrow, and they drank corn beer. It didn't take much eating and drinking to keep them up, since they were no longer fleshed. They didn't eat much, but they sure did smoke a lot. It is not generally known, but dead people used tobacco for centuries before live people stumbled onto it. That had also been the case with the Puca. The smoke all came out through a hole in the side of the mound, and that caused the fog or haze.
  The children learned the interior of the mound. They could have hidden there from all pursuit, but they couldn't have taken their rafts there. They dug all over the flanks of the mound, and came out with bones of animals and people. They dug out two prime skulls which they set up on the prows of their rafts.
  The children formed enduring friendships with many of the old Indians in the middle of Misu Mound. They learned a lot about Earth people from them, how they are in their essence, what are the real things that are hidden under the daily exterior, and how it was in the old days. And they learned the right way to cure tobacco and to make pipes and how really to smoke up a storm."