Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Literary Science-Fiction

1. I just learned that the last novel of Franz Werfel -- one of the most important German writers of the first half of the 20th century, and the last husband of Alma -- was a science-fiction novel entitled Star of the Unborn (in German: Stern der Ungeborenen). So that's on my to-read list, once I finish writing my dissertation.

2. I've started reading Gene Wolfe's massive four-novel series The Book of the New Sun, but I don't really have the time. I note in an interesting interview that his fellow science-fiction author Patrick O'Leary has a very high view of him.

Forget "Speculative Fiction." Gene Wolfe is the best writer alive. Period. And as Wolfe once said, "All novels are fantasies. Some are more honest about it."

No comparison. Nobody--I mean nobody--comes close to what this artist does. ...

He has the intellectual whimsy, invention and rigour of Borges, the grace and music and hard beauty of Nabokov, the richness of voice and character of Faulkner, the moral insight and passion of Le Guin, the compassion and weirdness of P.K. Dick, and a courage and integrity of spirit that are entirely his own--all grounded, somehow rooted in a modesty, a working-class respect for the dirt and anguish and joy of everyday life. Ultimately he loves spinning a good yarn. And he is a lot of fun.

Read a story, say, "The Ziggurat" or "A Cabin On The Coast" or "The Death of Doctor Island"--it doesn't get better than that. Read a chapter, say, the Alzabo Chapter in The Book of The New Sun, or any [#*&!@] chapter from In Green's Jungles--the best novel I've ever read--Dude, this man is operating on all cylinders. He's like the lead in Steely Dan's "Reeling in the Years"--Jesus, do you remember the first time you heard that? Wolfe achieves that virtuosity and soul for whole books.

And then he does it backward. And in braille. And after the fifth time you read the same page and realize he's [#*&!@] doing it on a Kazoo while juggling tomatoes--you give up. You know--forgetaboutit--he's the best. He is so good, he's scary.

3. The Wordverter recently alerted to me to something that will be humorous to other Frank Herbert fans who are also parents: Goodnight Dune. It made me laugh, at least. I also laughed at this which is, unfortunately, serious.


Ron said...

Thanks for the recommendations. I love SF and Fantasy too. I find myself agreeing with you about not having enough time to read.

Michael Caton said...

Re Gene Wolfe, you're wise to wait until you can concentrate on New Sun until you have time. He's one of my favorites, although I do get annoyed at what still seems to be unnecessary opacity, but there's so much thought put into it that I'm willing to let some levels of the work escape me without getting too bothered. I look forward to your interpretations. I'm restraining myself from giving my two-bit theories to avoid poisoning your interpretation before you ever get to it.