Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Laffertian Transmogrification

"The hardest thing, when a man turns into a wolf, is right at the ankle bone," Corbey said. Corbey was a crafty old swindler and he was about to wrap his tongue around something rich. "It hurts there at the ankle. You see, what appears to be a wolf's knee has its bend opposite to a man's, but that is really the same as a man's ankle bone, not his knee bone. The wolf's real knee is hidden up in the haunch. When a man turns into a wolf his ankle bone has to expand about eight inches. You find a man who turns a lot and you'll find a fellow who always has sore ankles.

"The rest is easy. Watch one change sometime and see how slick he does it. He kind of softens his skull, and part of it flows forward and part of it flows back. Then he lets his eyes roll around to the sides of his head. He sharpens his muzzle and does all the other little things. Then he goes down on all fours just like he was unhinging himself. He begins to shiver: that's one way he brings the hair out of his hide. After that he lacks just one thing for him to be a total wolf."

Well, someone had to ask it.

"What's the one thing he needs to make himself into a total wolf," Pidgeon asked, "after he has gone down on all fours and shivered his hair to the outside of his hide?"

"The tail," said Corbey, and licked his lips. "It sounds like a cork popping when he brings it out. The tail's the last thing to go back in too. And after he changes quite a few times, man to wolf and wolf to man, why his tail gets where it won't go all the ways back in anymore. I maintain, Sheriff, that there's a way to put this knowledge to test."

What was Corbey getting at? There was dark lightning bouncing around that store. There was musky excitement beginning to rise, and the feeling got riper by the minute. Something was brewing, and it was these fellows' kind of thing.

"Men, this becomes a community effort," Corbey was crowing. "Sheriff, we got to get every man-jack in the neighborhood together and make them strip. Sheriff, one of those men is going to have a tail!"


-R. A. Lafferty, 'Three Shadows of the Wolf' (1975)

42 comments:

Kevin Cheek said...

By absurd coincidence (and I do mean absurd), Daniel Pinkwater is reading his book The Snarkout Boys and the Baconburg Horror a chapter at a time on his podcast. The story involves such horrors as high-school English teachers, werewolves, and beat poets (the beatniks seeming the most horrifying so far). This week was the third installment, and the second half has a explanation of sorts of what makes a werewolf. Go to http://www.pinkwater.com/podcast/ and slide forward to 10:02 for the main character's father explaining lycanthropy. Slide forward to 16:54 for a poem that describes just the discomfort Lafferty was describing here.

Andrew said...

"Three Shadows," of course, started out as a full-length novel, Loup Garou, which went unpublished for a good long while until he cut it down to its present novelette length. I think this is the only time he cut down a novel, and that usually he worked in the other direction (e.g., Space Chantey started as a short story and then expanded).

Andrew said...

Have always loved Pinkwater; Lizard Music and Alan Mendelsoh, the Boy from Mars were huge touchstones for my childhood reading. The weirdness potential in the everyday--Pinkwater was slipstream long before the term came about.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

I'm a great lover of the werewolf mythos (despite its current commercial blandinisation) and was delighted to find Lafferty had written a werewolf story, characteristically fresh, funny, and disturbing.

Now I'm achingly curious to know, Andrew, whether that original novel version remains, finished or unfinished, in manuscript form. I loved that 'Three Shadows' was a novelette and enjoyed the pace, the time it took Lafferty to tell the tale. I suspect it would be even better at greater length.

Despite its deceiving lightness of feel, I think it's a rather searching meditation on rationality and irrationality, superstition and the 'science' of detection. Indeed, it makes a fine counterpoint piece to Isaac Asimov's science essay about rainbows (tracing their understanding from the mythic and theological to the modernly 'scientific') in the 1975 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction which the two writings share the pages of.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, thanks for the Pinkwater recommendation - I had not heard of him. You can buy a volume containing 5 of his novels for a small amount and I might try them. It sounds as if I will enjoy them though I am not sure if they will suit my 7 year old son quite yet. Still, with a Laffertean father, he is used to strange.

Philip said...

Anonymous is Philip; I somehow failed to post my name.

Andrew said...

@Daniel--The manuscript is extant; I haven't done an in-depth comparison but my impression is that the novel is more atmospheric and concretely particular (i.e., tied to its place), while the novelette is more psychological.

Agreed on the werewolf--the figure has actually been brought back into critical discourse in recent times by Giorgio Agamben's figure of the "homo sacer"--the "sacred outlaw", or, the man who puts himself outside the pale of society by an act of oath-breaking or especially murder. I haven't been back to Three Shadows since I read Agamben, but I would be very surprised if Ray does not anticipate many of his concerns.

@Philip--The Pinkwater books probably kick in around 9 or 10 years old--whenever any child has real consciousness of being on the outside of some social group, or interested in things his peers simply aren't. (And I would suspect every child has this at some point, but bookish children more than most.)

Andrew said...

@Daniel--

Furthermore on Lafferty and rainbows, are you familiar with EA Watkin's book The Bow in the Clouds, which attempts to place all the human arts and sciences on the spectrum of visible light represented by the rainbow? An odd little treatise, but one Ray enjoyed (with reservations). He actually set out to write a collection with one story per color, but only got as far as "Mud Violet" (so far as I can tell) before pulling it all into the more general Austro/Green Tree cycle.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

@Andrew: all great info for further research, thanks! No, I didn't know of The Bow in the Clouds. (Nor Agamben and the 'sacred outlaw', which sounds very intriguing indeed.) Do you think Loup Garou is worth publishing as a novel someday? I hope so. A whole werewolf novel by Lafferty is just too irresistible to my tastes. (Though I'm sure I'd still get a lot out of reading it as a manuscript regardless.)

Kevin Cheek said...

I have never read "Three Shadows of the Wolf" I would love to one of these days. What you described in your precis of the "Sacred Outlaw" illustrates what must be a prevalent archetype. That explains the romanticization of outlaws like Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and it also explains how quickly Rowling was able to establish her Voldemort character as a baddie. I had never thought of connecting that archetype to werewolves before.

This is probably the topic of another discussion (and maybe a thesis or two), but I have always thought that some of Lafferty's characters work without traditional character development because they are direct expressions or instances of archetypes. The most obvious examples are Anteros Manypenny and Magdalen Mobley in "Continued on Next Rock" However, they also are partially examples of something else Lafferty does well--give us what appear to be examples of archetypes that we feel we should know, but are actually new to us. How does he do that, and how does he get away with it?

Kevin Cheek said...

@Philip: Pinkwater for 7-year-olds: Try Second Grade Ape, The Big Orange Splot, and my favorite, Blue Moose.

Philip said...

Kevin,

The copy of Asimov's Magazine which contains "Three Shadows of the Wolf" can be obtained very cheaply.

As to Pinkwater, I might get the 5 novels for myself (and my son later on) and Blue Mosse for him now. The snag is, he reads a great deal but is rather resistant to suggestions regarding what to read!

Andrew said...

@Kevin: Yeah, should definitely note the ambiguity in "sacer"—it means anything set apart, and therefore both "sacred" and "accursed". Homo sacer is a man who may be killed by anyone, but who cannot be sacrificed. He can never be, for instance, a martyr, or a rebel in the James Dean mode (there is nothing beautiful about this corpse).

The crucial thing is that the concept depends on and is necessarily a product of the law itself. Homo sacer does not seek to overthrow society because that is what defines him; think less Voldemort here and more Jack the Ripper.

Philip said...

Andrew, if I may ask what is your source for saying Lafferty enjoyed "The Bow in the Clouds"? All I know about the man is contained in the (few) interviews he gave. Is there more information about him out there soemwhere?

Kevin Cheek said...

Hmmm. Lafferty's work is full of characters who are killed, and I see a dual spin on their deaths and identities: To the people who kill them, the characters are criminal or deviant and therefore of no account--for example Ishmael in "Ishmael into the Barrens" (wait, did he die? I can't remember) or Holly Harkel in "Ride a Tin Can" (one of my very favorites, though one I can't read very often). However to us, they are sacred individuals due to their understanding, and their death a sacrifice.

Yes, I understand the difference between what you describe in you explanation of Homo Sacer of one setting himself apart by a truly heinous act, such as murder or torture and the crimes of the characters I mentioned which were simply deviating from the enforced norm because of a greater understanding. However, the forces that killed them did not understand that difference or tried to claim that their dissent made them as horrible or more horrible than murderers. This is not unique to Lafferty, by the way. Most totalitarian regimes through history have used the same technique to villainize their dissenters.

Gregorio said...

@ Philip: E.I Watkin was an early 20th c. British convert to Catholicism. He was associated with the artistic and socio-political movement that congregated around the great sculptor/printmaker/writer Eric Gill. He was also a very interesting writer and thinker in his own right. In the Bow in the Clouds, but even more so in later works like A Philosophy of Form, he tries to develop an entire philosophy or art and culture for contemporary Catholicism, and society in general, based on his own notions of an updated Thomistic Scholasticism. As part of my ongoing study of Lafferty and Aquinas, I'm looking at Watkin as a source of inspiration for Lafferty's own brand of Thomism.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Thanks for that juicy info on Watkin, Gregorio! I didn't realise all that. Now I definitely want to check him out in relation to Lafferty.

Gregorio said...

@ Daniel: Lafferty paraphrases Watkin's socio-political and philosophical ideas in various places, and even prominently quotes it in a few of his works. I've always found this an intriguing selection, from More Than Melchisedech, Vol. 2, Tales of Midnight. In many ways, it perfectly captures Lafferty’s (and even more so, Catholicism’s) at times paradoxically universal particularity:

‘Only because it was inclusive can Catholicism be exclusive; only because it comprehends all religious truth can it be intolerant of all error. It was because it was the Catholic Center that it cannot admit any other center, to regard as central any portion of the circumference.’
(E.I. Watkin. The Catholic Center)

Btw, it is within this center that I try to locate my own life and work.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

@Gregorio: I take it by 'Catholic Center' Watkin here means *Roman Catholic* Center, not just a 'universal, orthodox Christian' Center or something like that?

Anonymous said...

@Daniel: Your question goes right to the heart of the matter. For the truth of the paradox (in Chesterton’s understanding of the term) to be fully grasped, I think Watkin, and Lafferty, would say that this ‘center’ has to be catholic/Catholic in both the small c and big C sense of the word—so that it embraces at once universal particularity, inclusive exclusivity, comprehensive partiality, etc.

I believe this raises a number of interesting questions, such as: what is the relationship of the ‘center’ to the periphery? What is the basis of being in communication/communion with the ‘center’? Or, in more strictly ecclesiological terms--what is the relation of the local to the Universal Church? In an earlier discussion this issue was raised in another context: what is the Argo, and who’s in it, and how do we get on board? I’m not offering any answers in this comment. At this point I’m only pointing out the centrality of the concept of ‘center’ for Lafferty, its paradoxical nature, and the fact that one needs to carefully read writers like Watkin. and Chesterton, who were so influential on Lafferty’s thought, in order to begin to grapple with this issue.

Gregorio said...

The Anonymous above being me just forgetting to attach my name to a comment...

As Andrew indicated above, Lafferty perhaps wanted to write a series of stories each one inspired by one of the colors in Watkin's Bow. Here is a list of those colors and their corresponding subject matter. Some interesting food for thought on what Lafferty may have produced if he had gone throuh with his plan:

Violet: the positive sciences
Indigo: technology, the ethical and social sciences, history
Blue: metaphysics
Green: life
Yellow: art
Orange: sex
Red: religion
Ultra-red: mysticism

Andrew said...

What if we consider Lafferty as werewolf? Not obviously in the physical sense, but in the sense of a homo sacer choosing to isolate himself from the inflexible law of SF, the secularist/materialist technocracy? Again and again Lafferty depicts characters, and often even himself, who are killed for espousing traditional faiths in the face of SF dogma. But this seems less an act of martyrdom than a chance killing: such traditionalists as himself (Ishmael's parents, the community in And Walk Now Gently, the priest in Name of the Snake) are killed more as a happenstance than a set, sacrificial ritual. The Thomas of Past Master is an exception here, and I'm sure there are others—but that said I'm not sure that Lafferty's sympathy isn't with the werewolves and the outlaws of society.

@Philip: As Gregorio has shown, Lafferty was not far from Watkin to begin with (again, with reservations about the too-easy schematizing impulse Watkin succumbs to—think of Watkin as a Catholic structuralist, perhaps, and Lafferty as a Catholic post-structuralist, if such a thing could be), but my own evidence comes from seeing Lafferty's handwritten notes in the Tulsa archive, laying out a prospectus for a collection of stories based on Watkin's rainbow, with one for each shade in Gregorio's previous post. I believe he also talks about Watkin in one interview but I don't have it at hand at the moment.

@Gregorio: I am so eager to see your work I could burst. I'm hoping to do my final CFP soon, which I know I've been saying for a while but actually is in sight now because I'm finally finishing up coursework this weekend and have only exam prep to occupy me afterward.

Gregorio said...

@Andrew: No problem, I understand, I went through the same process this time last year. And now I'm so busy teaching and writing/researching school related stuff that most days I'm too exhausted to even think about Lafferty. So, take your time!

Gregorio said...

@Andrew: Oh, and I love your characterization of Lafferty as a kind of Catholic post-structuralist! I think that's right on the money. Somehow, in his orthodox, folksy way Laff blows up all sorts of conceptual structures and rearranges them in ways that are unique, not to destroy what came before, but to reveal new, unexpected patterns that where latent within the older forms, undiscovered until his genius brought them to light.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

@Gregorio: I appreciate your tentative, paradoxical thoughts on the 'centre' - not because I want these matters to be inherently 'muddy' but because I think the whole issue is naturally complex and requires humility, experiment, and provisionality in order to approach some coherent accuracy.

@Andrew: 'Lafferty as werewolf' - I'm speechless. What a wonderful thought. Yes, I'm pretty convinced Lafferty sympathises with the 'werewolves and outlaws' of society in some important sense. The funny thing is that he seemed often to want to (rightly, I think) point out that so many people and movements of the 1960s-80s who wanted to tout themselves as outlaws were really just part of a co-opted counterpart to the Establishment, the 'Anti-Establishment Establishment' as he called it in his story 'In Deepest Glass' (and a few other places I believe).

Kevin Cheek said...

Where Andrew says "I'm not sure that Lafferty's sympathy isn't with the werewolves and the outlaws of society." I belief his sympathies were squarely with the outlaws in these stories. He frequently would create societies that obviously embraced and codified the exact reverse of his values. Then his protagonists were portrayed as outlaws against that society while embracing values that were pretty clearly what the author was portraying as the good.

Dystopian stories are usually cautionary tales. A common theme in dystopian fiction is the exaggeration of the traits within society the author is trying to criticize until they form into an insufferable society/government. In 1984, it was the threat of totalitarian government that was elevated to become Big Brother. Brave New World was in some ways more in line with Lafferty's ethics, in that it exaggerated consumerism and permissiveness to create a rigidly enforced free-love spendthrift society. Lafferty often chose to criticize the social changes of the 60s--the co-opting of the trappings of the hippies into marketable goods, drug use for supposed consciousness expansion, and do-it-yourself mysticism. The very fact that "Stick it to the man!" was a catchphrase of the 60s and 70s showed a rebellion against structured, ordered society, which of course for Lafferty, had its center in the Catholic Church.

Therefore, Lafferty's cautionary dystopias portrayed the exaggeration and codification of that rebellion against order, structure, and oddly enough, against individualism. If I read the article on Homo Sacer correctly (God bless Wikipedia), Lafferty's outlaws don't quite fit that model--while they deliberately set themselves apart from society by refusing to conform to its laws, they do so out of conformance to the greater good. The society pretends to regard them as mere criminal misfits, but secretly understands how much of a threat they are to the underpinnings of their deconstructed, disordered society, as evidenced in the writings of Coprophilous Monkey (what a name--latin for "feces loving") in "And Walk Now Gently Through the Fire."

Kevin Cheek said...

@Daniel: Your comment about the self-labeled outlaws of the 60s & 70s being part of an anti-establishment establishment led me to a train of thought realizing that Lafferty's dystopias are often other people's utopias. I'd love to see a study of Past Master vs. LeGuin's The Dispossessed, especially in terms of their reaction to Utopia.

Also, you finally found a valid use for the term antidisestablishmentarianism!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

'Being surrounded with every conceivable kind of revolt from infancy, Gabriel had to revolt into something, so he revolted into the only thing left - sanity.' (G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday, chapter 4)

There's great resonance there with a lot of what Lafferty has to say, I think.

@Kevin: Good thoughts about Lafferty making dystopias out of other people's utopias. I'm about 50 pages from the end of the Dispossessed. A study of that and Past Master *and* The Man Who Was Thursday (about anarchists and policemen) would no doubt be very fruitful and interesting.

I can't go into it in detail right now, but I just think Lafferty has very helpfully pointed the way forward to a richer, fuller, more meaningful and, indeed, more truly *wild* social-cultural-political-scientific-artistic-spiritual CREATIVITY than so many countercultural figures and movements. Lafferty's Catholic vision is necessarily a rebellion and revolution and counterculture to other prevailing visions - and I think it is more powerful for pointing to what he took to be the True Order (rather than just pointing *away* from all 'Rule' to something thinner and ultimately dehumanising due to its lack of 'holy structure'). Lafferty's vision points to a very fulsome and ferocious reality under the untameable Triune God. And when 'all things' are rooted in a divine dance of interpersonal love and glory (the Trinity), then the individual will always flourish as community is paramount.

To me, this makes Le Guin's anarcho-Taoism pale in comparison (although her vision is much more challenging and persuasive in the Earthsea books to me than in The Dispossessed). I'm sure Lafferty's vision resonates to significant degrees with Le Guin's in terms of a richer conception of time and physics and cosmology than are often allowed in strictly materialist, secularist schemes and in recoiling from the materialistic (now in the ethical, not metaphysical, sense) values of an unjust, shopping-mad Western culture looking desperately for meaning and fulfillment in the possession of things. Yet he also seems to be sharply criticising her kind of worldview again and again in themes like those of 'Old Foot Forgot' where he feistily fights off views that are all about the individual being ultimately an illusory projection of the All, the One, that must be absorbed again without distinction or singular continuation for eternity.

Kevin Cheek said...

Graffiti on a wall in Santa Fe some decades ago:

"Odonians Unite"

Kevin Cheek said...

Utterly off topic here: Is this strip perhaps evidence that Berke Breathed had read The Annals of Klepsis? http://www.berkeleybreathed.com/pages/Favorite_Strips_Full.asp?ID=7

Thinking about Le Guin VS. Lafferty: Both Past Master and The Dispossessed are among my very favorite books, and are books that reward multiple re-readings. "Old Foot Forgot" is a particularly apt counterpoint to Odonianism: Odo talked about one's "cellular function" within society, likening the individual to a cell within a body. However, Shevek found that his cellular function was to create, to become completely individual--Le Guin likened his drive to scientific research and discovery to the drive of an artist--utterly individual without necessarily an immediate practical contribution to the day-to-day needs of the society. However his individualism made the entire society (of both worlds in this case) richer. In some ways, this is like the foot of the Spharikos in "Old Foot Forgot." The foot had served its purpose for the body, but still screamed to be an individual. I think on some levels (not all, obviously) both authors were seeking the same solution here.

Andrew said...

Lafferty wrote of Le Guin's aesthetic as that of "heroic tedium." The essay in which he labels her such—as well as Varley, Lem, Silverberg, the later Heinlein, Farmer, Russ, Disch, Del Rey, Moorcock, Niven, and especially Vonda McIntyre's "Dreamsnake" and Fred Pohl's "Gateway"—remains, unsurprisingly, unpublished. I'm not even sure what he was writing for, if for anything at all.

He does note that "Of course these are all good writers. If they were not good writers, they would be merely tedious, not Heroically Tedious."

@Kevin: Re: Bloom County, pretty sure Breathed and Lafferty were both drawing from a pretty deep well.

Philip said...

Andrew, does Lafferty ever mention Philp K Dick anywhere unpublished? In interviews and articles I have seen, his absence is noticeable.

Kevin Cheek said...

While I find Le Guin's work often heroic, I rarely find it tedious. Just don't ask the poor lady to write romantic dialogue! What I like most in The Dispossessed is that after she builds her utopia, she examines its flaws as much as its triumphs.

On another thought, I wonder what Lafferty would have thought of Ray Bradbury's story, "The Man" where the stereotypical rocket men (the same trope Lafferty lampooned in "900 Grandmothers") set down on a planet the day after Christ arrived there. I found an excellent synopsis of the story on the site: http://brilliantdisguises.blogspot.com/2011/02/man-by-ray-bradbury.html which is a blog focused on Christian examination of literature. Oddly enough, they have no posts on Lafferty. We ought to bring them into the fold.

Kevin Cheek said...

@Andrew: "Oh Whatta You Do When the Well Runs Dry?"

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

@Andrew: very interesting tidbit on Lafferty's view of Le Guin and the others. Thanks for sharing! I wonder if Lafferty read the Earthsea books? I'm afraid I would have to agree with his assessment as regards The Dispossessed (and the first several chapters of Left Hand of Darkness that I just couldn't get into), but Earthsea was high quality writing, imagination, and storytelling. So far the s.f. I've tried to read by Le Guin just lacks the beautiful sense of wonder found in her fantasy. Was that perhaps something of what Lafferty found missing too in the s.f. he'd read by her?

I've only read Solaris by Lem, but I thought it was amazing at the time I read it some years ago. I wonder if Lafferty found the wild and sometimes dark joy and exuberance and the glut of creativity in his own writing missing in these others - they can be bleak, and hence, perhaps, 'tedious'.

I know he respected Wells and Verne as founders of the genre and once commented that a collection of short stories by Gene Wolfe contained some of the best of the decade. I wonder who else in the field he actually liked (in terms of writing)?

Kevin Cheek said...

My Lem recommendation is above all The Cyberiad, a collection of stories about two robot constructors in an all-robot universe. Some of the most gleeful wordplay ever published in the English language--all the more amazing for the fact that it was written in Polish and translated to English. Stanislaw Lem refused honors from the Science Fiction Writers of America, claiming that American SF was all a bunch of hackneyed trash. Lem must never have read Lafferty. Perhaps that earned him the opprobrium "Heroically Tedious"

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

I shall definitely look out for that Lem work, Kevin. Sounds great.

Kevin Cheek said...

If nothing else, do a search for "Love and Tensor Algebra" a poem that is the byproduct of one of the stories in The Cyberiad.

Kevin Cheek said...

OK, a sample from Stanislaw Lem's The Cyberiad, the firt 2/3 of the opening paragraph from the story "The Fifth Sally (A) or Trurl's Prescription" (full story available at: http://kalantarian.org/artak/Literature/steelypips.htm)

'Not far from here, by a white sun, behind a green star, lived the Steelypips, illustrious, industrious, and they hadn’t a care: no spats in their vats, no rules, no schools, no gloom, no evil influence of the moon, no trouble from matter or antimatter – for they had a machine, a dream of a machine, with springs and gears and perfect in every respect. And they lived with it, and on it, and under it, and inside it, for it was all they had- first they saved up all their atoms, then they put them all together, and if one didn’t fit, why they chipped at it a bit, and everything was just fine. Each and every Steelypip had its own little socket and its own little plug, and each was completely on its own. Though they didn’t own the machine, neither did the machine own them, everybody just pitched in. Some were mechanics, other mechanicians, still others mechanists: but all were mechanically minded. They had plenty to do, like if night had to be made, or day, or an eclipse of the sun – but that not too often, or they’d grow tired of it. '

It never ceases to amaze me that this is an English translation of the original Polish.

Different feel from Lafferty altogether, but I don't find it lacking "wild and sometimes dark joy and exuberance and the glut of creativity." Perhaps this wasn't what Lafferty had read of Lem. Some of Lem's novels, such as The Invincible and The Investigation contain brilliant ideas and observations but are poorly and tediously translated.

Andrew said...

I would expect that Lafferty had read Solaris, which is not only poorly translated, but forbidden by some arcane copyright from appearing in any other English translation. (There is a much better one now available in audiobook only).

I would not, however, put it past Ray to read it in Polish. I wonder if the original had the same sort of internal rhyme, and if not what sort of effect the translator was seeking to port over into a very different tongue.

easterwine said...

OK, so I read "Three Shadows" and I am a little confused as to what the three shadows might mean or represent. Also....thinking of Andrew's comment above (#22 I think) where he posits that Lafferty's sympathies are not with the establishment/antiestablishment crowd, and that those protagonists killed in Lafferty stories are outlaws...wondering how that applies in this story since the protagonist is the sheriff (literally not an outlaw). Is he an outlaw in the sense of being superstitious and rejecting a materialistic view of the universe...if so then why was he killed by these supernatural forces?

I enjoyed the story, and was intrigued by the fact that it had been written as a novel originally. I would love to read the longer version.

--craig

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Craig, I'll have to wait for a re-read to properly interact with the questions you have. I did get the strong impression that the story was about the 'consequences' of trying to hold a materialistic view of the universe whilst that same universe is handing you lots of evidence to the contrary. But Lafferty is rarely ever that straightforward in either the meaning or 'moral' of his stories. He makes it so artistically oblique and full of tensions that it's quite difficult to intepret - which is what makes it a rich and deep reading experience rather than propaganda or allegory. (I love this novella and greatly desire to read it as a novel too.)

'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it.'
(R. A. Lafferty, The Devil is Dead)