I failed to mention that the lessons in the course I am taking begin with prayers (after a peek at the daily Saint, feast, fast, et. all). I don’t participate in them or use them. Obviously merely because I was pushed out of my atheism by the absurdity of its necessary materialistic ends does not a Christian I make. And even if I believe in the necessity of some spiritual underpinning of reality, it is a long way from that to God dying on the cross at Calvary.
The trouble is the prayers are in Latin! Granted, one can get, sometimes, a general indication of the meaning since Latin is infused into our language at a “genetic” level. But only a very generic indication, the Hail, Holy Queen however is complete gibberish to me. One can look up the English version quite easily online. But one has to wonder why it is only in Latin in the first place. Just how many people know that language? Although I think it should still be taught as it’s great etymological training.
I wish I had followed through on learning it when I tried a few years ago.
In my ongoing religious studies, mainly of Catholicism, I decided to do something interesting. I signed up for an online class at a place called CatechismClass.com. It is, so they advertise, basically what you would get from an RCIA instruction. There is only so much you can get from a study Bible, this certainly does a large amount of filling in blanks. It was pretty cheap too, $57! The lessons offered follows:
Since I can go off praising R.A. Lafferty from time to time, I thought it would help some if I included two obituaries about his by John Clute and Neil Gaiman to give a sense of who this author was. When I was considerably younger I used to drop acid (the one oops from youth I do not regret at all). Lafferty is a lot like that.
From the Washington Post, April 4
R.A. Lafferty, who died at 87 on March 18, was undoubtedly the finest writer of whatever it was that he did that ever there was. He was a genius, an oddball, a madman. His stories (his short stories were, in the main, more powerful than his novels) are without precedent: If he can be compared to anyone it might be to a more whimsical Flann O'Brien, but comparisons are pointless. The world only got one Lafferty. Nine Hundred Grandmothers was the first collection of Lafferty's shorter fiction. It is currently in print -- the small presses work to keep Lafferty in print -- and is a fine place to start. It contains a number of points of view you may never have encountered, embodied in stories such as "Narrow Valley," the tale of a huge valley in a tiny ditch, or "Primary Education of the Camiroi," a short story that is mostly syllabus, or "Slow Tuesday Night," which tells of a world running at Continue reading
Remember, never judge a book strictly by its cover. And if it is actually a book, never judge it by its cover at all! EAST OF LAUGHTER by Lafferty is one of his last books but carries the full arsenal of his flair, imagination and experimentation. Instead of attempting a review, which would take weeks given that this is a Lafferty book, I will simply give links to a two part review from someone who put in the time to write a full one here and here.
I will say I won’t have the image of Solomon Izzersted out of my mind – ever. Remember Quatro from the movie Total Recall? Sort of the same thing but this one is the size of a baseball with tiny arms and legs that is basically an outie bellybutton of its host. And, if memory serves, was conceived by a Jewish angel. Once he is severed from its host by a were-panther, he spends the rest of the book scheming and hopping endlessly up and down and being maniacal. Nor will I forget the character name Hieronymus Talking-Crow. The book was a tour de force of Lafferty’s imagination. But not merely of bizarreness. If one has read Chesterton’s THE EVERLASTING MAN, one has a flavor of the themes Lafferty ranges over in LAUGHTER. As the review I posted above says in its opening paragraph:
R. A. Lafferty’s speculative fiction novel East of Laughter is a ‘Quest for Reality’ by a special group concerned about the un-detailed nature of the modern world, right down its empty-seeming atoms. It is a quest for a new narrative or new metaphor that can give real life and meaning back to the modern world, a world that has lost its mythology and is therefore barely rasping out its existence on a thin gruel of mere ‘facts’. The novel portrays this as an urgent quest because the world is in danger of total unreality—that is, in danger of ending, and, more importantly and most of all, of not beginning again.
Like everything I have read from Lafferty this is a complete joy ride. Good luck tracking down the book, Amazon has about 4 under $50, the rest are up to over $200.
Sadly Frederik Pohl died earlier this week. For those that do not know, Mr. Pohl was one of the originals of science fiction’s Golden Era, author, agent, editor, mentor, you name it. And while the person that was responsible for his lockout of the first WorldCon in 1939, and fellow Futurian, is still around, David Kyle, the passing of Frederik Pohl is the closing of the Golden era of science fiction.
I have ripped on Pohl in the past because I can never remember any of his characters, but he wrote some really good stories. Also if you are discussing almost anything science fiction Frederik Pohl was in there somewhere. Want to meet your favorite science fiction author at the local convention? Pohl was one of the people who started the whole convention thing in the first place. Want to talk about James Blish? Heinlein? Asimov? Clement, Leiber? Ellison? Editor and or agent to all at one time or another (plus a bunch of others).
I read his blog for its entire lifespan because it was a history lesson for a genre I have always loved (and sometimes hated). When I got back into science fiction several years back after a long hiatus to read some literature, Pohl was what I started in with.
RIP, Mr. Pohl, God bless you, and thanks.