Archive for Roger Zelazny

Page Seventeen IV: Fast & Furious

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2022 by dcairns

The management of dialogue is important. There is a certain skill in making speech lifelike without it being a mere transcription from a tape recorder. Such a transcription never reads like fictional speech, which is artful and more economical than it appears. One could forgive Denis Wheatley, who wrote well-researched novels of the occult, a good deal if only his characters sounded like people. There is too much, in the novels of Arthur Haley and Irving Wallace, of the pouring out of information cribbed directly from an encyclopedia as a substitute for real speech. The better novelists write with their ears.

“Yes, Bella is a capital girl, and one can’t help loving her. I know you’ll get on, for, really, she is the most delightful little dunce. My mother’s ill health and Bella’s devotion to her have prevented our attending to her education before. Next winter, when we go to town, she is to come out, and we must be prepared for that great event, you know,” he said, choosing a safe subject.

‘No. It is murder only when the victim is killed. When the victim is not killed, it may be attempted murder, assault occasioning grievous bodily harm, any one of a number of officially listed crimes.’

“Yes, but don’t give yourself any trouble about it. Cold anything-you’ve-got.”

A whispered question from behind me–“Do you see me, red?”–and I turned, but there was no one there, though my ears still range from the boxing they had taken. I decided then that it was a bad day and I took to the roof for some thinking. A traffic-copter buzzed me later, and I was queried as to suicidal intentions. I told the cop that I was re-fribbing shingles, though, and that seemed to satisfy him.

When the detectives took over, they found they had a prisoner but that was about all. Bashor was mild enough, but he was too conwise to talk, or at least to tell the truth. Just tell enough, but not too much, and make it sound like there isn’t any more.

The critic Hugh Kenner writes about a moment in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man when Uncle Charles ‘repairs’ to the outhouse. ‘Repairs’ is a pompous word which belongs to outmoded poetic convention. Ir is ‘bad’ writing. Joyce, with his acute eye for cliche, would only use such a word knowingly. It must be, says Kenner, Uncle Charles’s word, the word he would use about himself in his fond fantasy about his own importance (‘and so I repair to the outhouse’). Kenner names this the Uncle Charles Principle. Mystifyingly, he calls this ‘something new in fiction’. Yet we know it isn’t. The Uncle Charles Principle is just an edition of free indirect style. Joyce is a master of it. ‘The Dead’ begins like this: ‘Lily, the caretaker’s daughter, was literally run off her feet.’ But no one is literally run off her feet. What we hear is Lily saying to herself or to a friend (with great emphasis on precisely the most inaccurate word, and with a strong accent): ‘Oi was lit-er-rully ron off my feet!’

Seven passages, as usual, from seven page seventeens from seven books I vaguely intend to read. Wood’s book on the craft of fiction is excellent, I did finish that one, and I’m currently re-reading the Zelazny, which is a fun romp, nicely written (except the Star Trek: TNG type dialogue, future man having lost the ability to use contractions), but weirdly male-centric. All the professionals are men and the only woman is a near-mute wife. I don’t recall noticing this as a teenager, but it’s glaring now.

Ninety-Nine Novels by Anthony Burgess; Behind a Mask, or, A Woman’s Power by “A.M. Barnard” from Behind a Mask: The Unknown Thrillers by Louisa May Alcott; The Perfect Murder by H.R.F. Keating; The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne; Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny; The Badge by Jack Webb; How Fiction Works by James Wood

Page 17 IV: The Quest for Peace

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2022 by dcairns
The Bottle, 1930. The bottle drunk by Alice that causes her to shrink. From Lewis Carroll’s (1832-1898) ‘Alice in Wonderland’. After an illustration by John Tenniel (1820-1914) colour printed by Edward Evans (1826-1905). From the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ series of cigarette cards produced by Carreras Limited, 1930.

A number of questions had begun to form in my mind. I am a methodical, plodding soul, with a memory like a sieve. I took out a pencil and a scratch pad and began to write down the questions as they came into my mind.

“Honey, what will you have to drink? Say, have you ever done any hunting?”

And what do I get for winning?”

“Do you understand why Margaret was killed?”

“The person who was blackmailing me died?”

‘What a bunch of troublemakers,’ they say. And they keep on chatting: would you pass the butter, please? How much have our stocks risen today? What is the price of tomatoes? Have you heard that Princess Di is expecting again?

Of course, he was asking the questions, him and the dicks, but the trick is to answer them in such a way that the next question, or maybe one later on, tells you something you want to know, or at least gives you a hint. That takes practice, but I had had plenty, and it makes it simpler when one guy pecks away at you for an hour or so and then backs off, and another guy starts in and goes all over it again.

Seven passages, mostly questions, from seven page seventeens from seven books, mostly science fiction and crime, found in my bedroom.

Blackmailer by George Axelrod; The Making of the African Queen by Katharine Hepburn; Unicorn Variation by Roger Zelazny from Unicorn Variations; Miss Gentilbelle by Charles Beaumont from The Magic Man; The Long Habit of Winning by Joe Haldeman; Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder; The Sweet Corn Murder by Rex Stout, from The Best of Ellery Queen 2.

Page Seventeen IV: The Voyage Home

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2022 by dcairns

Incidents and fragments continued —

To gain some appreciation for Lovecraft’s sudden change in fortune, it is necessary to know that he was the only child in the great house on Angell Street, which, apart from the stabilizing authority of his grandfather and the occasional presence of his great uncle Edward Everett Philips (1864-1918), who got married when Lovecraft was just three years old, was a house of women. In addition to his son, Whipple had sired three daughters who lived to adulthood (a fourth died in childhood), and as yet, only Susie had found–and lost–a husband. The full weight of the smothering maternal attentions of his mother, his grandmother, and his two still-unwed aunts, to say nothing of the maids, descended around young Lovecraft like a storm of scented rose petals.

In the short term, Lovecraft’s upbringing fell to his mother, his aunts Lillian and Annie (now married to the journalist Edward F. Gamwell) and especially to his grandfather Whipple Phillips, a successful businessman who was involved in a number of different enterprises. These ranged from real estate speculation (he virtually established the small town of Greene, in western Rhode Island) to manufacturing to land development in the far west. It was he who had caused the large and lavishly furnished house at 454 Angell Street to be built on 1880-81, with space for five live-in servants. The house and grounds became a spacious area for the expansion of the boy’s imagination and intellect. The house was then at the very edge of the developed part of the city, making Lovecraft feel simultaneously a part of the urban and the rural milieu. Whipple, for his part, showed the boy objects from ancient Rome that he had brought back from his travels abroad, and he also told the boy extemporaneous weird tales, their imagery chiefly derived from the old Gothic novels.

The description Whipple had given of her had been biased. She wasn’t skinny. She was small, a couple of inches shorter than Lily, who came up to my nose, with smooth fair skin, brown hair and eyes, and hardly any lipstick on her wide full mouth. Her handshake was firm and friendly without overdoing it. Lily told me afterward that her brown woollen dress was probably Bergdorf, two hundred bucks. She didn’t want a cocktail.

“I was wondering,” she said, “where a curlew puts his long beak when he goes to sleep.”

He awoke suddenly and completely, wondering why he had let himself drop off when he hadn’t meant to, and quickly looked at the luminous dial of his wrist watch. It gleamed brightly in the otherwise utter darkness and told him that the time was only a few minutes after eleven o’clock. He relaxed; he’d taken only a very brief cat nap. He’d gone to bed here, on this silly sofa, less than half an hour ago. If his wife really was going to come to him, it was too early. She’d have to wait until she was positive that his damned sister was asleep, and sound asleep.

They floated in the darkness for hours, listening to the “frightful sounds” of “ghastly cries, shrieks, yells, and moans,” that “gradually died away to nothing.”

Seven passages from seven page seventeens from seven books lying around in various stages of read and unreadness, three of them featuring men called Whipple.

Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny; The Dream World of H.P. Lovecraft: His Life, His Demons, His Universe by Donald Tyson; H.P. Lovecaft: A Short Biography by S.T. Joshi; A Right to Die by Rex Stout; The Well at World’s End by Neil M. Gunn; Nightmare in White, from Nightmares and Geezenstacks by Fredric Brown; the chapter on Saved from the Titanic from Lost Films: Important Movies That Disappeared by Frank Thompson.