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Date: Fri, 20 Dec 2002 17:51:02 -0600
From: James Jordan 
Subject: Re: (urth) Jack Vance or There are Doors?

At 05:29 PM 12/20/2002, Dave R. wrote:

>I think you might as well read the Dying Earth stories, since they're a
>quick, easy read.  Contrary to some other views on the list, I think Vance
>is a good but definitely not great author.  I do think he should get some
>credit for writing such an entertaining set of stories where the main
>character in most of them (Cugel) is a completely unlikeable bastard ;)

         The Cugel stories are in the tradition of "picaresque tales" 
(tales about rascals) and we've seen very few in recent times, though they 
were common in Spain in the 16th c. You're supposed to both like and 
disdain Cugel, and that's the strength of a picaresque tale, which exposes 
the attractiveness of wicked behavior and makes us feel the humanity of 
even wicked people, all the while entertaining us humorously and indirectly 
showing us that wickedness is .. well .. wicked. It's a kind of realistic + 
humorous moral tale that is hard to pull off, and Vance does it brilliantly.
         Whether on thinks Vance is "great" or not, the Cugel tales are 
deft and exquisite exemplars of a neglected genre of Western literature.



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