From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes"
Subject: Re: (urth) Re Other Authors Date: Thu, 17 Apr 2003 10:33:46 -0700 Allan Lloyd writes ... in part ... >Michael Moorcock (in serious non-Elric mode) [...] >And Mike Moorcock. Just read "King of the City" or "Mother London" to learn >all there is to know about London since the war. Or "The >Dancers at the End Of Time" stories for light-hearted fantasy. His >Colonel Pyat sequence, due to be completed this year, is the story >of this century as told by a mendacious, cowardly, self-glorifying >Russian, cheating his way through the Russian revolution, the silent >movie era, the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, ending up as a >second-hand clothes dealer in London. And "Gloriana" is an alternate >version of Elizabethan England. Now, I haven't read all these. (I suspect that even Moorcock hasn't read everything Moorcock has written.) But I think that some of the examples you cite, and some other examples, combine to suggest that "serious, non-Elric mode" is kind of a misnomer. Moorcock has occasionally spoken as if he wrote two distinct sorts of novels -- cheap adventure novels and "comedies" -- but in fact he writes a spectrum of work that pretty much dismantles that opposition. The Elric cycle is actually fairly far fromt he "cheap" end of the spectrum; that distinction would fall to the pseudonymous, pseudo-ERB "Martian" novels he wrote in, I think, the '60s. And in between that and Elric is all the other swords'n'sorcery stuff, the Corums and Hawkmoons and all that, and a couple of cheapjack SF novels from the same period, more or less. But when you edge up from Elric you get to things like the Jerry Cornelius books ... now, what is one to do with these? At one level they seem to belong with the "comedies," and are indeed explicitly tied to the Colonel Pyat stories in that Pyat originated in the Cornelius books; at another, they are equally tied to the "Eternal Champion" swords'n'sorcery books; the Cornelus and Elric stories are full of references to each other, and the first Cornelius novel is an explicit rewrite of an Elric story. And, of course, the "Dancers at the End of Time" encounter Elric, and their hero is an incarnation of Corum/Cornelius/the Champion. There may be a few -- a very few as far as I can tell -- Moorcock novels that manage to completely avoid being tied up into his massively recursive bundle of literature and paraliterature, but I can't think of any off hand. He's even tied Jesus Christ ("Behold the Man") and E. Nesbitt's Bastable family ("Warlord of the Air," et seq.) into it all; one suspects that he is involved in the production of a mega-meta-text intended to include by implication all of literature, history, and reality. I'm not sure I would recommend Moorcock, or even his more "literary" work, generically to Wolfe. For one thing, even at his best, Moorcock doesn't have a sense of language to compare with Wolfe's. His style ranges from "serviceable hack" to "serviceable lit'ry," always clean and appropriate, but never really gathers the escape velocity to create a language of his own: something Wolfe pretty much does all over again every time he starts a new major project. (By the way, this could be one of the problems with many of Wolfe's short stories; the language simply doesn't have enough runway to take off. Very few writers who depend on the power of a unique _langue_ to the extent Wolfe does are masters of the short story -- the only ones I can think of offhand are Cheever and Sturgeon. Of cource, neither of them reinvents his style for every story! Still, I disagree with those who seem to think Wolfe's a failure as a short story writer. Offhand I'd mention -- alphabetically -- "A Cabin on the Coast"; "The Cat"; "The Detective of Dreams" [or is that a novelette? If so it's a short one]; "How the Whip Came Back"; "La Befana"; "The Map"; "Suzanne Delage"; "The War Beneath the Tree"; "Westwind"; "When I Was Ming the Merciless"; and "The Woman Who Loved the Centaur Pholus" as, shall we say, not utter failures... 8*) ) The other thing is that there is, for me, a kind of hollowness at the heart even of Moorcock's finest work. I think it's a moral vacuity, a failure of his work to really engage the world in any honest way. One thing I look for in fiction, and which Wolfe provides in abundance, is a sense that the problems it wrestles with are problems relevant to the world that is the case, while the problems in Moorcock's fiction seem to be relevant only to Moorcock's imagined worlds -- a problem he shares with, for example, some of Heinlein's lesser work. I can perhaps best express what I'm talking about by giving a fairly extreme example: Moorcock has written at least two novels about women whose problems are all solved when they get raped, including the highly-praised GLORIANA; OR, THE UNFULFIL'D QUEEN. Well: _caveat lector_. It hasn't bothered me enough to keep me from reading a few dozen of Moorcock's books, all up and down his range; my point is only that I wouldn't consider Moorcock a likely syntagmic candidate for the "If you like Wolfe you may also like X" paradigm. --Blattid _________________________________________________________________ Add photos to your e-mail with MSN 8. 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