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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.


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