On January 6, 2009, Jack told me, "I'm blind. My eyes went out fifteen years ago. I've acclimated myself to the situation. It seems almost normal." His contact with literary culture continued —— for he had a "reader" —— I assume an automatic device: "I've got a reader that reads cassettes to me from the Library of Congress." At the time, poetry occupied a fair share of his time, for in his queue he had the Oxford Book of English Verse and Oxford Book of Children's Verse. Should my eyes dim while my ears remain a-quiver, I could ask for no better companions for quiet afternoon or evening hours.
I doubt he could have done in prose what he did, without the influence of traditional poetry.
At the time of our conversation I jotted down those titles without too much thought.
Where does Vance stand in science fiction? I wish I knew better. He was doing a great deal of writing and publishing in years when I read relatively little in the genre. His earlier books, insofar as I know them, include distinctive, idiosyncratic and complex works that I have enjoyed and respected and look forward to revisiting. What emerges most powerfully from them, in memory, is the Vanceian color —- the strangeness, the posed artificiality that inhabits and infects his characters and situations, tingeing them with an impalpable edginess that threatens to blur into discomfort but often leaves an aftertaste of pleasure.