Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Farewell to Jack Vance

I never knew him —— although after our one or two phone conversations I began to feel as though I did, at least a little: and at this moment I can hear his voice in my ear, genial and gentle and unassuming. As has happened for me with other souls who identify themselves as political conservatives we made our links to one another via the arts —— plural —— one being science fiction, another being music. Or maybe I should say we made a link to one another through memory: his memory, personal and direct; mine, impersonal and research-based and indirect. We cared enough about the same things that our exchanges came easily.

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.

Cheers ...

No comments:

Post a Comment