Thursday, January 31, 2008

props: bill hader on lafferty

In today's post on Paper Cuts, the New York Times' blog on books, Dave Itzkoff offers up a list of recommended books from none other than SNL's own Bill Hader.

To my great satisfaction, first on the list of his recommendations is the compilation Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R.A. Lafferty.

It all goes back to Neil Gaiman. In the foreword to “Fragile Things,” he wrote that his short story “Sunbird” was his way of trying to write his own R.A. Lafferty story. So I found “Nine Hundred Grandmothers,” and it’s like nothing I’ve ever read before. It’s very blue-collar science fiction – all the familiar tropes of people going to outer space and to other planets. It’s hilarious, incredibly funny and at the same time it’s insanely dark. You get the feeling like it’s a guy just writing to amuse himself: “I don’t care if any of this makes sense, but I want to see weird stuff happen.” One of his stories starts off, “He began by breaking things that morning.” There’s a short story called “Ginny Wrapped in the Sun,” and it’s just about this little girl who’s super strong, running around, picking things up. You get such a sense of joy and boundless imagination in every sentence – even if the story doesn’t totally cohere, you feel like it’s about something. It’s so incredibly Tulsa. You get that feeling when you see a Flaming Lips show. It’s not like we’re dark and hurt and twisted. It’s like, “I’ve got blood on my face – come on, y’all, this is awesome.”

Through the magic of the intrawebs and the gracious permission of the Virginia Kidd Agency, you can read the short story that gives this collection its name here.

Ann Cecil's review of Nine Hundred Grandmothers is more in-depth than Hader's shout out, but I like Mr. Hader's brief review for its ability to distill what makes Lafferty so remarkable.

Here's a quick synopsis that captures Ray's style; do a quick search on R.A. Lafferty and you'll find a lot of sites like this.

I'm also a big fan of Don Webb's article, R. A. Lafferty: Effective Arcanum, because it deconstructs some of the techniques Ray used as a writer. It's appearance in SF Eye was a turning point for me as a reader - and writer - of fiction, and I encourage you to read it too.

1 comment:

Hiram C said...

Bill Hader is a huge sci-fi buff so these selections should be great. I am a huge fan of Bill Hader and run a fan site on him, check it out:

Bill Hader Online
http://billhaderonline.com

Good post! I'm always in support of any blog that mentions Bill Hader! :)