I just read "Funnyfingers." What a haunting, beautiful, sad story. Oread Funnyfingers, a child Dactyli--one of the demigods who live under the mountains and create things in Iron for God or for anyone who asks in the right way (just might be God in disguise, after all)--appears to be a young, precocious child; and indeed she is. For the Dactyli apparently live a very long time, and age very, very slowly. She and a young Syrian, Selim Elia, fall in love. Really there's not much more to the story than that. I won't talk about the ending for anyone who hasn't read it yet. It's not really a twist or surprise ending, it's just something that should be read in Lafferty's prose, not gleaned from a blogger's post about the story.
As I said, the story is haunting, sad, and beautiful. I haven't seen much romance in Lafferty's stories, but this one fits the bill beautifully. In keeping the prose and the events simple, he is able to create a story of tremendous emotional power. In these qualities, off the top of my head, I can only bring to mind "Ride a Tin Can" for similar power.
It is not unlike Lafferty to make up a mythology on the spot for a story, but it is also very like him to use well researched historical mythology as a backbone for a tale. I had never heard of the Dactyli before, but a quick web search for Kelmis, Acmon, and Damnameneus yielded a number of sources about them, including a very thorough recounting of their history in Bell's New Pantheon Or Historical Dictionary of the Gods, Demi Gods, Heroes and Fabulous Personages of Antiquity by John Bell, (c) 1790.
Among the main characters is Selim Elia, who at one point becomes the night watchman at the City Museum. We see him again at the same job as a friend of Freddy Foley in Fourth Mansions. I wonder if the events in Fourth Mansions happened during the time of the narrative in "Funnyfingers"--Freddy really could have used a little help form Kelmis, Acmon and Damnae.
Glad to see the blog! We are approaching critical mass, I think, and soon will see an explosion of Laffertianism.ReplyDelete
Anyway, you're right about this story, it's devastating. And also right that he didn't work in this mode directly all that often (though there's always an undercurrent of haunting and sadness even in the most comic and carnivalesque of his stories), but when he does it's top notch. The pinnacle, I think, is "Continued on Next Rock," but it happens as well in other stories, and especially in the multi-novel sets, where there's more room for emotional variation. It's a big part of the effect of In a Green Tree, and the Coscuin books, and of course Okla Hannali.
"Funnyfingers" had a greater immediate emotional impact on me than did "Continued on Next Rock," and I'm trying to figure out why. I think in "Continued on Next Rock" the ending was telegraphed from early into the story, and the characters Magdalen Mobley and Anteros Manypenny were presented more as archetypes than as developed individuals (a very common occurrence in Lafferty's work). Therefore, the heartbreak suffered by Oread and Selim in "Funnyfingers" seemed more immediate and on a more human level than the timeless heartbreak and destruction at the end of "Continued on Next Rock."ReplyDelete
At least that's my immediate reaction.
Where else does he deal with love and heartbreak in immediate terms like this?
Well, there's the novels I mentioned—plus maybe above all else the devastation in Archipelago, and of the world-rending loss for Finnegan of Show Boat Piccone and their years together that cannot ever have been. But there's also stories where that feeling of heartbreak is transmuted into a different register: "The Ultimate Creature" or "The Weirdest World" or even "The Doggone Highly Scientific Door."ReplyDelete