Monday, May 19, 2014

The Man Who Made Models 4: Square and Above Board

"Square and Above Board" is a fun story. It is a story about betrayal, greed, double crossing, and the question of weather the good guy can win in the end, or if he is doomed to lose to those more conniving--all of this mixed with Irish folk magic and some down-home, mid-western millionaires.

It is the story of two men, Midas Muldoon and Christopher Kearny who are vying over the affections of one woman, Bridie Caislean. One signature element of Lafferty style is in the introductions of the two main characters. He introduces them by describing their names, their inner and outer characters, and the games of strategy they excel at. Watch closely while reading these introductions. Every (carefully chosen) word foreshadows the final double-cross and denouement of the story.

The story has some typical Lafferty fun with names:
"Midas Muldoon had been given his curious name by his father Croesus Muldoon, a confidence man who always swore that he would finally live and die in a great stone castle. And he did die in a great stone castle of sorts, one on the outskirts of McAlester, Oklahoma."
However, in this case he is a little more explanatory than I am used to. I imagine this was an earlier story of his, because he qualifies and explains his statements, while in the stories contained in collections like Nine Hundred Grandmothers, Strange Doings, and Ringing Changes, he lists off his wildly appropriate names without preamble or postscript.

In fact, "Square and Above Board" didn't really grab me on first reading. Typical of Lafferty, it was better the second time through, but it still felt to me that after the careful set up in the first four pages, the rush to the conclusion was forced and hurried. The events all fall into place as they must from the foreshadowing in the beginning, but they seem too convenient, and not really enough of a struggle. Lafferty concludes the story in a fairly standard plot-arc--itself unusual for his oeuvre, but provides almost an outline of the plot only. I found myself wishing for more outrageousness and less explanation--less plot, even.

The castle on the outskirts of McAlester, OK - known as The Oklahoma State Prison

1 comment:

  1. "Square and Above Board" was written, or at least finished, on March 13, 1981. That was a tough year for Lafferty, after almost a decade of very steady productivity. Actually in the middle of writing about it now...