Monday, April 22, 2013

Iron Tears

I recently acquired just about the last R.A. Lafferty short story collection that I hadn't read till now, Iron Dreams.  I had a bit of trepidation starting it -- would it be up to the standard that I remember Lafferty setting in 900 Grandmothers?  Was he ever that good?

Fortunately, Iron Dreams shows that he was indeed that good.  Not that every story is a masterpiece; it's a decidedly odd-lot collection, containing the second story he ever wrote (unpublished till now) and also late-career stories from 1992 or thereabouts.  But at their best, these stories are whimsical and deep, funny and serious, and with a voice unique in fiction.  But what I found that I wasn't expecting was also a real wistfulness that I don't usually associate with Lafferty.

The title story is a great example; it's the story of an oread, though in the usual Lafferty fashion we're never actually told that that's what she is.  The actual story is hard to describe, as it always is with late Lafferty.  But there's an undercurrent of sadness in the way that she can never form an adult attachment.  The same current of wistfulness is more obvious in the first story, "You Can't Go Back Again."  It's the story of five kids who go to visit a small moon floating just about a canyon in Tulsa.  Later, as adults, they go back to find that it's just not as marvellous as it was when they were young.  Of course, it's also a commentary in how adults see the world, because as adults they're not impressed with the fact that they're visiting a moon; they can only look back and see that it's not as impressive as they'd thought as kids.  (And the moon-yetis are somehow smaller than they seemed back then too).

Overall, the collection has plenty of good works in it, and I'm glad to have finally have had the chance to read it.  It's a good showcase for his ability to make stories strange through his unique narrative voice.

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