Monday, July 24, 2006

Find Arctor heart

Paolo Collins's beautifully illustrated Keeler piece was easy enough to find at Barnes & Noble—it's a good overview of Keeler's particular talent, heyday and downward career arc, and recent rediscovery. (The magazine is gorgeous, and it has a bunch of other fun articles that promise to be fun reads.) There were a couple places where I had to blur my eyes, as Paul provided a précis of Keelers I hadn't read yet (The Green Jade Hand and, oddly, The Spectacles of Mr. Cagliostro, which is on the shelf), but my gut tells me these parts were most likely up to snuff!

One Keeler book that I need to reread is The Portrait of Jirjohn Cobb (1940), a/k/a Find Actor Hart. Paul makes the hilarious comparison to Lou Reed's notorious Metal Machine Music; even Richard Polt, eminent Keelerologist and connoisseur of the outré, has called it "one of the most astoundingly unreadable novels ever written." But I've always had a soft spot for this one (which kicks off a rather mind-bending trilogy but is perfectly enjoyable on its own). The cover image perhaps gives away too much (consider the next parenthetical a spoiler), but for me the book's central dramatic sequence works as a metaphor for Keeler's writing and its rewards—viz., if one is a little patient with Keeler's "bad" art, it will give up its secret, myriad pleasures. (If you really want to know what happens, it's roughly this: Part of a millionaire's will requests that his ungrateful children look at one of his terrible paintings, by the light of a candle; the first couple of potential bequeathees storm out of the room, but the one who perseveres—call him the Cordelia of the group—is rewarded when enough wax melts off the candlestick to reveal a cylinder with further privileged information. Ingenious!)

Another invaluable component to the Collins piece is FB&C editor Scott Brown's brief interview with Sally Sylvan, a relation of Keeler's second wife, Thelma. To my knowledge, Sylvan is someone no Keelerite has known about—it's big news! There's also a Keeler checklist (online), which no doubt I'll be studying obsessively for the next 20 years.

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I don't think I ever read Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, but now I must. Return of the Reluctant points to a Times (U.K.) packagette, featuring Stephen King's brief appreciation, a potent excerpt, and the intriguing info that IAL is part of Gollancz's new series of the "10 greatest science fiction books of all time," which will also include:

The Dispossessed, by Ursula le Guin; The Stars my Destination, Alfred Bester; Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes; The Forever War, Joe Haldeman; Cities in Flight, James Blish; Ubik, Philip K. Dick; Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny; Gateway, Frederik Pohl; The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut.

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One gem in the diadem that is Hoberman's review of A Scanner Darkly, speaking of the Keanu Reeves character: Dick's idea of a tragic modernist paradigm, Arctor is the character who suffers most acutely the loss of identity. (His name, realistically enough, sounds like "actor" on quaaludes.)


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