Parkiana for October 2009
I. My J.G. Ballard appreciation, in the form of an abecedary, is in this weekend's Los Angeles Times. Alas, we couldn't fit the entries for letters F, M, S, and W, so I include them here—that's right, this is a DISAMBIGUATION EXCLUSIVE™! (This whole setup reminds me of the end of Mark Leyner's Et Tu, Babe, where the abecedary is revealed to be incomplete because "On September 24, 1994, federal operatives, acting under the authority of the Punitive Confiscation Act, sized Chapter Five manuscript entries for the letters B, E, H, J, K, L, N, O, P, Q, R, U, and X.") Many thanks to my editors for letting me write the piece in this form in the first place!
Flight enabled and denied haunts these pages. In “The Air Disaster,” the “world’s largest airliner,” holding a thousand passengers, crashes near Acapulco, and though people think it landed in the sea, one intrepid journalist, acting on a hunch, heads to a remote mountain village instead. But his hunger for a scoop colors his judgment, and he finds himself in a hell of grotesque misunderstanding.
Some story titles: “The Overloaded Man” (1961), “The Subliminal Man” (1963), “The Illuminated Man” (1964), “The Impossible Man” (1966).
Places where most of these stories appeared: Science Fantasy, New Worlds, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, Fantastic Stories, Worlds of If, Argosy, Anticipations, Dangerous Visions.
Poetry journal edited by Paul Ransom, narrator of “Studio 5, The Stars,” featuring products of the VT. (See Vermilion Sands.)
II. I wrote a brief appreciation of Renata Adler's Speedboat for a cool little book called City Secrets Books: The Essential Insider's Guide (Fang Duff Kahn), a gathering of similar appreciations of interesting (and mostly obscure) titles. How obscure? Thornton Wilder's...The Cabala. Patricia Highsmith's...Edith's Diary. Jonathan Franzen's..."Erika's Imports." E.B. White's...The Fox of Peapack and Other Poems. Plus stuff I have somewhere but have never read (Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept...no, not that Elizabeth Smart), stuff by writers whose other stuff I like (Robert Kelly's The Flowers of Unceasing Coincidence—"The shape of the whole thing...is that of a rhizome, i.e. a non-hierarchical space, a burrow where you, the can go to earth for as long as little as you like"), stuff that I've mentioned on this blog within the past couple of weeks (Chuck Wachtel's Joe the Engineer), stuff I truly have never heard of, authorwise and titlewise (Otto Lilienthal's 1889 book Birdflight as the Basis of Aviation, anyone? Giovanni Paolo Marana's 1683 Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy?), and enough of my all-time favorites (William Boyd's Any Human Heart, Powell's Dance of course, Todd McEwen's Who Sleeps With Katz [!!?!?!], Jonathan Coe's The Winshaw Legacy, Rachel Ingalls's Mrs. Caliban, Nigel Dennis's Cards of Identity) to make me believe that this gathering has some basis in reality. And where else can you read writers like John Crowley on Paul Park (no relation!), Carole Maso on The Pillow Book, Gary Shetyngart on Mordecai Richler? Wait...Buck Henry on Stanislaw Lem's The Futurological Congress?? Is this book for real?