Mad Man: The Collected Short Fiction Volume Seven by R.A. Lafferty
Hardcover – Centipede Press – May 2023 – 392 pages
In a career that began in 1959 and continued until his death in 2002, R.A. Lafferty garnered the admiration of authors and editors including Robert A.W. Lowndes, Harlan Ellison, A.A. Attanasio, Gene Wolfe, Michael Swanwick and many, many others. His body of short fiction is comprised of well over 200 stories and, despite his vast popularity, there was never a concerted effort made to produce a comprehensive collection of his short fiction, until now.
Come one, come all! Step foot inside the scintillating world of R.A. Lafferty, the unparalleled jester and satirist for all that’s ponderous and preposterous. Known for his eccentric brand of tall tales, Lafferty is one of the few who’s brave enough to make sense of the nonsensical, even at the cost of his equilibrium as well as our own.
As an authorial chameleon, Lafferty commands the role with poise, tact, and quizzical inventiveness. Go ahead and decipher “Posterior Analytics.” An economics term, you ask? No! It’s Lafferty’s clever poke at the so-called experts who can’t dig themselves out of trouble even with all the answers at their cortical tips. “In the Turpentine Trees” calls to mind the slow-drip ooze of resin from pine trunks. However, it’s his way of defining the deity in the clouds, billions of years in the making, or simply chosen by default. And “Junkyard Thoughts” is much more than what’s on top of mind in a waste lot. Marvel at Drumhead Joe, a lawman hot on the trail of a murderer, searching in all the right places, and in all the right personalities.
With a world gone completely mad, how could one not know? But did you know: Lafferty is slightly ahead of that curve? Check out “Mad Man” and observe as George Gnevni flips the switch from the mad maniac to sane lap dog only to lose his good standing. His replacement is always on standby. Gang warfare takes to the heavens in “And All the Skies are Full of Fish,” where local kids show off their kinetic powers to a goading public. Just a typical day in the life of a Lafferty resident.
Remove the rose-colored glasses and glimpse the world through Lafferty’s eyes. “All the Pieces of a River Shore” will have you seeing Dali. Not in dripping clocks but in roaming waterways that are too realistic to comprehend or even handle. In “Dorg” you may ask which comes first: cause or effect? Even with a prophetic but spooked cartoonist it doesn’t matter. Not when the world begs him for more. And “One-Eyed Mocking-Bird” shows that too much knowledge is ripe for paradox but it’s also perfect to stake a movement and its figurehead.
Featuring an insightful introduction by Scott Bradfield and a revealing interview with Lafferty lead by Ron Wolfe, this Centipede Press edition is yet another example of Lafferty’s resounding influence. Falling under his spell is just a part of the game. You may lose your balance, but you’ll both come out winners.