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PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:04 am 
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Kimfair wrote:

Dropped the ball on Friday, but lets go with this one this week. The 20 page other one is bit long for what I had in mind for short works of fiction.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2016 5:56 am 
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So I guess since I volunteered the story, I'll start. This is one of my favorite short stories from one of the masters of the form, Harlan Ellison. I have a great CD of Ellison reading this story, and hearing it aloud really does impact how you take in the story, and what it's saying.

Along with Repent Harlequin, Said The Ticktock Man, this story illustrates Ellison's obsession with time, and how he is often (always), late. Late for readings, late turning in books and stories, late for everything.

I like the idea of one person, making sure that this final hour of man's existence must be reserved for mankind itself to exist. The "why can't we all get along racial component seems a bit shoehorned in, but I think he made that choice to illustrate Eddie's acceptance of the old man, even though they came from different eras and different social circles.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2016 11:29 am 
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12 days, and nothing but crickets. I guess I didn't pick well.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2016 11:31 am 
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Slipped my mind and I didn't read it. Will do later today.

In my defense, today was my last day of work for the summer, so I've been busy.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2016 11:38 am 
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Being a 20 page, 9000+ word, story, it would take 30 - 60 minutes to read, maybe, which I do not usually have, or at least think I have at the time.

I was thinking more 15 minute stories, that type of thing.

I will eventually get to reading it.


If you want to start up again and pick a shorter piece, that may work out better.

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-These are the demands and sayings of Ericubus.

In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be "replaced" by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten. - George Lucas 1988


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2016 2:35 pm 
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I meant to read it also but life drama got in the way. I'll try to read it this week since I'm now a bachelor until July 9.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2016 2:46 pm 
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I think we should stick to Paladin, as it's a great story. I can also recommend this story, which is shorter. An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce

http://compositionawebb.pbworks.com/f/owl.pdf

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2016 7:37 am 
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So, the Ellison.

Used to like Harlan Ellison's stuff a lot, and I'm not one to cross a person's creative accomplishments with his personal life. The OB&C does that, and won't go to Woody Allen or Roman Polanski movies because of what they've done in real life. But they make good movies, and it doesn't matter to me whether a good movie was made by a sack of shit.

But the more I heard about what a smug, superior asshole Harlan Ellison was in real life, the more I started to feel like I could read that smugness in his writing. He's got great ideas, really thought-provoking and strange, but his prose seems self-congratulatory. Most of the people who brag about not suffering fools gladly (and if Ellison's never said that, I'd be shocked), it seems to me, tend to be fools themselves on one level or another. I think I like his teleplays better, where his ideas are there but not his narration.

That said, there's a short story by him called "Jeffty is Five" that I like. My complaints are still there, but for some reason they bother me less, and (as always) the idea he's illustrating is fascinating.

As for this one, as might be expected, I like the idea. The concept of "breaking off," so to speak, the hour in which the world ends and saving it, unused, is clever. I also like the contrast of that high, noble purpose and the everyday men we see as the story's two "paladins." It's sort of a cliché to reveal that some random homeless guy has this world-shaking purpose, but clichés become so because we like them and they get repeated, and this homeless guy isn't really the stereotypical sort. It works for me.

But are they everyday guys? The story doesn't really seem to think so. They quickly develop an affinity, and partly it seems to be based on a fundamental decency that, from the story's point of view, is not common. The only other characters who appear alive are two punks that plan to rob and assault Gaspar for no reason, and who we're supposed to see as sub-human and celebrate when Billy surprises and beats them. The story seems to suggest that the two thugs are much more the common state of man than Gaspar and Billy are, and that's some of what I mean by Ellison's smugness. (And what are we to make of the near-quote from Macbeth in that scene, which has nothing to do what I was talking about except appearing in the midst of it: "Who would have thought the old man to have had so much battle in him?" It jumped out at me when I read it, probably just because I taught Macbeth twice this year, but I can't figure why Ellison would have put it in. Seems too close to be accidental, though--just one word different, battle in place of blood.)

I agree with Kimfair that the racial thing seems really on the nose. It's said straight out, then referenced again only once more in dialogue, and it seems very glaring and out of place. Could be it'd have read differently in the mid-80s, though. Whether or not, in 2016 it feels clumsy.

But there are little touches, on the other hand, that are very nice. In that way Ellison reminds me of Stephen King, another writer who can be pigeon-holed as a genre writer and who is often clumsy, but who sometimes hits it out of the park with a character whose voice feels very genuine (an example I've probably given before is "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut," a short story in Skeleton Crew that you can read here. The way Gaspar says little old-fashioned things like "May I remember you to my old girl, Billy?" works, for me. Lots of times writers have all their characters speaking the same way, but Gaspar, at least, feels individualized (which I suppose means Billy is too, since there are only the two characters).

I'm not sure the comparison between this and "Repent, Harlequin..." on the subject of time really works, though. The point of that story is that our obsession with punctuality is ridiculous, even evil (and the end, where the Ticktockman is late, suggests it's unsustainable, too). Here, the obsession with time is entirely justified; that hour must not be used. Time is a focus for each story, but they don't at all agree with each other.

Now, we can keep talking about this one, certainly. Maybe you guys don't agree with stuff I've said. And it may be weeks before we talk about something else, but if you want something shorter than the Fitzgerald story I suggested (though I'd recommend it highly), how about "The Library of Babel" by Jorge Luis Borges? Seven pages, but it should give us something to talk about. Borges usually throws enough ideas at you in a page or two to chew on for quite a while.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2016 8:37 am 
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It's funny, Eric that you mentioned Jefty Is Five, as it was a toss up between that story and Paladin for me when I suggested it. You're absolutely right, Ellison IS an asshole, and it's why I balked when I had a chance to meet him a number of years ago. I didn't want to hate his writing if he treated me like shit (which he sort of did to a friend of mine, who did go meet him). Ellison certainly does not suffer fools gladly, and he'd be the first to tell you that, though I agree with you that anyone who is so adamant about something like that is somewhat of a fool in their own right.

I wasn't trying to compare this story and Repent... in terms of time, because you are correct in the differences between the two, but more of them both concerning time, and Ellison certainly has an issue with that (more so in the manner of Repent... than this story). Hell, the CD I have of him reading this was originally supposed to be an LP, but it took him so long to write the fucking liner notes for the album, that by the time he did, the warehouse that the records were sitting in was torn down, and all the albums destroyed with it!

I hadn't really thought of the angle of these two having some basic decency in common that doesn't appear common in the story, but perhaps that's just because the only other characters we meet in the story are unrelenting dirt bags.

I recommend the documentary on Ellison, called Dreams With Sharp Teeth, for a first hand look at what a jerk he really can be.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 28, 2016 9:54 am 
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Haven't seen it, but he's a litigious asshole who seems to think that because he adopts and uses a cliché, it becomes his. Or at least that he can get paid by adopting that position.

That said, he's done nice work on occasion.

Kimfair wrote:
I hadn't really thought of the angle of these two having some basic decency in common that doesn't appear common in the story, but perhaps that's just because the only other characters we meet in the story are unrelenting dirt bags.


It's possible I'm reading too much into it. As you say, there really aren't that many other characters for us to compare, and certainly Gaspar's wife and the guy who saved Billy's wife seem to have been decent. But these are our main characters and singled out, and while the story definitely takes the position that there's good in the world worth preserving (especially when Gaspar is listing the things that will end if the hour's used), it doesn't seem to me to suggest that those good things, at least in human nature, tend to predominate.


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