03 December 2004

Lord Dunsany yeah yeah yeah, but how about Jack Vance, a true American Original?

I sent the following letter to the editor of The New Yorker. Matt Hughes suggests that if they were to hear from a few more dedicated Vanceans, they might conceivably actually think about the idea seriously. Apologies to any fans of Dunsany; sorry, I just can't abide his ponderous style. Matt also pointed out that JV might consider a "retrospective" a bit premature; but it needn't be the final word, after all.

I read Laura Miller's thoughtful piece (Dec. 6) on Lord Dunsany with interest, although I've never been able to understand what anyone saw in his writing. In reading Ms. Miller's piece, I wondered if any consideration has ever been given to doing a retrospective piece on Jack Vance. Vance just published what may [or may not!] be his last novel, Lurulu, at age 88. He's lived and worked in Oakland, California for sixty years, publishing a distinguished series of works of "fantasy" and "space fantasy" (as opposed to science fiction, which he dismisses as "gadget stories"). All have a piquant humor all too rare in these genres.

He is substantially more popular in England and Europe than he is in the United States, where most of his work is out of print. Still, he has a coterie of intensely loyal fans, on both sides of the Atlantic. To my taste, he is the only long-established writer of this kind of material who has ever really achieved over a long career an authorial voice, a real command of character, or the ability, plainly put, to be really interesting.

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