1968 - LOVE AIN'T NOTHING BUT SEX MISSPELLED

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1968 - LOVE AIN'T NOTHING BUT SEX MISSPELLED

Postby Jan » Thu Jan 04, 2007 12:58 pm

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LOVE AIN'T NOTHING BUT SEX MISSPELLED

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Trident, Pyramid, ACE, Edgeworks Vol. 4

Harlan's 1968 collection on the subject of love, revised in 1976.

Here are sixteen poisoned arrows from fantasy's most improbable Cupid, on the subject of that damaged product called plastic romance. Harlan Ellison, whom Oui magazine called "the perpetually angry young punk of the bizarre," rips the Saran-Wrap off love and hate and sin and twittering passion--to disclose the raw meat beneath. A world of hearts and flowers, revised. -- Ace back cover blurb

Visit the seperate threads for
THE RESURGENCE OF MISS ANKLE-STRAP WEDGIE (1968)
VALERIE: A TRUE MEMOIR (1972)
ERNEST AND THE MACHINE GOD was discussed in the thread for Deathbird Stories.

Buy the latest print version. The e-book is available from E-Reads.

Langerhans page for the book with table of contents for all editions. For more information see David's post below.

This thread was originally about the introductory essay (HAVING AN AFFAIR WITH A TROLL), but it now functions as our thread for the whole book. Please note that there are four editions of LOVE that are not identical as some stories have been replaced, removed, or switched around. We have to use the later editions here to avoid overlaps.

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HAVING AN AFFAIR WITH A TROLL is the introductory essay of LOVE AIN'T NOTHING BUT SEX MISSPELLED (Ace edition), which would actually have been the more fitting title for it.

I saw the messages about [you know who]'s divorce and the reactions to it, so I thought it would be fitting to talk about love, sex and relationships and Harlan's book on the subject.

I don't know how many editions of LOVE there are, but the ACE edition (don't we all love the ACE editions) was quite different from the original one in that Harlan not only wrote a special introduction for it, but a large number of stories were replaced or omitted due to overlaps with other books. 3 stories were completely new. Did the original edition also open with an introduction?

The stories represented Harlan's explorations on the theme of the book - love and relationships, although not all of the stories one would expect to be in there, were included. For example, I thought, THE TIME OF THE EYE and THERE'S ONE ON EVERY CAMPUS were somehow significant. On the other hand, FINAL SHTICK (which was dropped for ACE) seems a bit superfluous, despite a woman's ever-so-brief appearance.

I would suppose that although Harlan was only three divorces into his four ones at the time (1982), he would not change much about the essay today, because what happened since seems to have confirmed his opinions.

The basic advice is not to confuse sex with love and vice versa (it's not as obvious as it sounds), so the title of the book was ironic (says Harlan). This is indeed something to write down, and Harlan is right when he implies that there should be some kind of an education to help people deal with love and sex. People do make the same kinds of mistakes, especially young people, so why do kids learn about chemistry and physics, but not about love? It's such an important and life-altering thing that it is important to go about it the right way.

While Harlan admits that he's not a major expert on the subject (hardly anyone is), at least he does not shy away from the complexities and recognizes what should be obvious to everyone. His candor is delightful and courageous - he lets us learn from his mistakes and from what he does right (what else is new, you ask).

The most important aspects of the essay were already covered in some form in his stories (a few of whom were included). For example, there's the fact that Harlan does not feel bad about having tried out a staggering number of women. He's by no means proud of it, but to him it's part of the process of finding the right one. This was covered in PAYMENT RETURNED, UNOPENED (from GENTLEMAN JUNKIE). Harlan's emphasis of friendship is no big surprise either, but how he stresses its importance in a long-term relationship is an eye-opener. I knew it and always felt the same, but I hadn't quite heard it that way. Damn straight, Harlan.

Most importantly, the essay makes us think about our life and our apporach to relationships, which is always a good idea.

As for Hemingway's riddle, I'm not sure Harlan decodified it the right way, if there is such a thing. To me it says that those who strive for the highest goals will not be understood by the common man and die lonely. It's a parable about artists who become too good. I was surprised that Harlan, of all people, saw something else in there (which may be correct).

There is more (like the troll thing), but I leave it there for the moment.

Jan
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Re: #33 - Having An Affair With A Troll

Postby David Loftus » Thu Jan 04, 2007 6:00 pm

Jan wrote:I don't know how many editions of LOVE there are, but the ACE edition (don't we all love the ACE editions) was quite different from the original one in that Harlan not only wrote a special introduction for it, but a large number of stories were replaced or omitted due to overlaps with other books. 3 stories were completely new. Did the original edition also open with an introduction?

Heh, funny you should ask.

The ORIGINAL edition was published by Trident; can't remember the year, but I think it was about 1968 or so. That had its own introduction. The second edition I know of was the Pyramid, about 1974 or 1975 -- again, this is all from memory. That had an incredibly long, new introduction, and there was no sign of the original intro from the Trident . . . contrary to Ellison's practice, quite often, of collecting all the preceding introductory material in the latest edition.

I started writing a detailed critique of the Love Ain't Nothing collection for Webderland a few years ago, and got sidetracked, but I know I wrote all I intended to about the introductions, so if you like, I can "preview" my entire critique of the book by feeding my remarks about the intros into this thread in a day or two.

Anybody interested?

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Postby Jan » Thu Jan 04, 2007 6:43 pm

Hi David. I'd obviously be interested to see what you came up with regarding love and the intros. Not to get sidetracked, but wow, three introductions. The Pyramid edition would account for the 1976 copyright, then. What about White Wolf? Methinks that come out as well. I can see why Harlan would modify his views on this particular subject during the interim years.

I just remembered the story GRAIL (discussed here as #9) - that one would obviously be included in the book today. It's one of the two or three most important things Harlan wrote on the subject.

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Postby David Loftus » Fri Jan 05, 2007 1:41 am

Okay, with a few judicious cuts, here's the start of my commentary on the book, leading into the discussion of the various introductions:


This 1968 collection marked a watershed in the author’s career.

That might not seem to be saying much, since a comparable watershed had occurred the year before (Dangerous Visions), and further watersheds were but two and three years away (The Glass Teat and Partners in Wonder, respectively). And I speak in terms of entire books only, never mind the great individual stories that would spring to life between 1967 and 1971.

Nevertheless, Love Ain’t Nothing but Sex Misspelled was memorable because it took a giant step away from the fantasy and science fiction that had dominated Ellison’s work between book covers until 1968. Aside from Spider Kiss and the juvie gang books (all of which were at least seven years old by then), nearly everything that preceded Love was primarily SF&F. Oh, there were regular tales sprinkled among the bunch, some of them autobiographical; and Gentleman Junkie, the 1961 collection that had impressed Dorothy Parker, was largely grounded on this planet and in our time (note that Ellison imported three stories from that collection into at least the first edition of Love).

But the five Ellison books that immediately preceded Love Ain’t Nothing But Sex Misspelled were: Ellison Wonderland (aka Earthman, Go Home, 1962), Paingod and other delusions (1965), I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream (1967), Doomsman (1967), and From the Land of Fear (1967). (Thanks but no thanks to Belmont Books for omitting a table of contents from the last, in both the 1967 and 1974 editions.)

Although a surprising total of eight pieces in the original edition of Love Ain’t Nothing But Sex Misspelled had appeared in Ellison collections before (all but one would be filtered back out of later editions to permanent homes in other books), some of the strongest ones -- the stories that come to mind first when I think of Love Ain’t Nothing, such as “Neither Your Jenny Nor Mine,” “Little Bobby Hirschhorn,” and “Miss Ankle-Strap Wedgie” -- had not, and they lack any trace of fantasy or science fiction. They all could have happened; they all might as well have happened. Trident honored this by making Love the first Ellison story collection ever to appear in hardcover.

And that’s what makes this collection a watershed. Ellison had expanded from the fantastic firmly into various forms of realism. One measure of the book’s strength is how many stories from the first edition were judged worthy of inclusion in 1987’s The Essential Ellison: a total of nine, although several of those had first appeared elsewhere and would be among the tales ultimately apportioned to other books. Nevertheless, nine is a hefty number against eight from Deathbird Stories, seven from Alone Against Tomorrow, and five each from The Beast That Shouted Love, Shatterday, and Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed.

Of course, when one refers to Love Ain’t Nothing, one is speaking of several different books. I have four versions: the 1968 hardcover Trident, which I believe is the actual first; the 1976 Pyramid paperback; the 1983 Ace paperback; and the one that came out bound in cloth with The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World as Edgeworks 4 in 1997. God, Ellison, and a few hardier fan-collectors than I could tell you whether there are others, or whether the paper versions of the Trident (if there was one) and Edgeworks 4 differed from their clothbound editions as well, but I can at least state that the Pyramid and Ace have the same story lineup. The Trident and Edgeworks differ in story content both from each other and from the middle two.

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Postby David Loftus » Fri Jan 05, 2007 1:44 am

INTRODUCTION(S)

Of course the first place we run into differences is in the introductions to each edition. (Well, not the first place; there are oddities and differences in the respective acknowledgements, the dedications, the epigraphs, the references to an inscription over the portal to Ellison Wonderland and to Hemingway’s leopard on Kilimanjaro, but geez, come on, we’re not academics here; I really need to get to the substance of the damn book.)

In the Trident edition, the introduction is called “Preface: Motherhood, Apple Pie and the American Way.” Fairly short as Ellisonian introductions go, it’s a definite period piece. The author adverts several times to his “arrogance” (said to be mostly a good thing, in the service of his readers), says he thinks he’s a successful writer (“So why haven’t you heard of me?”), and ends up offering only one short paragraph about the actual contents of the book.

The relevant part is that “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes” and “A Prayer for No One’s Enemy” are among his particular favorites. There’s a good laugh when he talks about his editor and marketing team anxiously hoping he’ll write something sexy that will tie in with the title and make it a marketable intro. Ellison says: “…to make them feel I have done my homework, herewith something sexy to tie in with the title: Fuck. Now we can get on to more important matters….”

There’s also a mild shock when he warns readers looking for “masturbatory delights” to “rush back to the bookseller at once and demand your $5.95 because you’ve been taken.” My god: $5.95 for a clothbound book! Today it’s well nigh impossible to find a trade paperback that cheap.

By the time of the second edition (the 1976 Pyramid), Ellison, who typically carries over the introductory material from earlier books, merely remarks: “The Introduction to the first edition was dumb, and I’ve dropped it. You wouldn’t have liked it anyway. Trust me.”

“Having an Affair With a Troll,” the new, lengthy introduction, is actually one of Ellison’s most memorable pieces of writing. It’s longer than most of the stories in the book—longer than most of Ellison’s short stories in other books.

It’s not a particularly elegant or shapely piece of prose, but it’s highly personal, illuminating, and thought-provoking. One could envision a men’s group or women’s consciousness-raising group, or maybe even just a couple well into the romantic process, using it as a springboard for some heavy discussion.

Fortunately for thousands of readers, Ellison never decided this introduction was dumb or chose to eliminate it from subsequent editions. (Which raises a question: Why weren’t any of Ellison’s introductions, even significant excerpts from some of them, included in The Essential Ellison? I would nominate this one as well as the one from Strange Wine for inclusion, but I’d be willing to bet a bundle they got overlooked in the upcoming revised Essential.)

I don’t want to relate the entire contents of this essay and spoil the pleasure for people who haven’t read it, so I’ll merely comment on a few things that struck me. . . .

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Postby Jan » Fri Jan 05, 2007 2:32 am

David: Ma' hero! What else you have hidden in your drawers?

First up, what a brilliant overview of LOVE's publishing history and what a flawless appreciation of LOVE in the wider context of Ellison's output. In my mind, LOVE was never a watershed book, but I think you may be right. There is no doubt this book was an important and an ambitious one. However, I have not heard it mentioned much outside of here.

By the way, 1968 - interesting time for a book on love to be released. Is it just a coincidence that "love was in the air" at the time? Perhaps it was more successful than Harlan's "SF books"? Maybe the critical reception was greater than we know of today?

we’re not academics here; I really need to get to the substance of the damn book

Just my thinking. You da man.

says he thinks he’s a successful writer

A man need his fantasies.

My god: $5.95 for a clothbound book! Today it’s well nigh impossible to find a trade paperback that cheap.

Who will explain the concept of spending power to David? ;-)

merely remarks: “The Introduction to the first edition was dumb, and I’ve dropped it. You wouldn’t have liked it anyway. Trust me.”

That sounds familar. Ah, yes: "Don't frown. You'd have hated it." (EDGEWORKS 1)

Thanks.
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Postby David Loftus » Fri Jan 05, 2007 11:05 am

Jan wrote:David: Ma' hero! What else you have hidden in your drawers?

I BEG your PARDON!!! . . . . [followed by classic British spluttering]

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Postby David Loftus » Fri Jan 05, 2007 11:58 am

Jan wrote:So the ". . . ." was where you stopped writing the review and moved on to higher things? Dammit, just when you were about to dive into the meat of things. Oh well. You should never put aside unfinished work. :-)

No, no, no. I just put in that ellipsis last night to indicate that there was more to come. Here it is:



First, his recommendation about leaving a lover at least as well off after the affair is over as you found her or him before, like a picnic ground, rings a bell. Didn’t Woody Allen say something like this in “Annie Hall” a few years later? Second, his discussion of the implications of having slept with at least 500 women strikes me as fairly honest and accurate. At the same time, he shows signs of defensiveness, openly or by resorting to the diversion of humor (as in the lengthy, pseudo-scholarly footnote/digression about Jukes and Kallikaks).

Ellison’s editors seem to have been flummoxed by a passing reference to mah man, Thomas “Fats” Waller. Just before he gets to the aphorisms, Ellison remarks, “One never knows, do one.” At least, that’s what he says in the 1983 Ace edition. In both 1976 and 1997, it’s “One never know, do one.” If Ellison is quoting Waller (and what else could he be doing?), then it should be “One never knows, do one?” With an “s” and a question mark.

Most of the remainder of the introduction is taken up by Ellison’s aphorisms about love and an explanation of each:

• The minute people fall in love, they become liars.
• An obnoxious woman is a strong man’s “limp.”
• Love weakens as much as it strengthens, and often that’s very good for you.
• After you have had the Ultimate Love Affair that has broken you, leaves you certain love has been poisoned in your system, then, and only then, can you be saved and uplifted by the Post-Ultimate Love Affair.
• Friendship is better than passion.
• Hate and love have the same intensity of emotion.
• You can’t go home again.
• Next to telling your lover what turns you on precisely, the best thing to bring to bed is a sense of humor.
• Please yourself and be selfish about it.

Briefly, Ellison’s discussion of the first is the longest and the best. The second is neither well put nor adequately explained, and Ellison admits as much, asking others to “write a critical study, then we’ll both know,” but he’s clearly on to something. While the third is a very good point, Ellison’s comments are weak; he mentions how we become vulnerable to and therefore nicer to our beloved, but omits the part about how falling in love, and becoming vulnerable to one person, can make us a better person with everyone else, out in the world, too -- which is at least as important. The discussion of the Ultimate Love Affair and the Post-Ultimate Love Affair is another strong section.

He makes short work of the rest, most of which is sound advice. Having reached roughly the age Ellison was when he wrote this introduction, I have to say I could do better with the content at least, and I didn’t have to go through 500 women or several marriages and divorces to do it. But that’s my arrogance. I’m a different kind of writer, and nobody’s asking me. Yet. (And, as T.S. Eliot remarked when someone hubristically commented that we know more than those famous guys that came before us, “Yes, and they are what we know.”)

So I’ll move along and mention only one little typographical amusement. Toward the end of the introduction Ellison refers in passing to people going to college for four years to acquire the obscure knowledge that will permit them to make a living in one or another “proscribed” field of endeavor. “Proscribed” means prohibited, forbidden, condemned. I’m sure he meant its near opposite, “prescribed,” but from the Pyramid edition in 1976, through the Ace in 1983, all the way down to White Wolf’s Edgeworks in 1997, nobody caught it.

The final paragraphs attempt to encompass editorial changes from one version of the book to the next. The content is roughly the same, although Ellison adds the imprecation “Oh, cynical you” for the benefit of readers who don’t think all the stories in the book relate to love.


I restrained myself severely, here -- I could have written far, far more on the subjects of love and sex, in response to Ellison's intro; who couldn't? -- but I felt a responsibility to get on to the stories themselves.

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Postby Jan » Fri Jan 05, 2007 7:48 pm

I have to say I could do better with the content at least, and I didn’t have to go through 500 women or several marriages and divorces to do it.

Two points in Harlan's defense (before I will hack away at him myself):

1. Of course some could do better (and so could Harlan), but few enough people make an effort even today. Not every writer lets you learn from his mistakes, nor does every writer recognize the overriding importance of good relationships, the way Harlan does. Yes, he assembled the book perhaps a bit too early in his life, but what he did know then was worth being articulated, and few people would tell you the same things for one reason or another. Writers have an image to protect - once you write about your love life, you can't take that back. That may make little difference in the case of a Henry Miller in his 60s, but it's something else if it comes from a young artist on the rise.

2. You forgot to include the most important aspect of Harlan's essay in your evaluation, his main advice being to draw a distinction between love and lust and to act accordingly. His points about honesty and friedship are also very valid, and he stresses them in particular ("Tell the truth all the time.")

It's easy to look at this from the vantage point of 2006 and say, "I could write that", but in the late 60s you couldn't have open mouthed kissing on tv, and there was a lot more uncertainty about the relationship between sex and love. Love and sex were often treated as one thing. It all wasn't discussed as much. If people had lots of affairs, was that an acceptable thing to talk about, as it would be today? Okay, Harlan wrote the new foreword in the mid-70s, a bit late for us to be *really* impressed.

Makes me wonder if he had contemplated writing a similar essay in 1968.

On the same token, I'm also wondering how serious an exploration on the subject the book was originally supposed to be, given that some stories barely touched upon aspects of the theme. The original introduction, as you report, showed little evidence of Harlan being on a mission of love. On the other hand, with the second introduction he displayed an ambition that much of the book couldn't live up to, although it seems to me that with the new edition the book did become mature and more focussed, even if it still dealt with the theme a bit too indirectly at times.

I mean, to be unfair, who calls a book LOVE AIN'T NOTHING BUT SEX MISSPELLED and then presents such a large amount of stories covering "a wide spectrum on the subject of love; and friendship, a sense of duty, love of those that depend on you... that's love, too." Well, alright, technically, it is. He makes our mouths all watery with a new foreword that recognizes what the books sole concern should be, and then the stories go on to do their own things.

So much for today...

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Postby Jan » Sun Nov 11, 2007 5:07 pm

For the record, I renamed this thread to cover the whole book, not just the introduction. It's because some of the stories don't warrant their own thread. However, it certainly doesn't mean we'll do the whole book at all at once.

THE UNIVERSE OF ROBERT BLAKE (1962) is a short story about race as dicovered and experienced by a child, particularly how it determines people's places in society. The employment of a child's point of view - a child who is at first race-neutral (white) - makes it not only an unusual story on this subject (no homeless blacks being beaten up etc.), it also reminds me that I've encountered the Harlan's interest in the places people are assigned by society in many stories. For example, THE DISCARDED was about the same thing, and so was THE CRACKPOTS. This one is timeless but also of its time. A lot of battles hadn't been fought yet. The characters are accepting their place.

It should be noted that Harlan had also at times been affected by racism, so it's an obvious subject for him. It's worth mentioning that the way Harlan did not reveal the boy's race at the beginning also became an important aspect of I HAVE NO MOUTH, AND I MUST SCREAM.

G.B.K. - A MANY-FLAVORED BIRD (also 1962) is about a writer encountering and nearly re-encountering a delusional manager-type/crook at two times in his life - before and after his first successes. Something about the story tells me that at least the first half is based on real incidents. Not only does it have a writer-as-character (Walter), it also has a type of crook (Barney) that only people like Harlan and his collegues would meet. Barney is also described as looking almost exactly like Groucho Marx, which would be pretty strange if it wasn't based on fact.

The idea seems to be that celebrities live in a sphere of the unreal. Not only do they have high opinions of themselves that can border on the delusional, they may also have people around them that nourish those feelings, as well as people like Barney (not our Barney, the story's Barney) who have no talent of their own but feel they need to be associated with famous people they admire. Barney, in his long career as a crook, seems to have based his whole life on lies which serve to attribute importance to him in terms of his role in other people's successes. The story recognizes that if you were to take that illusion away from him, the man would have little left. The writer thus decides not to spoil the party.

The story ultimately falls short of presenting an adequate portrait of Barney. I like the part best where Barney came to the Solarians and seemed to recognize Walter's talent (Walter was "stunnded to the core"). I would think that this had some effect on Walter and it would have been nice to refer back to it in the second half. When Walter writes his dedication, it's insincere when it could have been sincere. As a result, I'm actually more fond of Barney than I am of Walter, while the story seems to want us to be merely sad about Barney.

Still, the main message is one about some people's need to associate themselves with people of promise or success. Although G.B.K. is not about fandom, the story still seems to constitute the early roots of the essays YOU DON'T KNOW ME, I DON'T KNOW YOU and XENOGENESIS. The autobiographical bit about Harlan's time as a science fiction fan is also interesting, although it's not very detailed.

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Postby Jan » Thu Nov 22, 2007 3:13 pm

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Illustration by Ralph Reese

RIDING THE DARK TRAIN OUT was written in Elizabethtown, Kentucky in 1959. It's about a man named Ernie who used to have a regular life back when he was a professional musician and had a family. Now he jumps on trains and practically lives in freight cars without wanting to go anywhere in particular. He has no more contact with regular humans. Two lovers also jump on, and Ernie sees an opportunity to have some fun with the girl, only needing to get rid of the boy. The couple sort of tell their story, and while Ernie is still trying to find the right moment to act, another bum appears on the train.

Although most of this is told from Ernie's point of view, there are a few moments when the others have thoughts about him. The focus of the story is Ernie's willingness to do harm in order to get what he wants, a rather usual attitude for people outside the system who don't receive anything they don't procure on their own. It's possible to identify with Ernie, though. One can imagine having thoughts like that if one was in his place. However, Harlan cops out, he doesn't go all the way with this. I think the ending is rather standard, as a result. It makes sense, but it's the sort of ending that makes you ask why a story was written in the first place. On the positive side, the story gives us a glimpse into the alternate Harlan, the one who was not "saved from a life of crime by science fiction". Harlan has definitely been in freight cars, and in 1959 his writing hadn't yet met with the success it later did. The bum in the freight car is the kind image a writer would have, whose marriage is breaking up and who can barely sustain himself.

MONA AT HER WINDOWS is from 1962 again, written and set in New York. This is about a girl 23 years of age realizing she's so ugly that she will never have the kinds of opportunities other people have. She moves into a new apartment with big windows looking out on 23rd Street (one of the busier streets), where she watches the people and imagines what their lives and thoughts might be like. She sort of lives other people's lives. She finally comes out of it after witnessing a rape.

Uglyness had also been a major aspect of THE DISCARDED (1956), and MONA doesn't have much to add. More importantly though, it's a story about the imagination and real life, the latter ultimately being preferable. What doesn't work is the logic of the ending, it's simply not well written. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the phrase "before the window" can mean in front of or behind, depending on where's you're looking from. A bird can be before the window (outside), and you can sit before the window (inside). Here, Harlan seems to mean "outside". But if the world outside is worse than Mona's life, then that doesn't explain her decision at all. On top of that, the wisdom of the story seems pretty conventional.

Final observation: Could a book about love be any less romantic? :-)
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Postby Jan » Fri Nov 30, 2007 1:38 am

"When I Was A Hired Gun" is from 1973, a true story that was originally part of the series of articles that became the HORNBOOK. Before that appeared, it was included in the revised edition of LOVE, and dropped again for the EDGEWORKS edition.

Harlan takes us back to 1951, when he was 16 or 17 and living in Cleveland. He was indeed a hired gun when a strange SF fan named Al Wilson needed him to run strange errands and follow people around. Harlan knew little about the man and learned only a little bit more later, when an old schoolmate called him after the first publication of the article. He writes about two missions in particular, one relating to a girl that Wilson was too shy to approach, another relating to the disposal of a dangerous substance.

This was written at a time when Harlan was able to look back on his adolescence with some objectivity and without having to prove anything. As a result, he seems to depict himself rather honestly and there is no reason to doubt anything he relates. Notably, the Harlan in the story is not the person who knows no fear and who has had everything imaginable happen to him. He's not even the person Harlan seems to talk about when he said he ran away from home when he was a kid and joined a circus. He did go back in a way, he lived in Cleveland, and his mother (whom he wrote about later) was clearly not an unimportant part of his life, especially after his dad had died. With regard to fear, he seemed to run away from many things here, including a beautiful woman who's making advances. He also sheds some more light on his days as an SF fan, when he was a charter member of the Cleveland Science Fiction Society. As noted, G.B.K. - A MANY-FLAVORED BIRD took place in the same era, perhaps a few years later.

Anyway, the effects of Harlan talking about his younger self in the truthful fashion he does here (not that he's a lier elsewhre) is quite amusing. Even though nothing terribly noteworthy happens, it's among Harlan's best and most insightful autobiographical writing. :| :| :|

"What I Did on My Vacation This Summer, by Little Bobby Hirschhorn, Age 27" (1964). A young writer named Robert hitchhikes through the desert and gets picked up by some youngsters on their way to San Francisco. They make a detour to a Nevada town for some sexual action.

Harlan portrays a young intellectual not unlike himself, thinking about writing, looking for new experiences. Robert was born in a small Ohio town that "did not know what to do with him" and escaped at an early age -- into a world that does not know what to do with him either. One of the things he seems to be looking for is true love. His episode with the young prostitute seems to speak a bigger truth about his relationship to the world, which is not cooperating with him. Witness how he collapsed in the desert before someone stopped. At 27, he's still naive. One wonders why his experiences after he escaped from home don't help him.

Harlan has woven Bobby's backstory into the proceedings which helps us understand the character. His relationship to his father is unresolved because he didn't manage to get the answers from him that he needed before the father died. This left him unfinished and disoriented, and perhaps a little obsessed with the idea of becoming a man. The story ends with what is probably an epiphany.

While this story is perhaps as important as "Final Shtick" as part of Harlan's fictionalized autobiography, it's not nearly as strong a story. What works well in both stories is the idea of making the past of a character relevant to something that is happening in the present. However, this type of coming of age of story has been done often, certainly after 1964, and Harlan didn't manage to elevate the material enough. There aren't any surprises here. :| :|

"Blind Bird, Blind Bird, Go Away From Me!" (1963) - An American soldier in WWII France has to confront his worst fear - that of darkness.

Surprisingly, Harlan included a war story when he looked for material to include in the revised edition. In this he went back to his old theme of fear using a French town during the war as his setting and employing flashbacks to reveal a manifestation of the same fear in the protagonist's childhood. Harlan is going for immedeacy; he tries to make the reader part of the action and especially the psychological crisis of Winslow. The style is gritty and realistic.

When we leave the scene where Winslow is trapped first in front of and then inside the house, all doubts disappear that this is not a horror story in disguise. The main problem is that for all its realism, the story's level of believability is much too low. For starters, French villages like Bain-de-Bretagne don't have the kind of sewers New York has. But even allowing for that, there are still laws of physics - and of the human mind. This being about someone's fear, the psychological developments toward the end seem rather too unexpected and odd. During Winslow's end run one gets a strong sense of plot and character having become secondary to the thrill-ride aspect and the message.

While some parts were decent enough, especially the childhood episode, on the whole this is a frustrating waste of time that might well be Harlan's worst (salvaged) story of the sixties. :oops:

"Valerie" (1972) - A memoir of Harlan's on-and-off relationship with a women who ultimately ripped him off.

Previously discussed in a seperate thread. Also available in THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON (featuring a photo of Valerie) and THE HARLAN ELLISON HORNBOOK (featuring three photos) - yes, like "When I Was a Hired Gun" this was originally published as three installments of the Hornbook newspaper column, shortly after the events described.

This is a non-fiction piece intended on some level to warn readers of certain women, but mainly a look into Harlan's private life that shows Harlan in action. While one might argue that he permits himself to be seen as the fool he was, the piece was of course written in retrospect with Harlan having learned a lesson, and it shows him taking appropriate action when he realizes belatedly that something is afoul. Among the things of interest here are the things that went on in Harlan's home where he permitted a photographer with models to work and where writers like Jim Sutherland were allowed to reside for a while. As for Valerie - mildly interesting. Harlan mainly talks about the end of the relationship and about being ripped off, so there's a limit to how good this can be. Reading this right after "Blind Bird" though, I can't help but notice the much-improved writing style and considerably more maturity. :| :|
Last edited by Jan on Sun May 11, 2008 7:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Jan » Thu May 21, 2009 6:46 am

"Neither Your Jenny Nor Mine" (1964)

Jan - originally posted Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:01 am

NEITHER YOUR JENNY NOR MINE, written in 1963, is the opening novella of LOVE AIN’T NOTHING BUT SEX MISSPELLED and was later included in THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON. It’s about 19,000 words long.

The story concerns an unwanted pregnancy and the hardship a group of young L.A. people go through to effect an abortion. The protagonist, a thirty year old man called Markham, first beats up the perpetrator and makes him pay for the operation, then takes Jenny, the pregnant girl, and his own girlfriend, Rooney, down to Tijuana where they have an appointment with a doctor they know nothing about.

JENNY is part a story about passion and part travelogue, the setting becoming very significant in the second half. Markham is so closely modelled after Ellison I can't ignore it and would bet that the story is much more autobiographical than not. I’d even say that, not unlike many other stories he wrote, it shows him dealing with who he is and maybe come to terms with some of his behavior patterns, disguised and modified though they may be. Markham is young enough to still be making major discoveries about himself.

As a result, the narration has a strange characteristic. Although it is written in the first person, there are only flashes of thoughts, insights and intentions. Most of the time, it’s like watching the proceedings through someone’s eyes, not more. Kenneth Duane Markham, a man with too much passion, is characterized through his actions. He hardly knows his own motives, and one gets the impression that his thinking mostly takes place on a subconscious level. He’s a "raw force" and occasionally a danger to himself and others. He reacts strongly to injustice and is never wrong, he just overreacts.

Jenny, on the other hand, is much younger than he, much less experienced, and therefore slightly in danger. We get a vivid picture of her through Markham’s eyes - he is simply alarmed by her stupidity and what it potentially entails. She’s very real to the reader, which is essential to understanding Markham’s actions. Yes, he’s a raw force, but his motives are always solid, even if this is not immediately obvious. (I’m trying not to spoil too much.)

A major theme of the story is, once more, responsibility. Harlan talked about a man’s responsibility to women in his later essay HAVING AN AFFAIR WITH A TROLL (the introduction to LOVE AIN'T..., which I discussed last year), demanding that every man must leave (if they do leave them) women in the same general condition in which they found them. We can presume that Harlan got this insight partly because of events comparable to these. Another theme would be passion – both as a way of life and as a character flaw. In his usual way, Harlan also honestly reports about the less pleasant people and places in a world that would gain from a few changes and better attitudes. Upon entering Tijuana of the early 60s, the city is described in such a way that you can feel the poverty and decay, which prepares you for the moral corruption the characters encounter soon afterwards. When in the L.A. part of the story the setting did not "interfere", Tijuana becomes a character and a kind of antagonist. (By now it’s in much better shape, but you still get the feeling you’ve suddenly travelled a thousand miles to a place without goals and visions.)

If you compare this to Bradbury’s Mexico stories, they’re all about better places in Mexico and people who went there on vacation, not out of necessity.

Abortion was certainly not a subject of many writers, especially not in the detailed manner of Ellison, but I suppose it was important to him to relate what a woman (and her friends) must go through because of men like Roger Gore. Nevertheless, the scene where Harlan switches the point of view for a page or two to be able to give us the whole picture could have been left out, I think. It feels too artificial. It would have been enough to show the anxiety of Markham and Rooney, which was left out. There are strong indications in the story that abortions are very common, and yet spoken about little. For example, it turns out Rooney had also had an abortion.

The writing is very vivid, like I said – the places, characters and thoughts come to life in an entertaining way. To use a cliché, Harlan has a way with words. However, throughout the middle section the action doesn’t move quickly enough because in those days Harlan tended to cram too many sentences in while the audience is ahead. The sketchy final pages, dealing with repercussions, are truly outstanding, certainly some of Harlan’s best writing ever. While most of what preceded them was good, here you feel there’s a master at work, and everything that came before pays off.

Wrapping up, I can say it’s a major Ellison story, set in the real world, written in his early-period style, touching upon familiar themes and well deserving of it’s elevated position in Harlan’s oevre. :| :| :| :oops:

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David Loftus - originally posted Mon Mar 26, 2007 3:32 pm

"Neither Your Jenny Nor Mine" was first printed in "Knight" magazine in 1964. Although it came fourth in the original Trident edition, Ellison gave it pride of place in the Pyramid and Ace as the opening story, before moving it back to fourth place (behind three totally other tales from the first ones in the Trident) in Edgeworks 4.

Kenneth is both protective and intermittently contemptuous of Jenny. He tries to steer her clear of Roger, picks her up after Roger's left her high and dry, but also introduces the story with a remark about the crime of gullibility, and confides in his girlfriend that Jenny might consider blowing her "stupid fucking brains out."

Kenneth disparages the (typographically incorrect) "Monkee's crap" at the party in the Trident, but that’s softened to "bubble gum music" in the Pyramid and Ace. Although the "authoritative" version in the 1987 Essential Ellison returns the corrected "Monkees' crap," it is gone again in the 1997 Edgeworks 4. (Adjusting the timeliness, or showing a little respect for the Monkees?)

Greek muscle man Candy's voice "soft as strangling babies" is a nice touch. When Kenneth recites textbook info on curettage and the uterus while beating up Roger, it is deeply satisfying.

My thanks to Barney Dannelke for taking an opportunity to ask Ellison about the background of this story. Apparently the tale is based on a true incident, including the trip to Tijuana, although the girl involved did not die.

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Postby markabaddon » Thu Jun 17, 2010 2:05 pm

"Punky & The Yale Men"

I have been going through my copy of the Essential Ellison and came across this story. Not remembering any specifics about it, I decided to re-read it and was amazed at its power and raw emotion. The story is a fairly straightforward one of discovery for the main character, Andy Sorokin.
Harlan said in the Pavilion that many of the conversations in this work are lifted verbatim from his experiences and that the scar Andy receives is one he truly bears. Considering the life Harlan has lead, I certainly believe him but I think he is trying to say something more in this story, otherwise he could have just related it in one of his columns as a non-fiction.

One of the key moments in the story, which provides insight into Andy (and possibly Harlan) occurs early on when he steps into the magazine’s office and realizes that he was able to ascertain everything the receptionist was going to do before she was even aware of it. This is a man who has seemingly everything in life, and yet he feels incomplete. He is cynical, jaded, and desperately searching for something. What that something is, I am uncertain he even knows at the outset of the story.

To that end, he agrees to going out on a night on the town with a couple of “Yale Men” who try to provide him with the excitement he feels has been missing in his life. They fail miserably in this attempt (which Andy expected) yet their ineptitude has some unintended consequences. Andy has a moment of gestalt before entering the bathroom with one of the Yale Men where he finally gains an appreciation of a sense of community and understands his own responsibility as a human being.

Unfortunately, before he is able to even fully process this newfound maturity, his companion in the bathroom is violently attacked. Andy, with his sense of responsibility towards others still brand spanking new, reacts and saves him, but at the cost of being sliced open by a straight razor. It is almost as if Harlan is saying to us that there is a price to be paid for neglecting one’s responsibility for so long
This story is in a similar vein to “Grail” in that the main character searches and searches for something and when he finally achieves his goal, it ain’t exactly what he expected it to be. Harlan was clearly working through some issues here, as the reader gains a strong sense of world-weariness, cynicism and just plain disgust that people are so damn easy to figure out.

Punky may be one of the bleakest stories Harlan has done, but also one of the most honest and raw in terms of emotion. Andy is not a nice guy but the reader does get to listen into his thoughts and understand why he is the way he is, even if sympathizing with him is difficult. I stated is it bleak because there is no real payoff in the end. Andy struggles to make it to a friend’s house and it is implied that he died while in the hospital, as he begs the doctors to escape. Escape from what, the reader wonders? My take is that Andy saw himself as almost like a 3 card Monty dealer and not really talented; that he wanted to get out while on top.

More later

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Postby Jan » Sun Oct 03, 2010 10:15 am

"Punky & the Yale Men" (1966). A successful Hollywood novelist returns to New York where he spends the night out with two well-educated men who want to re-acquaint him with the seamy side of life. - See also review by Ben Lomax.

Another autobiographical story in fictional guise that looks at a writer at the peak of his success, the writer obviously being just about the same person who was a younger in "Free with this Box!" and other stories. Whatever Harlan's experience was really like, he tried to inject more meaning and drama into it for the story. The first thing of interest is the meeting between Sorokin and his New York publisher who asks him to write a sequel to Children of the Gutters (i.e. Web of the City/The Tombs/Ten Weeks in Hell). While shedding some light on how those things worked and setting up the real story, the scene also introduces the rather jaded and cynical narrator's voice. Then Harlan delivers an inside view of New York's nightlife of the 60s in this subjective fashion. Among other things, we return to Time Square, where Harlan worked in a bookshop, and get to attend another party, not much unlike the ones in "Memory of a Muted Trumpet", "Neon", "Tired Old Man" and "Lady Bug, Lady Bug" - overall there's a sense of revisiting things shared by both the narrator and Harlan's readers. Sorokin's quest in the story is more or less to get back in touch with real life somehow for his own ego and sanity after writing several books of the type that are popular with Hollywood people and living a life of some comfort. In that sense, New York is able to recharge him ultimately by giving him something serious to deal with that takes him to the next stage. Since Sorokin must have experienced similar things ealier in his life, the implication is that he needed to reach a certain age and develop a certain curiousity to get a good grasp on them. Unfortunately, since the price one pays for noteworthy experiences and insights can be a high one, writers need to cultivate the skill to tell interesting lies as well. The opening scenes have too many problems for me to really like them, but the second half, which could stand well on its own, contains a lot of prime Ellison in the spirit of "Neither Your Jenny Nor Mine". :| :| :|


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