Review of Nine Hundred Grandmothers by R.A. Lafferty

My first encounter with R. A. Laugh-ferty. His humor and cleverness are quite astounding.

He sets up gags and jokes in the middle of serious situations. His humor is often so unexpectedly outrageous it is harrowing. He made me catch my breath and squint my eyes. It is all a matter of subverting expectations. And he has a way of throwing out an offensively absurd line and then justifying it a few lines later. Anything can happen at any moment. And yet it all adds up to a satisfying conclusion.

In several of the stories, RAL seems to be commenting on Capitalism, contraception, xenophobia, economy, relationships, mortality, and conventional science fiction tropes. But often, it is impossible to separate straight satire from facetious propaganda.

These stories are wacky, gruesome, inappropriate, hilarious, abstract, and still compact. They operate almost entirely on dream-logic, and are guaranteed to baffle and entertain. A few times I was ready to move on, in the sense that I felt I had already gotten the joke, but he felt the need to throw in a few more punch lines. His wit is ripe though, and holds up well with the passage of time. Some of the stories are re-readable in my opinion, but knowing the plot-twists, or predicting them can ruin part of the fun. He still reads like a Golden Age science fiction author, and can run circles around some of his contemporaries as far as plot goes.

My only gripe is his choppy, chunky, rough sentence structure. Occasionally reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s sloppily constructed, contrari-wise, underachieving sentences, Lafferty’s take some getting used to. But he is worth it. The clownish antics border on bizzaro-genius.

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