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Doris Lessing and similar.

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  • Doris Lessing and similar.

    MM:

    I was listening to some Philip Glass the other day (don't worry, I'm paid to, although I do like his early stuff), which made me think of his operas, which made me think specifically of 'The Making of the Representative for Planet 8'. He turned this into a passable opera (in a noh-play-with-orchestra sort of way) which I saw in London years ago. It was worth seeing just to hear Leslie Garrett trying to inject some gravitas into lines such as 'We cannot eat our sacred fish!'

    Anyway, all this served to remind me just how clunky Lessing's 'Canopus in Argos' series seemed at a literary level. Why do mainstream literary writers fumble so much when trying to deal with genre forms? I appreciate that they may not be versed in them on a practical level, but it so often seems as if they lack the mechanism to acquire even a superficial grasp of genre conventions. Is 'The Handmaid's Tale' the (non-Lessing) exception that proves the rule, perhaps? That got the opera treatment, too (from Poul Ruders) as it happens.

  • #2
    I think Doris, who of course can write conventional narrative very well indeed, chose that method for good reasons. She's by no means unfamiliar with good sf (after all Judy Merril lived at her flat for some months!) but deliberately wanted to keep focus on ideas she found important and urgent. Similarly, I suspect people have failed to understand her current novel The Cleft, though I must admit I havent read it yet. She doesn't (or at least didn't) distance herself from sf the way Attwood does. And Angus Wilson's Old Men At The Zoo is anything but clunky. A rather chilling and realistic picture of the present, in so many ways. Angus was also a keen reader of sf and it was his persuasion, as Chairman of the Arts Council Literature Panel, which got NW its AC grant. Angus was also the reader who recommended The Stars My Destination to its first publisher, who happened to be Sidgwick and Jackson in the UK. There are still a surprising number of 'mainstream' writers who are enthusiastic readers and promoters of good sf. That said, I'd love Dancers at the End of Time to be done as an opera!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Michael Moorcock View Post
      That said, I'd love Dancers at the End of Time to be done as an opera!

      That's the best idea I've heard all year!
      forum

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      • #4
        By 'eck, here's a revived thread if ever there was one!

        DATEOT as an opera! Lovely concept - although I'd hate to be the set designer! 'Hmm - beach of crushed bone...'. I recently envisaged it as an 'A Scanner Darkly'-type movie (Wossit called? Rotoscope?). Fantasy casting can run riot here - Depp (Jherek), J. Lumley (Orchid), Nighy (Jagged)...

        High time I read 'The Old Men at the Zoo' and am now prompted to do so.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Michael Moorcock View Post
          ... And Angus Wilson's Old Men At The Zoo is anything but clunky. A rather chilling and realistic picture of the present, in so many ways. Angus was also a keen reader of sf and it was his persuasion, as Chairman of the Arts Council Literature Panel, which got NW its AC grant. Angus was also the reader who recommended The Stars My Destination to its first publisher, who happened to be Sidgwick and Jackson in the UK. There are still a surprising number of 'mainstream' writers who are enthusiastic readers and promoters of good sf. That said, I'd love Dancers at the End of Time to be done as an opera!
          Now, that's quite interesting. It does seem to show that some really good writers, not just fashionable, or Establishment approved ones, are perfectly capable of spotting real and even challenging literature, whatever its genre wrapper.

          And then of course, there are the writers who will take genre ideas, often from perfectly excellent genre works and then recycle them as 'mainstream' literature, as if the concepts were their own. You know the sort of thing, living one's life backwards in time, cloning and raising kids for spare part surgery, that sort of thing.

          Not that I'd dream of casting aspersions!

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          • #6
            Cast away. Children of Men, for instance, is a pet peeve. Greybeard by Aldiss is an altogether better, subtler novel not relying on creaking genre conventions the way James's does! I've known plenty of 'mainstream' writers who enjoy sf. Some actively champion sf. Some are too career-savvy to say too much about their enthusiasm! Not so bad these days, of course.

            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
            The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
            Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
            The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
            Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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