persona non sequitur

a review of media by a slightly jaded baby boomer.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

THE MAN WITH NINE LIVES by Harlan Ellison. Ace Books D413 Out of Print.

This is early Ellison. It has not been reprinted, is in limbo and the copies that exist are crumbling slowly. It's almost a novel, hitting some 133 pages, a good length for a writer of short stories.

(added aside: these days When Harlan Ellison writes a short story, it's called a 'novelette', and when he writes a novelette, it's called a 'novella' and when writes a novella, it's called 'a full length novel'. Does anyone know why this is?)

Ellison must like this book, since he has listed it in one of his "projects", to rewrite and enlarge and flesh out. He wrote of this urge back in 1972, and it is likely to remain in limbo like a certain book of short stories.

It is over blown and filled with hyperbole, prose as pulpy and purple as anything else Ellison has written:

"The plants grew in madcap profusion. Scarlet as a sea of spilled blood, they rioted up and across the horizen, as far as his lizard eyes could see." (page 45)

"He prepared to convince eighteen billion worms that they wanted to eat stamin and pistil, leaf and bud, of that desert full of gorgeous bloosoms. He had never spoken to a worm before. He wasn't sure he knew the proper protocol."

This is funny, even in context.

And the story: Cal Emory is a hate filled man who wants to kill someone named Paul Lederman. for specific reasons only superficially sketched out in the book. It's over a woman.

The novel's brief length prevents it from advancing over a short sketchy blocked out of what is the novel's motivating framework: only a few lines short of two pages are devoted to Dorothy, the woman involed in the love triangle. And three pages to the funeral, and the layers of feeling and inner meaning which invokes Hal Emory's desire to killed Lederman.

The rest of the book deals with Cal Emory's unhinged version of love and hatred. The book was kind of a fun read, though the Cal becomes redeemed, it doesn't feel convincing.


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