Monday, September 24, 2007

In Memoriam: Brunner and Marceau

Today is Monday, 24 September 2007.

Two notes of loss and appreciation today.

The British novelist John Brunner was born on this day in 1934; he died on 25 August 1995.

I was in high school when I realized why I rejected the elitist and backward division of writing into “literature” and “genre” categories.

The moment of my epiphany came when I realized the similarities between the compromises made by novelists and playwrights who wished to be published in Stalinist Russia, and the compromises made by playwrights in the Elizabethan age (including Shakespeare) who wished to see their works widely performed under the Tudor dictatorship. The Russians were toadies to Stalin; the English were toadies to Elizabeth.

The difference is not between “high” and “low”, but between works which merely fill (and waste) time, and works which speak to the mind and heart (which latter will vary from person to person and age to age).

Three of Brunner’s novels in particular fit the latter bill. The Sheep Look Up (1972) is a portrait of the ecological disasters that homo technologicus is preparing for posterity, and whose fruit we are now gathering. The Shockwave Rider (1975) is a prescient examination of the effects of computing (and origin of the term “worm”.)

His masterpiece is Stand on Zanzibar (1968). It is distinguished by what were then radically experimental forms for a novel (which now seem commonplace). I will not summarize and spoil it for those who haven’t read it. Suffice it to say: you will recognize the contours of our present foundering world in Brunner’s imaginary world.

I suppose I can give no higher recommendation than to note that my first American edition has been read so many times that the internal binding has split at page 14.

The great reviver and master of mime, Marcel Marceau, died on Saturday last. Jewish and French, he served in the Resistance, assisting children to escape the dragnet of the Holocaust. Admirers have posted many fine examples of his work on YouTube; I have chosen the following:

The Museum of the Bourgeois mourns the loss of these great artists and persons.


Anonymous La_Libertine said...

Au revoir, cher Bip.

11:14 PM  

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