Friday, July 11, 2008

Anthony Boucher about Richard Matheson; Jack O'Connell

Todd Mason was good enough to send along the following Anthony Boucher tribute
frm the 1958 World SF Convention

[Lastly, we should not overlook the convention's Guest of Honor Richard Matheson, for whom Anthony Boucher wrote an appreciation:]

One day in November, 1949, a 23-year-old graduate of the University of Missouri's School of Journalism, who had been trying for five unsuccessful months to see if he could get anywhere as a freelance writer, sat down in an old two-family Brooklyn house, wrote a 1200-word short-short in 40 minutes, and sent it off (God bless him!) to that brand-new publication, The Magazine of Fantasy (which was soon to add + Science Fiction to its title).

McComas and I found in the slushpile this story beginning "X - - - - This day when it had light mother called me a retch"; and our eyes popped. What was the matter with us, we asked, that we'd never heard of this Richard Matheson? Obviously a first rate professional - probably a writer in some other line experimenting with science-fantasy. And would readers, we asked ourselves further, put up with such experimental technique, or would they insist on closer adherence to familiar pulp methods? We very nearly decided (a terrifying if-crux) that the story was superb but unpublishable; but after all it took up only three pages. . . .

Those three pages were in our Summer, 1950, issue, which contained stories by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, Cleve Cartmill, Andre Maurois, H. R. Wakefield, and A. Bertram Chandler, all pretty fair fantasy-writers. But the sensation of the issue, as every fan now knows, was Richard Matheson's "Born of Man and Woman". It was the most spectacularly successful of all the many notable firsts F+SF has brought forth.

Within a matter of months, Matheson had advanced from unpublished writer to author of an accepted classic.

Needless to say, matters moved more slowly after that. Stories don't always write themselves in 40 minutes; not all stories (even good ones) sell; not all sold stories (even great ones) create much stir. But at the end of a little over a year from his first sale, Matheson had sold 13 stories, chiefly to us, to Horace Gold, and to Damon Knight.

And what's important about those early sales, as about all Matheson stories since, is that they were widely varied in manner and matter, yet all recognizably Mathesonian - never just-another-commercial-story that might carry any by-line at all.

Matheson has gone on to many types of writing - crime novels, paperback s.f., stories for magazines outside our field (especially Playboy), films - and all his work is marked by the same integrity, the same ability to retain individuality while filling the needs of a market.

And what is the most striking characteristic of this Matheson individuality? It is that, as Robert Bloch has written, "Matheson gets closer to his characters than anyone else in the field of fantasy today. . . . You don't read a Matheson story - you experience it."

He has many other virtues, notably an unusual agility in trick prose and trick construction and a too-little-recognized (or exercised) skill on offtrail humor; but his great strength is his power to take a reader inside a character or a situation.

On its more realistic level, this power can be verified. In "Old Haunts" Matheson wrote from the inside about middle age. In "The Test" he described an agonizing parent-child relation which he has never experienced. In each case, I know that his projection from within is so painfully real and true that I believe him unquestioningly when be shows what is inside an amorous Venus girl or an involuntary telepath or a mutant who drips green.

How Matheson knows these things could itself be the subject for a Matheson story. I've no idea how it's done; but believe me, he knows.

Listen to him.

-------Jack O'Connell
writes a piece about keeping notebooks. I find myself keeping one these days so I was intersted in what Jack had to say.

Ecstatic Days
Jeff VanderMeer

Jack O’Connell / Resurrectionist Week: O’Connell on “The Notebook”

“Good Christ,” I can hear him muttering. “Not another ramble on the meaning of notebooks.”

As usual, I mostly agree with Hector (my pet name for the imagined reader in the shadows, always a little bitchy, never prepared to give me an inch). “Didn’t Ms. Didion cover this subject pretty splendidly about four decades ago?” H asks. “You really think you might have something to add?”

Probably not. But let’s find out.

In Jill Krementz’s photo book of writers’ desks, we view more than a hundred pages of scribes at their main lab stations—each one in some way utterly suited to its owner—before we come to Richard Ford, whose desk differs somewhat from those of his colleagues. “My ‘desk’,” writes Ford in the commentary that accompanies his photo, “is more of a concept than a thing. It’s like the ‘Belize desk’ at the State Department; an idea more than a place you actually sit at.”

While I’ve worked at the same desk since 1975, Ford’s definition fits well with my own sense of my notebook.

The notebook, to me, is an idea, an all-encompassing repository for my quirky consciousness as it winds its way forever upriver. It’s a continuously evolving incubator, inherently messy, fragmented, idiosyncratic, loquacious, forgetful, quixotic, and occasionally (okay, often) full of half-witted and badly expressed notions.

for the rest go here

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

And a small thing...even given Damon Knight's eventual deploring of some of Matheson's phrasemaking in his reviews, he liked the early stories enough to buy them, presumably for WORLDS BEYOND...