Saturday, April 24, 2010

Been Remiss in my Vance Posts...

Well, as an adjunct to a harrowing post on my other blog, here's one of my favorite scenes from Jack Vance's 1964 novel The Killing Machine, in which Kirth Girsen, trained from youth to pursue a monomaniacal quest to avenge the deaths of his loved ones, stops in a dining establishment during the course of his mission:

...The air of Ard Court smelled richly indeed, with a heavy sweet-sour organic reek that distended the nostrils. Gersen grimaced and went to the shop from which the odors seemed to emanate. Taking a deep breath and bowing his head, he entered. To right and left were wooden tubs, containing pastes, liquids, and submerged solids; overhead hung rows of withered blue-green objects the size of a man's fist. At the rear, behind a counter stacked with limp pink sausages stood a clown-faced youth of twenty, wearing a patterned black and brown smock, a black velvet headkerchief. He leaned upon the counter without spirit or vitality, and without expression watched Gersen sidle past the tubs.

"You're a Sandusker?" asked Gersen.

"What else?" This was spoken in a tone Gersen could not identify, a complex mood of many discords: sad pride, whimsical malice, insolent humility. The youth asked, "You wish to eat?"

Gersen shook his head. "I am not of your religion."

"Ha ho!" said the youth. "You know Sandusk then?"

"Only at second-hand."

The youth smiled. "You must not believe that old foolish story, that we Sanduskers are religious fanatics who eat vile food rather than flagellate ourselves. It is quite incorrect. Come now. Are you a fair man?"

Gersen considered. "Not unusually so."

The youth went to one of the tubs, dipped up a wad of glistening black-crusted maroon paste. "Taste! Judge for yourself! Use your mouth rather than your nose!"

Gersen gave a fatalistic shrug, tasted. The inside of his mouth seemed first to tingle, then expand. His tongue coiled back in his throat.

"Well?" asked the youth.

"If anything," said Gersen at last, "it tastes worse than it smells."

The youth sighed. "Such is the general consensus."

Ha ho! I am not the first person to post this excerpt on teh t00bz.


Smut Clyde said...

It is an excellent Vance site to which you link. I was particularly chuffed when the author acknowledged Vance's debt to Kai Lung... I was exposed to the Kai Lung stories at an impressionable age (due to Dorothy Sayers' habit of having her characters quote from them off-handedly as if this is a natural accomplishment for any well-educated person), so later encountering Jack Vance was like reclining back into a comfortable, familiar piece of furniture. The two have a shared approach to dialogue in which characters shroud their intentions or views behind a veil of persiflage, and part of the fun for the readier is piercing that veil.

Also, the word 'deodar' is linked inextricably in my mind to Dying Earth stories.

If the culinary notes that you cite are any guide, then I am an adherent of the Sandusk sect without even knowing it till now.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

You two talked me into reading all of this.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

You two talked me into reading all of this.

You have no hope for escape, your assimilation is unavoidable!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

If the culinary notes that you cite are any guide, then I am an adherent of the Sandusk sect without even knowing it till now.

Well, the limp pink sausages can be found in any supermarket or ballpark in the States.

We are all Sanduskers now!

Johnny Pez said...

By a staggering coincidence, Fred Pohl also has a post up on Jack Vance.

Smut Clyde said...

Yay Fred!
Only 8 Google-hits for 'lapidary prose' + 'Jack Vance'! It is an outrage!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Thanks, JP, your excellence knows no bounds.