Posts Tagged ‘paul di filippo’
This is only di Filippo’s third published story (he must have literally hundreds now) and it shows. The style is much blander than we are used to from di Filippo, there is no sign of his trademark wit and the plot is just ridiculous.
With the honourable exception of Jeffrey Ford, Witpunk has so far been neither funny or good so I thought I would flip to the usually reliable Di Filippo. Unfortunately he doesn’t buck the trend.
It is traditional beginner’s advice to young wannabes not to writer about writers because of the risk of falling headlong into a recursive loop of pure tedium. Of course, rules are made to be broken; consider Ford’s superb ‘Bright Morning’. Di Filippo’s story of a SF writer with writer’s block, on the other hand, falls straight into the previously mentioned mobius. At first it does catch the attention though, thanks to the highly distinctive style it is written in:
The problem of washing one’s hands. When bums barricade the sinks. Corso hesitates, shifting his soft modern satchel from hand to socially unsanctioned postmicturating hand. When one of the mendicants departs. Leaving the taps running. So that one doesn’t even have to touch them. Saving one from contact with numerous New York germs too vile to mention.
The whole thing is like that which is okay for a couple of pages but gets tiresome quickly and after that the story really drags. Corso is suffering from hallucinations caused by stress-related mental illness. Except it isn’t mental illness, it is the “dicky fits”, a special sort of awareness of the universe that affects some science fiction writers and grants them a type of godhood. Needless to say the story is dedicated to Philip K Dick which seems rather poor taste.
Now, to awaken her, he had only to speak her name, a name he had chosen and suitably altered in memory of a fairytale he had enjoyed as a child, a fairytale whose creator-figure harmonized vaguely with Geppi’s own name and vocation.
How convenient. This is, obviously, a fairytale re-telling where – in keeping with the theme of the anthology – it is Pinocchia’s clit which grows every time she lies. It isn’t just stealing the premise, in style and structure it apes a fairytale.
I skipped forward to this story in the anthology because of this post by Alex Dally MacFarlane which starts: “I’ll skip any preamble: I read a story, I disliked it strongly, I am now ranting about it.” Her mistake is to read the story as an example of realism rather than as a cartoon. Within this context rape becomes just another activity. MacFarlane accurately concludes: “It all seems to be about the sex, rather than a true journey of self-discovery.” ‘Pinocchia’ is (perhaps unsurprisingly) rather similar to di Filippo’s erotic novel, A Mouthful of Tongues: Her Totipotent Tropicanalia; it is mostly concerned with the eroticism of variety and indulgence. That is to say a very broad sort of story, unconcerned with the way people actually think, feel or behave.
When even SF Murphy recognises there is a problem, just how far from the pack have you strayed?
I’m a big fan of Di Filippo but he is very prolific and this is only average. Two silly satires in the form of the seperate careers of a married couple collide glibly. End of. It does at least look forward – unlike a surprising number of stories in this anthology – but it is hardly boundary pushing.
In his intro Sarrantonio suggests Di Filippo is “an able postpunk successor to the likes of the great Philip Jose Farmer”. Anyone care to unpack that musical analogy? I’ve got as far as Farmer being Viv Stanshall but then everything collapses under the strain of the temporal shift Sarrantonio’s comment implies.
He is also wowed that that one of Di Filippo’s collections contains a story “in which a costumed Franz Kafka – yes, I said Franz Kafka – roams the night of Manhattan as the avenger Jackdaw”. Oh my God! Franz Kafka! My mind is blown! I am starting to suspect Sarratonio’s shiftiness is not my shiftiness.