I tripped over this old post by Acid Free Pulp the other day, and I had to laugh at her offhand remark about one of her bigger misadventures in teaching undergrads:
Valis might not be the best selection to teach to 19-year-olds.
If you read Philip K. Dick, you’ll know why I thought that was so funny.
It reminded me of a long ago conversation with a friend, S; I’d told him that Stanislaw Lem was my current favorite author. He asked for a recommendation. I recommended the first book that popped into my mind (probably because I’d just finished reading it): Memoirs Found in a Bathtub.
Do you read Lem? You’ll understand why Acid Free Pulp’s anecdote reminded me of this. Memoirs didn’t go over well with S.
My then-boyfriend-now-husband, on hearing the story, just shook his head. “Try Tales of Pirx the Pilot,” he told S. “or The Cyberiad.” S took the second suggestion; it went over much better.
Photo: Nina Zumel
I don’t know why I didn’t recommend The Cyberiad; it’s my favorite of all Lem’s work. It’s labeled as science fiction, and it’s about robots and involves space travel; but it’s only sci-fi in the same sense that The Martian Chronicles are sci-fi. Really, both of those books are collections of fables or fairy tales, disguised as science fiction.
Anyway, these thoughts got me flipping through The Cyberiad again, and inspired a little post on my other blog, partly about how hard it must be to translate the book. Lem could toss discussions about mathematics and statistics around like a pro, which is why the post is over there, but readers here might enjoy it, too.
Or if that’s not your speed, here’s another post from BLT on Dick, Lem, and Bradbury, written when Bradbury passed away last year.