fiction Id q
There is a quicksilver quality to Ellison that bespeaks
a rare and inquiring mind—a spontaneous creativity
and undisciplined selectivity.
John Barkham Review
Harlan Ellison—as he is at some pains to tell us in an introduction from his latest book, Strange Wine, is completely upfront.
You may take him at his word, for he is pulling your leg
not a bit.
Harlan is every ounce as violent, erudite, mind-blowing,
and sensory-overloading as his breakneck prose; he is perfectly
capable of pulling off the curse from David Bromberg's "Will
Not Be Your Fool" and ten minutes later offering you the
equivalent of his first-born son, neatly packaged and delivered by express mail.
In short,,he is a phenomenon which cannot be described, but which must be experienced-which makes a pen
portrait such as this seem futile . . .
And yet, it is a tantalizing challenge: Ellison's fiction, television appearances, introductions, and critical
writings compell one to think about him; it is impossible to ignore a force as elemental as that.
The key word is "extravagant." Everything he does is extravagant, often vulgar: he is constantly in motion,
as if even the—again, extravagant—outpouring of energy in his writing and endless social and business engagements
leaves him fully-charged and alive—another good key word: Ellison is endlessly alive. The walls of his living room
are crowded with artwork, geegaws, kinetics, books—thousands of books, of course, not the tasteful arrangement
of a few, choice volumes. Things of all varieties perch on shelves and tables in a manner too chaotic and too
blatantly sensual—as sensual as the furnishings themselves—to be merely baroque--the overall effect is finestkind
rococo, singly and en mass. Walking into that room for the first time is like encountering Ellison for the first time
in print: one suffers from sensory overload and comes away merely dazed. Nor is there contradiction in The Great
Man's office—the desk itself is smoothly and sensuously functional, and immediately around it is a playground,
starting with "adult" toys and winding up with yo-yos and a graffiti post. Harlan plays constantly—mind games
with guests (he is the master of 237 separate and distinct Funny Voices), roles, roles—it is impossible to say which
is the real Harlan Ellison—and constantly with his environment. Ellison Wonderland is a complete world, and it's
not so strange that Harlan has found increasingly less need for fandom: his world is fandom as it should be, constantly stimulating and reacting to him.
I think I solved part of the puzzle of Harlan Ellison within ten minutes of meeting him for the first time:
he is a Dionysian intellectual, a tee-totalling Dionysios, sui generis. That's really strange—and that insight might
go a long way toward explaining why almost everybody finds him incredibly hard to take: all of the rest of us
are rather thoroughly Apollonian in our training, with Apollonian tastes and conditioned habits. Although there
is a strong call to the Dionysian in our culture, it usually manifests itself in vitalism and nut-cult and low protestant
religiosity ... a person who has taken great draughts of Western culture in an assimilated it thoroughly is supposed
to be slightly cynical and emotionally cool—at least, so far as the standard role-models go. Almost everybody is
unprepared to deal with a strongly passionate and strongly intellectual personality.
I don't know of any better way to describe Harlan Ellison: strongly intellectual and strongly passionate. It's
an intriguing combination—and one we might all do well to use as a role model.
I liked the sequence of photographs on these pages and the preceding portfolio because they caught aspects
of Harlan which are only rarely seen in publicity photos—wit and humor, even exhaustion, serious intensity in conversation. Informality. I knew they had to be there. "Bleeding Stones" and 'The Chocolate Alphabet" don't
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