The AVRAM DAVIDSON
Why I Like Avram Davidson's Novels & Stories ; with comments on selected
These paragraphs do not comprise a well-ordered
critical essay about Avram Davidson's work. They are an attempt to express
some of my enthusiasm and delight. In late 1992 I first read a battered
but intact copy of The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy paperback.
I was surprised, again and again. The rambling sentences and digressions
impressed me, but most of all it was the way in which Avram integrates
obscure and bizarre knowledge into these stories: knowledge that in anyone
else's hands would be dusty and uninteresting or an info-dump (technique
invented, perhaps, by Jules Verne) that strangled or squashed the flow
of language. I went to all the right schools and have read lots of books,
but Avram was genuinely learned, as even a single sentence taken at random
will reveal. There is a healthy measure of irreverence to temper this erudition,
so that one is not oppressed by the weight of information.
I do not count myself among the ranks of the
academicians. This website is a portmanteau, Humpty Dumpty piece of scholarship,
one writer's response to another writer's work, full of quirks and deviations
from the straight furrows of traditional academic scholarship. Avram Davidson's
writings contain and call for a good measure of delirium: not incoherence
or ignorance, but the inspired capacity to follow an idea, a phrase or
a cadence in a new direction, to take a point a little bit further than
its simply logical conclusion. His work at its best (the Vergil and Peregrine
books, the Limekiller and Esterhazy stories) is incredibly fresh and rich,
each sentence resonant with suggestions of the complexity and concreteness
of the worlds described.
I am unsuited to write an extended critical
evaluation of Avram's work as it should be written. For me, to read Avram's
work is to understand how little I have read and how little remembered.
Anyone can salt a text with brilliant references, but it is the throwaway
references and ghosts of allusions rippling casually and untrumpeted throughout
Avram's work that demonstrate his vast reading.
This said, I have nonetheless made a beginning.
Shadows.Ed. Charles L. Grant. Garden City, New York: Doubleday,
World Fantasy Award Winner
Laundry Lines and Random Walks
Poverty is the principal character of this tale
of Avram's -- poverty and a concept of the city of Naples that will never
be found in Thomas Cook, Baedeker or Michelin guides. While a thorough
guidebook might even note in passing the concentration of back-alley pasta-shops
in poor quarters, the aim would clearly be to caution the tourist against
ill-advised gastronomic adventures.
I remember a book from my teenage years in
Brittany, the Guide noire de la Bretagne. It was filled with tales
of ill-fated demoiselles buried under oak trees by spurned lovers or furious
brothers (including where to locate said oak trees on the grounds of certain