I have a new obsession and I am adding it to my list of subjects that make manifest an insatiable desire to know everything there is to know about Paul Celan, Ted Hughes, Carl Jung, Rollo May, Sigmund Freud, Hannah Arendt, Hermann Hesse, Jean Paul Sartre, Iris Murdoch, Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Mann, Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, the surrealists, Max Beckmann, German and French history, and epic fantasy.
This new obsession possesses an odd name-Michael Moorcock-and supposedly lives near me in Texas. He is a Brit, living in Bastrop, but I don’t believe it. Oh, I believe that-maybe in an alternate universe-this Brit lives in Texas, but not really.
How did this obsession begin? How did this obsession creep up on me and why haven’t I discovered this guy before this late date? I mean he is my kind of guy. He likes to read the classics. He loves comics, Edgar Rice Burroughs, science fiction, games, and epic fantasy. He mentions Nabokov, a previous obsession, and he seems to know a lot about history, especially European history. He began publishing in the sixties-the period when I would read one or two science fiction novels a day-so how did his work escape my attention? I can’t figure it out. Maybe it is because his novels have a dream-like quality to them, which would have turned me off in the sixties, when I loved the science fiction of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. As I read him now, I am reminded of Céline and William S. Burroughs, writers which I didn’t initially appreciate.
Nevertheless, I now know who he is. I backed into him, through a writer, who I now know borrowed heavily from him-David Gemmell. But I didn’t read him until I saw a blurb on his Pyat series, a blurb that intrigued me because the plot of the novel seemed similar to what I was trying to do in my unpublished novel-The Blond Beast. So I picked up a copy of the first novel in his Pyat series-Babylon Endures-in one of those marvelous British paperbacks and devoured it in one or two sittings. It is a picaresque tale of a self-hating Jew (maybe), living in Russia in the early Twentieth Century, trying to survive the Russian Revolution. As an aside, I read Martin Amis' Koba the Dread the same week and these two books made wonderful companions.
I am now a full-blown Moorcock addict, as hooked on his literary drug, as Elric or Pyat are addicted to their drugs of choice.
Now here is where it gets good. There is an added bonus. Many of his books are out of print and impossible to find. I am an inveterate book collector. I am never happier than when I am tracking a book by its dusty scent. So what do I have? I have a great writer, whose books have disappeared. So let the search begin; and the reading; and the writing.
I intend posting several short essays on Moorcock as I track his books and devour them like some slime monster in the wicked passages of an ancient city of the multiverse.