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Our Lady's Juggler 
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Heinlein Biographer

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 1:33 pm
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Post Re: Our Lady's Juggler
RobertJames wrote:
Heinlein is deceptive, because he wasn't interested in having readers distracted by signs saying, "Look at me! I'm being literary! Look -- I'm a symbol!!"

He operated in a commercial market, and learned to craft the well-told tale that sold well.

But he was a master of slipping into that commercial market the thing that must have satisfied him as much as the sale -- an underlying structure, meaning, and unsettling quality that most great art possesses.

People used to think Hemingway wasn't all that much of an artist either, until you start to look at how perfectly crafted his works are (at least prior to WWII, before the manic depression and alcohol began eroding the art).

Heinlein, like Asimov, deliberately chose to construct a simple prose that anyone could read. Asimov was the single best nonfiction writer this country has ever produced; he could explain anything to anybody (I passed all my college science courses by reading him first on the topic). But where Asimov's fiction has begun to age (badly, I might add, with a few exceptions), and rarely rewards re-reading, because what's on the surface is all there is -- Heinlein, on the other hand, has deliberately laid in multiple layers of meaning and questioning that rewards deep reading, and re-reading.

That he could do all that, and still sell commercially, was unprecedented in SF, and most other genre fiction as well.

Robert

You know, I went looking for a single story that could be categorized as pure pulp, and the ones I found were the ones he had trouble selling to pulp. The stories he is best known for are simply not commercial stories by any of the standards for magazine fiction in the 1930's and 1940's. The self-similarity of scene structures in "Misfit" to the story as a whole -- and self-similarity in an otherwise lightweight story like Elsewhen is just not something you find in commercial magazine fiction, even in the slicks.

The only conclusion I could come to is that Heinlein possessed or created the rather unusual ablity to write "art" stories that successfully masquerade as commercial stories. I suspect, however, that a certain amount of cooperation on the part of the readers is/was necessary to make that work. People have been commenting on "Coventry" for nearly seventy years and still manage to miss the basic theme of the story.

That's an amazing story, by the way, incorporating a classical Brechtian V-effekt into a doubled romance. One of the things that has never been explored to any degree at all was how much a Modernist Heinlein was -- and how ready for Modernism sf was at the time.


Sun Aug 02, 2009 2:49 pm
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Post Re: Our Lady's Juggler
BillPatterson wrote:
People have been commenting on "Coventry" for nearly seventy years and still manage to miss the basic theme of the story.

That's an amazing story, by the way, incorporating a classical Brechtian V-effekt into a doubled romance. One of the things that has never been explored to any degree at all was how much a Modernist Heinlein was -- and how ready for Modernism sf was at the time.

So would you like to comment of the basic theme here, or point us to a site where you already have?

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Mon Aug 03, 2009 9:36 am
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Post Re: Our Lady's Juggler
General recommendation: when a thread comes to a fork in the road, take it.

That is, Yogi, start a new thread and write a well-crafted first post that encapsulates the seeds of the new discussion before continuing on with added thoughts.

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In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Mon Aug 03, 2009 10:01 am
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: Our Lady's Juggler
freesharon wrote:
BillPatterson wrote:
People have been commenting on "Coventry" for nearly seventy years and still manage to miss the basic theme of the story.

That's an amazing story, by the way, incorporating a classical Brechtian V-effekt into a doubled romance. One of the things that has never been explored to any degree at all was how much a Modernist Heinlein was -- and how ready for Modernism sf was at the time.

So would you like to comment of the basic theme here, or point us to a site where you already have?

This is so short that it may not be useful to start a new thread. Everybody identifies the "theme" of "Coventry" as interdependence, but that's just the subject of a lecture at one point. It's a "loose" motif in Todorov's test for theme; if you remove it from the story, the story is not affected.

The theme of the story is -- well, you could call it "self-healing." The opening dialogue with the doctor at the hearing is remarkably subtle. The points MacKinnon makes are simultaneously true and not true; the rejoinders the doctor makes are true and not true. The theme and resolution are both in that scene: Covenant society cannot tolerate you because you believe your values are privileged over that of others; but Covenant society is equally freezing up and becoming too nice-nice. What MacKinnon must do is become tolerable by the Covenant society he actually wants to live in once he gets into his head that the romantic frontier fiction is not realistic for his life-situation. And MacKinnon has to make the change in himself by realizing what was true about what he said and what was true about what the doctor-judge said.

It's not on a website, but I did a very extensive study of "Coventry" in a back number of the Heinlein Journal -- in fact, I did depth studies of the entire first suite of Heinlein's fiction, up to "Blowups Happen."


Mon Aug 03, 2009 9:07 pm
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Post Re: Our Lady's Juggler
Aright, you guys, all those novel and story names you've been dropping, and I've read them all ... except The Calibrated Alligator (WTF?). Now I'm going to have to get that from some used book vender. Luckly the Internet makes that relatively easy.


Mon Apr 25, 2011 6:54 pm
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Post Re: Our Lady's Juggler
By the way, IIRC, Spider had to make his own translation of "Our Lady's Juggler" into English, because the available ones were all rubbish, if you had read the original story. Rubbish translations is one good reason for the story being mostly unknown today. I commented on something similar about "The Lysistrata".


Mon Apr 25, 2011 6:56 pm
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Post Re: Our Lady's Juggler
sakeneko wrote:
Nicely put, Robert. I've never been a big fan of most of Asimov's fiction, although I think "The Gods Themselves" is still worth reading after thirty years. His non-fiction, however, is brilliant and in many ways inspired me in my career path. (I'm a technical writer hoping to become a full-time science writer one of these days.)

Much of Heinlein's fiction, however, remains among my favorites after innumerable rereadings. "Stranger in a Strange Land" was, unfortunately, the first Heinlein book I ever read and completely freaked me out in high school, but now it's a favorite. ;-) "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is *the* favorite, thirty-seven years after I first read it. (Also in high school.) Ditto so many other books, both "early" and "late" Heinlein. I find something new in them each time I read them.


Tried to read The Gods Themselves when it came out in paperback, and abandoned it after a few pages.
Don't ask me why, though; this probably was more than thirty years ago.
I guess I just wasn't impressed.
What people have commented about Asimov's use of dialogue I fully understand; in fact, he really did seem more of an idea guy than a fine writer. It took me decades to finish the Foundation Triology, and I was much less impressed with the writer than when I had started.
As for Clarke, hey, I just loved those short stories he set at the English pub.


Sun May 29, 2011 4:43 pm
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Post Re: Our Lady's Juggler
"Tales from the White Hart" was *wonderful*. My favorite Clarke. :-)

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Sun May 29, 2011 6:31 pm
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Post Re: Our Lady's Juggler
sakeneko wrote:
"Tales from the White Hart" was *wonderful*. My favorite Clarke. :-)


That was it, thanks!
Of course, that is one of the books NOT available at the Laredo Public Llibrary.
The other Clarkes I have read are Childhood's End and Rendezvous with Rama. Loved Rama when it came out; passed up a chance to re-read it just recently.


Sun May 29, 2011 7:08 pm
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Post Re: Our Lady's Juggler
Couldn't stand "Childhood's End" -- I thought it was an antiutopia when I first read it. Was wrong, at least as far as Clarke's intent was concerned. <wry grin> "Rendevous with Rama" came out when I was in high school, within a year of "The Gods Themselves". I read it, loved it. Reread it ten years later, still loved it. Found a genuine first-edition of it a few years ago that looked just like the one in my high school library, so of course I had to buy it and read the story again. I still like it, although I think that three readings will be enough for me on that one. ;)

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Tue May 31, 2011 12:43 pm
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