Monday, February 02, 2004

One of my favorite antidotes to the world is the late R.A. Lafferty's brilliant 1965 story "Slow Tuesday Night." I reread it as a balm whenever I can't take the culture anymore. It's nominally science fiction--the removal of a mental block speeds up the pace of human activity to an unimaginable degree--but what it really is is a tinglingly cynical allegory of the superficiality of modern culture. The world of "STN" is one in which every commodity, every value, is instantly disposable:

The reviews of the first five minutes were cautious ones; then real enthusiasm was shown. This was truly one of the greatest works of philosophy to appear during the early and medium hours of the night.

Most disposable of all are relationships between people, which are uniformly temporary; they are conducted only for career enhancement and the briefest sexual pleasure, and Lafferty takes his most cynical delight in describing them:

Loving, for Ildefonsa and her paramours, was quick and consuming; and repetition would have been pointless to her. Besides, Ildefonsa and Freddy had taken only the one-hour luxury honeymoon.

I usually prefer parables (with their broader metaphors) to allegories, but "STN" is too perfect a description of the current cultural environment, and it's newly delicious every time I read it.

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