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From: "Alice K. Turner" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Jack Vance or There are Doors?
Date: Fri, 20 Dec 2002 21:00:41 -0500

Rat rote:

>          The Cugel stories are in the tradition of "picaresque tales"
> (tales about rascals) and we've seen very few in recent times, though they
> were common in Spain in the 16th c. You're supposed to both like and
> disdain Cugel, and that's the strength of a picaresque tale, which exposes
> the attractiveness of wicked behavior and makes us feel the humanity of
> even wicked people, all the while entertaining us humorously and
> showing us that wickedness is .. well .. wicked. It's a kind of realistic
> humorous moral tale that is hard to pull off, and Vance does it
>          Whether on thinks Vance is "great" or not, the Cugel tales are
> deft and exquisite exemplars of a neglected genre of Western literature.

Oh Ratty, picaresque tales are very much with us today! Without even using
my waning brain power, I'm thinking -Tom Jones-(and then the movie), Felix
Krull-, -On the Road- and a zillion Hollywood "road movies" including the
great -Thelma and Louise-, movies that Jack Nicholson inhabits, with -Easy
Rider- only the first of them. It's become a very American form, though the
Irish -The Ginger Man- de rigueur in my college days, was another one. And
on and on. Picaresque doesn't really mean rascally, it's more an unplotted
tale that moves from adventure to adventure without much formal structure.
But rascally helps! And the Cugel stories fit perfectly, though most of
Vance is a bit more plotted. Let's see, in sf (which I'm less familiar with
than some of you) Pangborn's -Davy-, some of Delaney I think, the Fafyrd and
Mouser stories if they're thought of as a narrative (maybe that doesn't
count, but it almost does). Nearly everyone here can probably improve on
that list.

For people planning to dive into Vance, let me remind you that our own
mantis has written a useful (and cheap) guide that you can find by going to
the website marked in his sig.



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