So it’s lunchtime and I’m reading Herovit’s World (wholely contained within The Passage of the Light and I cannot for the life of me stop laughing. Outloudly, vocally, loudly. It just keeps coming with each paragraph. This has to be one of the funniest books ever written, and yet I hesitate to quote passages because unless you’ve read Barry Malzberg before, and unless you have some idea of what it’s like to be a writer, and in particular, a writer of science fiction, the passages would all be lost on you.
Okay, I’ll give a shot. I’ll quote something dispairingly funny, but I doubt you’ll get it. Keep in mind, this is a novel, fiction, and a recursive novel at that:
He receives a phone call from the girl with whom he slept in the hotel the evening of the League for Science-Fiction Professionals’ cocktail party. She feels slightly embarrassed about calling him at home, knowing how busy a professional writer must be (probably turning out another one of those novels right there this minute), but would like to know nevertheless if he would attend a meeting of the developing Staten Island Wonder Association, of which she is still the corresponding secretary and second chariman.
“Now you don’t have to come if you don’t want to,” she says rather bitterly. “They only put me up to this job because they thought you might say yes if I asked, but if you don’t want to come, it really doesn’t mean a thing to me either. I dont’t care about any of that fan stuff; it’s still for the kids. Why, I haven’t even been active for over two years and I’m much older than the rest of them–to old for those meetings–but if I can do them a favor, well then, why not?” Her voice is hurt; Herovit feels that he has come into the middle of something quite complicated. “Most of these people have no life outside of talking about science fiction, which is a rather sad thing when you think about it, but still, someone has to buy the stuff and read it, isn’t that right? They put up the money.”
Herovit recalls listening to this as he has not recalled for several days what it was like to be with her. (Sex departed is best forgotten; why get yourself all upset, although, now and then you could come up with an image that you could jack off to.) She’s had resilient breasts and had not, even in the last throes of sex, made a sound. Maybe being a Wonder reader conditioned you against orderinary novelties. Also, she does not seem to have read a word of his, not ever, which on that basis alone means that he owes her some affection and a sense of obligation. People who have never read him have done Herovit, he supposes, a rather large favor.
There you have it. I warned you might not get it, but for me, well, I just can’t stop laughing.