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The Avram Davidson Treasury epub

by Ray Bradbury,Grania Davis,Avram Davidson


The Avram Davidson Treasury epub

ISBN: 0312870892

ISBN13: 978-0312870898

Author: Ray Bradbury,Grania Davis,Avram Davidson

Category: Thriller and Mystery

Subcategory: Mystery

Publisher: St. Martin's Press (October 1998)

ePUB book: 1318 kb

FB2 book: 1555 kb

Rating: 4.9

Votes: 882

Other Formats: mobi rtf docx lit





Foreword OH, AVRAM, AVRAM, WHAT A WONDER YOU WERE .

The Avram Davidson Treasury - Avram Davidson.

Avram Davidson was one of the great original American writers of this century. The Avram Davidson Treasury. A Tribute Collection.

The Avram Davidson Treasury book. Avram Davidson was one of the great original American writers of this century

Avram Davidson was one of the great original American writers of this century. He was erudite, cranky, Jewish, wildly creative, and sold most of his wonderful stories to pulp magazines.

All agree that Davidson (1923-93) was a gifted and technically accomplished writer with a good ear for dialogue.

Avram Davidson Hugo Award winner Avram Davidson has mingled fact with fantasy, turned history askew, and come up with a powerful fantasy adventure.

Five hundred pages of stories from some writer that we've barely heard of? How good can this be? As it turns out, not bad at all and oftentimes verging on the excellent, as a host of other writers do their best to resurrect their old friend and make him famous in a way he was never in life (unfortunately, this book is out of print and Davidson is still far from a household name so it perhaps didn't work as well as they'd hoped). Its a journey through the literary life of a talented author and a sort of Irish wake, as his colleagues (and ex-wife, who helped edit the collection with Robert Silverberg) gather to give introductions to each story, not only explaining why they wanted the tale to be included but also dispensing with some amusing anecdotes about their cantankerous old buddy (and trust me, he must have been because almost every personal anecdote has some synonym for that or "cranky" included in there somewhere).

SF as a genre is seemingly littered with writers who were excellent in their time but never quite got their due despite being well regarded by their peers and fans. Davidson probably remains the epitome of those forgotten tale-spinners, possessing arguably the most raw talent and imagination of his generation of writers, as well as the ability to spin out tightly knotted tale after tightly knotted tale that had no real preference for genre. Sometimes he would write strange SF, sometimes it would be off-kilter fantasy, other times he would write these erudite and coiled mysteries. He worked steadily over the years of his life but never really hit the big time and over the years became crankier and more insular, eventually dying in a small apartment in Washington state without a great deal of money to his name and almost entirely forgotten by the general public and especially by SF fans.

This book was an attempt to rectify that injustice and it does make a good case that Davidson deserved far more accolades than he received when he was alive, cherry picking the cream of his stories and presenting them chronologically over the course of his career. As I mentioned each story is introduced by one of his author friends and one thing that struck me about those tidbits is how honest the writers were about their old friend, not at all sugarcoating how difficult he could be to deal with or how bitter and cranky he got later in life (Silverberg especially refers to the "shroud of rancor that we wove around [his works] in his later years"). At times it feels like the book is a mass apology of sorts, from his friends to Davidson, asking for forgiveness that he wasn't as popular as he perhaps should have been or expressing sorrow that he had struggled so much economically in his life when a lot of them ultimately did much better (Harlan Ellison's afterword, despite being taken from a "Best American Short Stories" note and thus weirdly coming across as being mostly about himself, perhaps best describes the strange unfairness that makes some people household names and leaves others to wallow in obscurity).

Reading through the stories its not difficult at times to see why he never caught on or sold in huge numbers despite his obvious talent with the short story, bordering on genius. His tales are by and large esoteric things, sometimes quick stories that set up a strange situation that is capped off with an eerie punchline, other times his stories are more immersive, drowning themselves in pure description while he conjures a world made of what feels like a million moving parts and somehow allows a great and subtle drama to occur underneath all the verbiage. But its definitely not for everyone and people looking for more straightforward spaceships and aliens stuff might find themselves scratching their heads looking for a way into his stories, which in the more opaque tales often leave you with the impression of a glittering jewel in a glass case . . . its brilliant to look at and you can certainly appreciate it but it doesn't exactly light any fires in your heart.

As it turns out, selection is key with Davidson. The previous collection of his stories that I read "The Other Nineteenth Century" was by and large a gathering of stories that to me felt more hermetic than anything else, gleefully detached from anything resembling modern tradition but also extremely difficult to get into as most of them turn on weird quirks of history or assume you have the same level of obscure esoteric knowledge Davidson does (which is nice of him to assume that of me but unfortunately a public school education and a science degree doesn't make me anywhere near the kind of guy who is going to win "Boer War Trivia Night"). That problem does crop up here and there (literally in the case of "The Price of a Charm" which was repeated in the other collection and requires you to have some knowledge of the causes of World War One) but more often as you get to the later stories where his more knotted style starts to overtake his storytelling abilities and he clearly seems to be writing for the pure joy of writing, delighting in choosing words that no one besides linguistic scholars would have even considered. It makes for dense, sometimes detached reading, like a genius explaining gleefully how quantum physics works while you just nod and hope some recognizable phrase comes your way soon.

But the earlier, shorter tales are remarkably in how concisely he can create a world sideways to ours, lay out the rules, then present us with a strange situation before turning the whole notion on its head with a chilling twist at the end. Whether its the gently savage "Now Let Us Sleep" or the truly weird "Or All the Seas With Oysters" or the unclassifiable "Dagon" (where John Clute says it best "it cannot be read, only reread") he churns out story after story in those early year that bristles with a unique sensibility and an untethered imagination. He plays with form and language (he's got a heck of an ear for accents and how it affects the rhythm of speech, the closest modern equivalent I can think of is Dave Sim of the comic "Cerebus") like a superhero discovering day in and day out the full extent of his powers. And even if some of the stories hit harder than others, he never puts a foot wrong.

Later when he fleshes out this style more he begins to get results that border on the amazing. "The Sources of the Nile" trades in the same cynical territory that Kornbluth and Pohl mapped out so well but still manages to conjure some optimism for the poor main character. "Sacheverell" distills pain and absurdity and humor into a story that feels about five pages long and wastes nothing. "The House the Blakeneys Built" has to rank among some of the weirdest stories I've ever read, toying with notions of language drift and yet keeping its ultimate meaning right on the periphery, tapping into an uneasiness in how its hard to tell if civilization erodes when understanding does, or if its the other way around.

Even further on he has tales that strike out for magical realism territory, the most successful of which is probably "Manatee Gal, Won't You Come Out Tonight" (an earlier story "The Power of Every Root" suffers a little too much from that opacity he was prone to at times) which presents a world where you can't know the rules and yet have to figure them out if you want the story to make sense. Davidson gives you all the clues you might need, even if he hides them very cleverly, in offhand descriptions and the space between what people say and what they mean. He stayed good right up to the very end, with stories like "The Slovo Stove" striking a poignant note about how society changes and the old ways slowly get worn away, centering all those emotions around the mystery of an impossible stove and a world that we hardly know is going until its gone.

Any one of these could have made him a household name and the fact that one man wrote all of these is astounding in itself. For all the wonders these stories contain Davidson rarely repeats himself . . . even when he returns to the same themes he manages to find a new and different way of stating those old truths. If he could be cranky and isolated and perhaps increasingly obsessed with the past toward the end, the stories themselves don't reflect that as much as a searching curiosity, an endless need to know . . . not to explain, mind you, Davidson sure seemed to like his mysteries but sometimes being able to describe the shape of the unknown is just as important as delving into the sources of knowledge. Reading these stories its clear that Davidson was too singular a writer to achieve mass popularity and yet was too distinct to be forgotten. He wrote because he had to and he wrote the only way he knew how and its telling that of all the friends and admirers that pepper the introductions and story notes, its telling that none of them wish for any of his skill or ability . . . rather they wish that he was still here to use his own skills and give us more of whatever wonder he had lurking inside his brain. That he can't anymore is a tragedy of the ordinary kind, the fate that perhaps waits any writer who takes the craft seriously. Despite our best efforts there will always be a story left unfinished, or nestled solely in the mind. What the editors and writers try to do here is reverse a travesty, even in a small fashion and for that they deserve our thanks and perhaps the modest hope that they succeeded in making his name grace a few more bookshelves than he did in life.
This may be best collection of short stories...ever. Avram Davidson is truly unique. I mean it. No one writes as Mr. Davidson wrote. There is a fantasy element to most of these stories, and Davidson wrote science fiction, as well. Several stories in this collection have a science fiction base. But I would describe these as modern fiction, maybe fiction with a Jewish bent, with a fantastic element. Now, the fantastic is absolutely a part of the story, and the story would not work without that, but, being unique, it is difficult to compare Avram Davidson to any other. When the book was ready for release, I was sent an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC). I read that book until it fell apart. So I purchased a hard cover. I keep it by my bed. I have purchased two more hard covers and given them as presents.
This book does not need enhancements, but enhancements it has, and they too are splendid. Each story has an introduction by a famous writer. A few also have afterwords. Renowned writer, Robert Silverberg edited this splendid volume along with Davidson's former wife, Grania Davis. I cannot recommend anything any higher. If I have an absolute favorite, it is "The Slovo Stove." Or maybe "The Golem." Or perhaps...buy this book. You will not be disappointed. Highly recommended.
I have little to add to the other glowing reviews of this anthology. Avram Davidson was a master of the short story. He worked mostly in the fantasy, science fiction and mystery genres, but his work transcends any genre. These stories reflect his boundless imagination; his incredible erudition; his love of language; and his humor, which was always mixed with a bit of anger (or his anger, which was always mixed with a bit of humor).

Having said all that, a few caveats. This is a big anthology, and it is a lot of Avram Davidson to read if you try to read it all through. But it is a short-story anthology, so you can easily read a few tales, put the book down and read something else, and then return to it. There are a few stories here I didn't care for; Avram at times was a bit obscure for my taste. But those stories are vastly outnumbered by the wonderful ones (way too many to list, so I will just mention two of my favorites, "The Golem" and "Or All the Seas with Oysters"). Finally, although each story has an introduction by another author-- a veritable "who's who" of modern science fiction and fantasy-- many of those introductions don't add anything to the stories.

But these are minor quibbles. If you don't know Avram Davidson's fiction, you need to read this anthology, which is the perfect introduction to his work. And if you *do* know his fiction, you will not need me to tell you that you need to read this anthology.