There was once a man with a gift for gab who could write anything that he wanted to, and make it sound, oh so funny and true and absurd at one and the same time....
If this sounds like the beginnings of a Lafferty story, then you've been fooled, and fooled royally. Because R. A. Lafferty was one of a kind. There ain't no more like him back at home, not in Iowa, not in Oklahoma neither, and there ain't likely to be.
And we're not going to see any new Lafferty works rat-tat-tapping from that old Underwood in the future, unless there's a novel or tale or three already stuck to the walls of the old outhouse out back or crammed under the woodpile in the upstairs closet or hidden beneath the treasures in that padlocked chest under his fourposter bed. You could never be sure with old Laff.
But Ray himself is just about gone now, gone back to Never-Never Land or Oz or Middle Earth or whatever strange and wonderful place whence he derived. He wasn't human, you know. Oh, he looked real enough, and he walked and talked and gawked like a man, and he could fool you on occasion. But his words, his prose, they always betrayed him. They were just a bubble off plumb, just a wee bit over the edge, like the glint of a reflection caught in a sideways glance. No human could write like that.
There must have been a little alien in there, or maybe a touch of elfin blood, or maybe just a few too many beers poured down the hatch. Whatever it was, whatever elixir was responsible, it's irreproducible now, and we'll not see its like again.
R. A. Lafferty wrote two novels that will probably survive the test of time - Past Master and Okla Hannali - plus a handful of stories that have been acclaimed and anthologized and may still be read when all the rest of us have gone to our respective graves.
He never had a large following: his writings are too good and too quirky and too original for the ordinariness of fame. But even the least of his prose bears the unmistakable mark of a master at work, of a man with a unique vision of the world around him. Here was a writer who reveled in humanity in all its myriad variations, who loved life and loved people, who enjoyed laughing at the foibles he saw displayed in himself and in his fellow man. His tales spring alive at the touch of the thumb to the page, his characters leap fully-fleshed from the pages of his books. And they breathe.
Oh yes, we'll not see his like again.
- Robert Reginald San Bernardino,
- California 5 February 1995