Monday, September 13, 2010

Arrive at Easterwine: The Autobiography of a Ktistec Machine

     I can not explain to you what I have just finished reading. My first exposures to the writings of R.A. Lafferty made a significant impact, but this novel just left me irritated and confused. And running to the dictionary every few moments (but sometimes laughing out loud, which makes reading this bilge worthwhile).

      Here are some (I left out the really woolly ones) of the words that I had either never seen before or did not readily know the definition:

callow - lacking adult maturity or experience; immature
purlieu - a neighboring area; outskirts; a place that one frequents
aerie, aery, eyrie, eyry - the nest of a bird, built on a cliff; a house or stronghold perched on a height
tor - a pile of rocks on top of a hill; a rocky peak or hill
fulgent - shining brilliantly; radiant
urbane - polite, refined, and often elegant in manner
fellah - a peasant or agricultural laborer in an Arab country  (plural is fellahin  or fellaheen)
poseur - one who affects a particular attitude, character, or manner to impress others
aestivation - the act of spending or passing the summer (also spelled estivation)
eutectic - formed at the lowest possible temperature of solidification for any mixture of specified constituents; used primarily for alloys
eidolon - a phantom, an apparition; an image of an ideal
chthonic - of or relating to the gods and spirits of the underworld (Greek mythology)
bilge - the rounded portion of a ship's hull; stupid talk or writing, nonsense
abscond - to leave quickly and secretly and hide oneself, often to avoid arrest or prosecution
cloy - to cause distaste or disgust by supplying with too much of something originally pleasant
subtile - accepted variant spelling of subtle
cybern - [not in my dictionary, could be a made-up word]
roue - a lecherous, dissipated man
intramuros - [not in my dictionary, could be a made-up word]
intraficies - [not in my dictionary, could be a made-up word]
paean - a song of joyful praise or exultation
palimpsest - a manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment, that has been written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely erased and often legible; an object or place that reflects its history
gamy - ill-smelling; rank; showing an unyielding spirit; corrupt, tainted
prescind - to separate or divide in thought; consider individually
philology - literary study or classical scholarship (literally 'love of learning')
numinosity - related to 'supernatural' in meaning
amnestic - adjectival form of amnesia
Faeroes - a group of volcanic islands in the northern Atlantic Ocean between Iceland and the Shetland Islands
outre - highly unconventional; eccentric or bizarre
caul - a portion of the amnion, especially when it covers the head of a fetus at birth; also called pileus
gravid - carrying developing young or eggs 
quoit - a game in which flat rings of iron or rope are pitched at a stake, with points awarded for encircling it (sounds like horseshoes to me)

     A few quotes from this book:

"There is nothing the matter with matter. Life is no more than a privileged form of matter. Love is no more than a privileged form of life."

"You never get anything out of the ones who have the most."

"There is a man and a woman walking on the walkway; I would have to describe them as congenial-appearing crabs.
'Are you two married to each other?' Gregory asked them lovingly.
'Got to be,' the man said. 'Who else would have us?'"


  1. _Arrive at Easterwine_ is generally considered to be one of his worst novels. Half the problem is that Lafferty broke the Academy setting across dozens of books and short stories (eg. _Annals of Klepsis_) so half the time you don't know anything about the characters or backstory.

  2. Arrive at Easterwine is not an easy novel. Some people love it. Some people hate it. I love it, but de gustibus non disputandum est. I'm more alarmed at the list of words you had to look up, virtually all of which I knew off the top of my head,and many of which are in common usage. I didn't know intramuros (which I looked up and is Latin for "within the walls"), intraficies (OK, ya got me there, but, knowing Lafferty I'd wager it's Latin - it looks Latin), amnestic (which I would have figured out on the fly because its similarity to the root word) and quoit. Faroese is a recognized language in Denmark. (The Islands are owned by Denmark.) Roué (with an accent grave over the e) is used in a song covered by David Bowie for Chrissakes. Cloy is not commonly used, but cloying is often used to describe something sickly sweet. Ex.: "Disney films are unbearable because they are so cloying." Every nature show about eagles seems to mention that they live in aeries. Outré (again, with an accent grave - and no, I don't know how to type that on my US keyboard either but copy/paste enables anything) is in very common usage. I hear it on TV shows all the time. (Castle, et al.) You probably wouldn't be familiar with aestivation unless you have a particular interest in natural history, as I do, but there is nothing wrong with having to look words up. Expansion of your vocabulary is one of the benefits of reading. And none of these words (bearing in mind that I can't speak in defense of intraficies) are sufficiently outré that you would not be enriched by knowing them. Jesus Christ, don't ever try to read Gene Wolfe.

  3. Thanks for the comment Bill. I would suppose you've read a lot more than I have, which would explain why words I considered difficult were easy for you.