Monday, 22 October 2012

Out of Their Minds

Clifford D. Simak Out of Their Minds (1970)
...and whilst we're on the subject of reality as a function of consciousness, here we have one of Simak's Marmite books, so I have been led to understand, the novel besides which The Goblin Reservation reads like Of Mice and Men, the one where Cliff really went for it, throwing his main guy into a world populated by dinosaurs, demons, and cartoon characters - notably Mickey Mouse, Pluto, and good old Charlie Brown.

Or not as the case may be, for Out of Their Minds actually turns out to be a sober and surprisingly philosophical narrative on the nature of folklore and imagination, amongst other things. Fictional characters - and I mean fictional even within the context of the story - are introduced without so much as a whiff of post-modern novelty, and it seems particularly apposite that one of these characters should be a faithful and uncommonly sympathetic rendering of Don Quixote, himself a response to the literary traditions of Cervantes' time.

Out of Their Minds treats folklore as a by-product of human evolution crossed roughly with reality found in the eye of the beholder, or at least the eye of the one who gets to tell the story. It's spelled out in analogue rather than digital terms as with much of Simaks's writing, ideas offered for consideration rather than carved in stone. This is, I suspect, the secret of Simak's success, namely that he leaves the reader something to do; actually with a lot to do in the case of Out of Their Minds which is nothing if not multi-layered. This feels like one of those novels which delivers some new perspective each time you pick it up, and whilst I can see how it might not be to everyone's taste, I can also most certainly see why it has its fans.

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