1976 - Jeffty is Five

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BrianSiano
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Postby BrianSiano » Fri Jul 15, 2005 10:40 pm

tke3 wrote:But you don't disagree with him much, or only very meekly, was kind of the point.

Oh, this oughta be good.

I wish, Brian, you could follow my lead and keep the comments to the story instead of trying to divine my intent, which was merely to express my irritation with someone who attacked me without reason. Sycophancy has always bothered me, and there's no thirst for blood there. I'd take your comments more seriously if you'd stop trying to defang my arguments by making attacks on me.

Well, here's a chance for you to learn where you may ahve started off on the wrong foot. It's this insistence of "sycophancy" you keep seeing here. You can have whatever opinion you want... but frankly, you seem to equate 'agreeing with Harlan" or "only mildly disagreeing with Harlan" as a kind of sycophancy. You don't seem to consider that people can agree, or mildly disagree, on the basis of the facts (or, in this case, the story). Frankly, you come off as a loutish freshman who, when corrected on his screaming of insults, accuses others of "political correctness."

In any case, who are you to say what the point is? For that matter, who is Ellison? Why can't a story be a touchstone for many different avenues of thought?

But even if I were to accept the dictatorial notion of literature--that a story is what an author say it is and no more--which I emphatically do not accept--even if I accepted that, Ellison himself seems to think one of the points of the story is to make you understand the mother's pain, how weary she was, how she wanted a few moments to herself. Well, ok, that's his assertion--but I think it's bullshit. Ellison's wrong, or at least I think he is. It's just solipsism dressed up to tug at your hearstrings, to cloud your judgement, to make you forget what a despicable thing this so-called mother does.

Again, you're free to read the story in any way you want. But for all of your declaiming on your Right to Dissent, you seem extremely thin-skinned when others find fault with your interpretations. You zero in on the act of Mrs. Kinzer, and demand that she fry in the electric chair for her evil, evil act.

Okay, so maybe that's the limit of your appreciation of literature; maybe you read Jay Gatsby as a guy who just needs to get laid, or that Winston Smith deserves to be shot for snitching out Julia, or all the attention paid to Jean Valjean's inner life is a waste because he oughta go to prison. But don't get all pissy when some of us find your p.o.v. more than a tad limited.

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Jim Davis
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Postby Jim Davis » Fri Jul 15, 2005 11:48 pm

tke3 wrote:I realize it might sound silly to examine the story from a legalistic perspective, but in this atmosphere of explaining away the terrible wrongness of the mother's actions, I think it's justified. . . It's important to ask what are an author's underlying assumptions and whether you agree with them and to what conclusion the author would like them to lead you to.

That's not Lit 101, or any other cute phrase that tries to dismiss the perfectly legitimate education people get at university. That's the result of defining your own moral boundaries like a lapidary, and understanding how they operate even in world's where the prevailing moral boundaries are inverted.


Are you sure you meant to write "lapidary"? Other than that, I guess I agree.

When a skilled professional writer lays down a story and we don't pick up on the facts, that probably is the readers' fault, who is either too lazy or dumb to pick up the facts. But being repelled by his moral conclusions is the sign of courage and independence, as well an indication that you wouldn't accept slavery just because it's 1825 America or pedophilia just because it's ancient Greece.


Oh, please. Are you really comparing your disapproval of "Jeffty" to being an abolitionist in 1825 America? A bit much, don't you think?

But even if I were to accept the dictatorial notion of literature--that a story is what an author say it is and no more--which I emphatically do not accept--even if I accepted that, Ellison himself seems to think one of the points of the story is to make you understand the mother's pain, how weary she was, how she wanted a few moments to herself. Well, ok, that's his assertion--but I think it's bullshit. Ellison's wrong, or at least I think he is. It's just solipsism dressed up to tug at your hearstrings, to cloud your judgement, to make you forget what a despicable thing this so-called mother does.


I'm not sure what you're getting at, here. First, you say that if you accepted that "Jeffty" is what Harlan says it is, you still wouldn't accept it, which makes no sense. Second, you seem to have missed Harlan's main point; namely, that one of Leona's motivations was a desire to save Jeffty from further attacks by the Present. Harlan, as author of the post and the story, never denied that Leona was tired of caring for Jeffty, just that there was more to her act than a simple release from an unwanted burden. Acknowledging that one motivation may be love doesn't mean the others don't exist, as well.

You also call this acknowledgment "solipsism" (?) designed to make the reader forget that a "despicable thing" has occurred. In other words, Harlan is trying to whitewash an act of brutal murder, and all of this talk of Leona's love is nothing more than a lame attempt to excuse it. It's like you're comparing Harlan to some shifty-eyed suspect on NYPD Blue, who'll break down and admit, yes, he hated the little bastard and everything he's said up until now was a lie. Why don't we concentrate on what the text actually says, which should trump everything else? Let's take your claim that Leona is really nothing more than a "brutal bitch"--how do you explain the line, "So she did love him, still, a little bit, even after all these years"? If Donny, Jeffty's best friend, really thought that Leona was a cold-blooded killer, why would he write that? If she was driven purely by selfishness, wouldn't he say so? Or, are you really suggesting, as I think you are, that Harlan wrote a pro-euthanasia story, and that line had to be put in there to give Leona an alibi? If that's the case, then I think you're ascribing motives to the author--always a dicey proposition--that aren't borne out by his actual words. If we look at the final paragraphs, for example, there's an overwhelming feeling of sadness and failure, hardly what you'd expect if Harlan were trying to obscure the tragedy of what happened. (And "failure" is the key word, not only on Donny's part, but Leona's, as well.)

You speak against a dictatorial position, but by insisting that a reader who has any sympathy for Leona is guilty of a form of moral cowardice, you're doing the exact same thing. You think Leona should go to prison--fine. But is it impossible to imagine her perspective, no matter how alien it may be, and understand how love might inform it? Isn't the point of literature to challenge us, and make us see the humanity even in those who we'd otherwise condemn, or is it simply to confirm what we already know? If you insist that every work pass some kind of a moral litmus test, you'll have a very hard time finding anything that doesn't offend your delicate sensibilities.
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tke3
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Postby tke3 » Sat Jul 16, 2005 12:12 am

BrianSiano wrote:....


Brian, let me know if you ever get bored with the psychoanalysis and want to respond to my various thoughts on the story.

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Postby tke3 » Sat Jul 16, 2005 12:46 am

Jim Davis wrote:
Are you sure you meant to write "lapidary"? Other than that, I guess I agree.


Yeah I did. You know, with precision--like a jeweler.



Oh, please. Are you really comparing your disapproval of "Jeffty" to being an abolitionist in 1825 America? A bit much, don't you think?


I'm just using extreme examples of what happens when you let your morality be defined by the time and place. But I don't know that saving children from their murderous mothers (which of course is not what I'm doing as we have this little discussion) is of any less moral import than ending slavery.


I'm not sure what you're getting at, here. First, you say that if you accepted that "Jeffty" is what Harlan says it is, you still wouldn't accept it, which makes no sense.


I'm saying the author's understanding of the factual background is definitive; her understanding of the moral import of a story is all but worthless. Why is that confusing? Facts=yes, morality=no.

Second, you seem to have missed Harlan's main point; namely, that one of Leona's motivations was a desire to save Jeffty from further attacks by the Present. Harlan, as author of the post and the story, never denied that Leona was tired of caring for Jeffty, just that there was more to her act than a simple release from an unwanted burden. Acknowledging that one motivation may be love doesn't mean the others don't exist, as well.


I'm sure lots of killers have love or some deranged version of it in mind. And I don't mean to be flippant but so what? That's a mitigator, for sure, but an excuse? No way.

You also call this acknowledgment "solipsism" (?) designed to make the reader forget that a "despicable thing" has occurred. In other words, Harlan is trying to whitewash an act of brutal murder, and all of this talk of Leona's love is nothing more than a lame attempt to excuse it. It's like you're comparing Harlan to some shifty-eyed suspect on NYPD Blue, who'll break down and admit, yes, he hated the little bastard and everything he's said up until now was a lie. Why don't we concentrate on what the text actually says, which should trump everything else? Let's take your claim that Leona is really nothing more than a "brutal bitch"--how do you explain the line, "So she did love him, still, a little bit, even after all these years"? If Donny, Jeffty's best friend, really thought that Leona was a cold-blooded killer, why would he write that? If she was driven purely by selfishness, wouldn't he say so?


When I say solipsism, I'm referring to the mother, of course. Like I said, I have no doubt there are mixed motives. But if I were to encounter this scenario in the real world, the fact that Leona loved the kid about as surprising as I do relevant. Which is to say not very. Even if concern for herself was not the chief motive, which I suspect it is, her decision is irrational and dangerous and I'd want her off the streets.


Or, are you really suggesting, as I think you are, that Harlan wrote a pro-euthanasia story, and that line had to be put in there to give Leona an alibi? If that's the case, then I think you're ascribing motives to the author--always a dicey proposition--that aren't borne out by his actual words.


You realize those two sentences are wholly incompatible, right?

And no, it didn't occur to me Ellison had written a euthanasia fable. I'm very much in favor of euthanasia. The idea that someone has to go through their life in terrible physical pain and they're denied the dignity to go out on their own terms, well that's bullshit. The idea that someone must live with the knowledgge of a breathing corpse that sorta looks like their wife, despite knowing they would have wanted you to pull the plug, that's bullshit.

But I refuse to accept a definition of euthanasia so broad as to include what the mother does. Most people who murder probably feel like they have some good reason, and some chunk of them probably feel they're doing the other guy a favor. It wasn't the mothers decision.


You speak against a dictatorial position, but by insisting that a reader who has any sympathy for Leona is guilty of a form of moral cowardice, you're doing the exact same thing.


That's not what I'm saying. I'm perfectly open to people reacting differently to the story than me. I'm not open to the idea that the moral import of the story is, ipso facto, what Ellison says it is.

You think Leona should go to prison--fine. But is it impossible to imagine her perspective, no matter how alien it may be, and understand how love might inform it? Isn't the point of literature to challenge us, and make us see the humanity even in those who we'd otherwise condemn, or is it simply to confirm what we already know? If you insist that every work pass some kind of a moral litmus test, you'll have a very hard time finding anything that doesn't offend your delicate sensibilities


Well-said. Honestly, it is a problem for me. I think I respond a little too viscerally to some stories. When an author's good, as Ellison is (even tho he's a complete asshole), I feel it strongly. I can't read Flannery O'Connor without wanting to yell at her that all this Jesus stuff is nonsense.

Lots of authors have challenged me and made me rethink things. I think of Ellison's beautiful "Strange Wine" every time I feel like whining about my life's various deficiencies. When I think of slavery I think of Butler's Kindred, and her characters' implicit take on slavery--that individuals were caught up in this time, and while that may explain what they do it does not excuse it. Authors are smart people with lots to teach the open reader.

But this time, Ellison's just wrong.

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Jon Stover
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Postby Jon Stover » Sat Jul 16, 2005 1:28 am

You know, I actually can't look at this story as being about actual mercy-killing in the actual world except in the metaphorical sense -- ie., that part of "Jeffty" looks at the costs of certain actual, real-world things by using a fantastical stand-in for Down Syndrome or whatever one wants to insert in there. But that's part of the story, and a very metaphorical part it is if one wants to look at the story solely through such a distorting lens, in which case I guess the only question would be why Harlan didn't write a story about a kid with a real-world affliction instead of this kid in this situation which I'm pretty sure no one here has run across and, if anyone has, please call me with the documentation.

I mean, I feel sorry for Grendel in John Gardner's Grendel at points, but that doesn't mean I see the poor fella as an adequate stand-in for a real child of abusive heritage because Grendel's mother is the size of a house and Grendel's greatest abuse came at the hands of a tree. He's not a sad-eyed kid I may see when I walk through the mall. He's an eight-foot-tall creature of legend who makes me think about various things, including nature vs. nurture, without making me want to have Momma Grendel and John Gardner hauled in by child services.

Jeffty is a five-year-old boy who has been and always been five and who alters reality around himself to lesser and greater extents by generating radio broadcasts and movies and magazines that don't otherwise exist. That the story can cause people to talk about the rightness or wrongness of the actions of various people around Jeffty is terrific, and I think tke3 makes some interesting points.

But Jeffty is not a kid with Down Syndrome. He is not the kid from the excellent The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime. He is not afflicted with a real disease, a real genetic abnormality, a real affliction. Because he isn't, I think the story allows a certain sort of dialogue to take place and is indeed valuable because for some people it may be easier to get their attention focused on the alien and the unusual when it really is the alien and the unusual and not Down Syndrome or autism.

But deciding that Leona is guilty because she killed him in this situation isn't a particularly great critical endpoint. That the story might make one think about what would drive someone to do something similar in the real world -- great. But debating Leona's punishment in hard-and-fast terms in this case strikes me as being a little weightless. She and Grendel's mother may indeed be bad mothers in the fantastic worlds they inhabit. So the fuck what? Middle-Earth has a goofy political system. What would the UN do with Sauron? Should we send troops in to secure a democratic election rather than the installation of Aragorn?

Please note. tke3, that as a lot of this discussion started before you came on-board, this isn't aimed solely at you. It just seems like what's been generated in this conversation (again, not by you alone) is a discussion in which the secondary creation (in this case, the world of "Jeffty is Five") is expected to act simply as a metaphor for the primary creation (ie. ours). And as with Tolkien, I don't find fantasy that's simply a stand-in for the real things that are really happening (Jeffty=autistic child) to be all that worthwhile. Because if Harlan wanted to write about an autistic child who drove his parents to the brink of murder, I think he would have or could do so. So why is this rendered in fantastic terms? What's the value the writer and the reader both find in such a story with real-world parallels that is nonetheless both fantastic and not an allegory?

Cheers, Jon

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Jim Davis
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Postby Jim Davis » Sat Jul 16, 2005 2:41 am

Jesus, I should go to bed. I'm really tired, so forgive any typos or lapses in . . . whatever.

tke3 wrote:
Jim Davis wrote:
Are you sure you meant to write "lapidary"? Other than that, I guess I agree.


Yeah I did. You know, with precision--like a jeweler.


"Defining your moral boundaries as precisely as a lapidary" would've been clearer, though it's still too vague for my tastes.

I'm not sure what you're getting at, here. First, you say that if you accepted that "Jeffty" is what Harlan says it is, you still wouldn't accept it, which makes no sense.


I'm saying the author's understanding of the factual background is definitive; her understanding of the moral import of a story is all but worthless. Why is that confusing? Facts=yes, morality=no.


Again, that was far from clear in your original post, where you made no such distinction.

I'm sure lots of killers have love or some deranged version of it in mind. And I don't mean to be flippant but so what? That's a mitigator, for sure, but an excuse? No way.


You can understand a motive without necessarily excusing it. No one's saying that you have to approve of what Leona did, just to imagine why she did it--and how it could've been motivated by something other than selfishness. If you can't see how love, however twisted, fits into that equation, then I don't know what else to say.

When I say solipsism, I'm referring to the mother, of course. Like I said, I have no doubt there are mixed motives. But if I were to encounter this scenario in the real world, the fact that Leona loved the kid about as surprising as I do relevant. Which is to say not very. Even if concern for herself was not the chief motive, which I suspect it is, her decision is irrational and dangerous and I'd want her off the streets.


Then imagine that Leona was eventually tried and convicted for manslaughter or negligence, if that makes you feel better. (Nothing in "Jeffty" or in Harlan's comments precludes such a scenario, as far as I'm aware.) Personally, I don't get this insistence on yoking legal consequences from "real life" into the confines of a fictional story. Why does "Jeffty" have to be a flawless replica of our world? Doesn't that kind of miss the point of a work of fantasy?

Or, are you really suggesting, as I think you are, that Harlan wrote a pro-euthanasia story, and that line had to be put in there to give Leona an alibi? If that's the case, then I think you're ascribing motives to the author--always a dicey proposition--that aren't borne out by his actual words.


You realize those two sentences are wholly incompatible, right?


No, they aren't. Read them again.

You speak against a dictatorial position, but by insisting that a reader who has any sympathy for Leona is guilty of a form of moral cowardice, you're doing the exact same thing.


That's not what I'm saying. I'm perfectly open to people reacting differently to the story than me. I'm not open to the idea that the moral import of the story is, ipso facto, what Ellison says it is.


"I don't care what bullshit excuse you give" hardly sounds like you're open to other interpretations, but we'll chalk that up to first-post awkwardness. Putting aside Harlan's comments, as far as I can tell, "Jeffty" itself doesn't insist on a particular moral stance. It does, however, ask that you consider them, even if you don't agree.

Well-said. Honestly, it is a problem for me. I think I respond a little too viscerally to some stories. When an author's good, as Ellison is (even tho he's a complete asshole), I feel it strongly. I can't read Flannery O'Connor without wanting to yell at her that all this Jesus stuff is nonsense.

Lots of authors have challenged me and made me rethink things. I think of Ellison's beautiful "Strange Wine" every time I feel like whining about my life's various deficiencies. When I think of slavery I think of Butler's Kindred, and her characters' implicit take on slavery--that individuals were caught up in this time, and while that may explain what they do it does not excuse it. Authors are smart people with lots to teach the open reader.

But this time, Ellison's just wrong.


I just don't share this outrage you feel. The ultimate moral stance in "Jeffty" is far more ambiguous than you give it credit for, especially considering the final paragraphs of the story. Picturing Donny in front of his Philco, scanning the airwaves for stations that no longer exist . . . all I feel is this massive sense of desolation, where everyone has to live the rest of their lives with the awful knowledge that they just weren't good enough, that they were unworthy of this rare and precious gift they were given (probably the greatest gift they'll ever have), and no matter what they do, there will always be this awful void that fills every moment of every waking day. If you're looking for a punishment, how could anything be worse than that?

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Postby Jon Stover » Sat Jul 16, 2005 4:32 am

Not to disagree with Jim, even though I'm about to while noting that Jeffty would be a precious gift -- but at the same time imagine living your life inside this odd, nostalgic bubble in which the present never happened. Forever.

I know the story of how the title was generated, and I've noted Harlan's comments on here, but lately I've sometimes wondered if at some point Harlan looked askance at a particular nostalgic collector of the past and thought, but what if? What if the world that generated Ovaltine collectibles and radio shows still went on somewhere and gave you your heart's desire and the result was awful? What if nostalgia could invade the present? Given his collection o' stuff, Harlan may have looked at himself in the mirror at some point after finding a nice Bell Comics curio and though, wtf?, but the extrapolation remains -- Jeffty is an aggressive piece of the past that precludes real futures in the people he touches.

The narrator, not particularly attached to anyone, gloms on to him and after his death sits listening to his vintage radio, hoping something will show up. Does this guy form relationships with real people, live in the present? Jeffty's parents never had any other children and are frozen into passivity throughout much of the story. The other edge of Jeffty is that he's horrifying, as pleasant and interesting as that imaginary past-present is that he conjures up, the rose-tinged past eating the present and generating in the narrator and the parents' tellingly passive responses.

Cheers, Jon

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Postby tke3 » Sat Jul 16, 2005 3:09 pm

Jon Stover wrote:But deciding that Leona is guilty because she killed him in this situation isn't a particularly great critical endpoint. That the story might make one think about what would drive someone to do something similar in the real world -- great. But debating Leona's punishment in hard-and-fast terms in this case strikes me as being a little weightless.

Samuel Delany once said of a story, and I paraphrase here, "the reader should ask herself what punishment the protagonist deserves, what punishment character B feels, and so on."

People read fiction for lots of reasons, probably, chiefly, because it's an enjoyable thing. But also, I think, because it's a process of eudamonia--a process of discovering what's right and wrong by putting yourself in moral dilemmas you might never encounter, and thereby learn more about yourself than the events of life would reveal.

I'm not sure what you mean by "hard and fast" but I think you're referring to the level of specificity in my remarks about manslaughter vs. homicide and so on. As I noted, I felt a littly funny making those remarks. But I think it's important to ask not only is something wrong but if so how wrong. Gradations of culpability are important if you want to order life into anthing other than the shapeless gray mass it presents itself as.

She and Grendel's mother may indeed be bad mothers in the fantastic worlds they inhabit. So the fuck what? Middle-Earth has a goofy political system. What would the UN do with Sauron? Should we send troops in to secure a democratic election rather than the installation of Aragorn?

I'm not sure what Sauron or Aragorn are. This is some fantasy thing?

Anyway, your "so the fuck what" could be legitimately addressed to any critical inquiry. And the rejoinder here is as sturdy as any. It's interesting and rewarding and enriching to think about what a parent's obligations are, about how morality gets transformed for parents, how selfishness disguises itself and often travels in tandem with altruism and how sharply should those boundaries be drawn. That's why whether she''s a shitty mother matters.

It just seems like what's been generated in this conversation (again, not by you alone) is a discussion in which the secondary creation (in this case, the world of "Jeffty is Five") is expected to act simply as a metaphor for the primary creation (ie. ours). And as with Tolkien, I don't find fantasy that's simply a stand-in for the real things that are really happening (Jeffty=autistic child) to be all that worthwhile. Because if Harlan wanted to write about an autistic child who drove his parents to the brink of murder, I think he would have or could do so. So why is this rendered in fantastic terms? What's the value the writer and the reader both find in such a story with real-world parallels that is nonetheless both fantastic and not an allegory?

But isn't it an allegory? Doesn't Ellison keep saying over and over that the story is about the present consuming the past? Sounds allegorical to me, albeit not the allegory you think I think it is.

If I agreed that the story is that point (present kills past) and nothing more, I would probably be inclined to agree that my line of inquiry is foolish. But I don't. For me the story is also about duties, of friends and family. One question the story raises for me is whether a lapse in duty, like neglecting the kid, is equal to actively hurting someone, as Leona does. I don't want to live in any universe where the distinction between the two isn't thick and and impossible to disregard.

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Postby Jim Davis » Sat Jul 16, 2005 3:15 pm

Uhuru! Uhuru!

Tke3: I think we just read this story differently, so maybe we should just agree to disagree on this one. Still, if you want to reply to my last post in detail, you're welcome to it.

Jon Stover wrote:Not to disagree with Jim, even though I'm about to while noting that Jeffty would be a precious gift -- but at the same time imagine living your life inside this odd, nostalgic bubble in which the present never happened. Forever.

. . . Given his collection o' stuff, Harlan may have looked at himself in the mirror at some point after finding a nice Bell Comics curio and though, wtf?, but the extrapolation remains -- Jeffty is an aggressive piece of the past that precludes real futures in the people he touches.

The narrator, not particularly attached to anyone, gloms on to him and after his death sits listening to his vintage radio, hoping something will show up. Does this guy form relationships with real people, live in the present? Jeffty's parents never had any other children and are frozen into passivity throughout much of the story. The other edge of Jeffty is that he's horrifying, as pleasant and interesting as that imaginary past-present is that he conjures up, the rose-tinged past eating the present and generating in the narrator and the parents' tellingly passive responses.

Interesting points. What's that saying of Rilke's? "Every angel is terrifying?" Jeffty is such a massive anomaly in the space-time continuum that he contains both the joy of staving off the ravages of the Present, and the tragedy of living a life completely disconnected from the potential it contains. It's funny, I was born in the late '60s, so the setting of "Jeffty" is where my nostalgia, my golden era, resides. Was Donny disillusioned with life around him, or just blind to its riches? And though I've spoken out against applying the rules of "real life" to a work of fantasy, you can't really avoid the pathos of a twentysomething man spending all his time with a five-year old boy, however magical he may be. It gives that sense of "failure" I spoke of earlier a wider application than just the inability to protect Jeffty from a beating.

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Postby Jim Davis » Sat Jul 16, 2005 4:30 pm

A sidebar: though I basically agree with Jon that looking for fantasy to serve as a one-to-one parallel to real life can be reductive and uninteresting, sometimes it can generate some really cool resonances in the reader's mind. For example, last year I read Poul Anderson's amazing novel, The Broken Sword, for the first time. In an early chapter, there's a scene where Anderson describes the rape by an Elvish king of a Trollish prisoner/sexual slave. Around the same time, the Abu Ghraib scandal was breaking out, and though Anderson obviously didn't write the scene with that in mind, I couldn't escape the parallels. Even without the author's intent, occasionally, you can't avoid intrusions by the Real World.

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Postby Jon Stover » Sat Jul 16, 2005 6:38 pm

I was a bit unclear, Jim -- there's absolutely nothing wrong with thinking of a real-world parallel when hitting something in a fantasy or sf book. Indeed, one of the strengths of fantasy is that it can support a number of parallels to different 'real-world' scenarios. So "Jeffty" stirs in some people thoughts about Terry Schiavo, others autism or Down syndrome, and so on and so forth, which means it elicits different responses than if it were a non-fantastic story about the difficulties of caring for an autistic child. The problem lies (for me) when everything starts being rendered down to a one-to-one comparison and discussion starts into the somewhat odd territory of 'What should Leona's punishment be?' or 'Should the narrator have called child services?'

It's odd in part because at that point you're going to have to figure out what the police and the court system are going to do with a five-year-old child who was born decades ago and yet remained five, for one thing. And that's a nitpicking problem that the story deftly sidesteps in a few lines -- but once we get into child services or murder charges, one is really going to need a whole other story to support such a narrative, a story that isn't "Jeffty is Five" but is instead The Strange Case of the Reality-Altering, Never-Aging Five-Year-Old Boy. It all seems a little like a much less funny version of the conversation about Death Star contractors in Clerks.

Cheers, Jon

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Unanswered Questions

Postby Adam-Troy » Thu Jul 21, 2005 7:09 am

Well, at this point you start heading into the realm of Questions Sidestepped By the Story That Are Better Left Unexamined. Whenever I've entered that realm vis-a-vis Jeffty, I've always wondered, how come our protagonist only finds out about Jeffty when he gets home? How come Jeffty isn't a world-famous curiosity? How come Jeffty's house isn't swarmed by nutcases who want his secrets of immortality? Hey, how come Jeffty isn't locked up in some medical research laboratory having his blood drawn and centrifuged on a daily basis?

Practical answer to all of the above: because then, we wouldn't have THIS story.

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Postby Ben » Thu Jul 21, 2005 12:04 pm

For one reason or another, as I read the story, I kept picturing Jeffty as a perfectly normal-looking five-year-old. I never saw autism, Down's syndrome, or any other solid, "clinical" affliction coming into the picture.

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NeonMosfet
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Postby NeonMosfet » Wed Jul 27, 2005 10:11 pm

Okay, let's do something different. This is a criss-cross. Goes like this. Jeffty is five; he is always five, Juifty est cinq; il est toujours sunk.
Leona wants to save Jeffty from the Present. Tomorrow is my bday, and I'll treat myself to a present, a gift. Das Gift, poison. Is Leona trying to save him from the Present or from poison? Jeffty ist f"unf; er ist immer f"unf, eine f"ur immeres Kind. His parents were a decent kind. Except they did not travel through normal times anymore than it is normal to have a perpetual five year old, static in time.
They do what they can, which isn't much. Der Luger spricht die Warheit; a luger speaks the height of war. So they give him up. A five year old can not work and is geschalenet ( beaten) als wertloser Lebend. They give him up, rationalizing that he's going to a better place, a Kinderlager, where life is beautiful under the gaze of that monster, Mengele. Ironically, he himself drowned, which seems fitting.
When Leona takes him upstairs ( die Treppa, Abba) to wash off the blood, the radio suddenly broadcasts rock music, die Musik rauchen. The music Smoke gets in Your Eyes. And Jeffty is aghast, gassed as the radio, KLYB, falls into the tub killing Jeffty.
Jeffty or is that Juifty? becomes representative of every child, who from 1942 to 1945, was sent to the kinderlager of Auschwitz. " It's only water. It's only a shower."
If you go to the Holocaust Memorial, in Miami Beach, you will be greeted by the face of Jeffty.

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Victoria Silverwolf
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Postby Victoria Silverwolf » Thu Aug 11, 2005 9:41 pm

Ben Basset wrote:For one reason or another, as I read the story, I kept picturing Jeffty as a perfectly normal-looking five-year-old. I never saw autism, Down's syndrome, or any other solid, "clinical" affliction coming into the picture.

I totally agree. If Jeffty is seen as diseased, instead of a normal, bright five-year-old, it reduces this beautiful, superb, heart-breaking story to a trivial case study.

I remember being at Iguancon, with Mister Ellison as the Guest of Honor, and seeing the cover of the program book with a wonderful illustration of a scene from this brilliant story, with Mister Ellison himself depicted as Jeffty's adult friend. I also remember the storm of applause as "Jeffty is Five" was awarded the Hugo award at that convention, as it so richly deserved.


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