15 October 2014

[literature] What Did Not Kill Harlan Ellison Obviously Didn't Try Hard Enough

3160.
We have been following the news of the travail of a man called, by himself, 'possibly the most contentious human being in the world' with some interest.

Above: L: Susan Ellison, R: This mook she married.
Photo: Steven Barber
Harlan Ellison, we have heard, has suffered a stroke, since about a week now. He's been in the hospital, and we hear, is doing quite well actually. He has, it is reported, lost a bit of use of his right arm and right leg.

This will do some damage to his legendary typing speed, though how his right leg entered into it, I'll never know.

I've admired his writing and watched with amusement and awe as the legends about the man grew and got spread. I've heard him described in glowing terms; one person I knew once referred to him as "The Ego That Ate Corvallis."

What he was ever doing in Corvallis, I'll also never know.

My exposure to him began with a copy of the collection Approaching Oblivion, which has eleven short, crisp, sharp-edged stories which range from the almost-too-abstract-to-be-a-story "Ecowareness" to the dark "Cold Friend" to the barbed "Knox" to the warmest, most humorous Jewish story I've ever read, "I'm Looking for Kadak", almost Sholem Aleichem in miniature. I came to this book as a 11-year-old who sent in a penny to the Science Fiction Book Club without telling my Mom; if I had had any actual ambition, this probably would have spurred my rise to becoming an actual author; as it was, even though I didn't comprehend the stories, I sensed kind of a kindred spirit there. At 11, I was a bullied social outcast, and knowing, even though not clearly, that there was someone out there who saw the world as I did, while it didn't spur me on to any artistic destiny, at the very least it helped me cope.

It is a beloved book. I still keep a copy (Book Club Edition for memory's sake, bought from Powell's) on the headboard of my bed.

He is, thankfully, recovering. His wit, they say, is as sharp as ever. I have the good fortune as having as online friends some people who are personally very close to Harlan, and they have collectively described the scent at the hospital as one of more than a fair amount of mirth. When a stroke victim is entertaining his guests, you know that's a good sign.

So, for what it's worth, whether you like him or dislike him, he's still with us.

What did not kill him should have tried harder … but I'm glad it gave up.

Steven Barber, a/k/a The Thumbnail Traveler, has a short heartfelt thing to say about it. The photo above is also via his gracious aegis, for which I am doubly grateful. 

3 comments:

Lori Koonce said...

Wonderful tribute Mr. Kline. I can only hope that someone wants to write something like this for me if I ever find myself in the same position.

Lori Koonce said...

Wonderful tribute Mr. Kline. I can only hope that someone wants to write something like this for me if I ever find myself in the same position.

Samuel Klein said...

I'm sure you've impressed more than one person similarly. We are all leaning on each other, after all.

Thanks for the kind words.