I’ve alread blogged about some comments about my father from his close friend, Australian Arthur Burns, in an interview with John Foyster. Here are some bits from an article Arthur wrote after my father died–they sure brought back memories for me, especially the physical description. Thanks to John Foyster for the right to use this material, which appeared initially in Australian SF Review.
He was above medium height, terribly gaunt, bald, high-nosed, narrowing in the chin; he wore severe excellently-cut suits; his favourite hat was a soft black velour like an Italian film producer’s. He was constantly ill, usually with digestive or metabolic troubles, and had to put up with repeated surgery, so that in middle age he always lived close to the vital margin. He took time off from a dinner party in Melbourne for a long drink of hydro-chloric acid, at which a guest, quite awed, remarked that Linebarger probably *was* a man from Mars…
Some intelligent and sensitive people have found the cat stories, particularly ‘The Game of Rat and Dragon,’ quite creepy. They seem to me less creepy than uncanny. The Linebargers’ house population of cats varied from seven to eleven, and they lived in all three and a half levels of it. Paul’s communication with each of these cats, as individuals, suggested a distinct variety of ESP. It was as though one was watching a subtle and moody conversation amongst grandees who took care to respect each other’s dignity.
The house itself I cannot remember without a pang, for I mostly remember it with Paul tapping away upstairs at his typewriter, or as another feline presence in the bow-windowed living-room, flicking through some elegantly-bound work from the curve of the bookshelves.
Beyond the living-room arch, an oblong dining-room displayed a New Year card, two or three feet by three or four feet, bearing in great Chinese characters greeting from Sun Yat Sen. In the basement were yards of bookshelves, some open and some encaged, and most devoted to science fiction. I have never seen so much of the latter in one place. This was also especially cattish country.
In the attic were two collections of objects–the more predictable, firearms, notably pistols and revolvers including a lot of weapons dropped to World War II resistance movements; the less predictable, dozens of more or less antique typewriters…Paul’s study upstairs was piled high with the manuscripts, first editions, and scoria of his numerous writings.
We often conversed about science fiction–his own and others’. Characteristically, he admired the craftsmanship and consistence of Arthur C. Clarke’s Defoe-like tales, while feeling that there were vast dimensions of human experience that Clarke never touches. Cordwainer Smith’s stories were a kind of important ‘playing’ (Paul was greatly impressed by Huizinga’s ‘Homo Ludens’): through them are dotted irrelevant cryptograms, geographic allusions, and names transliterated from foreign languages.
Leave a Reply