Short Story Review: “In Our Block” by R. A. Lafferty

2 of 5 stars.

Absurdist literature often seems to be about nothing, other than its own silliness or randomness. But that’s not necessarily the case. Think Alice in Wonderland, some issues are more easily explored, some lessons more easily learned, when freed from the bounds of culture and era.

This absurdist vignette from over 50 years ago follows 2 old friends, Art and Jim, revisiting their old neighborhood after decades away. The area has changed drastically, everything replaced by a series of tiny shacks no more than a couple meters to a side. Each has a single occupant conducting business with no noticeable goods nor means of production.

The first shack has a man that makes new inventions out of thin air as he thinks them and then sells and supplies them by the semi-trailer load mere minutes later. The second shack has a woman with a horrendous grasp on formal English grammar that takes dictation and provides letters in duplicate without pens, paper, or typewriter. The third shack is a bar slinging drinks without bottles, refrigerators or any other means of storage. The bartender, who looks and speaks like the stenographer next door, admits her talent for conjuring what’s needed and correcting her mistakes when they occur, but she seems naive to the strangeness of her process or the processes of those around her neighborhood–this is what they know . . .

This tale appears in Street Magicks edited by Paula Guran. I received this new anthology from Netgalley. The short story was originally published in Worlds of If [July 1965].
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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