Bokprat: Dying Inside

Kvällens bokprat behandlade Dying Inside av Robert Silverberg, som en del av vårt pågående tema, science fictions bortglömda mästare. Deltog gjorde Anna Davour, Jesper Svedberg, George Berger och jag själv.

Boken handlar om en man som lever i New York i mitten av sjuttiotalet (författarens nära framtid), och försöker hantera sin trytande telepatiska förmåga. En del av oss tyckte att den påminde om vår förra bokpratsbok, Camp Concentration, bland annat i det att den båda försöker behandla det som verkligen händer i allas vårt inre.

Ett annat tema är frågan om huruvida kunskap om andras tankar verkligen skulle hjälpa oss att förstå andra. Är huvudpersonens egna attityder och fördomar för starka för att hans förmåga ska kunna öka hans förståelse för andra?

Jag tror att vi alla tyckte om att läsa boken, och fascinerades av dess genomtänkta struktur. Flera av oss (särskilt Åka) hade gjort observationer de andra missat.

Nästa bokprat handlar om Bug Jack Barron av Norman Spinrad. Se kalendariet, e-postlistan eller Facebook för detaljer.

3 reaktioner till “Bokprat: Dying Inside”

  1. Björn is right about Åka’s probing comments. Although I had previously read the book twice, her remarks allowed me to form a pretty general interpretation of the text. But a conversation with Jesper at last Tuesday’s Pubmöte convinced me that my take was quite simplistic and one-sided. So instead of writing up my wrong idea I posted a brief notice on the Forum of the TTA Press, the publisher of the highly regarded semiprozine ”Interzone.” I hope that it will supply background information that some here do not know of, and that it will encourage fans to read ”Dying Inside.” I paste it here:

    Last month I read silverberg’s ”Dying Inside” for the third time. It was discussed in the Upsalafandom reading group several weeks ago. That discussion gave me a good understanding of the text. Briefly, it places an SF-nal treatment of telepathic mind-reading in a tradition of Jewish American writing that was popular in my home city of New York when I had just moved from there to Amsterdam. It does this so well that I can recommend it to any reader of fiction interested in American literature. It seems to have been well-received, and although ”wild talents” are no longer very interesting to many SF readers (the counter-evidence is overwhelming), the book is worth reading for its fine prose, abundance of functional references, and its picture of an augmented but real type of individual in NYC: the son or grandson of Jewish immigrants struggling to ”make it” in a society that, even though he was born there, he cannot quite fit into. This is a standard theme in the mainstream i mentioned; the use of SF enriches it and makes for a brilliant book.

  2. Jag är glad att ni tyckte att jag hade något att komma med! Det var ju andra läsningen av boken för min del, och särskilt intressant tyckte jag att det var att märka att den telepatiska färdigheten inte alls är till någon särskild praktisk hjälp för David Selig vad det gäller att komma överens med eller fungera ihop med människor. Han är något av en misantrop, och det färgar nog av sig på vad han uppfattar av andra människors tankar. Det bidrar nog också till att han inte kommer någon särskilt nära.

  3. Yes, Selig is a misanthrope whose talents do not help him get along with other people. There is perhaps a divide in his mind that is worth thinking about.

    When Zelig inspects the minds of his customers he is normally able to form an accurate idea of the way they would write a paper: their approach, the extent of their knowledge, and some hints as to style. The example from Kafka demonstrates this. Yet in the case of Mr Lumumba something interesting happens. Whatever Selig’s paranormal perceptions of Lumumba were like, his decision to use what he conceives the colloquial English of Blacks to be is not ”based” on them. Indeed, it is drastically misconceived. Lumumba would never write a paper in that kind of English, certainly not at an elite school whose English Department was then filled with anglophiles, some of whom I knew to be embarassingly pretentious (L. Trilling). There might be a mismatch between Selig’s telepathic perceptions and his thoughts. What can this mean and how does it work? If his contact is so intimate, how could its use go so wrong?

    Jesper and I discussed the extent to which Selig’s personality was influenced by his power. At first I agreed with Åka that there was little or no influence. Jesper saw more connections. I don’t know. But in this one case I can offer a speculation which unfortunately was part of my upbringing. Selig and I come from similar environments in NYC, the Jewish extended family. It was no different from other ethnic groups whose members tended to stick together. We were prejudiced against Negroes (the accepted term then). It was inculcated in us from our earliest childhood contacts with others. We had false ideas about them and their behaviour.
    Now suppose that Selig had so much difficulty with social contacts, that even at his age they dominated his attitudes towards Blacks. He had, let’s say, ”fixed ideas” about them. These would be so rigid that he would use them in situations where they don’t apply. In other words, his preconceptions would overrule many extrasensory perceptions he gets from Lumumba. This leads to a familiar philosophical problem: the relation between perceptions and thoughts. I do not know what these relations (if any) are, But Silverberg might have been thinking along such lines; he might have thought up an extreme case of disconnexion. In this case, Åka’s interpretation would be correct.
    Selig was well out of college when he got into trouble. I am sorry to say that this would be not be surprising, given our background (which was partly silverberg’s). Some people I knew from high school differ from Selig mainly in their lack of telepathic power and their financial success. Several months ago one ex-schoolmate now aged seventyone told me that Mr Obama ”has the wrong colour.”
    Her ideas were so fixed that she assumed that they were mine as well.


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