Saturday, March 22, 2008

Book #9: Candide, And The Best of All Possible Worlds

I never thought that reading Voltaire's Candide (1759) would be such a blast! I cracked up hard during several passages of this rich, swift work of genius satire. It feels fresh and contemporary (in substance, if not in the details): Voltaire's wit reaches effortlessly across the centuries to tickle us and make us groan with its deadly, mordant accuracy. I unreservedly, unabashedly recommend this classic.

Also, from a science-fiction perspective, this puts into perspective some of the comments made by celebrated speculative writers about the works of Robert Sheckley, one of my all-time favorite sf short story writers. In the oft-quoted asssesment of Brian Aldiss, "Sheckley at his best is Voltaire and Soda" and according to J. G. Ballard "[Robert Sheckley is] witty and ingenious... a draught of pure Voltaire and tonic." The depth of these comparisons has now been revealed to me. Ironically, being well-versed in Sheckley, I put Voltaire to the test by reverse comparison, and he passed with gloriously flying colors.

And now, let us continue to "cultivate our garden."
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