Saturday, October 24, 2015

Book Review: This Is Me, Jack Vance! Or More Properly, This Is I

Jack Vance is one of my favorite authors, so when I discovered his autobiography had been published I naturally bought a copy for my Kindle and started reading it.  You can find a copy here: This Is Me, Jack Vance! Or More Properly, This Is I, which I encourage you to read.  Jack Vance is somewhat notorious for not talking about his writing process, and although he largely remains true to this idiosyncrasy, he does make a few exceptions in this book.

Vance is an acquired taste for most people.  He possesses a vocabulary that is well above that of the average author, and is on a much different level from the average modern author.  Whenever I read Vance I end up consulting a dictionary several times during the novel.  I find that having to stop reading and look up a word enhances the experience for me, but not everyone feels this way.  The typical Dean Koontz aficionado would likely give up after a few pages.

Vance starts with vivid memories from his early childhood, progresses through several attempts at college, and spends most of his time describing his married life.  If you're familiar with his work, you'll find a few familiar scenarios that appear in his novels.

A few things that I was interested in learning is that Jack Vance never wrote with a typewriter.  He wrote his novels longhand, using one or more fountain pens with various color inks.  When he finally lost his eyesight, his son arranged a word processor for him so that he could continue writing.  I was surprised to learn that Vance and his family traveled extensively, settling down in some exotic location just long enough to write a novel or two, then moving on.  The family ran out of money several times, but this condition didn't seem to phase Vance very much.

From what I was able to gather about Jack Vance and his writing process, and what I can surmise, I think he was one of these people who simply sat down and wrote the story.  Ergo, there wasn't really anything much for him to describe.  He wrote, sent his manuscript to his agent who then made a good deal with the publisher.  Vance didn't edit much, and he hated it when things were changed, such as a title.  Vance specifically mentions this a few times.

This book is an excellent read, and provides real insight into the life of a truly great author.  I recommend it to everyone.

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