Discover Science Fiction's Answer To Portnoy's Complaint

Illustration for article titled Discover Science Fiction's Answer To Portnoy's Complaint

Why is Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside not spoken of in the same breath as Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, or John Updike's Rabbit Run?


The Los Angeles Times has an interview with Silverberg, which talks about his stature as the oldest of the writers associated with the New Wave in the 1960s and 1970s. Both the article's writer, Scott Timberg, and writer/critic Jonathan Lethem, attest to the awesomeness of Silverberg's 1972 magnum opus Dying Inside:

In truth, it feels more like Philip Roth: The narrator, David Selig, is the sort of angst-ridden Jewish man Alexander Portnoy might have known. Selig is smart enough to peddle term papers to lazy Columbia students, and he spends his free time drinking with a roommate, reading the thoughts of pretty women, and trying to repair his tattered relationship with his sister.

"Dying Inside" never found a wide audience, but it's been hailed by those who know it. Michael Chabon has called it "one of those rare novels that manages to be at once dazzling and tender." The book, which the New York Times once called "the perfect science fiction novel for people who don't like science fiction," was reissued last month by Tor.

Part of what makes Dying Inside so brilliant, says the Times, is that David Selig's telepathic power starts to fade as he gets older, changing from a radio station that never turns off to a "Joycean stream of consciousness." And this fading gift serves, says Lethem, as "an intimate allegory of the artist's quandary."

The article is worth checking out, for Silverberg's thoughts on his "love-hate relationship with science fiction." And what killed the "quixotic literary experiment" of the New Wave: the popularity of Star Wars. [L.A. Times]


Corpore Metal

Zoooooom! That's the sound of intricate literary discourse flying way over poor CM's head.