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This is Me, Jack Vance! Hardcover – July 30, 2009

3.4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Subterranean; Deluxe edition (July 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596062452
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596062450
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,835,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael S. Friedli on August 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
[Update:] This autobiography won the HUGO AWARD for Best Related Work 2010.

For anyone new to Jack Vance, this is the interesting lifestory of a prolific author of celebrated imagination and originality, containing a good measure on his globetrotting treks and oft ex-pat lifestyle, written with Vance's renown fluidity and style, easily holding the reader's interest steadily throughout. The book features an annex of 65 photos. It is a respectable feat for Vance to write this from the summit of age 93 (being effectively blind as well), commanding a writing career spanning some 66 years, and it is wonderful to relish whatever rare star-born crystal "IOUN stones" he generously chooses to share. (We should all hope to reach such venerable age, much less write a coherent, well-written book.)

But for ardent Vance-fans there perhaps is an unlooked for tact taken by Vance, for he eschews to "talk shop" (p.7) or relate much about specific novels and works, nor supply revelatory depth about his preeminent writing career. However this must NOT be construed as anything UNexpected, for as evidenced by every interview Jack Vance ever did, he has consistently been disinclined to discuss his works at length, but would rather that they stand on their own. (In the preface to The Best of Jack Vance he declares he does not like "to discuss, let along analyze" his stories. Likewise he has been notoriously reticent [in comparison to peers] to embark on self-promoting campaigns.) Such admirable integrity, as it were, he has carried characteristically into his autobiography, albeit to yowls of his steadfast fans (myself included).

Yet there is PLENTY in this 'bibliographically quiescent' lifestory for any fan comfortably familiar with Vance's marvelous corpus.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jack Vance has for decades been a writer I've greatly admired, as much if not more than any other I can think of. Famously reclusive, it seems that now, in his nineties, he has finally decided to share a little of his private life. And he does, giving us a sometimes fascinating, sometimes repetitive accounts of houseboats, travels abroad, old friends, and family members. What he does not give is anything much in the way of insight into his fiction. He warns the reader early on that there is not much "shop talk" here ... fair enough; I wasn't looking for a how-to book. What I was hoping for was some idea of what he thought about his various novels and characters, maybe how his fiction affected his life, other than just by financially supporting it. Forget it -- very little about writing at all, except a brief piece at the end, which he says was forced on him by his "entire general staff, including advisers, adjutants, and amanuenses." He does give a brief list of characters that he liked (including, interestingly, Baron Bodissey, who, as far as I can make out, never appeared as a character at all, but rather as a sort of narrative voice-over). The writing is graceful, of course, as anyone who reads Vance will expect. He disclaims style, but the style is elegant as always and, also as always, there is the sense of a certain reserve.

I had hoped for more, but the book is a pleasant enough travelogue, with many, mostly warm -- sometimes humorous -- stories about old friends; this memoir is perhaps intended more for people he knew than for his readers. At one point, he even says he no longer feels like the same person who wrote, as he puts it, all that "junk." At his age, and with his achievements, maybe he has earned the right to feel beyond it all. In the end, all I can say is, Thank you Mr. Vance for a lifetime of good reading, and for helping keep alive my sense of wonder. I really enjoyed that "junk."
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To the reviewers who note that this volume has little of Jack Vance' inner thoughts, I of course agree. But from one of the most famously private of the great authors of science fiction, would you expect otherwise? This to me is a final lesson from a master storyteller, where the messages are between the lines. Myself, I saw Kirth Gerson's grandfather in Vance's own; the many incidents of music in his work illuminated by his recollections of jazz and his own musicianship; his experiences of sea-going life reflected in Ports of Call, Lurulu and others; other more personal connections between the events of his life and his stories I'll leave to others to speculate on, but they are there.

In short I found this first a refreshing memoir about a time and place in America, where times were tough but anything could happen. Next, the sum of Vance' experiences and their relationships to his work I found fascinating -- nearly every page evoked for me one of his novels or stories. Lastly, the tone of the work I found full of generosity, inventiveness and toughness -- qualities too rare in authors, but abundant in Vance' heroes and heroines and, as I perceive, in Vance himself.
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I'd give 5 stars to the first 1/3 of this volume, and unfortunately about 2 stars to the rest. I don't think I'm alone in finding an elderly person's rich evocation of his or her childhood and early education endlessly fascinating, and this tale also has the advantage of being told in the unique style of Jack Vance. But once the narrative reaches the point where Vance gets married and settles down to a career of writing, about all one hears about are far travels and elaborate dinner parties. It is possible to make worthwhile tales out of vacations to far-flung places, but the average person gives us this: "Well, we took the bus to Parapoota, and we got out and walked around and looked at the ruins and then we got back on the bus and returned to our hotel at Pootapara." With Vance, we get a more polished style, but the same pointless tedium. Reading that someone had a party, or jazz jam session, is equally unrewarding.

Vance's literary career is long and distinguished, and his books have never contained any biographical information about Vance himself, leading some people to conclude he was some kind of recluse. According to this volume, far from it--- but even here, the party-giving Vance and globe-trotting Vance and cornet-playing Vance have little or nothing to say about the writing Vance.

There is a tacked-on section near the back that touches lightly on Vance the professional author, and near it is a shocker (to me anyway) about the (for anyone else, crushing) handicap he worked under during his last two decades of writing.

Jack Vance has always been my favorite science fiction author, and reading this book is a bit like sitting beside the approximately 90-year-old Vance and hearing him reminisce. If it gets dull more than once, well, I've sat beside as many old-timers as I could, to hear their stories, and it always, always gets dull. That's the price you pay to gather the gems along the way, and I found many gems in these pages.
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