by Philip José Farmer



780pp/$45.00/September 2006

Pearls from Peoria

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Many casual readers may only know Philip José Farmer’s writing from his popular “Riverworld” series of the “World of Tiers” novels.  However, his writing and his legacy go far beyond either of those series or his most famous short story, “The Lovers.” In fact, those works barely merit a mention in Pearls from Peoria, Subterranean Press’s massive 780 page retrospective of Farmer’s life and work.

Reading Pearls from Peoria makes it clear that Farmer was eminently concerned with myths and legends and their role in the human psyche.  His interest, however, didn’t manifest in the classical myths of ancient Greece or even the Arthurian legends, so much as in the modern myths created by the writers of the Victorian and pulp eras. Farmer’s interest in these stories not only is clear in his own original fiction, but also in what amounts to fan fiction he wrote and published, such as his biographies of Tarzan and Doc Savage.

Even stories which don't directly continue the myths of these earlier writers often pay homage to the heroes of yesteryear, such as the Ralph von Wau Wau stories "A Scarletin Study" and "The Doge Whose Barque Was Worst Than His Bite."  Other essays focus on the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs or L. Frank Baum.  However, the book also includes numerous essays in which Farmer takes on the author he is most familiar with: Philip José Farmer.

The biographical and critical essays which form the two sections PJF on PJF not only show an awareness of his own writing, but also demonstrate the lengths Farmer would go in his research, such as his look at Richard Burton, the protagonist of the To Your Scattered Bodies Go in the essay "A Rough Knight for the Queen."  Farmer also tackles his own relationship to others in the science fiction field, such as Robert Heinlein.

While the stories which form a significant portion of Pearls from Peoria are probably what will attract readers to this volume (as well as its companion volume, the all-fiction The Best of Philip José Farmer, published by Subterranean Press earlier this year), the real value in the book is in the personal articles Farmer has included.  From the pages of fanzines to professional magazines, they represent an author who is acutely aware of the traditions of the genre in which he has chosen to write in a way which all too many authors do not acknowledge.

Farmer's voice has been relatively quiet in recent years, although between Subterranean Press and Monkeybrains, there may well be a renaissance of his work underway at a time when Farmer, esconced in Peoria, can still enjoy the knowledge that not only his own writing, but the writing of the authors who influenced him and whom he clearly adored, are being discovered by an entire new generation of fans.

Nobody's Perfect The Purple Distance
Wolf, Iron, and Moth The Source of the River
Evil, Be My Good A Rough Knight for the Queen
Mother Earth Wants You The Journey as the Revelation of the Unknown
Opening the Door The Josés from Rio
The Wounded Getting A-Long with Heinlein
Heel God's Hat
A Scarletin Study To Forry Ackerman, the Wizard of Sci-Fi
The Doge Whose Barque Was Worst Than His Bite Pornograms and Supercomputers
Jonathan Swift Somers III: Cosmic Traveller in a Wheelchair A Review of the 1977 Anthology Chrysalis
Seventy Years of Decpop Review of The Prometheus Project
Fundamental Issue Review of How the Wizard Came to Oz
Some Fabulous Younder Oft Have I Travelled
Planet Pickers White Whales, Raintrees, Flying Saucers
The Terminalization of J.G. Ballard If R.I.P.
The Blind Rowers The Tin Woodman Slams the Door
Hunter's Moon Witches and Gnomes and Talking Animals, oh my
The Rise Gotten Suffer a Witch to Live
The Good of the Land Imagination
O'Brien and Obrenov The Pterodactyl
Writing Doc's Biography Sestina of the Space Rocket
Savage Shadow Beauty in This Iron Age
Doc Savage and the Cult of the Blue God In Common
The Monster on Hold Black Squirrel on Cottonwood Limb's Tip
The Princess of Terra Job's Leviathan
The Golden Age and the Brass Maps and Spasms
An Appreciation of Edgar Rice Burroughs Religion and Myths
The Arms of Tarzan Creating Artificial Worlds
The Two Lord Ruftons Phonemics
A Reply to "The Red Herring" Lovers and Otherwise
The Great Korak Time Discrepancy A Fimbulwinter Introduction
The Lord Montford Mystery On a Mountain Upside Down
From ERB to YGG Mother of Pearl
A Language for Opar The Artwork and the Artists/Photo Montages

Purchase this book in hardcover from Amazon Books.

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