New Essay: Philip José Farmer

In this morning’s Barnes and Noble Review, you’ll find my extended appreciation of Philip José Farmer — the wildly imaginative fantasy writer who died back in February. Farmer wrote relentlessly and created numerous books, and there was no conceivable way to dwell on them all. In the interest of providing an entry point for the Farmer neophyte, I have focused mainly on the five Riverworld books.

It’s worth pointing out that the critic Leslie Fiedler held Farmer in high regard and wrote a piece entitled “Getting Into the Task of Now Pornographer” for the Los Angeles Times in April 23, 1972. (Interesting how, even in 1972, one had to go to a West Coast outlet to sing the proper praises for a genre writer.)

Personally, I have never seen invention or yarn-spinning as literary liabilities. They are qualities just as noble and as praiseworthy as the lifeless highbrow qualities fawned over and heralded by the Bookforum snobs and the Granta dilettantes; in Farmer’s case, even more so.