Monday, December 26, 2011

Rudy Rucker's "Nested Scrolls"

Rudy Rucker lives in Los Gatos, California. He has twice won the Philip K. Dick Award.

Here's the whole of page 99 of his autobiography, Nested Scrolls: The Autobiography of Rudolf von Bitter Rucker, with little bit added from page 98 and from page 100:
What else did I learn at college? A little about modern painting and architecture. And I took a German literature class where we read Kafka’s Metamorphosis in the original German, which allowed me to understand that Kafka had meant for his stories to be in some sense funny. This insight would help me with my own writing. A story can be profound, creepy, lacerating, surreal­—without being at all grim or stodgy.

But most of what I learned at college was from my fellow-students: offbeat styles of speech, disruptive behaviors, and real-time wit. I liked talking to my friends, flirting with the girls, walking around the grassy campus, and exploring the nearby Crum woods.

In grade school and high school I’d always been an outsider, but at Swarthmore I was in with the in-crowd. I reveled in that.


With my steady stream of C grades being mailed home semester after semester, Pop sensed how little work I was doing.

“It’s like you’re sitting at a great banquet, Rudy. And all you’re doing is eating a ham sandwich that you brought in your pocket.”

Concerned as he was, Pop even paid me a surprise visit one day—­appearing in my dorm room in 1966, during the fall of my senior year. It ended up being the best day together that we ever spent. He was accepting and non-judgmental. We walked around the campus talking about the meaning of life. I even took him down to the Crum woods and showed him the impressively high train trestle that crossed the creek.

We boys liked to walk out to the middle of the trestle—­it had two tracks so that, in principle, even if a train came by, you could go to the other side, and if, by some horrible fluke, two trains came at once, you could lie down flat between a pair of the rails and hold the ties, not that anyone I knew had ever executed this drastic maneuver, although we talked about it a lot, worrying that the train might have a dangling chain that hung to within millimeters of the ties.

Pop was being such a sport on our big day together that he even walked onto the trestle with me. For those few hours, it was like we were fellow college boys. He really didn’t care much about proprieties or appearances. He just wanted me to be okay. He didn’t want me to fall off the edge.


During my junior and senior years, Sylvia was off at grad school, so there were many days when I had nothing better to do than get into trouble.

One of my closest Swarthmore friends was a boy named Gregory Gibson. Greg loved drinking and writing as much as I did. He was an English major, and by way of helping to complete my education, on one wonderful rainy morning, he read the whole of The Miller’s Tale to me in Old English, doing voices and adding glosses comparing the characters to our friends.
© Rudy Rucker 2011
Visit Rudy Rucker's blog.

--Marshal Zeringue