Avram Davidson's _Or All the Seas With Oysters_ (1962) is a collection of seventeen highly individualistic stories-- Davidson's first. One story, "Now Let Us Sleep," was first published in _Venture_. Two stories, "Or All the Seas With Oysters" and "Help! I Am Dr. Morris Goldpepper," first came from _Galaxy_. The rest all came from _Fantasy and Science Fiction_, the magazine that Davidson was editing when the collection was published.* The publication dates range from 1954 to 1960.
Davidson is a writer with a rather baroque style. This serves him well when he is writing about the historical past:
In Bristol, Dr. Mainauduc flourished to the degree that his reputation went on ahead of him to London. In a short time London was coming to him; he cured Dukes of the dropsy and generals of the gout, he magnetized countesses into convulsions and they emerged free of the phthysic, while viscountesses left their vapors behind them-- or so he says. ("King's Evil," 107)
But it also serves him quite well when he is drawing on Jewish folklore:
The grey-faced person came along the street where old Mr. and Mrs. Gumbeiner lived. It was afternoon, it was autumn, the sun was warm and soothing to their ancient bones. Anyone who attended movies in the twenties or the early thirties has seen that street a thousand times. Past those bungalows with their half-double roofs Edmund Lowe walked arm-in-arm with Leatrice Joy and Harold Lloyd was chased by Chinamen waving hatchets. Under these squamous palm trees Laurel kicked Hardy and Woolsey beat Wheeler upon the head with a codfish. ("The Golem," 98)
Not to mention the ritual of children's games:
In front of the house two little girls are playing one of those clap-handie games. Right hand, left hand, cross hands on bosom, left hand, right hand... it makes one dizzy to watch. And singing the while:
My _boy_ friend's _name_ is _Jello_,
He _comes_ from _Cin_ cin_ello_,
With a _pimple_ on his _nose_
And _three_ fat toes;
And _that's_ the _way_ my _story_ goes!
("My Boy Friend's Name is Jello," 94-95)
And it can even apply to a futuristic space adventure:
Carville's flagship must have gotten clear past the last system before The Coalsack; that was obvious, for the small ten-jet flagship gig could never have gotten as far as it did otherwise.
("The _Marie Celeste_," muttered the antiquarians. No one listened, disappearences were too common to spend much time on.)
("The Sixth Season," 67-68)
A Davidson story is always an event, whether it is the Hugo-winning title story about the life cycle of bicycles and about the fellow who was just a leetle too clever in figuring it all out; or the account of the old-fashioned camera that was deadly to those it photographed-- until...; or the telephone that connected the caller to George Washington.
Two stories, "Now Let Us Sleep" and "Or the Grasses Grow" deal with man's inhumanity to others. In the first tale, the Bastards win. In the second, they are hoist by their own petards. Two stories, "The Golem" and "Dagon" are unorthodox treatments of old monsters-- one comical, one chilling. "Summerland" and "The Woman ho Thought She Could Read" are both treatments of second sight. The last was particularly powerful.
"The Grantha Sighting" is an off-trail flying saucer tale. I have seen some later alien-and-dentist stories by Piers Anthony. But Avram Davidson did it first with "Help! I am Dr. Morris Goldpepper". Do not underestimate the power of the American Dental Association in a time of crisis!
Long ago, James Blish grumbled over the use of the term "science fantasy," claiming that it was ill-defined, fuzzy, and misleading. But I rather suspect that that is exactly the term that Davidson would have used to describe many of these stories. It seems to fit.
* For the sake of clarity, Davidson's _F&SF_ story sales in this collection were all made _before_ his editorship of that magazine.