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From: Michael Straight <straight@email.unc.edu>
Subject: (urth) Thoughts on Wolfe's Style
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1999 13:39:40 

Ian A. York recently posted some insightful thoughts about Wolfe's writing
in TBOTNS to the rec.arts.sf.written newsgroup.  There are three posts you
can find here:


Here's a few excerpts:

 I suspect that a lot of people get turned off the Sevarian series because
 of the way Wolfe sets up expectations, and then smashes them.  The books
 start with a series of the cliches of ACTION, ADVENTURE!!! fantasy.
 Here's an orphan, given weapons training from infancy, in a secret order,
 he's got a big honking sword, goes wandering about in a magical ... he
 even wears a cape, for God's sake!


 Personally, I find Sevarian an interesting and often sympathetic
 character.  I find the writing elegant, subtle, and often understatedly
 humorous.  The narrative style is deliberately designed to blur the
 distinction between ostensibly earthshaking events and the routine--a
 backhanded look at "making new things familiar, and familiar things new". 

 You have to realize, I think, that Sevarian is unshockable.  He takes his
 world for granted; as, of course, he should.  Too many writers have
 characters doing the equivalent of turning on a lightbulb accompanied by
 narrative tympani; it's good, maybe, to point out ta reader how amazing
 these "light bulbs" are, but the character shouldn't be surprised.
 Sevarian isn't, and so it's easy to miss, at first, the magic of his


 White Noise is the flip side of New Sun, in a way.  In White Noise, the
 narrator also levels out the importance of things, as does Sevarian; but
 Jack whatisname in WN does it by increasing the importance of trivia,
 while Sevarian does it by flattening out the nominally important... 

 A major reason people's memories are inaccurate is that they edit after
 the fact.  They put themselves into the center.  In hindsight, they tell
 themselves they spotted the clues.  They squeeze memories into the box of
 narration, so that their memories make a story; if things don't fit the
 story, those get shunted aside--if something that didn't happen is
 necessary for the story, that gets added.  (See a lot of the research on
 memory; these are all well-known phenomena.)
 Sevarian doesn't--can't--do that.  Where someone else would remember that
 he was in the center of a scene, Sevarian remembers, accurately, that he
 was on the sidelines.  Where someone else would have added, after the
 fact, the critical clue to a later scene, Sevarian remembers accurately
 that he didn't know about it.



*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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