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Date: Tue, 28 May 2002 10:32:38 -0500
From: James Jordan 
Subject: Re: (urth) FLF

At 11:07 PM 5/27/2002 -0500, the Borski wrote:
>A few random notes from my weekend reread of _Free Live Free_ that may=20
>still be pertinent, the vast majority of what I would have said having=
>been duly noted, primarily by Mssrs. Nutria and Ansley back in V.30.
>First the characters, Nutria casting them thusly:
>"Now, in WWOz the three Oz characters are animal, vegetable, and mineral.=
>I don't know how Wolfe might be playing with this. But they are also mind,
>emotion, and will. Stubb - very smart; mind (Scarecrow; vegetable?) Candy -
>very loving; emotion (Tin Woodman; mineral?) Serpentina - very determined;
>will (Lion; animal?) Which leaves Barnes as Dorothy, and Little Ozzie as
>Toto. And of course Ben Free as the Wizard. Free is not a humbug, but I
>think he is trapped in 'Oz', and only escapes through death. Free does move
>upwards (compare the wizard's balloon)."
>I'd like to propose a somewhat different mapping. (My apologies if this has
>been suggested before, but I couldn't find it anywhere in the archives.)
>Candy Garth is the very obvious Dorothy; she sings like the Dorothy of
>cinematic Oz and Garth seems like one of those nested names Wolfe uses so
>frequently (GAil, doRoTHy). Osgood Barnes, a.k.a. "Ozzy," is the wizard
>manqu=E9, the seller of cheap tricks and novelties. Madam Serpentina is the
>witch. (Duh.) And little Stubbs, who's described as jockey size, is a
>munchkin. This leaves only Ben Free, the true wizard--and someone whose
>"magic" may also include changing water into wine and raising the dead (see
>William Ansley's post).

         This sure looks right, but I'll bet I'm right also. Surely Wolfe=20
has read *Ringworld,* where the Oz characters are switched, so that the=20
lion-like character lacks brains, the grotesque scarecrow puppeteer lacks=20
courage, the Dorothy-girls lacks a heart, etc. Knowing what we do of Wolfe,=
and the fact that Christian imagery and also Popeye stuff is laid over the=
characters, I would not be surprised if both your and my schemes are=

>One, of course, may also impose, as the author himself does, a Popeye
>schema. Osgood =3D Popeye; M. Snake =3D Olive; Little Ozzy =3D Sweepea;=
 Stubbs =3D=20
>Wimpy; and Candy =3D Brutus???

         Do you think maybe the Pop-EYE overlay has something to do with=20
the theme of seeing clearly, as you set it out? Or maybe it's just more=20
"America" stuff.

>In addition, several of the characters have M's associated with their=
>Madam Serpentina a.k.a. Marie; Osgood M. Barnes; Catharine M. Garth. But=20
>what does the M stand for? An upside down W? A very oblique tip of the hat=
>to L. Frank Baum? (M being the next letter after L and this being Wolfe's
>topsy-turvy version of  "The Wizard of Oz." Someone, somewhere, does say
>something about being in the wrong movie.)

         Dunno, of course. But I have toyed with Marie as some kind of=20
cypher for the Church/Mary. Ben Free is some kind of "Americanized Christ=20
figure," and the new group he forms is a kind of new Church, and Marie is=20
part of it.

>Then there's the "house" of Ben Free--Garth also meaning yard, Stubb (from
>the German Stube, as Wolfe tells us) meaning room, and Barnes being where
>you put the cows and horses.

         Sounds right, especially if this "house" of persons "elected" by=20
Ben (Christ) Free is some kind of new "America"-church.

>Shared optical difficulties also prevent quite a few of the characters from
>seeing properly. Osgood has a glass eye, Madam Serpentina wears contacts,
>Stubbs has bottle-bottom glasses, and Free is described as poor sighted but
>yet is able to detect someone's irises contracting in basement murk.=
>the latter plays off the notion as God-as-clear-sighted and the rest of us
>as His myopic underlings stumbling around in the dark.

         I took it as the blindness (imperception) of sin (they all have=20
besetting sins) that some kind of "grace" needs to overcome. Free also has=
poor physical eyesight (thus being like those he is saving), but has clear=
in-sight, which is what the characters need to arrive at.

>Considering that FLF was written by Wolfe while on break from _Urth of the
>New Sun_, might we describe the High Country shadow government of Ben Free=
>as a bunch of "High-rodules"?

         Perhaps. But given that it was written then, I think we are=20
entitled to look for some of the same themes, such as obviously travelling=
the corridors of time.



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