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From: "William Ansley" 
Date: Wed, 21 Aug 2002 13:41:48 -0400
Subject: Re: (urth) PEACE: odd Dr. Van Ness and today's Doris

mantis wrote:
>Roy Lackey wrote:
>>Other characters are being "puppetized", to the extent that words are being

>>put into their mouths by frametale-Weer that could not possibly have been

>>uttered by them in real life


>As for the statement "Such comments would never have been made by her in
>real life," I strongly disagree.  Her comments are exactly what we would
>expect from a person responding to a non sequitorial, off-topic,
>out-of-the-blue comment.  The comments from Sherry and Dr. Black are the

I quite agree with you here, mantis.

>Back to the Doris letter.  We are agreed, iirc, that if it is real then it

>came to Weer in 1963 or so, not too long after the three visitors
>(including Charlie Turner).
>When Weer tries to show the photos to Miss Birkhead, it is apparently 1974.

>More to the point, it is after Weer's stroke.
>Because the Doris story comes after the Gold section, today I'm thinking
>that Doris is Sherry Gold herself, and as such the tale is about her
>post-Weer life, ending with her death in 1974, a span of 20 years
>compressed into a gothic carny fairy tale.  (Mrs. Gold's comments about how

>the Jews could have been like gypsies feeds into this.)
>So I am in a position where I can easily see the letter as a fictionalized

>warping, just as the fairy tales that Weer reads (the suitors; the marid)
>are based upon something (Grimm's fairy tales; Arabian Nights) but in
>reality are not found there sources they claim to be from: instead they are

>coinages to transmit disguised stories affecting Weer's heart.
>That is to say: even though I cannot find the story of the suitors in
>Grimm's fairy tales, I do not deny the existence of Grimm's fairy tales,
>nor do I suppose that Weer did not read such fairy tales; the same holds
>for the Arabian Nights.  Holding to this, I suppose that there really was a

>letter from Charlie, and it had a lot of the elements still recognizable in

>the letter we have (especially the scam angle, since I believe Charlie is
>trying to work Weer).  The letter may have been forgettable in 1964, but it

>has become important because of what happens in 1974 (Sherry Gold's death
>closely followed by Weer's stroke), and Weer has warped the seedy scam
>come-on (with all its images of underage women and middle-age men) into a
>eulogy for Sherry.
>(Still, I'll admit that I haven't found such hard evidence as the tale's
>suitors linking to Olivia's suitors, nor the way the character names in the

>marid story point the way.)

I see another problem here. Grimm's fairy tales and the Arabian Nights actually
exist in the real world, so we can read them and see that Weer's stories do
not come from these sources. But Charlie's letter exist only in the reality
within PEACE, so we have no way of knowing that the version Weer presents to
us is fictionalized, the way we do with the two stories. The parallel also seems
to break down in that the two stories are *stories*, that is pieces of fiction
(in the context of PEACE), from the beginning, whereas Charlie's letter is a
real object in Weer's life (the original letter that is, if it ever existed).
That is, the stories, on their surface, have no direct bearing on Weer's life
although I won't deny that they (especially the "Tale of the Three Suitors")
actually are about his life as soon as you delve below the surface.

But, you may have well hit on something that Wolfe had in mind. Weer does seem
to be editing his reality in all of its aspects, retroactively, as it were,
as he recounts his life.

As I have read this most recent discussion of PEACE, I keep wondering: How much
more are we taking out of the book than Wolfe intended to put in? This may be
a question that Wolfe himself can no longer answer completely. In the final
analysis, however, this question probably shouldn't even be asked. The ability
to take more out of a book than the author was aware of putting in it is one
of the things that makes a great book great, or at the very least, a good book
interesting. Or so I think at the moment.

William Ansley


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