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Date: Wed, 21 Aug 2002 11:59:48 -0700
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: (urth) PEACE: sources for the Doris letter

William Ansley, writing about my "real letter somewhat warped" notion, wrote:
>I see another problem here. Grimm's fairy tales and the Arabian Nights
>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
>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.

Granted we do not have as much extra-textual material in the case of the
letter as we do with the stories.  In part this is what makes it feel like
a case where Wolfe is taking off the training wheels.

OTOH, the Doris part of the letter is clearly a story, whether or not it
was intended by Charlie to be taken as true.  A story told in the course of
a letter thanking Weer for the tour of the plant and the dinner.

In addition to that epistlary context, we have oft noticed the Dickens
mentions, so if we put these together we get a literary mode as clear as
Grimm's fairy tales and the Arabian Nights: a letter-story ala Dickens, but
set in Middle America in 1963 (which takes the Victorian England out of the
whole thing).

Did Wolfe have a specific Dickens episode in mind?  I don't know, and based
upon the warpage caused for the tales in the style of Grimm and
Scheherazade (I always wonder at how Sherry herself might equal
Scheherazade, even though Sherry isn't much of a story-teller herself--but
I digress!), it might be nearly impossible for even a Dickens expert to
find the take-off point for this particular "forgery."

But beyond that, we did manage to discover the fairytale element, the
complete, easily recognized Cinderella buried in there.  Which, oddly
enough, is exactly what is missing from the "fairy tales" Weer writes
(there is no suitors tale; there is no marid story)!  Part of the whole

"The Princess and Her Three Suitors"
mode: fairy tale
authorial voice: the brothers Grimm
most specific text: Lang's THE GREEN FAIRY BOOK (not there)

"The Tale of ben Yahya and the Marid"
mode: fairy tale/oriental fantasy
authorial voice: Scheherazade
most specific text: THE ARABIAN NIGHTS (not there)

(the Doris letter)
mode: epistle, traveler's tale
authorial voice: hints of Charles Dickens
most specific text: "Cinderella" (not connected to Dickens afaik)



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