FIND in
<--prev V12 next-->

From: William Ansley <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: Re: (whorl) Heresy
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2001 00:51:55 

At 11:34 AM -0500 2/19/01, BMeyer7@aol.com wrote:

>OK, I'm sure I'll be the target of the wrath of many, but here goes. First,
>let me set forth my background--I've been reading SF/F for my entire life
>(I'm 40), have read every published word of Wolfe, and, while not nearly as
>sophisticated as many on this list, am not a total Wolfe-dummy.  I figured
>out lots of stuff (including what was going on in "Fifth Head") on my own,
>before such lists provided the insights of others.  OK, reading this list, it
>is striking that after 7 books in this series, the very, very, smart people
>posting cannot come up with a consensus about what the hell is going on with
>respect to key issues. Now a series of rhetorical questions:  At what point
>does intentional obscurity on the part of an author become a self-indulgent
>pretention that gets in the way of artistic expression?  How much do we
>really love Wolfe because he's a great writer and how much because it's fun
>to solve puzzles? Has Wolfe crossed the line from not giving all the answers
>to creating texts that must be pored over by talmudic scholars rather than
>actual readers of novels?  Is Wolfe writing for a smaller, and smaller
>audience of  expert Wolfe-interpreters?  Discuss.

I think you bring up some interesting issues. As I think my recent 
posts have indicated, I agree to a great degree with your implied 
criticisms of TBotSS. I also strongly agree that I, as well, am not 
as sophisticated or as knowledgeable as many others who post to this 
list. I find it very satisfying to have certain incidents in Wolfe's 
books made clear (or at least clearer)  to me by someone who posts 
the appropriate Biblical, mythical or historical reference and or 
analysis. This was my motivation in posting my long series of 
messages on the Oz references in "The Eyeflash Miracles." I hope I 
provided a bit of that satisfaction to someone else.

Despite my satisfaction in revelations, I believe that a novel should 
be entertaining on a surface level so that it can be enjoyed by 
someone who isn't aware of all the buried layers of meaning that may 
be present, even if that enjoyment is shallow compared to the "deep" 
enjoyment of the reader who does make the extra effort to penetrate 
as many of the underlaying layers as he or she can.

Given my many carks and quibbles with RttW and the other SS books the 
following opinion may surprise many readers of this list, but I think 
Wolfe has succeeded in this with these books. Even though I was 
disappointed in RttW as a source of clarification, I did enjoy 
reading it. Despite my complaints about Olivine's speech patterns, I 
was moved by her plight and devoutly hope Marble will be reunited 
with her and be able to make her whole (eyes excepted, of course). 
That, to me, is the mark of a great writer.

But I worry because I also think that Wolfe has succeeded less in the 
SS books in providing both an accessible surface layer and a coherent 
framework for understanding the underlying layers. Wolfe should write 
what he wants to write, of course, but if he really is writing for a 
smaller and smaller group with each book, how much longer will his 
books continue to be published? Publishers exist to make a profit, 
especially now. Perhaps Wolfe's oft stated fears that his next 
submitted work will not be accepted for publication are more 
realistic than we realize.

I also have to admit that I enjoyed the SS books less than the LS 
books and those less than the NS books, If Wolfe does write another 
book that continues the LS/SS series, I am going to have to think 
long and hard before I decide whether I am going to read it. I really 
feel that I would have understood and therefore enjoyed RttW better 
if I had re-read all of the LS and the previous two SS books 
immediately beforehand. But I just didn't have time. To rephrase one 
of the questions above:

Has Wolfe crossed the line from legitimately challenging his readers 
to asking far more of them than can reasonably be expected?

I think he may have with these books for a great many potential 
readers; I think he may have for me. For those of you who disagree 
with this, by all means, enjoy your discussions.

I still have more to say myself.

William Ansley

*This is WHORL, for discussion of Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun.
*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.moonmilk.com/whorl/
*To leave the list, send "unsubscribe" to whorl-request@lists.best.com
*If it's Wolfe but not Long Sun, please use the URTH list: urth@lists.best.com

<--prev V12 next-->