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From: James Jordan <jbjordan@gnt.net>
Subject: Re: (whorl) Fw: Whorl post re:Heresy and Wolfe's Audience
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2001 08:51:28 

At 03:52 PM 2/20/2001 -0600, you wrote:
>At 11:34 AM -0500 2/19/01, BMeyer7@aol.com wrote:
>  >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.

         Wolfe has written this way, often, since his career began. His 
early short story "The Changeling" is about as confusing as anything he's 
ever written since. We discussed it at length on the Urth list a couple of 
years ago, but I'm still confused!
         I do think that Wolfe shoots himself in the foot a bit by piling 
up too many complications. He seems genuinely frustrated when people don't 
"get" what he's writing about, such as seeing Severian as a kind of 
antichrist instead of seeing him as a "Christian figure" slowly climbing 
out of a horrible background. I imagine he'd be frustrated at those of us 
who don't understand that at the end of BoSS it's All Horn, or All Silk, or 
Still Both -- whichever it is. But, he's really got no one to blame but 
         But, hey, it's a fact of the modern era that there is a wide 
separation between folk art and fine art. In Bach's day, the common man and 
the educated man could both delight in the same fine art music. But by the 
20th century, most people aren't going to groove to the music of Messiaen, 
Shostakovich, Webern, or Frank Martin. But I do, being a musician and all.
         Traditional SF lies on the folk/popular side of things, but not 
Wolfe. He's definitely on the fine art side.
         So, consider how you approach fine art. You don't have to 
understand everything to enjoy it. You can really enjoy Beethoven's Fifth 
Symphony, even if you don't realize that every movement uses the same 
da-da-da-DAAA musical motif, and that virtually every other melody in the 
whole piece is a transformation one way or another of that motif. You don't 
have to understand a Bach fugue to enjoy hearing it, for your ear will 
carry you. Similarly, even with modern art music, if your ear likes the 
ambience of the music of, say, Messiaen, you can enjoy it at that level 
without studying out all the complexities.
         The same is true of Wolfe. If you enjoy the writing, the 
characters, etc. -- enjoy the trip as it were -- you don't have to figure 
out everything. Still in all, however, I do think Wolfe frustrates his 
readers more than he needs to -- and I say this because, as I wrote above, 
he himself seems frustrated when they don't "get it."

Patera Nutria

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