FIND in
<--prev V12 next-->

From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <ddanehy@siebel.com>
Subject: (whorl) Memory, Identity, Spirit, Blood (beware of the spoilers?)
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2001 13:23:23 

0. Okay, I've just finished RttW & have 200+ messages 
sitting here waiting for me to read them (which will 
probably take me damnear as long as reading the book 
did). But some first impressions and ponderings, 
untaint by others' comments, before I begin reading...

1. My first reaction is, of all things, disappointment. 

1.1 I admit, right up front, that it is quite possibly 
the best thing Mr Wolfe has written to date. Yet somehow... 
I just didn't _like_ it as much as I did the previous volumes.

1.1.2 Perhaps I was expecting the Sun, Moon, and Stars, with 
the contents of Schrafft's candy store and/or Sak's Fifth 
Ave. thrown in for good measure; perhaps my expectations were 
so high that nothing would have made me happy.

1.2 But there it is. Mr Wolfe keeps getting better, but
somehow he missed me on this one. (I will still reread it
in future; I'm sure there's much I missed, and perhaps in
rereading I'll get more "pure reading satisfaction." I
certainly found that to be the case with Long Sun.)

2. At this point, it appears that one of Wolfe's "great 
themes" is the relation of memory and identity. 

2.1 I reread the whole eleven volumes prior, beginning 
around Christmas time, and came parlously close to the 
Big Secret of RttW in IGJ -- you may recall, Mucor shows 
up for the first time and says, "Hello, Silk. Hello, Horn." 
Okay, says I, there's something important here. 

2.2 Then, in RttW, Pig sees Mucor and it all comes together: 
Mucor -- in her "astral" form -- sees, and is seen, with 
eyes of the spirit (which is, perhaps, why some people see 
her more clearly than others. So it's clear that, in some 
spiritual sense, "the narrator" is both Horn and Silk -- 

2.2.1 The blattidaean brain chunked on that awhile, and 
came to comparison with Maytera Marble (who was also Maytera 
Rose), and her trouble "integrating the software" of the two 
personae. Calling Seawrack Hyacinth now makes a great deal 
of sense, n'est-ce pas?

2.2.2 Much in the earlier volumes also comes clear as
narrative irony, beginning with the Rajan's comment
early on that "I am the only person in Gaon who does not
know where Silk is."

2.3 But I have wandered from my point. Memory and identity.
What is their relation, in Wolfe's projected worldview? 

2.3.1 It is tempting to suggest that memory == identity, 
so that when memories get blended (as they do with 
Marble-Rose and with Horn-Silk and, apparently, with 
Passilk), the result is effectively a new person. But that
causes as much trouble as it would solve: does Latro have
an identity at all? (Come to think of it, is that one of
the themes of SOLDIER OF X)? Does Severian have an absolute
kind of identity the rest of us do not? Are the identities
of ordinary persons, who do forget stuff, fluid?

2.3.2 And if so, is identity a separate concept from 
spirit? Is Horn's spirit present in Silkhorn? His memories
clearly are. Mucor seems to see both Horn and Silk. A
tentative "yes, Horn's spirit is present" would seem 
apropos. Then what about Silk's spirit? Again, Mucor seems
to see Silk, not just Horn.

2.4 A plausible reconciling point: Comparison with the
phenomenon of possession as it occurs in the _Whorl_. 
Both persons seem to be present -- Chenille and Kypris,
Chenille and Scylla, Auk and Tartaros, Oreb and Scylla.
In none of these cases do the personalities completely
blend, but (as Chenille points out) the god, leaving,
takes a part of the person with, and leaves a part of 
him/her-self behind. Some blending takes place. If the
possession were to go on long enough, would it become

2.4.1 But Scylla's possession of Oreb is certainly long
enough. Perhaps the "software" of a scanned human is 
incompatible with that of a bird? But if so, you would
think she couldn't "download" into him at all.

2.5 Into this mix, then, we can throw the inhumi, and 
their bizarre ability to gain some kind of human 
identity, and some kind of human spirit, by drinking 
the blood of humans. (By the way, am I the only one 
who kept thinking of "Attack of the Giant Leeches?" 
-- yeah, probably...) It's not at all clear to me that
they actually pick up memories from their victims --
but they seem to gain personality traits. 

2.5.1 Or do they gain memories this way? How do (did)
the inhumi learn to speak Common? And are these 
memories heritable? (Lamarckian tennis, anyone?) 

3. From memory and identity to blood. The symbolism 
of bread and wine in these books is so thick only an
inhumu could miss it, especially in the extraordinarily
powerful scenes in which Silkhorn twice sacrifices the
two elements (for Olivine and at the Neighbors' altar).

3.1 The blood symbolism outside these two scenes is 
so extensive as to require very little comment; but 
perhaps I should observe that (as noted in Exodus and
returned to popular mythology by Dwight Frye in, of
all movies, _Dracula_) "The blood is the life." 

3.1.1 That being the case, the inhumi gaining human 
spirits through their sanguinary appetites becomes a 
little more comprehensible. After all, we (at least 
those of us who belong to the Catholic and other 
churches of a strongly "sacramental" nature: which, of
course, is a category that emphatically includes Mr
Wolfe) drink the blood of our Host in the hope of 
gaining some of His nature. The blood is the life.

3.1.2 Is the life, then the spirit? Horn's spirit-life,
carried across the abyss to where Silk's spirit-life is
dying, entering his body, possessing him(?), returns 
life to the body that would die because its life has
died? But Silkhorn expatiates for a while on the idea
that the spirit is _not_ the life; that it is forced to
vacate its "house" when the life is gone.

3.2 But about bread.

3.2.1 Horn sets out to find three things: Silk, corn, and
eyes. Corn, grain, bread: the dying and returning god, a
pattern that fits both Horn and Silk in different ways, and
both Passilk and Silkhorn astonishingly well. (One wonders
whether there may be a further scanning, and Silkhorn may
join Passilk in Mainframe. Certainly he cannot intend to
return to Viron?)

3.2.2 His death is the necessary step that makes it possible
for Horn to bring corn back to the starving people of New
Viron -- the Wasteland, where he, now lame, might almost rule
as the Wounded King (but won't). 

3.2.3 His death is the necessary step that makes it possible
for Silk to bring justice to the peoples of Gaon and Soldo.

4. In the end, Silkhorn gives an eye so he can return to 
Blue and bring Marble the eye Olivine has given him...
an eye for an eye, as charity instead of vengeance.

Enough. On, now, to read the far more insightful comments of others.


*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-->