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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: (whorl) For Adam and James: Literary Devices, Authorship, and
Date: Wed, 07 Mar 2001 12:26:04 

A very thought-provoking post.  I have my doubts that you'll be able to
naturalize the children's authorship of the third-person sections, but I've
made some comments below.

on 3/6/01 11:20 AM, Dan'l Danehy-Oakes at ddanehy@siebel.com wrote:

> they seem designed to reveal the
> character of (Pas)silkhorn

No Pas!  Pas bad!

> rather than that of Hoof-Hide-Daisy-Vadsig;
> and that just doesn't make a great deal of sense.

Indeed.  Moreover, if they do reveal the characters of
Hoof-Hide-Daisy-Vadsig, it's not clear why we should care.  None of them are
particularly interesting as characters, at least judging by what we see of

> The exemplum prima inter pares would of course be Severian, whose
> elisions damn near _are_ THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN; but it's true of
> every first-person narrator from Number 5 to Holly Hollander.

You'll have to elaborate on this sometime; this is the first suggestion I've
seen that there is more to PANDORA than appears on the surface.

> Can their brief interruptions in OBW, conspicuously absent from IGJ,
> contribute? Really, all they have to add is a few [Sic]s and one note
> that Nettle has read OBW.
> -- But this fact, in and of itself, suggests that there is a
> significant gap of time between Silkhorn's implosion therapy at
> Remora's hands and the departure to return one more time to the
> _Whorl_. OBW is a big book and not fast reading in print; it would
> take Nettle some significant time to read it in holograph, esp. under
> the circumstances prevalent on Lizard at the time. I should expect a
> minimum of a month or two: plenty of time for Silk(horn) to maunder
> to the children over "poor Pig" and so on.

I may be missing something, but I don't get your point here.  Is it stated
that Nettle read the book while "Horn" was present?  I don't have the book
with me, but I doubt that it is.  In any case, we are specifically told that
none of the children except Daisy saw Silk after the meeting with Remora.

> Well, then. Given that time frame, let's take this as a hypothesis:
> the children's decision to (deliberately) continue the (unconscious)
> tactic of PSH's text and conceal the identity of PasSilkHorn, and
> the Tomato Surprise ending, constitute _their_ idea of a subtle
> literary device; which is why it is so clumsily handled. It's pretty
> damned obvious long before RttW begins that "the narrator of" OBW/IGJ
> is wandering around in Silk's body, neh?

Yes, it's obvious that the narrator is in Silk's body.  What is not obvious
is that he is Silk.  At least I don't recall anybody suggesting it on this
list, although there was some speculation that "Horn" had acquired some of
Silk's attributes along with his body.

> Let's take it as given that they have not had the full benefit of a
> liberal education. Is this possible; more importantly, is it
> plausible? Would and could they have done this? "Would" is hard,
> and reverts to the question of character; as for "could" -- I can
> only refer you to the huge number of "primitive" narratives in the
> "real" world that use some startlingly sophisticated techniques.

I don't believe that the surprise is clumsy (what is clumsy is the way
Wolfe/the children hammer us over the head with evidence that "Horn" is Silk
every few pages).  When you examine closely what Wolfe/the children do, it
becomes clear how sophisticated it is.  They certainly don't hide evidence
that "Horn" is Silk.  On two occasions characters come right out and say
that he's Silk.  And Chapter Four is even entitled "He Is Silk."  But what
they do is arrange it that the unsuspecting reader (of whom I was one)
discounts all this.  Since the narrator of the first-person sections, and
the point-of-view character of the third-person sections, always (except for
a few slips) thinks of himself as Horn, we naturally believe him.  What is
more, we know what Horn knows and the other characters don't: the story of
Horn's "spirit transference," which (we think) explains why everyone thinks
that Horn is Silk.  The "He Is Silk" chapter title, if we notice it (I
didn't on first reading), we assume reflects the viewpoint of the other
characters (this is the chapter in which Hound, Tansy and Pig discuss how
he's Silk) and possibly also Horn's dream in which Pig turns out to be Silk.
And with all "Horn" thinking of himself as Horn, and insisting that he is
Horn, and with the third-person sections alternating with first-person
sections, we never notice that the narrator of the third-person sections
never refers to "Horn" as Horn.  What they have done, in essence, is to
leave the narrator's identity ambiguous, while hiding the fact that they
have done so: "concealing by revealing," to use your phrase above.  I would
argue that this is not only quite sophisticated, but it is sophisticated in
a very particular sense: one that demonstrates familiarity with the
techniques of modern fiction, and assumes such familiarity in its readers.
I'm sure you know more about the history of narrative techniques than me,
but I suspect that neither an eighteenth-century novel nor a traditional
epic poem, to take just two examples, would ever refer to the protagonist in
a third-person narrative only as "he", or employ alternating first- and
third-person narration without any explanation (at the time), let alone use
these devices for the type of legerdemain described above.

In any case, I suspect that the sophisticated "primitive" narratives you
refer to are either long-polished folk narratives, or told by specialized
storytellers, neither of which applies here.

> Assuming that they _could_, and that _would_ defers us to the question
> of character, the immediate critical question is now reduced to this:
> Does Mr Wolfe deliberately commit a narrative clumsiness
> because his narrators would do so? And if so, is this
> subtle or clumsy on Mr Wolfe's part?
My answers are:

1) No, because he doesn't commit a narrative clumsiness at all.

2) If he did intend the surprise to be deliberately clumsy, then it was
clumsy, not subtle, on his part, both because the clumsiness of the surprise
is not clear, and because he's inconsistent the third-person sections are
elsewhere clearly quite sophisticated (reread the third-person sections of
Chapter One).  Even if these objections didn't apply, Wolfe's strategy would
still be wrongheaded: he'd be sabotaging the structure of the book to make
the trivial point that the children are clumsy narrators.

>> I find it hard to believe, therefore, that they would write prose
>> like "from time to time ... some motion of Pig's evoked the soft
>> speech of foliage.  A faint and liquid music succeeded it, waking
>> his tongue and lips to thirst." (50)  (Compare this with the
>> sections written by Hoof and Daisy individually.)
> So I see these possibilities:
> 1. Someone else (most likely "the Narrator") wrote the third-person
> chapters and the kids (for whatever reason) take credit for it.

Silkhorn is the only plausible candidate; but there's no indication that he
wrote these sections, or is even aware of their existence.  And why would
the children take credit for the third-person sections but not for the
first-person sections?
> 2. The kids, in collaboration, are able to pastiche the style of
> "the Narrator" in a way that they individually cannot.
> 3. Writing these sections they deliberately pastiche "the Narrator";
> writing in their own voices they don't.

I don't think that pastiche is an accurate description.  While I'd have to
reread the book to make sure, it's my impression that at its fanciest (e. g.
the passage I quoted), the prose of the third-person segments is more
complex than anything written by Silkhorn.  In any case, why would the
children want to pastiche Silkhorn's style, if they're going to acknowledge
at the end that they wrote the third-person segments?

> is there some
> good reason why they would claim to have written something they did
> not?
> The second question, again, devolves into the question of character,
> and "what does this reveal?"

And "who cares?"
>> Another example is the "'Seen me h'ears'" passage.  We are given
>> these words of Pig's but no description of his ears, and left to
>> make the correct inferences ourselves.
> (...assuming, of course, that the inferences made here _have_ been
> the correct ones...)

True, but I can't think of any other plausible ones, and in any case Wolfe
undoubtedly wants us to infer _something_.

> Simple supposition, which slips nicely under Occam's rule: this is
> how PSH narrated it to the kids, and they, failing to make the
> correct inferences, repeated what they heard/remembered.

Surely Hide or Hoof would have asked Silkhorn what was so special about
Pig's ears, and there's no reason for Silkhorn not to have told them (and if
there was, Silkhorn would have omitted Pig's words).

>> Add to these the absence of any discernible difference between
>> "litSilkhorn" and "real Silkhorn" as seen in his own narration.
> Again, plausible in terms of pastiche, _if_ we may assume that these
> chapters are pastiche and not stolen.

Yes; I did not mean that this was inconsistent with the passages being
written by the children, but that it was another instance of the lack of
anything distinctive about the passages to suggest that they were written by
the children.

>> All in all, to me the third-person passages read as if Wolfe had
>> originally written them as "objective" third-person narrative, and
>> only after the fact decided to attribute them to Hoof, Hide, Vadsig
>> and Daisy.  
> The only problem with this being that, as far as I can tell, Wolfe
> doesn't believe in _objective_ narrative.

That's why I put the scare quotes.  It wasn't a very good choice of words
anyway, but I think you know what I meant.


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