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From: Dan Parmenter <dan@lec.com>
Subject: (whorl) re: Bad Horn
Date: 16 Apr 2001 09:57:53 

From: Allan Lloyd <lloyd@nexus.kc3.co.uk>

aka "Wooly Bug" :-)

> Despite my reservations about the conclusion of the Short Sun trilogy, I
> want to talk about something which Wolfe does very well in the books,
> namely the transformation of sinful Horn into saintly Silk. No-one seems
> to have remarked upon what a totally unpleasant character Horn is at the
> start of OBW.

I think it's been noted in passing, though never really discussed.  I
certainly noticed it; indeed, I also noticed traces of it in my third
read of the LS books, how Horn magnifies his role subtly, how little
we hear of the other students, etc.  I think that this is all
consistent with what seems to me his one unmistakably redeeming
quality: his insatiable urge to write.  If, as I have suggested in the
past, at least something of Horn remains in our protaganist at the end
of RTTW it may well be his qualities as a self-propagandist.  Note the
similarity with another unpleasant Wolfe protaganist who writes a lot
and goes through some moral development of his own.

> He is a serial adulterer, (even before the affair with Seawrack if I
> read the clues right) who sells the lives of Nettle and his sons to
> Krait to save his own life. He sneaks off on his mission without saying
> goodbye to his wife, tricks Seawrack and Babbie into missing the lander
> and deserts Evensong on the river even though he knows she can't go back
> to Goa or to her own people and is in serious danger. All of these
> actions are rationalised by a most persuasive narrator, one who
> constantly bemoans his lost wife. The more I read these passages, the
> more they sound like a drunken trucker in a bar telling all and sundry
> how much he loves his wife before going to the local whorehouse.
> (What is this thing Wolfe has with his heroes deserting their female
> companions by rivers or the sea, Sevarian does it with Dorcas, and I can
> think of few Wolfe characters who are married and faithful.)

Well, Severian couldn't realistically continue a relationship with his
grandmama, now could he?  And who left who?  There's the off-camera
years with Valeria, but that never seemed very convincing to me,
especially given her portrayal in URTH.

> But worst of all is the savage and brutal rape of Seawrack. His excuse
> is that he was acting under enchantment from the Siren's song. (I don't
> see that standing up in a court of law: "Honest, Judge, she was asking
> for it. She sang at me.") I would argue that, even though Seawrack may
> have seduced him with her singing, the brutallity of the attack comes
> from Horn's character. It must have been pretty bad if he is advising
> her not to go swimming afterwards because the bleeding may start again.
> It makes you wonder what his sex life with Nettle was like, and may
> explain why she was willing to go off with the new, improved Silk at the
> end of RTTW.

I've long wanted to have some discussion of rape in Wolfe's novels.
That sounds rather unsavory, but it comes up often enough in his
stories that one starts to wonder about his views on it.  The Seawrack
incident, as you point out, seems like a pretty damning indictment of
Horn, yet the song clearly did play a role.

>                            Allan (and it is Allan and not Adam {Alga!}
> or Mr Lloyd, please. I don't want to take a Wolfean nom-de-plume; if my
> wife discovered I was signing myself Wooly Mammoth or Bug she wouldn't
> stop laughing all week. These names are very psychologically revealing,
> you know.)

Yes, I'm very aware that I have named myself for a product made from
insect goo (as silk is) and once used for phonograph recordings.  It's
all rather "fannish" I suppose, but occasionally I find it amsusing.
I used to laugh out loud at whoever it was who signed as "Sergeant
Rock", being an occasional DC war comics fan.  


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