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From: ymeynard@globetrotter.qc.ca (Yves Meynard)
Subject: (whorl) Pig's eye and astral needles
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2001 23:00:56 

I suppose you have to place me amongst those who were somewhat disappointed
by the Short Sun books, though I am still willing to be convinced

Given Wolfe's skill and deviousness, I am quite ready to believe that most
of what appears to be mistakes or negligence is in fact intended and
pregnant with meaning. But SS seems to me to have crossed a line, in that a
superficial reading of the books does not work. This is unlike NS, where
one does not have to understand every detail to nevertheless "get it" -- or
at least to come up with a satisfying understanding of the work. The same
can be said of LS, which was intelligible at first reading, and which I
enjoyed more upon rereading it.

But reading the latest archive of these posts all at once (as an aside,
Ranjit, would it be possible to break them up into smaller pieces? That >
1MB monster kept bringing my browser to its knees) made it painfully clear
that the true story of the SS books is probably quite different from its
surface. I don't mind the blurring of the Narrator's identity. One does not
have to realize it's really Silk denying his own identity to understand
that there is a merging of the two; a full understanding "simply" deepens
the poignancy of the situation. I didn't mind not realizing Pig's nature
until having it spelled out here; Wolfe did plant clear clues, so it's

What is disturbing to me is that there is so much divine possession
implicit in the story that one cannot reliably know who is who. Some of the
theories put forth here seem way over the top, but it's hard to refute them
conclusively. Given also the Narrator's refusal to deal with the crucial
events of Horn's life, the unreliability of the narration reaches such a
pitch that I sometimes feel the contract with the reader has been broken.

Setting aside the generalized spleen, I have two specific questions I hope
someone can answer. First, why is the Narrator so far away from Pig (a
league and a half, p.334) when his eye is transplanted? How long before was
it taken out? Enough time to allow the Narrator to heal and get back on his
feet -- but that could be hours as well as days. Why weren't they together
on adjacent operating tables?

Second question: on p.190, when the Narrator finds himself on Green and
fights off a horde of inhumi, he shapes a needler out of thin air and
shoots them down. This initially made me cringe, but then the inhumi are
described as reacting in different ways. Some "tumble out of the air and
[fall] to their deaths". Others are in fact completely immune to the
"astral" needles and the Narrator has to club them.

This clearly implies that the needles are not tangible: that the inhumi's
belief that they have been wounded is what kills them. Since the Narrator
can pass through walls as well, I would be tempted to assume that he is not
tangible at all himself. But he does interact with his physical
surroundings at other times -- or does he? Can someone provide an
unambiguous quote to dispel the doubt? Because if we have no clear evidence
of interaction with physical objects other than people, then we might
theorize that it is the observer's belief in the physicality of astral
projections that gives them "substance" to the extent that the _observer_
can be affected. This would certainly make the astral travel episodes feel
less contrived/arbitrary. William Ansley's observation that the destination
might not be a real place after all is provocative, but I'm not sure we can
hope for that. The Neighbors bilocate: this is presumably how they can
still be on Blue or Green and at the same time have left the planets
behind. Those whom Horn encounters in OBW must therefore have been astrally
present in the real world.

Yves Meynard

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