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From: Michael Straight <straight@email.unc.edu>
Subject: (whorl) Fallible Narrators
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2001 15:40:33 

On Mon, 4 Jun 2001, Dan'l Danehy-Oakes wrote:

> That said, tBotSS offers the prettiest Lupine problem in time-
> of-narration since PEACE. 
> editors do not object to inserting a few obvious editorial 
> comments into the text; have they made any less obvious 
> comments? Any fictionalizing? Any tonings-down or deletions? 
> Can we even begin to guess? And to what extent are their 
> "reconstructions" of events on the _Whorl_ to be trusted,
> anyway? How much did the Narr really tell them, how much do
> they make up? This is the problem of tBotLS grown up and
> turned very nasty.

I remember feeling this way at the end of tBOTLS, the idea that some of
the wonderful things Horn had told me about Silk might have been
exaggerations or wishful thinking gave me a certain (fun) chill, but I
never felt we have enough evidence to try to go back and sift and somehow
uncover the "real" Silk behind Horn's story.

I think part of what Wolfe is doing is this: If there are those who doubt
someone so good as Silk could exist, or that he could really be
enlightened by the Outsider, or that any god like the Outsider could
really exist, then they are free to think that Horn embellished or was
mistaken.  Perhaps Wolfe is being a gentleman; he doesn't insist that you
accept the existence of God in order to enjoy his story.

There is a sense in which telling a story from a third-person, omniscient
viewpoint is cheating.  We never know the world that way.  All we ever
know about other people's thoughts is what they tell us.  In a sense,
almost all of our knowledge is based on trust.  If you want to know about
Horn and Silk, then you're going to have to trust the people who tell you
their stories, and you're going to have to live with the fact that
sometimes they will let you down, get it wrong, lie even.  We might prefer
to have an infallible, omniscient account of what happened, but that kind
of knowledge is just a delusion that we never really achieve.

What we're left with is the hope that, though mediated through our own
fallibility and the fallibility of others, we can still genuinely know
other people's stories, still genuinely know who they are.

You probably see that this is also related to my first point about Wolfe's
belief in God.  It's not that Wolfe leaves things ambiguous because he
doesn't care whether you believe in Silk's enlightenment.   Rather he's
giving you the same kind of evidence that we have in the real world--do
you trust the people who claim to have had an encounter with God and
(equally important) the community of people who have told and retold their
stories?  Can we hope that, though mediated though our own fallibility and
the fallibility of others, we can still have some genuine knowledge of


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