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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <ddanehy@siebel.com>
Subject: (whorl) Fallible Narrators and Even More Fallible Copyists: a Textual
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2001 15:39:30 

This will wander a little off the Lupine track, but trust me, 
it's heading straight back there. Some points of Rostrum's 
screed got my head working, and I've got a basic thesis on
what Wolfe is doing and why. 

The first of Rostrum's remarks that I responded to was this:

> 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.

Now, I didn't really get that kind of shock out of the revelation 
that "I, Horn, wrote this years later, with some help." What I 
_did_ get out of it was a weird sense that Wolfe had patterned 
this whole thing somehow after model the Catholic church
uses to describe the formation of the (written) Gospels.

Briefly, for non-[Catholic-Bible-scholars]: The basic idea the
Catholic church endorses is that the Gospels were formed in 
three "layers":
	1. The events that actually occurred in the greater
	   Jerusalem metropolitan area ca. 4 BC - 33 AD.
	2. The memories of those events carried by eyewitnesses
	   and the communities founded by those eyewitnesses.
	3. The setting-down of those memories by the communities,
	   probably late in the first century.
The Catholic answers to questions like "Yeah, but how do we know 
it's true?" and "Well, what about the way they [seem to] conflict 
with each other?" are deeply entrenched in that model, but it
gets pretty complicated at that point.

Now, what I _think_ we have in Horn's "Book of Silk" is something 
similar: Horn was, admittedly, an eyewitness to some of these 
events -- a fairly small proportion of them. He's gone around 
interviewing people, filled in the details as best he can, and 
freely admits he made the rest up to complete the narrative. It 
isn't good historiography, but it suffices; it gives the sense 
of someone who isn't a historian doing the best he can. The made-
up stuff, while perhaps not accurate, isn't a lie, in the sense 
of an untruth meant to deceive; it is intended to convey a sense 
of the probable truth.

So we have all three stages compressed into one text: 

	1. We have Horn's own authentic(?) memories of Silk.

	2. We have the community's memories of Silk.

	3. The "Book of Silk" _as written by Horn & Nettle_ 
	   collecting and collating their own memories with 
	   those of the community.

Unfortunately, there's an implicit Stage 4, which is also
implicit in the Catholic model:  The copyists get hold of 
the text, and a long time later, scholars try to trace the
provenance of textual variants backwards and determine the
"true" original text of Stage 3. 

In the case of the BOOK OF THE LONG SUN, we feel like we have
the product of Stage 3, but the Narrator's comments in SHORT
SUN lead us to wonder whether we might actually have a corrupt
copy, and how corrupt? Nor do Horn's comments at the end of 
LONG SUN make it any easier to determine; compare them to the
first four verses of the Gospel according to Luke, and then
find out how much work goes into preparing a good textual 
"edition" of that Gospel. Assurances by the author of the 
text's accuracy do not greatly help when the text has been 
hand-copied many times.

Which leads me to another of Rostrum's points:

> 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 God?

We have, in THE BOOK OF THE LONG SUN, one of the following:
	a) Horn and Nettle's "Book of Silk" 
	b) one of many possible variant texts
	c) someone's "edition" of same
-- and nothing to help us which. We are, in fact, in the precise
position of a non-scholarly reader of the Bible, or perhaps (given
that this discussion is happening at all) a medieval scholar with
no access to modern textual studies.

So: paraphrasing Rostrum, can we hope that, though mediated 
though our own fallibility and the fallibility of others, we can 
still have some genuine knowledge of Silk?

I think the answer is, and has to be, "Yes," because the 
possibility that it's all made-up (within the Lupine universe 
of discourse) is too drab to be worth discussing.

All this brings me to my basic thesis.

What Wolfe has reproduced, here, is the basic problem of putting
faith in a written Scripture. The following paragraph refers 
equivocally to the Bible (for us, or at least those of us to
whom the Bible represents something more than a reactionary symbol 
of patriarchal oppression) and to The Book of Silk (for a 
representative inhabitant of the Lupiverse, modulo similar

"What can we believe about this text or its contents? By itself, 
it is completely incapable of witnessing to its own veracity,
and we are not even capable of coming to certainty on what the
text actually does say in some places; yet many have believed 
and do believe that it is a true account of the most important
thing that ever happened in this world. To believe that it is 
completely made up by its author or authors seems impossible; 
to believe that it is accurate, on a word-by-word, factual 
basis, seems even more impossible (though there are some
extremists who in fact believe each of those things)."


Now, when Rostrum writes, "Perhaps Wolfe is being a gentleman; he
doesn't insist that you accept the existence of God in order to 
enjoy his story," I disagree rather vehemently; to deny Silk's 
enlightenment is to make the whole LONG SUN (and, by transference, 
SHORT) fall apart, meaningless and incoherent. He even sets that 
possibility up as a straw man (Crane's cerebral accident theory), 
and _doesn't_ provide us with arguments about it, because it is
ridiculous _prima facie_. There is, I think, no way to take the
supernatural element out of the SUN books in any kind of "good
faith" (in the existential sense).

Still, I agree that "[t]here is a sense in which telling a story 
from a third-person, omniscient viewpoint is cheating." 

There is. And there is another sense in which all stories are
told from that viewpoint, even those told by a limited and
unreliable first-person narrator. The reader (well, all but the
most childlike and passive reader) sits outside the universe of 
discourse and, if not omniscient, is at least outside the 
viewpoint of the narrator, judging it. Without that basic fact, 
the concept of an unreliable narrator would be entirely 

Again: "We never know the world that way."

No, we don't. But somehow we _conceive_ the world that way. We have
a sense that there is a single, coherent reality, even if our own
limited knowledge can never get at it. Living in a universe run by
quantum mechanics doesn't really change that; it defines the limits
of how much we can know about it. (If there is an omniscient and
omnipotent Creator, Heisenberg's Law is a clear and present "No
Trespassing" sign.)



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