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From: Patri10629@aol.com
Subject: (urth) Re: Westwind
Date: Sat, 26 Jul 1997 07:30:40 

[Posted from URTH, a mailing list about Gene Wolfe's New Sun and other works]

Starting reading this thread and stopped, picked up my copy of Storeys from
the Old Hotel and read "Westwind."

A lovely story.

I get the feeling, as I always do with Wolfe, that there is much here that my
first reading hasn't even begun to scan. So I offer these half-thoughts for
what they're worth.

The Trademark Wolfean misdirection: Hints that Westwind is "his eyes" and, of
course, it's the blind woman. But it's not. Or it is. But...

The dreary, dark and oppressive setting illuminated briefly by match flares
of kindness and concern--so you really feel them, so they matter.

 I was particularly touched by the scarred man's conclusion (which he hid
from the blind woman) that the man who molested her also tried to protect
her.  "They are often the same man," the Ruler says. The struggle of Humans:
Fallen God Stuff.

And how the benevolence of the Ruler seems incapable of relieving the general
misery. Free will, in other words.

The idea of "getting away with something", say, peeing in a stairwell when
the owner's not watching--the meager freedom and rebellion of the destitute.
Sin, in other words. 

And the poignant triviality of his spy's reports. Obviously, what news can
you possibly bring to an all-seeing ruler? Apparently. It's not about what
they say, it's about the fact that they have a relationship with him. Prayer,
in other words. 

I can see how someone might pick up sinister undertones--Wolfe might be
playing with the Big Brother motif, as he often plays with SF tropes. But it
seems to me that anything sinister comes from the setting, the
characters--the sense of moral decay and poverty. It's hard for me to imagine
a truly benevolent ruler. Maybe that's why the Ruler's goodwill seems so

As for the deception: everyone with a "communicator" thinks they're the
special emissary, Westwind, and everyone is. Is it a deception? This is an
irony, and, perhaps, a mystery, and I suspect every believer, on some level,
 feels exactly the same way.

Clearly, the general misery of this reality is not resolved by benevolence or
Omniscience; it is merely occasionally relieved. How sad. And, perhaps, how


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