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From: Michael Straight <straight@email.unc.edu>
Subject: (urth) Peace: Stories within Stories
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 1997 11:03:57 

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

I recently read Peace for the first time and would be interested in
discussing the book.  Spoilers follow.

I remember the story of Finn M'Cool and his cat from Wolfe's Book of Days
(I think).  Was it originally composed for Peace or was it published
earlier?  Is the anthologized version the same as the one in Peace?  It
must be a little different because the Peace version has an aside to
Dennis ("and [the dog] would have had this tale if you hadn't laughed at
the cat"--which is odd in that it implies a version of the story with the
dog in the cat's role).  This is one story where I think I'd like to see
one of Nutria's allegorical interpretations; the exchange "who are they?
Well, one is wickedness, and the other a fairy cat" seems to invite it.

I really liked the story of the sidhe at the end.  In fact, I found Peace
to have one of the most satisfying endings of any of Wolfe's novels.  The
last paragraph in particular is great in which it ties Weer's story to
that of the ceramic pillow.  Maybe Weer isn't a ghost, but young Den's
dream of the future.  Not only does the ceramic pillow add dimensions to
Weer's story, but Weer's story illuminates the pillow story, helping us
imagine some reasons that the Chinese officer might wish to relive his
outwardly successful life.

I was disappointed but not surprised that Wolfe didn't finish the story of
the princess and the tower.  I go back and forth between suspecting Wolfe
just couldn't think of a good ending for the story and fearing he's given
enough clues to guess the end of the story and nature of the fourth lover
("fire") myself.  

Where does the story of the jinni telling a story come from (in the
narrative, I mean, not where did Wolfe get it)?  The only clue I can find
is that maybe Dennis is remembering it from the same book that had the
princess and the tower as he rides in the car, since he mentions that book
in the preceeding paragraph.  Or maybe it's not young Dennis remembering
but the older Weer remembering the story because he remembered thinking
about the book as a boy.  Or maybe young Dennis dreaming about an older
Weer who remembers reading a story that young Dennis might one day read.
Ha!  Wheels within wheels within wheels!

Does Weer's company make orange drink out of potatoes?

As I page through this story, I find so many wonderful bits I can't begin
to mention them all:  "The newspapers love correcting people, and they
would have had a field day explaining the difference between Eve and
Aphrodite to readers who had hardly heard of either."

Or this:

"This book I hold in my lap was composed in the seventh century, probably
in Damascus, by a native of the ancient city of Sanaa, in what is now
Yemen.  In 950 it was translated into medieval Greek, and a hundred years
later it was burned by Michael, the Patriarch of Constantinople; that
should have been the end of it, but two hundred years later a Latin
translation of the Greek was placed on the Index Expurgatorius by Pope
Gregory IX.  It was not printed until the Latin version appeared in the
Cadiz edition of 1590, and never mentioned in print anywhere until the
providential gentleman I spoke of a few moments ago made the entire thing
up.  Now it has achieved reality, and in another hundred years ten
thousand copies may exist."

Does Wolfe really think the Venus de Milo is a fake?  That sounds
congruent with the "we don't really know as much as we think about the
ancients" stance he has in the introduction to the Soldier books.  I
wonder if this passage says anything about Wolfe's attitude toward the

Please follow-up and tell me what you think about these things or
something else about Peace.


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