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From: Michael Straight <straight@email.unc.edu>
Subject: Re: (urth) worn PEACE piece (warning: long)
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 1998 13:29:57 

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

Thanks for the interesting article.  When I first heard about Peace, I put
it at the bottom of my list of Wolfe books to read because I'm more of a
SF fan, but it turned out to be one of my favorites. 

On Sun, 29 Mar 1998, Damien Broderick wrote:

> The first line of the novel is this: `The elm tree planted by Eleanor Bold,
> the judge's daughter, fell last night.'  What does not fall until page 193,
> in my 246 page copy, is the other shoe.  Miss Bold, now married to one
> Porter, `wants to plant a tree on my grave when I'm gone.  That's her
> hobby: she plants trees of endangered American species on the graves of her
> friends.'  I had missed this absolutely fundamental revelation until Yvonne
> Rousseau explained it, and I felt sick with shame.  Even so, at least I
> knew from the first paragraph that Weer was *probably* dead: `I was afraid
> I was going to have an attack, and then, fuzzily, thought that perhaps the
> heart attack had wakened me, and then that I might be dead... it seemed to
> me that the whole house was melting like the candle, going soft and running
> down into the lawn.'  Yes indeed.  The house is his skull, pierced by the
> roots of Eleanor Bold's now ancient, vast and fallen elm.

Weer's house also recalls the old (medieval?) technique of memory by
constructing a mental "castle" and, in the mind's eye, placing each thing
or event you want to remember in a seperate room of your castle, using
images to represent what you want to remember.  For instance, one's "Bible
Room" might have 14 shields for each of the Apostles (including St. Paul
and St. Matthias) with pictures representing traditions about each one (an
upside-down cross for St. Peter, a bag of silver coins for Judas, etc.) 

Reference to this technique can also be found in the Soldier books.  Is
Wolfe himself a practitioner?  I knew a fellow in college who claimed to
remember things way.

> *Peace*, then, is the peace of *requiescat in pace*.   

A bit which I've mentioned before on this list but haven't seen anyone
else comment on is the very end (don't have a copy handy to quote) where
there is a reference made to the story of the ceramic pillow and a voice
calling the young Dennis (from sleep?), hinting at the possiblity that the
whole book is not the memories of a dead Weer, but young Dennis's dream of
his possible future.   

Which throws more light on the original ceramic pillow story.  Like the
Chinese man in the story, young Dennis dreams of a future where he is rich
and successful, yet in Weer's story we see hints at what might have
motivated the Chinese man to wish his apparently successful life had been
different and, when he wakes from the dream, to choose a different path.
Will young Dennis wake from the dream and choose a different path, one in
which he doesn't kill his boyhood friend? 

I also love the story of the Sidhe at the end, enjoying it at face falue
even though I suspect it must have some connection or echo from Weer's
life that I haven't noticed yet.  Anyone else see a similarity between
the Sidhe and the dogs in Vernor Vinge's _A Fire Upon the Deep_?  Does
that idea go back further than these two examples?  (vagueness to avoid

> We swapped gifts as we parted.  I gave Wolfe a copy of my Aussie anthology
> *Strange Attractors* which is dedicated jointly to him and to Ursula Le
> Guin.  He gave me, in return, a pleasing morsel.  `What's the brand name of
> Julius's synthetic orange juice?' he asked.  This hideous stuff is the
> fluid which flows like a phony alchemist's fake gold through the entire
> book; its name, never mentioned, was proposed by Aunt Vi, orientalist and
> wag.  In fact I'd spent some time brooding on this matter, but had to
> confess myself beaten.  `Why,' said evil Gene Wolfe, `Tang, of course.'  

Great anectdote--I'd noted the similarity of Weer's prodcut to Tang, but
naming Aunt Vi as the source, that's great.  Too bad Disclave was
cancelled.  I'd love to meet Wolfe.


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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