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From: Dan Parmenter <dan@lec.com>
Subject: (urth) Urth syllabus
Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 12:44:05 

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

From: m.driussi@genie.geis.com

>Borges looms big ("Borges on the scale of Tolkien" does seem quite
>apt).  Charles Dickens looms big.  Jack Vance's DYING EARTH (and all
>antecedents) looms big.  Robert Graves looms big.

Maybe I tried to read DYING EARTH at the wrong time in my life, but it
never totally grabbed me, though I can easily see its impact on Wolfe.
Has Wolfe ever mentioned Brian Aldiss' HOTHOUSE (aka THE LONG
AFTERNOON OF EARTH) or STARSHIP (aka NONSTOP if I'm not mistaken)?
The latter especially seems to resonate in the LONG SUN books, it
being one of the great "generation ship" stories and featuring a
"priest" in a prominent role.  HOTHOUSE lacks any specific comparisons
other than a future with a dying sun, but there's something of the
same melancholy.

Wolfe actually made less obvious use of the eiditic memory thing than
Borges did in "Funes".  Borges seemed especially interested in the
idea that his person with a perfect memory had absolutely no ability
to make abstractions (he assigns names to individual numbers, etc.)
though Wolfe did echo the notion of how the memory of a memory can be
different from the memory itself, which also seems to reosnate a bit
with C.S. Lewis who talks at some length about how he learned to
experience joy in the abstract by remembering how he had felt
recalling a happy memory.

Which brings up C.S. Lewis as a possible syllabus item.  Wolfe is
apparently a fan and has even suggested that the posthumous DARK TOWER
is a fraud, but one wonders how his engineer's mind must have cringed
at certain things.  Apparently he's also a fan of VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS
(which I'm reading right now) though, so scientific accuracy may not
be the most important thing for him.  That's another of my "easy"
descriptions of Wolfe - the theology of Lewis expressed as hard
science fiction.  And the only thing I ever read prior to Wolfe that
gave me that feeling was James Blish's A CASE OF CONSCIENCE which I've
come to think of as almost an essential counterpart to Lewis' OUT OF
THE SILENT PLANET due to their differing takes on a "sinless" race.


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

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