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From: "William H. Ansley" <wansley@warwick.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) 5HC: outline of reading (warning long)
Date: Mon, 15 Jun 1998 00:39:20 

>We start the next one, "`A Story,' by John V. Marsch."  We think, oh,
>wasn't he that anthropologist from Earth who blundered into the truth
>in "The Fifth Head of Cerberus"?  Neat, now we get a new tale from a
>character that was relatively minor.

I just reread 5HC because of the recent and ongoing discussion. This was an
enjoyable experience since Wolfe gives you so much to discover upon
rereading, as everyone on this list well knows.

In fact, there seem to be as many mysteries about 5HC as there are about
the whole BotNS. I think this may be mainly due to the fact that in 5HC
Wolfe means to leave many mysteries unsolvable; I mean it's all very well
(and very true) to say that when Wolfe leaves somwthing unsaid it's
important, but there is just so much left unsaid in 5HC that I cannot
believe we are supposed to be able to unravel all of it or even most of it.

In 5HC, "The Fifth Head of Cerberus" turns out to be the simplest part of
the novella trilogy. (I imagine some may not agree.) Certainly it is the
part best able to stand on its own. (Anyway, it is the only part that did.)

Among the many mysteries in "'A Story' by John V. Marsch"/"V. R. T.",
albeit a very minor one, is Marsch's name. While it seems that his name
must be John V. Marsch I don't think we can be sure. That his last name is
really Marsch seems almost certain. The name we know him by in "Fifth Head"
is Dr. Marsch (although this is really VRT as psuedo-Marsch--presumably he
is pretending to be someone real however). And his first name is probably
John. After all, outside of Wolfe's writings, John is a very common first
name. But, doesn't it seem odd that his first name is John when we find out
(in "A Story") that John means 'a man' and is the first name of all male
hill people [1]. (Of course again, we have to keep in mind who, most
likely, is writing "A Story.") And what about the middle initial; could the
"V." stand for Victor?

You may be saying, "What rot!" (Yes, you are. In those very words. I can
almost hear you. [2]) But it really is very hard to confirm Dr. Marsch's
full name. We never get to "read" any of Dr. Marsch's cards; we only get to
hear what other people (Number 5, R. T.) call Marsch after they read the
cards and they just say "Dr. Marsch".

The only place we see "John V. Marsch" (aside from the title of the second
novella) is when (in "V. R. T.") a mention is made of a passport in that
name. But "it may have been tampered with"!

Presumably, the St. Croix "authorities" have contacted Earth (and more
specificaly Columbia University) to get Marsch's bona fides and therefore
found out that there really is such a person. But we are never told this
definitely by a person we can trust.

In any case, if the original Marsch didn't have a middle initial (or had a
different one) and VRT/Marsch started to use V, it might not have been

Enough! I just am trying to show by this too prolonged example that almost
nothing seems certain in 5HC.

>(5) The boy as Marsch was arrested for the murder of Number Four,
>which he didn't commit.  The authorities know it, too.  But we know
>and they probably know that he is guilty of murdering Marsch, so he
>deserves to be where he is.

I would say "they POSSIBLY know that he is guilty of murdering Marsch."
They seem to be sure he is a spy and not who he says he is but it seems to
me that they think (at least some of "them," some of the time) that he was
always a spy, even before his trip to the back of beyond and he was the
same person before and after.

William Ansley

[1] Are there any other fans of "The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across
the Eighth Dimension" who think that some person behind this film must have
read 5HC? For those who haven't seen it, all of the "good aliens" in it are
named John Something-usually-silly (John Palooka, John Yaya, John
Smallberries, etc.).

[2] I admit I am getting a little silly here, but not as silly as a couple
of posts by Robert Borski.

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

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