FIND in
<--prev V15 next-->

From: "Robert Borski" <rborski@coredcs.com>
Subject: (urth) Cues
Date: Sun, 5 Jul 1998 20:42:25 

Time now to consider "Cues," possibly Gene Wolfe's most cryptic short work.
It's also extremely scatological if I read it right--wicked, wicked Gene is
playing a wicked, wicked joke on you, me and anyone else who's attempted
(and usually failed) to decipher his works--so if you're offended by
puerile, bathroom-type humor, perhaps you better steer clear of this one. 

The premise of "Cues," of course, is not that hard to grasp. Given an
infinitude of clues about everything in the universe, it's necessary to
screen out the unimportant data, to winnow the chaff from the grain, if
we're ever to make sense of anything. Otherwise, we'll have a skewed
picture of the universe because our apprehensions are based on the wrong
clues--another word for which, obviously, is miscues.

Miscues abound in "Cues," which is why everything seems so nonsensical.
We're not seeing the "universe" properly because we're concentrating on,
rather than ignoring, the wrong clues. And yet we keep trying to make sense
of what's happening, which thereby augments our confusion.

This concept is perhaps best understood in light of the title and its
myriad variations throughout the story, the various miscues. The story
begins with a "?" This is a misapprehension of "que,"  the Spanish word for
"what."  The "not-so-young" man of our story is a coot. The "children" who
will inherit his "talent" and become "rich and famous" (i.e., successful),
but less so than him, because he is "established" earlier, are cooties. The
bowling ball from Deneb is a cooze (Deneb is Arabic for tail). The girl who
is beginning to think herself sexy is a cutie. The sports equipment idea
the artist gets involves pool cues. 

There's also the misapprehension involved with the "cosmic dust, galaxies,
nebulae, stars" mention--it's the same error that will be made by "artists
who attempt to visualize us as dark sphere's filled with stars." The word
we believe we're hearing/conceptualizing here is "firmament," but this is
just as wrong as is our reading of the "fair blue world, mottled by clouds
and rich with life," i.e., the Earth. GW gives us a better hint of the
latter when the bowling bowl asks the not-so-young man, "What do you call
this place?" and the latter replies "'Earth,'" with Earth being in nested
quote marks. Why is it not simply "Earth"? Because the word we've
misapprehended as firmament is actually "fundament" and the "passed Earth"
is the same as the artist's doodles (i.e., doodoo).

At the risk of total ridicule, let me now confirm the worse for you: Yes,
my friends, "Clues" is about a man going to the bathroom, but as seen by
people who are totally clueless as to the nature of what he's doing.
Naughty, naughty Gene is tweaking our sensibilities big time here--perhaps
even suggesting most of our attempts to intrepret him are full of sh*t. Or
perhaps that our heads are up our fundaments. (Me being a veritable ostrich
of the GI tract, mea maxima culpa.)

As for sf critic John Clute's contention that "Clues" is an example of Gene
Wolfe's antic playfulness, and what he calls "joie d'esprit," I think this
is admirable--especially since the name of "not-so-young man" in the
"bathroom" can almost certainly be worked out to be "John Clute." 

Robert Borski/scolex (who came to these thoughts Martin Luther style)


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

<--prev V15 next-->