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From: Jim Jordan <jbjordan@gnt.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) A Solar Labyrinth
Date: Tue, 07 Jul 1998 15:53:19 

At 11:17 AM 7/7/98 -0400, you wrote:

>My problem with this analysis is that, if "A Solar Labyrinth" is an
>attempt to capture something of the Christian life in a story, then I
>don't think it's a very good story.  

	I don't know if it is the "Christian life" per se, but the human life. But
in terms of the Christian life, the unsolvable maze is EXACTLY what Solomon
describes in Ecclesiastes as life "under the sun." In fact, now that I
think of it, I'll bet you anything that Ecclesiastes inspired this story.

>Mazes are puzzles.  Something to be solved with the intellect.  The
>Christian life is not something to be "solved."  It's not about the
>intellect but about moral character and having the humility to accept
>grace.  I think the equation of mazes with tricky stories fits much

	Well, it could be both, and probably is. Recall how Wolfe is "God" in "The
Last Thrilling Wonder Story." And while I cannot recall any other titles,
I'm pretty sure that the Author // God motif is found in other Wolfe
stories as well. Thus, I'd suggest that "A Solar Labyrinth" can be
interpreted either way.
	But consider: If Severian is walking a maze, he is certainly going through
maturation and conversion in his life. If "Solar Lab" is to be tied to the
Severian Cycle, then it IS about the course of life, in one way.
>I also don't think the most interesting part of your comparison, the
>"solitary child," is supported by the text.  I don't have it in front of
>me, but it seems to be twisting the sense to insist that the occasional
>solitary child who sticks with the maze is meant to always be the same
>child.  And does it say that the child actually solves the maze?  I got
>the sense of several solitary children over time, each of whom experience
>something, possibly sinister, possibly involving Mr. Smith and/or the
>Minotaur, after everyone else has gone.

	I agree that the text does not say that the child solves the maze, or that
there has only ever been one child. I sense that from the feel of the story
and its overall religious gestalt (if my interpretation is correct). It's a
bit like Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." If someone wants
to insist that the house in the village is not the church, that the owner
of the woods is not God, and that the darkest evening of the year is not
Christmas Eve, well one cannot PROVE him wrong -- but the poem's imagery
certainly thrusts the sensitive reader in the direction of a religious
interpretation. I guess that since the "history" of the labyrinth only runs
from sunrise to noon, the fact that only one child is left indicates only
one child in the whole history. 
	And, btw, I think equating the Minotaur with Mr. Smith is like saying that
the Ruler in "Westwind" might be an evil character. It's just not what
Wolfe does. In the Severian cycle, you've got both "angels" and "demons"
operating, and they are not the same "people." The Minotaur interrupts Mr.
Smith. He is the Entity that people must escape by exiting the maze, and
Mr. Smith helps them as they walk to do so; or decide not to try; or decide
to be rescued by the cloud.
	Remember, we might equate King Minos with the Minotaur, but not Daedalus.
Daedalus built the maze, but the Minotaur was Minos's idea. Smith is said
to be Daedalus, not Minos.
	But especially, since the shadow casting objects, which create the writing
of God (the ink of God) are all religious objects or symbols --
particularly the religious symbols Wolfe himself employs -- it seems to me
that a religious interpretation cannot be avoided.
	Does this help any? What do you think? I'm open to suggestion, but the
more I think about it, the more sense my interpretation makes to me --
which just means I need to get out more, I suppose!

Jim Jordan

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