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From: Michael Straight <straight@email.unc.edu>
Subject: Re: (urth) A Solar Labyrinth
Date: Tue, 7 Jul 1998 18:15:53 

I wrote:
> >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
> >better. 

On Tue, 7 Jul 1998, Jim Jordan answered:

>        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 don't think "A Solar Labyrinth" is about the Severian Cycle, I think
it's about *reading* the Severian Cycle.  It's about figuring out a
puzzle.  But I don't think "the course of life" is very much like figuring
out puzzles. 

> 	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). 

[comparison to Frost's poem snipped]

I just don't get that same sense, but then I never noticed the religious
themes you see in "Stopping By the Woods" (and which, now that you point
them out, seem like a plausible reading of the poem).

> 	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.

I agree that the "labyrinth=fiction" theory doesn't yet account for the
Minotaur.  But I disagree that Smith as author/creator of the maze is
necessarily a benevolent character, even if he isn't equal to the


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