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From: Michael Straight <straight@email.unc.edu>
Subject: Re: (urth) Wolfe and readers
Date: Tue, 25 Aug 1998 10:57:38 

On Thu, 20 Aug 1998 m.driussi@genie.com wrote:

> That Wolfe is a trickster can be agreed upon by all, I'm sure.  But
> there are some readers who feel that the adversarial angle is very
> strong--to these people, Wolfe is "cheating" in his fiction in order
> to overawe the audience, and the Wolfe-mask shown above strikes them
> as finally, conclusively, tipping the hand to reveal the fraud; to
> show what a subjective, solipsistic sham all literary criticism is.
> (Similar to the unmasking of the Wizard of Oz.)
> Because it isn't nice to tell the Reader that she is stupid for
> having missed something "so obvious" when it wasn't really "obvious"
> at all.  And it isn't nice to invite people to interpret Rorschach
> ink blots, extolling them to elaborate further and further, if your
> goal (perhaps secret) is to trick and humiliate the participants by
> revealing what the inkblots "really are."
> It is mean behavior.  It is bullying.

"Be mean, Gene!  I'm a careless reader, and I must be punished!"

As long as people are reading Wolfe consensually, what's the problem?

> Some readers might give a little more credit and say that Wolfe is
> highlighting these two points (re: books and enamel) because these
> are in fact the only two real points of craftmanship there are, and
> because they are so dizzying it tricks you (Every Reader) into
> thinking that the whole Urth Cycle must be full of similar wonders.
> It is sly behavior.  It is bluffing.
> But still--those readers who fall for this stuff are obviously dupes.
> Wandering in the hopeless labyrinths of a mean and laughing Wolfe.

Wheels within wheels.  Read Eco's FOUCAULT'S PENDULUM to see why, if Wolfe
told us the answers, we wouldn't be satisfied.  We want more mysteries,
not answers. 

Any critic worth his citations knows that a novel will have meanings
regardless of the author's intent.  If Wolfe thinks he can fool people by
writing books with mysteries having no answers, he's only fooling himself. 
The answers will be there whether he knows it or not. 

I don't know that I believe anything I've just written here. 


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

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