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From: "Roy C. Lackey" <rclackey@stic.net>
Subject: (urth) Re: Greetings and a thought
Date: Sun, 21 Mar 1999 18:39:06 

    Greetings. While I am not in the "smoke and mirrors" camp that mantis
describes, it isn't hard to understand why it exists. Most people who read
at all do so for pleasure, regardless of the genre. Those who enjoy a little
meat with their potatoes, something they can get their intellectual 'teeth'
into, want to leave the table satisfied, regardless of how tough the 'meat'.
Take 'who-done-its' or any other sort of 'puzzle' book; when the tale is
told the reader must be able to say: "Ahah", or "Damn, I should have seen
that!" or some similar response that elicits  satisfaction for a tale well
told. But the 'clues' have to have all been there, no matter how subtle,
else the reader cries "foul". The writer may pull as many rabbits out of
hats as he chooses, but when he starts pulling hats out of rabbits the
reader's focus often shifts to the rabbits. Thus this Urth list.
    Other readers--often closet vegetarians--close the book, take off their
hat, look at it, say: "Huh? What was that all about?", and resolve never to
eat rabbit stew again. These are the readers who, as others on this list
have lamented, are often resistant to or indifferent to Wolfe's work. They
aren't interested in catching, killing, skinning, and cutting up rabbits.
Even those who aren't vegetarians at heart find the meat too tough, too much
gristle. Wolfe invites this reaction with his style of writing, because not
all of the clues--er, ingredients--are in the recipe.
    Clearly in the Jungle Garden scene, for example, Wolfe had something in
mind, but what it was is still there, in his mind; it's not in the book,
hence the speculation. I am not criticizing him for it; I like his work or I
wouldn't be here and I wouldn't keep re-reading it. But the very qualities I
and, I suspect, others on this list appreciate in Wolfe's work are the same
qualities that keep him from commanding a larger audience. I fear that fifty
or a hundred years from now Wolfe's place, even within the SF&F genre, to
say nothing of 'mainstream' fiction, will not be as high as many
lesser-talented writers. Who reads James Branch Cabell today? Not many, I
suspect, and for similar reasons.


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

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