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From: Jason Voegele <jvoegele@carolla.com>
Subject: Re: (urth) Latitudes
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 1999 10:35:36 

Tony Ellis wrote:
> Again with this "Severian gets lost" thing! :-) People have been
> raising this one for years, and I've never really understood why.
> Severian gets lost because getting lost is a great plot device, and
> a time-honoured one. If heroes always kept to the path like they
> were told an awful lot of stories out there would be (a) shorter,
> and (b) duller. Do Jeff Goldblum and his buddy stay on the path in
> American Werewolf in London? Do Bilbo and the dwarves stay on the
> path in The Hobbit? And look at the complete hash Jason and Odysseus
> made of a simple piece of marine navigation.

What we mustn't forget to realize, though, is that it's in Wolfe's
nature to take a standard plot device and give it a twist.  In fact,
much of Wolfe's work seems to work on the level that movies like "The
Last American Hero" or "True Lies" work--simultaneously spoofing the
genre while attempting to validate it.  A plot device is rarely just a
plot device, and the very presence of such a device in a Wolfe novel
suggests that something deeper we should be searching for.
> Not only does Severian manage to follow directions plenty of times,
> as Roy has shown, but when he does lose his way there always seem to
> be mitigating circumstances, such as delirium on the way to the
> lazaret, or Idas's duplicity on board the Ship. Why saddle Sev with
> some sort of rare direction-losing brain disorder on top of all his
> other peculiarities?

I've always taken this apparent (but, yes, arguable) inability to tell
left from right to be related in some way to the corridors of time.  No
hard evidence at this point, but whenever Sev gets lost I can't help but
think he's lost in four dimensions instead of just three.

Jason Voegele

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

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