FIND in
<--prev V28 next-->

From: Patri10629@aol.com
Subject: (urth) PW's review of STRANGE TRAVELERS
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 10:38:19 EST

In a message dated 12/20/99 10:31:35 PM, Publisher's Weekly is quoted:

<<... there are also several tasteless and misogynistic entries. Chief among 
them is "The Ziggurat," in which a mother coaches her daughters in the art of 
false accusation and the father--whose wife leaves him broke--eventually 
regains all by finding a woman he can dominate and a technology he can steal. 
All too frequently in this volume, even when women show men 'the pleasures of 
Hell," biting them till they bleed, men emerge loutish and triumphant. >>

PW was right to characterize the collection as disturbing. It certainly is.

I read an advance copy and blurbed it thusly: "Strange Travelers reads like 
an artifact of magic--something hidden, stumbled upon, irresistible and 
dangerous. A book of nightmares too beautiful to be true, too real to be 
denied, too vivid to be forgotten. Why doesn't everyone know Gene Wolfe is 
the best writer alive?"

So. You see.

I am flabbergasted by their take on "The Ziggurat" which I believe is a 
classic story. One of the most beautiful and moving short stories I have ever 
In its defense I'll say: A portrait of a hateful character (the wife) is not 
the same thing as a polemic about misogyny. The husband, while sympathetic, 
is no perfect hero and not just a woman hater. One would have to ignore his 
relationships to his daughters to come to that conclusion.  And PW's 
interpretation of the ending leaves out levels of ambiguity that are critical 
to the story. This female alien (which he "adopts") is one of a group that 
killed his son and pet coyote and kidnapped his daughter and tried to kill 
him. Is it not some great leap of empathy, some form of redemption that the 
man binds her wound, attempts to heal her, protect her, and make a place in 
his life for her? Why no mention of the implication that the alien may be 
manipulating him? Why no mention of the alien humming "God Save The Queen"? 
The irony, and humor, and implications of that? Why not say it is a first 
stumbling attempt between two hostile alien species (Male and female?) at 
some imperfect form of reconciliation and empathy? Yes, this "female" is 
totally dependent on him, and he feels comfortable in the old-fashioned male 
as protector role. Yes, that is pathetic. But it is one of many things 
swirling around in the ending. Wolfe is never just anything.  And it seems to 
me to be myopic in the extreme to brand this magnificent story as 

Yes, there are other unsympathetic portraits of women and men throughout the 
volume. This does not lead me to conclude that Wolfe hates humanity.

Patrick O'Leary

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

<--prev V28 next-->