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From: "Jonathan Laidlow" <LAIDLOJM@hhs.bham.ac.uk>
Subject: (urth) one-two-three for me
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 15:53:27 GMT

Oh joyous day! Today is the day bookshop.co.uk supplied me with a copy of 
'Strange Travelers'. What fun! And to think, there'll soon be another Wolfe 
tome out. Three books in the space of twelve months. Fantastic

Anyway: to the discussion on 'one-two-three for me' which I read just now. 


Nick's exegesis of this difficult tale is excellent, but.

BZZZZZ Challenge:

I like very much what Nick has written, but I would ask for more evidence from 
the text to support it. I haven't read the companion tale, and while I take the 
point that so much of Wolfe's work has inter-relations, the short story has to 
work on its own, especially on original publication (although its nice to see the 
two traffic jam/folk singing stories bookending this collection)
Nick wrote:
>All right, taking up the matter of "One-Two-Three ForMe": I haven't assigned it a 
specifically religiousmeaning. For me, the story corresponds closely to "AndWhen They 
>Appear", perhaps occurring much later in thesame general future. The civilization whose 
>remainsthe protagonist of "One" investigates has, like thatin "And When", committed 
>suicide, apparently from anennui born of the loss of meaning of all cultural symbols 
>(including, very prominently, God).
I presume Earth is the major cultural symbol in this tale, although its significances to the 
culture of the protagonists are eroded and indistinct - everything is filtered through the 
'bots'. Jak sees the stars differently when he abandons the 'bot', for example.
> In "One",Jak's girlfriend summons up the figure >(pusher andpsychopomp) that 
> brought the killing drug to membersof the now-dead >civilization, in effect placing 
>theorder by phone. Death is preceded by ecstacy; thepeople >of the past couldn't even 
>face Death square in the face.
Okay - well yes, but where is the evidence that the drug killed this civilisation. The city 
ruin is a relatively recent civilisation - what about all the others?
>Jak's own culture is an experiment >in averting thissyndrome: its members live rough 
>outdoor lives, andare supervised in >certain crucial respects by AIs or"bots".
Is it all of Jak's culture, or just their excursions to Earth. I wasn't clear whether the 
framing tale of Jak and the kids with the sticks also took place on Earth. The arrival of 
the figure 'called' on the phone suggests it was, but Jak says 'on Spring walk we went 
back to the old one, back to Earth'. Rather than some specific death by euthanasia 
device I think the rediscovery of the phone symbolises a re-entry into dial a convenience 
culture/dial an escape culture, which ultimately brings some kind of spiritual death.
> Thus their curious mingling of the >primitive(playing with sticks by the campfire) and 
>the advanced(interstellar travel). My >suspicion, given the gloomytenor of STRANGE 
>TRAVELERS as a whole, is that this >formula, which seems Godless, is also doomed 
>tofailure.Key questions: What is the >significance of the numerical sequence1-2-3? 
>(Possible answer: it's the simplest >possiblephone number, underscoring the past 
>culture'spreoccupation with easy.
In the UK 1-2-3 is the number for the speaking clock..... What does it spell on a US 
handset with letters? [and I like Nutria's reminder of the difference between six and 
seven as mystic numbers]
I'm not sure it does symbolise the failure of this culture. It feels more like a folk tale 
warning to the young to avoid the dangers of the past. They aren't visited by the 'pusher', 
they merely hear sounds of its awakening, and they quickly destroy the tools (the sticks 
of firewood). Is it too late? The bots claim they've found many phones and so Jak's 
phone is  unimportant. Yet they conspicuously place it in his belongings, even though it 
was found and kept by Jo Ann. Are the bots up to something? Are they spreading the 
seeds of cultural downfall.
Which leads to a further point: if the story really is critical of our easy push-button culture 
(as I read the description of the numberpad of the phone I thought first of a TV remote 
until I got to the asterisk description) what are we to make of its suggestion that our 
culture is corrupt, decadent, and liable to self-destruct.
 > death.)What is one to make of the appearance of the "pusher"(what we hear of it)?"
The only descriptive symbol is of hair, isn't it? The yeti is drug pusher? :-)

One further thought: any other appearances of the telephone in Wolfe's fiction? Must 
investigate its use in Castleview.

And when oh when is 'Green's Jungles' due out?

Visit Ultan's Library - A Gene Wolfe web resource
Jonathan Laidlow
University of Birmingham, UK

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

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