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From: Alex David Groce <Alex_Groce@gs246.sp.cs.cmu.edu>
Subject: Re: (urth) Strange Travellers
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 12:42:11 

Allan Lloyd said:

>In "The Ziggurat", for which Wolfe was criticized for his portayal of
>the female characters, I thought that all the characters were reacting
>in a realistically bitter way to their experiences. The bickering about
>the divorse settlement carrying on while their children were being
>attacked and abducted brought infinitely more depth to what could have
>been a hackneyed UFO story. (By the way, did the narrator's treatment of
>the childlike alien woman at the end bring a nasty shiver of suspicion
>about his step-children's allegations of child abuse).

Hmmm...  Not for me.  The behavior of the twins convinced me that the 
accusations were false--since they (unless, as John Kessel has proposed,
the story is a "unreliable third-person" and we see things filtered through
Emery's insanity) seem to be purely JAN's accusations, not the twins'.  In
fact, I always thought some of the criticism of Wolfe here was misplaced--
if you want to attack Wolfe for being misogynistic, it's not in the possible
sympathy of the narrative for Emery's way of seeing things, but in the author's
construction of Jan.  Basically, Jan is the kind of person who might drive ME
to say nasty things about women (and you'll notice that the most damning things
Emery says, as in the car ride, he's quick to apply to men as well--and those
words seem to me to be Wolfe's opinion, all right), so I can hardly blame Emery
for being bitter (Jan, in fact, is the weak point in the story--I've met people
not unlike her, both male and female, but such characters always come across
as a bit too conveniently villanous--she's the non-pulp equivalent of the black
hatted fellow twirling his moustache.  On the other hand, to some extent, both
types are reflections of a reality--i.e. "When I Was Ming the Merciless" or 
other Wolfe stories).  In fact, Emery's treatment of Tamar strikes me as
(A) in part a "parental" desire to protect, etc., but if every relationship
that's ever involved such an instinct on one part or the other is indicative
of child molestation, well, I'd be surprised and (B) part of his engineer's
curiosity!  THAT is the thing, it seems to me, that rescues Emery from himself
in this story--initially the robbery takes away his instrument of suicide, but
in the end what brings him 180 (or 360, perhaps!) from suicide to insane
recklessness (in returning to the cabin with Brooke) is engineer's curiosity
(or science-fiction reader's curiosity)--he wants to know what' really going
on, even if it kills him.  In that sense, he really is very much to blame for
Brooke's death, although it seems to me that the psychological logic of the
story is such that had he not returned to the cabin he'd have eventually found
himself eating the barrel of a gun.

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32
Alex David Groce (agroce+@cs.cmu.edu)
Ph.D. Student, Carnegie Mellon University - Computer Science Department
8112 Wean Hall (412)-268-3066

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

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