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From: Nigel Price <NigelPrice1@compuserve.com>
Subject: (urth) Latro ruminates
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 20:39:22 

Peter Westlake (Hi Peter!) wrote:

>>I'm impressed by Nigel's summary, too. Were you recording it, Nigel,
>>or just taking very good notes? I stopped writing things down when I
>>heard the papers were to be published.

Er, well, no, I just wrote it down from memory. You know, before the blow
on the head I received at the Hot Springs erased my every recollection of
the day...

(As I said on Saturday, amongst his other gifts, Wolfe had given me the
vocabulary to describe my inadequacies. I have the memory of Latro, the
visual accuity of Master Ultan, the manual dexterity of the Annese - and
the dress sense of Severian...)

>>Because Peter Wright was going to talk about The Fifth Head of Cerberus,
>>I finally managed to make enough time to read it while wide awake.
>>before going to sleep, as I normally do, doesn't work for Wolfe! I
>>it on the train, half a mile outside Birmingham, so it was fresh in my
>>for Peter's talk. The only thing I would add to Nigel's synopsis is the
>>that Victor is in some sense free, though imprisoned, because he is no
>>part of either of the conflicting societies. (That isn't a very good way
>>expressing it, I fear - are you here yet, Peter?) Since then I have had a
>>look at Robert Borski's "Cave Canem" website, and the contrast between
>>two interpretations is quite marked. In one, VRT is a positive figure,
>>becoming quite a good anthropologist, and in the other he's a crazed
>>One problem I had with "Cave Canem" is that it fails to distinguish
>>stated in the text from conjecture. It assumes that the cat is a shape-
>>-shifted Annese woman, for instance, which seems very unlikely to me.

I came home from the symposium determined to reread Fifth Head. The idea
that the hybrid Annese-Human shape-shifter is a better anthropologist than
the person whose life and role he appropriates is a fascinating one. I was
convinced when Peter was reading his paper, but I want to look at it all
again. I had always thought of VRT as someone who is caught in the gears of
the corrupt colonial society in which he finds himself. He escapes one
dead-end life by jumping into another.

I agree with you about "Cave Canem". Perceptive literary criticism does
seem to walk side by side with what seems more like invention or, at the
very least, extrapolation. Am I being fair, Robert?

>>On the way home I read "Strange Travelers", which was probably a mistake.
>>Reading "And When They Appear" when you're tired is not an experience I
>>would wish on anyone. I tried reading on in the hope of finding something
>>more upbeat ... well, most of you will have read ST, so you can imagine.

This is a story that I would like to discuss. I think I know what it's
about, but, you're right, it is grim. To me, it's another example of the
satirical streak in Wolfe's writings that I was talking about, and that
goes right back to Operation Ares, and that early story of the boy in the
tree house, saving rocks to throw at the rioters. The boy in "And when they
appear" has the chance to escape by hiding in the freezer (Have I got the
right story here? It's late, and you know what my memory's like...), but
fails to do the sensible thing. His parents are gone, and he left alone,
with inadequate, inhuman protection, and falls prey to the worst sort of
human monster. A good example, too, of the melancholy that Alex was
describing. (Was it here, or on Whorl?)

>>Peter (Spectacled Bear).

(Who, following Sev's sartorial example, turned up at the symposium


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

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