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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <ddanehy@siebel.com>
Subject: (urth) Skulls and Houses and Such
Date: Wed, 25 Oct 2000 16:42:31 

Alex David Groce wrote:

> ... the lich and something else that I can't find right now (damnit,
> I need a searchable text version of Wolfe's work) suggest that
> Weer's "memory house" may also be his skull.  That is, his ghost is
> haunting the interior of his skull as a house (and where, in life,
> his memory dwelled).

And these are pearls that were his eyes...? I incline to the view that
the house is his skull, also, but there is somehow too much physicality
to Weer's "after"life for me to accept that there's no "memory house"
at all. He feels physical pain, his feet pounding, the weight of the
elm branches; hears the sounds of the weather; etc.


H'mmm. In searching for a reference to something I'll get to in a 
minute I just ran across this. He's talking about his Scout knife:

	The bolsters -- those hard bolsters which, when my life
	was over and I had come to my desk, wore out so many
	gabardines and serges ... [17]

(Oh, yeah: page references to the Berkley ed'n.)

Interesting: his life was over when [or by the time] he came to his
desk. Coming to the desk marked the end of his life? Or came after 
it? How and in what way did his life end? Are we to consider Weer,
the President, as a walking-dead-man?

Okay... Way-out speculation: Did Weer die in the coldhouse prank, a
young man; and is the rest of his "life" a China-pillow dream?

Probably not. But this passage will have to be dealt with.


Anyway, and this is what I was heading for when I found the above,
it isn't until page 35 that Weer actually describes the memory
mansion -- after he's well into his wanderings through memory.
I suspect that a multilayered model is necessary to deal with all
we know about Weer's house. My best inference right now is that
he did indeed build a home. He probably included _some_ "memory"
rooms in it. But the house Weer dwells in at the time of narration
is not the house he built, or not exactly. Primary evidence:

	...I made the mistake, when the company at last came
	into my hands and I had funds enough to build, of
	duplicating, or nearly duplicating, certain well-
	remembered rooms whose furnishings had fallen to me
	by inheritance. ...

	I made the error of interspersing among the functional
	rooms of my home certain "museum rooms"; but when I
	try to recall where they lie -- or, for that matter,
	where the stairs are -- or the closet in which I once
	kept an umbrella, I find myself lost in a maze of
	pictures without names and doors that open up to nowhere.
	... I remember the architect unrolling his blue plans on 
	the table in the dining nook of my little apartment, 
	and indeed he unrolled them many times there, for 
	there were changes and consultations -- as it seemed 
	then -- without end. I remember the squares and 
	rectangles that were to be rooms, and his telling me 
	over and over that those rooms that were to be without
	windows would be dark, despite the windows we had
	arranged for them in appropriate places, windows that
	would be curtained always, with diffused light behind
	the shades; or blocked -- for my aunt Olivia had
	arranged some of hers so, in imitation, I think, of 
	Elizabeth Barrett -- with painted screens; or which
	would open on illusions like those of a puppet theater.
	But I do not remember their positions with reference
	to this long, walled porch on which I live, or even
	upon what floor they were. I should, I suppose, begin
	by going out, and walking all around the house, if I
	can, peering in through windows like a burglar while I
	note the damage winter has done. But it seems too much,
	too elaborate, for a man who only wishes to walk about
	in his own home, behaving as though it were the fun 
	house at a carnival, a place in which all the walls 
	not glass are mirrors. [35-36]

(Immediately after this passage, btw, Weer begins Dr Van Ness'
battery of tests.)

Assuming that Weer is not actively lying (which may be an
unwarranted assumption), he actually built a house (Sorry, 
Adam), with the help of an architect, with some "museum 
rooms." But the layout of this house, which we might expect 
him to remember well (and which indeed he seems to remember 
quite well) does not quite match that of the house he's 
currently "living" in. Because he believes the house he's 
in is the house he built, he is confused.

Given the physicality of the house, the presence of the elm
tree, etc., I feel certain that the house Weer inhabits is
_in some sense_ that house, overlaid with the "memories" in
his skull.

This is part of a larger model I'm slowly building up here.
Doug and, to some extent, Mantis, seem to have the view that
there is no "correct" reading of PEACE. I am taking the 
contrary view that there is a correct and unified reading, but
that things appearing as single items in the narrative may be 
more than singular: that the house is Weer's skull _and_ the
"memory mansion" _and_ the physical house he built (and quite
possibly haunts) ... and possibly Aunt Vi's house, also (thanks,


By the way, Weer wondering the stairs are reminds me that Wolfe
has punned in at least one title on the "storeys" of buildings.
Relevant? Who knows?


Vizcacha ponders the China Pillow story:

> just as in the fable, Weer lives or dreams his entire life,
> seeing the consequences of the choices he makes, and then at
> the end Olivia wakes him to live it all over again as a wiser
> man.  I don't see the point of including that story unless it
> speaks to something else in the novel, as all the other
> included tales do.  What is its relevance to the novel,
> unless it is that?

Well, and it's a good question. The reference at the end is, 
"It is time, I think, that I see the enchanted headrest of the
Chinese philosopher looming behind me, and I wait its coming." 
[246] Note that he does not say he sees it -- he desires to 
see it. Weer wishes to have his life to live over, but nothing
in the text entitles us to believe that he will actually get 
that chance except in remniscence.

[The lich, and his cry, "O shades of the unborn years, depart
from me..."? But the story of the lich is from Gold's forged
_Necronomicon_. ... I want to follow that thought out a bit, 
though, because it haunts me every time I reread _tBotNS_. The 
tale of the lich, from the _Necronomicon_, is the one passage 
from any book of Gold's we actually hear: On the one hand, the 
Book of Gold is the _Necronomicon_ (or at least the "book that
binds the dead"); on the other, the Book of Gold is a forgery. 
I find myself unable to believe that this was not present in
the mind of the author of tBotNS...]

Strewth, I don't have a good answer to the "meaning" of the
China Pillow in PEACE. Yet.


Speaking of the China Pillow, Mantis wrote that

> ... it is also important to note the context of Olivia's 
> story: it seems to be a strong message to Macafee for his 
> "ungentlemanly" winning of the Chinese Egg ... the giver
> of the gift says, "Fool! Do you not recognize me? I have
> granted your heart's desire, and for it I receive your
> ingratitude!"  And thereby ends the dream of a happy life
> by withdrawing the real gift.

I'm afraid I just don't see this. For one thing, she's giving
an example -- to _all_ present, not just Macafee -- of the
kind of story she wants from her game of "spin-the-bottle;"
for another... I think that the messages in the embedded
stories are primarily messages to or for _Weer_. Often they
appear to encode events not shown in the story, as the story
of the Princess appears to encode information about Olivia's

What message then does the China Pillow yarn have _for Weer_?
"Life is but a dream?" Ho-hum, I hope not -- even the slightly 
more interesting "This life you are leading, Alden Dennis Weer,
is but a postmortem dream" would be banal beyond words.

> Note to Dan'l: didn't you have a nice table showing all the
> nestings of stories in PEACE?  Please post it here--I've
> somehow managed to lose my copy.

If I did, I've long-since misplaced it. But there's one in
Doug's pamphlet; is that perhaps what you're thinking of?


Finally, Mantis also asked...

> Since many of the streets have tree names, does this mean
> that Olivia's house is on "Elm Street" (which is not one of
> the given street names) and the other streets have their
> name trees along them, too?

I _sincerely_ hope not. If so, the China Pillow interpretation
becomes irresistable, so we can say that it was all a dream...
or rather a Nightmare...

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

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