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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: (urth) PEACE: Doctors as spirit guides?
Date: Sun, 29 Oct 2000 21:28:11 

Dan's theory that "Dr. Van Ness, not at all a creation of W's
memory/imagination, is a psychopomp, guiding Weer in some way to (if not
through) the memories he must deal
with" is an interesting one, but I disagree, on both internal and
external grounds.  For external evidence, we have this passage from
James Jordan's interview: 

"Why didn't you just write it as an old man thinking over his life. What
added dimension is there to it that caused you to want to make it a man
who is already dead thinking over his life?
GW: Because I wanted it to lend to the memories certain supernatural
strengths that ordinary memories that the old man thinking over his life
wouldn't have. I wanted to do the rooms that were recreations and rooms
that he had known as a very young man and I didn't think that anybody
would actually do that. That it had to be a supernatural stick or a
mental quirk or something of that sort. I wanted some interplay between
the remembered figures and the present reality. And so on that I could
not have gotten with just reminiscence."

This answer is not incredibly clear (I would say he's referring to how
Weer relives rather than just recalls his past), but if the "real" plot
of the book involved Weer's being guided through his memories by
spiritual entities, then I think Wolfe would either have said so or
evaded the question altogether.  And I'm enough of an intentionalist to
think that if Wolfe didn't intend the doctors to be spirit guides, they
aren't spirit guides.

As far as internal evidence goes, I don't see much indication that Dr.
Van Ness actual plays the role Dan'l assigns him.  The only things with
the possible intent of evoking memories are showing Weer the TAT cards. 
And these cards don't seem designed to evoke those memories which bar
Weer's soul from peace.  At any rate, the first card doesn't evoke such
a memory, as far as I can tell.  And while the memories evoked by the
second card do make Weer uneasy, the card itself (at least going by
Weer's description of it) is too non-specific to say that Van Ness
intended to evoke that memory.  (Has anybody looked into whether the
cards Weer sees are actual TAT cards?  If so, what do they actually

Dan'l has quoted passages in which Van Ness appears to act independently
of Weer's will; but I don't think they're inconsistent with Weer having
conjured up Van Ness.  Authors sometimes say that their characters have
"wills of their own," and refuse to follow their author's plans (I'm
talking about real authors, not metafictional devices like "The Last
Thrilling Wonder Story"); I think Van Ness's "automony" should be taken
in this sense.  And the more likely explanation for Van Ness's failure
to react to Weer's report of Sherry's death (also cited by Dan'l as
evidence) is that Van Ness (as Weer imagines him) doesn't believe Weer's


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

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