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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <ddanehy@siebel.com>
Subject: (urth) Scattered Shot
Date: Fri, 8 Dec 2000 12:41:04 

Mass responses to the digest; I'm on deadlines & don't have
time for close argument.

David aka viscacha:

If you're going to make Monty Python references around here,
oughtn't they at least to involve Dennis Moore?

"This is the Lupine Express, is it not...?"

                      * *

Spectacled Bear:

Thanks for the list of CASTLEVIEW questions. I'll have to 
reread it soon and look at them again. (Meanwhile my STRANGE 
TRAVELLERS finally arrived in the mail -- I didn't advance 
order, because I usually prefer to buy from "The Other Change 
of Hobbit," but somehow every time I went there they were sold 
out, so I finally gave in and had them ship me one. 

What a neat cover! Think I'll save it for holiday reading...)

                      * *

David Duffy:

> I think _Peace_ is definitely _modern_ in that sense.  The logic,
> such as in the example above, is dream logic, and the modernists
> were all influenced by psychoanalysis.  

Good point -- but then, "dream logic" leads straight to Lewis 
Carroll and FINNEGANS WAKE...

> "Who knows what dreams may come" is relevant to the common model
> of confused ghosts working through all that difficult material
> before they "wake up".

"In death, what dreams may come:" Hamlet's soliloquy on the 
possibilty of kakking himself. My PEACE is not handy; does he 
quote it in there somewhere...?

                      * *

William Ansley:

> I can't let this pass without comment. I am sure I won't change
> your mind Dan'l, 

... it's a poor sort of a mind that can't be changed ...

> but as far as I am concerned, the only reasonable choice from
> your list of who Weer could be addressing when he says "ladies" 
> in the passage you quote above is number 3 [ladies at the party]. 

I thought all three possibilities were reasonable but not equally

> I really have no idea what you mean when you say choice number
> 1 is the most 'coherent.'

I meant that it seemed to involve the smallest amount of assumption
and contradiction. In fact, you have convinced me that #3 does.

> We have a book written by a dead man who doesn't know he is dead, 

"Doesn't know" is ex hypothesi but may be too strong: "doesn't seem
to know." In fact, I'd be equally willing to posit "knows but refuses
to admit even to himself."

> and who seems to believe that he can send his mind back into the past
> to earlier parts of his life and yet doesn't seem to think that this
> is at all unusual. 

Does Weer ever seem to think that _anything_ is unusual...? (Serious
question; with the text not before me, I don't recall.) I mean Weer-
the-narrator, not Weer-the-memory. This is one of the reasons I vaguely
suspect that PEACE is a stage in a longer cycle of remembering and
reconstructing/repenting: he seems almost affectless _about_ the things
he remembers/reexperiences/whatever.

> There are two or three short passages I have left out where 
> Weer's attention returns to the "present," as if he is just 
> reminiscing about his past.  But the idea that we are just 
> reading reminiscences seems to be contradicted when the Weer 
> in the past talks as if he is a visitor from the future.

I think this is remarkably important, & have commented on it before.
Not only is Weer not _just_ remniscing, he _knows_ that he is not 
just remniscing. Possibilities:

1. He imagines going back in time and talking to these people.
   I find this a dull option.
2. He hallucinates same. Duller still.
3. He actually does do this. Certainly interesting, a time-
   travelling (or -unstuck) ghost; but can it be supported?
   If he does travel back in time and take control of his
   earlier self the way he seems to several times, I think he'd
   have been committed.
4. Variant on above (and on "Chinese pillow" interpretation of
   PEACE): throughout his life he has had "flashforwards" to the
   time when he needs to consult a doctor though dead; rather than
   later-Weer "possessing" younger-Weer, younger-Weer "channels"
   for later-Weer.
5. He is _presented_ with the appearance of going-back and interacting
   with his past. This is the "Purgatory" option in full bloom, and
   my first choice.

> But, leaving all this aside, I think there is textual evidence that 
> Weer is addressing the ladies at his fifth birthday party. On p. 5 we 
> see this: "There is a white Pekinese as big as a spaniel at her feet, 
> and it snarls when anyone comes too near. (Laugh, ladies, but 
> Ming-Sno will bite.)" 

That is sufficient for me, and I am embarassed not to have caught it
myself; I've certainly noticed the passage before.

I guess I got carried away -- I'm semi-desperate to work out
why and for whom Weer (believes he) is writing. I think this
is as important as the "Time of Narration," which I hold as
settled beyond reasonable argument: He's narrating From Beyond 
The Grave.

                      * *

Adam Stephanides:

> I would analyze it a bit differently.  I think that when Weer's
> mind is in the "past" he remains aware of his "present" situation; 

Actually his "past" seems to somewhat influence the structure of
his "present," so that his childhood memories are remembered on the
porch and his presidency in the office. Where in the "memory house"
he is seems to flow with when in his life he is mostly remembering.
Or maybe the other way around -- when he's in the office, it's 
easiest for him to remember his presidency?

Well, that's another point to investigate further -- purely from
a memorious overview of the book, though, it seems to work; porch
and outdoors for childhood, various hallways and rooms for main 
adult life, office for presidency/older age. Something like that, 
with variations and elaborations.

                      * *

Adam Stephanides also wrote:

> By "deconstructing the act of narration," I don't mean just that
> Wolfe specifies the circumstances of narration, which as you
> point out is commonplace.  I mean that he also uses this 
> specification to call into questions the conventions for reading
> narrative which I referred to in my original post.  

Even that is not quite how I understand "deconstruction" -- I would
understand it to mean using those conventions precisely in a way 
that they call their own constituion into question, i.e., letting 
the construction to de-construct itself: but my understanding of
"deconstruction" is largely based on the Derridean non-synthesis,
so I tend to look for hinges and difference-deference and the like.

> Aside from PEACE, examples I'm thinking of are the point 
> in TBotNS where Severian says to his readers words to the effect
> of "no doubt you're wondering how I'm able to repeat all these
> conversations verbatim," when of coulse we haven't been wondering
> because one of the conventions is that narrators can do this; and 
> the revelation at the end of TBotLS.  While I haven't read a lot 
> of Lovecraft, I doubt that he does this; I doubt, for instance, 
> that he expects his readers to ask how his narrator can produce a
> full and accurate account when in imminent danger from unspeakable
> monsters.

No; he seems to take it for granted (and expect us to) that his
narrators stick to their desks, writing to the end, even when the
writing turns into gibbering. Really, now, has anyone in the history 
of the Universe gibbered hysterically in writing? Pfui! Even as a 
twelve-year-old, when I first encountered HPL, it bothered me; I 
couldn't believe then and can't believe now that he actually intended 
us to _believe_ this. Yet every bit of evidence says that he did.

> And, to anticipate a point you may be about to make, I'm aware that
> there are a few mystery novels in which what appears to be a reliable
> narrator is ultimately revealed as unreliable.  

Wouldn't think of evincing these; that's a mystery convention in itself 
and not relevant outside the over/under-defined bounds of the crime 
"genre." It's basic to the mystery genre that when the story is over
all is revealed at least semi-openly, at least to the reader; that is 
clearly not Wolfe's technic.

> > You seem to be pointing at a kind of "experimental" that was very
> > experimental indeed in the 1920s, and that most of the pomos would
> > sniff at as mere "modernism."

> While in some circles the modernists may be considered passe, their aims
> (as opposed to isolated techniques) are still not accepted by the broad
> reading public, and even the average "literary" novel published today, I
> would suspect, is closer in aims and technique to Balzac or George Eliot

I think I disagree but I would not care to mount an argument for either
side without more research than I am prepared to go into for this side

> In any case, a "very conservative" writer (your words) would reject
> the modernists, rather than imitating them.  

I do not suggest that Wolfe imitates the modernists; I suggest that
he grabs their tools where he finds them useful, and ditto the pomos,
and uses them for his own, fundamentally conservative, purposes.

> And I think that in some ways PEACE goes beyond the modernist works
> of the 1920s.

Well, since FW has a date in the '30s, and I believe Beckett got going
then too, I won't disagree...

> > And it is indeed putting the story
> > first: but the story being put first is not necessarily the story
> > that the reader immediately thinks it is. The process by which some
> > events are related is every bit as legitimate a "subject" for a
> > story as the process by which they occurred.

> If this counts as "putting the story first," then the contrast 
> between "putting the story first" and postmodernism disappears.  

... and your point is? I tend to think the actual radicalism of
pomo is highly overstated and overrated; they have some cool tools
but no really new ideas. "Truth is socially constructed." Now *there*
is an original idea... Someone please contact Pontius Pilate...

> Indeed, one of postmodernism's characteristic features is to
> emphasize "the process by which some events are related" over
> "the process by which they occurred."

See previous message re: the Nights... Nothing new here...

> And for this very reason, that prototypical postmodernist John
> Barth has also adopted the _Thousand Nights and a Night_ as a
> model.  

Someone wrote to me offline, who seemed to think that Barth does 
not qualify as pomo. I shall let that individual step forward and 
defend this strange idea him or herself if s/he chooses; I mention 
it only to emphasise, I don't think there's a clear meaning for
either word ("modernist"/"pomo") -- it might even be fun to, ah,
deconstruct the permeable bar between the two words... But not for

                      * *

... or as AD Groce writes,

> This seems to bring us back to the whole question of how to
> know postmodernism (and without the aid of a SF oracle like
> Damon Knight's finger).  

Now *that* is a strange image... (Yes, yes, I know what you're
referring to, but Damon's finger as an oracle... Shudder...)

> But notice that Wolfe, while he write about stories being told,
> telling themselves, etc., never (AFAIK) does the kind of
> metafictional introduction of himself that Barth does 

Alec, may I refer you to "The Last Thrilling Wonder Story" or
"The Sister's Tale"?

> Wolfe's stories and novels are often, like Nabokov's, "the
> documents in the case," with internal discussion of how they
> came to be written.

... which is why, btw, I so desperately want to figure out the
who and why of PEACE's narration. It seems unlikely, given Wolfe's
other first person work, that this *isn't* important.

> Use of the 1001 Nights does not a postmodernist make--Proust
> and R. A. Lafferty are both frequent travelers to that territory,
> and Proust is a modernist and Lafferty is whatever on earth
> Lafferty is.  

How about "Science Fiction's other weird literary Catholic"?

                      * *

Happy Friday, everyone!


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

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