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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: (urth) PEACE: The visit to Van Ness
Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2000 19:31:38 

Michael Straight wrote:
> On Mon, 11 Dec 2000, Adam Stephanides wrote:
> > > >    "Please, I've got to see the doctor.  I'm dying."
> > > >    The nurse: "All these people are ahead of you."
> > > >    Ted Singer and Sherry Gold are both obviously much younger than I,
> > > > but there is no use arguing with that kind of thing. (4)
> > > >
> > > > Weer is uncharacteristically obtuse here (I can't recall any similar
> > > > instances).
> It's a joke.  It's just not clear whether Weer is making the joke or Wolfe
> is.
> Or Weer could be just complaining to himself that he, as a dying old
> man, should get priority over these hardy youngsters (but there's no use
> trying to get people to respect old age these days...)
> Or Weer's so preocupied with dying he really takes the nurse to mean the
> others are dying ahead of him).

Without wishing to belabor this question, I'll just say that I don't
find any of these readings more plausible than my own (that Weer's
response is a sign that he is not fully  in control of his thoughts). 
In particular, elsewhere in his narrative Weer does not seem to be
preoccupied with dying; and he is only "visiting" the doctor to find out
if he should exercise, not because he believes himself about to keel

It's a weird exchange anyway.  Why doesn't the nurse react when a
patient tells her that he's dying and he has to see the doctor?  Why
doesn't Weer protest "You don't understand, I'm _dying_," instead of
just sitting down again, if he really believes he is dying?

There are other strange things about the "doctor's visit."  Over a month
ago, Roy Lackey wrote:

> If, in real life, Weer
> ever had occasion to undergo psychological testing by Van Ness (how many MDs
> have such props to hand?)--then when, why? If he never took such tests,
> whence his familiarity with them, and why did he mention them in his
> account, especially as they seem to have been administered in consequence of
> an imaginary visit to a dead doctor for a stroke he hadn't had yet? Are
> imaginary people always so judgemental?

The question about how Weer is familiar with personality tests isn't too
hard--he could easily have learned about them in the corporation, either
as part of his executive responsibilities or from having had them
administered to him--but the other questions are good ones.

We may also ask why he bothers with the visit in the first place.  He
believes that the visit is all in his head, in which case the doctor
can't tell him anything he doesn't know.  This isn't too bad in itself;
he could be employing a variant of the "memory palace," in which his
knowledge of strokes is embodied in "Van Ness."  But he also knows that
it really doesn't make much difference whether or not he exercises, and
he also knows that he won't take Van Ness's advice, whatever it is, as
definitive (3).  So, as said above, why bother?  It's not too
implausible to see this as just a quirk on Weer's part, but it is odd.

It's also odd that two of the three women whom Weer has been involved
with that we know of are in the waiting room when he arrives.  Of
course, this isn't a problem if we take the view, as I suggested, that
the "visit" is not modeled upon a real-life visit.

Finally, what does it mean that the book ends with Weer having an
appointment to hear Van Ness's "conclusions,' but not having kept that
appointment; and, the nailed-down reminder slip suggests, unable to
keep it?

All these may, of course, be explainable separately, or not at all.  But
together they suggest a possible reading.  I put this forth not as
correct, or even necessarily as plausible (I can see plenty of
objections to it), but as food for thought.

Van Ness is an independent entity, and not a creation of Weer's mind, as
Dan'l argues.  But he is not a psychopomp, but a judge.  Weer only
thinks he is consulting him on his own initiative; in reality he is
influenced to consult him, possibly by the same force that prevents him
from thinking about consulting a real doctor).  The "doctor" shows him
the TAT cards to elicit Weer's "testimony" as a defendant.  The reason
Weer cannot make his appointment to hear Van Ness's conclusions is that
he has been condemned in absentia, and Olivia's "'Den, darling, are you
awake in there?'" signals the beginning of his sentence: the "peace" of
annhiliation (these words are the signal to go to sleep, not to wake up:
p. 65, H & R).

If you insist on seeing Van Ness as a spirit, I think this reading works
better than the psychopomp-Purgatory reading.


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

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