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From: "Roy C. Lackey" <rclackey@stic.net>
Subject: (urth) PEACE: The Elm
Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2001 15:52:57 

"The elm tree planted by Eleanor Bold, the judge's daughter, fell last

For all the times I've read that sentence, it is only now that something
strange about it strikes me. How is it that Weer knew the tree in question
to have been planted by her? There are two possibilities: 1) he recognized
the site as one known by him (while he was alive, of course) to be the grave
of someone other than himself, another of Eleanor's friends, or 2) he
recognized his own (prearranged, necessarily) grave site and only _assumed_
the tree to have been planted by her. The first possibility is unlikely and
lends nothing to the rest of the novel. The second possibility has its own
problems. Even if Weer and Eleanor had agreed in advance that the grave tree
would be an elm, for Weer to associate the fallen mature tree with Eleanor
and her hobby, then--duh--he must be dead. No matter whose grave it was,
saplings do not grow to maturity and die, normally, in a lifetime; if
Eleanor planted that tree, then everyone he knew must be dead, and so must

So, Weer had to know, from the first page of the novel, that he was dead.
Leaving aside the metaphysical questions of how and why he came to be
writing his post-mortem memoir, knowing himself to be dead, why keep up the
charade of his frametale physical maladies? He _did_ know his consultations
with the doctors weren't real--he said as much to Dr. V. A non-existent 4lb.
axe weighs no more than a non-existent 2lb. axe, and the axes could not
exist, not unless the museum-roomed house had in fact been built and was
still standing, intact, however many years after his death that the elm tree
had been standing, and he had been buried on the grounds of his estate,
under that elm. That's pretty farfetched.

Of course, any writer who writes about life after death gets to make up his
own rules, so Wolfe was free to compound as many impossibilities as he cared
to. But, not knowing the ground rules Wolfe was playing by makes it very
hard to make judgements about Weer, whether based on his words or deeds. Of
course, that's not going to stop me. <g>

In CASTLE OF DAYS, where Wolfe talks about PEACE, he brings up the
psychobabble term "normalization" to describe what Weer is going through in
the frametale, the process whereby individuals commonly (and unconsciously)
attempt to impose an order on reality that isn't necessarily there. How can
I argue with that? When Weer writes of eating, sleeping, feeling cold or
sick, chopping wood, lighting candles, writing, etc., he only imagines he
does those things; it's his way of coping with the situation he finds
himself in. For the dead to really do any of those things is "contrary to
everyday experience".

At one point Weer speaks of being "sicker, even, than I was this winter,
before Eleanor Bold's tree fell". In the frametale it is early spring, so it
can be inferred that he remembers a time before the tree fell, although that
contradicts the theory that the tree falling is what freed his spirit, which
woke him from the oblivion of death to his frametale existence. Yet his
account begins after the tree fell. So, which is it? Does his memory extend,
in the frametale, for some unspecified length of time before the tree fell
(perhaps all the way back to when the tree was first planted), or does it
begin with the tree falling? If the latter, then what did he mean about
being "sicker" before then?


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

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