FIND in
<--prev V30 next-->

From: Alex David Groce <Alex_Groce@gs246.sp.cs.cmu.edu>
Subject: Re: (urth) tolkien, platonism, mythology
Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2001 13:13:23 

Rostrum wrote:

> Further support for your thesis: comparing traditional modernist
> detective stories with Umberto Eco's postmodern detective story,
> _The Name of the Rose_.  In which there is no pattern, no answer to
> the mystery, except what the detective creates.  In which, by
> looking for a "solution," to the mystery behind the deaths, the
> detective creates one that wasn't there.

I'm just quoting this, but the whole detective discussion is
interesting.  I agree that Wolfe's "baptized" detective fiction
derives from Chesterton (_Nightside_ being practically Father Brown in
space, and I now wonder if the long climbing scenes don't owe a bit to
_Manalive_), who was, despite his reputation for paradox and whimsy, a
devotee of reason in his own fashion.  "The Detective of Dreams" is
very much a Chestertonized Poe tale, where Reason points the way to
Faith.  Wolfe's _realities_ are at heart of Aquinas rather than Kafka
or Eco (there is an underlying truth, approachable at least by
reason).  The psychology of Wolfe's characters is considerably less
"solvable," I would argue--more the infinite depths and profundities
of mystery as expounded by Augustine or Pascal than the rational
enumeration of faculties of Aristotle and Aquinas.  The motives of
numerous Wolfe characters remain hidden, guessable from the outside
(and even with 1st person narrators, we are always outside) or dimly
perceived through lies and self deceptions, but in the end not
amenable to something like Freud's detective work.  Dorcas in BOTNS,
the narrator of "Seven American Nights," and of course Dennis Alden
Weer are examples (at least for me).

Also, (and this drifts into whorl territory) the Short Sun narrator
spends quite a bit of time in detective mode, as Silk did in Long Sun
(ask for an excorcist, get a detective for free, etc.).  I don't have
IGJ with me, but someone asks him about mystery, and he says something
like: "I don't enjoy mysteries for their own sake.  I try to clear up
mysteries whereever I find them."  I suspect this is Wolfe talking to
the reader as well, and that he thinks the clues are there to solve
the many (for me) still obscure aspects of the Short Sun books.  I
think that one reason the revelation about identity made at the end of
RttW is so explicit (if debatable in its exact meaning) is that Wolfe
thinks the psychological mysteries are much harder to solve or even
impossible, and this one _must_ be seen by the reader for Short Sun to

"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32
Alex David Groce (agroce+@cs.cmu.edu)
Ph.D. Student, Carnegie Mellon University - Computer Science Department
8112 Wean Hall (412)-268-3066

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

<--prev V30 next-->