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Date: Fri, 22 Feb 2002 14:11:12 -0600
Subject: Re: (urth) Roy's Notes on "Hour of Trust"
From: Adam Stephanides 

I've been following the discussion with interest, but been busy; it's nice
to be remembered.  Anyway, I'll try to catch up.

on 2/19/02 1:57 PM, Michael Andre-Driussi at mantis@siriusfiction.com wrote:

> Roy wrote:
>> None of the three ken-kins (is the hyphen
>> there just because of the line break?)

Yes; on p. 154 (Orb edition) the word occurs without a hyphen.

>> we are told anything about appear in
>> any way noble or even well grounded in reality. They seem to have no common
>> cause except a willingness to die and kill others in the process.
> I agree completely: as presented at this stage in the story they are
> clearly pawns being coopted, if not coerced, by the rebels.  Things are
> different if one sees Clio's act as leadership leading by example.

Rereading these sections, I'm not sure how we're supposed to respond to the
suicide bombers.  I'm sure Wolfe finds the tactic immoral, but the kenkins
don't strike me as being pawns, or coerced.  They don't seem to have been
indoctrinated--I have the sense that the only form of "recruitment" is
showing footage like the footage we see--and the "emcee" repeatedly states
that they can back out at any time.  Perhaps we should see this scene, and
this tactic, as indicating the aimlessness of the "hippies" of the story,
and by extension of Wolfe's time; they're so directionless that the only
meaningful act they can conceive of is essentially random murder-suicide.
(A point Roy has already made.)

> Part of the problem in answering these questions is we don't see any of the
> rebels: we see the ken-kins, who seem like something worse than
> cannon-fodder, and we see masked Clio (and probably Tredgold) who are
> higher up, but of nebulous category/rank. So we don't have a sense of what
> the mass of rebels is like, what they want, what they are willing to do.

We don't know what any of the rebels want; iirc none of them presents any
political philosophy or program at all.  They're clearly descended from the
counterculture, and are referred to as "radical" (153), but that's not
specific; Peters says "A great part of the population of Detroit is still
loyal to free enterpris" (152), but that's ironic, since the corporations
clearly don't represent "free enterprise."

Roy wrote:

> Remember, this story had to have been written
> during the Carter era. It was in part Wolfe's reaction to the '60s, the
> liberal bent of which, and the various "protest" movements of, he probably
> had little empathy for or even understood.

Actually, it was copyright 1973, which of course strengthens your point.
(Lowell Lewis as Nixon?  It's not as absurd as it may seem; Nixon was quite
liberal compared to today's Republicans, and he instituted wage-price
controls, which must have been anathema to Wolfe.)

mantis wrote:

> So wow, your reading of the ending is: a pure form of nihilism.  That is,
> you are saying that Clio is not a mole (agent of the rebels), she really is
> a loyal  worker like the rest, but she got the mental infection a little
> while ago (days, weeks--maybe when she stopped sleeping with Lewis), mixed
> up the firebomb ingredients on her own, put them on her person (or in the
> bedroom?), and then killed herself and Peters for no reason any better than
> that of the ken-kins in the earlier part.  It is the internal chaos and
> spiritual-vacuum of the individual, not any political or moral or
> historical (even "millennial") sense.

That's pretty much how I now read it.  She was a true believer in the
"government" cause until recently, but from her exposure to Lewis has come
to recognize that it's hopeless, so she kills herself out of despair.
Although it is a "historical" judgment in a sense: history has nothing to
offer her any more.  Why she takes Peters with her I don't know; possibly a
last poke in the eye for the corporations which betrayed her.

mantis wrote:

> Also: how odd that the beginning has that flash-forward to Clio lighting
> the candles later in the evening to cheer things up when the fighting was
> going badly.  Definitely sets up the ending, and much of the story, as
> well, but still it is odd.  Seems to be the point of view of Peters, or a
> blend of Peters and narrator.

And the following sentence is significant too: "Clio (that stenographic muse
of history) was good for lighting such things: she was tall, and wore high
heels and short skirts..."  The government side uses history merely as a
decoration, which is one reason why they're losing: recall that Virdon cites
Vietnam as evidence that "what matters in combat is organization and fire
support" (152).

mantis wrote:

> Yes, I think this is the reading that satisfied our friend Adam Stephanides
> (whom we haven't heard from since, hmmmm . . . check for burn marks!).
> That is to say (my sense of it, until Adam returns): Clio is History. She
> is a supernatural force breaking through into the mundane world without any
> bells and whistles except for this implausible immolation bomb-thing. She
> has been on the side of the corporations but now she is switching.

Well, no; that's an interesting reading, but it wasn't in my mind at all.
Clio is History only in the sense that Moby Dick is the universe, or God, or
whatever; in realistic terms she's just an ordinary woman who's an employee
and ex-mistress of Lewis's (and possibly a mole, though I tend to doubt it).
How she manages to burst into flame like that I have no idea; the
description makes it sound like she's covered in gasoline or napalm or some
such, rather than having a bomb taped to her, but you'd think Peters would
have noticed something like that.  Perhaps they've developed a new improved
incendiary.  (About that ending: my edition reads "The girl's body blossomed
fire that engulfed and scared and clung..."; "scared" is a typo for
"seared," I take it.  And is there some significance to Clio's being
referred to, here and on the preceding page, as "the girl"?)



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