From: "Robert Borski"
Subject: (urth) FLF Date: Mon, 27 May 2002 23:07:22 -0500 A few random notes from my weekend reread of _Free Live Free_ that may still be pertinent, the vast majority of what I would have said having already been duly noted, primarily by Mssrs. Nutria and Ansley back in V.30. First the characters, Nutria casting them thusly: "Now, in WWOz the three Oz characters are animal, vegetable, and mineral. I don't know how Wolfe might be playing with this. But they are also mind, emotion, and will. Stubb - very smart; mind (Scarecrow; vegetable?) Candy - very loving; emotion (Tin Woodman; mineral?) Serpentina - very determined; will (Lion; animal?) Which leaves Barnes as Dorothy, and Little Ozzie as Toto. And of course Ben Free as the Wizard. Free is not a humbug, but I think he is trapped in 'Oz', and only escapes through death. Free does move upwards (compare the wizard's balloon)." I'd like to propose a somewhat different mapping. (My apologies if this has been suggested before, but I couldn't find it anywhere in the archives.) Candy Garth is the very obvious Dorothy; she sings like the Dorothy of cinematic Oz and Garth seems like one of those nested names Wolfe uses so frequently (GAil, doRoTHy). Osgood Barnes, a.k.a. "Ozzy," is the wizard manqué, the seller of cheap tricks and novelties. Madam Serpentina is the witch. (Duh.) And little Stubbs, who's described as jockey size, is a munchkin. This leaves only Ben Free, the true wizard--and someone whose "magic" may also include changing water into wine and raising the dead (see William Ansley's post). One, of course, may also impose, as the author himself does, a Popeye schema. Osgood = Popeye; M. Snake = Olive; Little Ozzy = Sweepea; Stubbs = Wimpy; and Candy = Brutus??? In addition, several of the characters have M's associated with their names. Madam Serpentina a.k.a. Marie; Osgood M. Barnes; Catharine M. Garth. But what does the M stand for? An upside down W? A very oblique tip of the hat to L. Frank Baum? (M being the next letter after L and this being Wolfe's topsy-turvy version of "The Wizard of Oz." Someone, somewhere, does say something about being in the wrong movie.) Then there's the "house" of Ben Free--Garth also meaning yard, Stubb (from the German Stube, as Wolfe tells us) meaning room, and Barnes being where you put the cows and horses. Shared optical difficulties also prevent quite a few of the characters from seeing properly. Osgood has a glass eye, Madam Serpentina wears contacts, Stubbs has bottle-bottom glasses, and Free is described as poor sighted but yet is able to detect someone's irises contracting in basement murk. Perhaps the latter plays off the notion as God-as-clear-sighted and the rest of us as His myopic underlings stumbling around in the dark. Considering that FLF was written by Wolfe while on break from _Urth of the New Sun_, might we describe the High Country shadow government of Ben Free as a bunch of "High-rodules"? And lastly, considering that the overall tone of the book is that of a light Frank Capra movie, does anyone find it strange that this is the only Wolfe work to contains the words f*ck, sh*t, motherf*cker and bullsh*t? Robert Borski --