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From: "Alice K. Turner" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Satirists of the Commonwealth
Date: Wed, 17 Jul 2002 10:37:00 -0400

A thoughtful answer to a rather dashed-off statement.

Alga wrote of the

> Ascians, who are satirically presented. And GW has chosen to
> take the satire further in the next two series: the
> Trivigaunts are not racially satirized, but in terms of
> feminism, a clich=E9 of male American humor in fantasy (see
> -The Land of Oz- 100 years ago). But in the SS series, he
> does racially satirize societies, specifically Indian and
> Italian. To me not very successfully--a real ho-hum genre
> feel here--but feel free to disagree.

Blattid repriled:

>>I do, I do! But not with the last statement; I think frankly, that,
with one exception, and the semi-exception of the Ascians, your
premise -- that Wolfe's intent is satirical -- is incorrect. (I say
"semi," because there is no clear agreement as to what is being
satirized here; I was quite certain, reading the utterances of Loyal
to the Group of Seventeen, that Wolfe was pointing his barb at Maoism
and the "Little-read Book." Others, I have learned on this list, have
been equally certain that Wolfe is satirizing Orwell's "Newspeak,"
which I find simply implausible.)

>>The full exception is Trivigaunte.<<

Actually, I agree; I was using "satirical" carelessly.

>>Nonetheless, I do find Trivigaunte satirical -- but of extreme
patriarchalism/male-dominant sexism, not of feminism.

>>To be specific, I think Trivigaunti culture satirizes the more
ludicrous claims of male dominance, which perhaps do not have
their full charge of stupidity when put before us because we
are accustomed to seeing them put forth seriously, regain that
charge when reversed in this way: much the way Swift's Hounyhynms
(or however you spell it) satirize the claimes for human dominance.<<

Well, Viron doesn't seem to me especially male-dominated, not the way tha=
Trivigaunte is female-dominated, at least on a street level (behind the
scenes, or under the lake, yes, and of course New Viron--but that is anot=
story). Let me see what you're saying--by putting forth a militant female
society, complete with the requisite lesbian officers, GW is satirizing
males rather than females? Hmm. Put it in cinematic terms: who would you,=
the audience, think was being satirized? OtOH, I don't think it is a nast=
or pointed satire; I think, as you say, that it is a genuine exploration,
but that he had some manly fun with it. Baum had fun with General Jinjur =
her army too--but then nearly everything in Baum's Oz is female-dominated=
so one of the jokes is that there is no "patriarchy" to attack.

>>The odd thing is that I am not at all sure that Wolfe intended
such a satire.<<

I'm not sure of your context: satire of men or of women? I think for sure=
intended to satirize women, but I would agree that the satire of men that
you find implicit (and that I don't disagree with) may have escaped him.
(And I think he intended General Mint to be a hero in every way--though w=
a tad of affectionate condescension.)


>>I don't think, however, that Wolfe intends satire on the other
cultures he uses as templates in the Long/Short Sun books. I think
he uses Indian and Italian -- and Dutch and Hispanic -- cultures
as templates, but does not intend any criticism, satirical or
otherwise, of any of these cultures. One could, perhaps, argue that
he was too lazy to create "new" cultures; one could, on the other
hand, claim that he was making a point about there being a limited
set of cultural "types" into which humans will fall again and again.
I don't have an opinion as between the two: but for the claim of
"satire" to be sustained, I think you'd have to point out how (say)
Wolfe uses satiric tactics in the culture of Gaon to point out the
flaws of "real" Indian culture. <<

Here, I really was being careless. But so was he.The laziness annoyed me,
also the failure, except in silly ways (like Pig's embarrassing accent). =
make any real reference to these cultures. Indian culture was nonexistent
except on the most cliched level (a harem, gorblimey); Italian culture
lacked even that.

>>In fact, I think that all the cultures depicted on Blue -- Gaonese,
Grandecivitan, Dorpish, and New Vironese -- _are_ satirical, in a
sense, but not of the human cultures on which they are patterned.
Rather, all of them seem, to me, to use the rhetoric of satire, in
a non-humorous mode, to point up general issues about the reasons
why human societies in general fail to be humane. This is most
blatantly obvious in New Viron and Dorp -- which is, perhaps, why
you don't mention Dutch and Hispanic culture as targets for satire?
-- but the roots of war and unrest in Gaon and the Grandecivitan
colony towns are as universal as the corruption of Dorp and the
strong-man-ism of New Viron.<<

I didn't mention Dutch and Hispanic because they slipped my mind as more
peripheral. Yes, I think you are correct about the intent, but the execut=
seems obvious, superficial and two-dimensional to me, not nearly as
interesting as the inhumi-human-Neighbor situation, and not as illuminati=
of the human condition either. In short, I became bored and highly critic=
of the cardboard aspects of this thread in the third book in particular. =
in general, I agree with you about the use of "satirical," and stand



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