FIND in
<--prev V210 next-->
Date: Sun, 20 Oct 2002 21:48:36 -0700
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: (urth) PEACE: Olivia's courtship stories

At Macafee's 41st birthday party, Olivia tells the China Pillow story.
We've talked about this at length, but now I see two distinct readings.
The personal message to Macafee seems to be something like "I offered you
myself but you chose the artifact; you will regret your choice for the rest
of your life" (I think we've talked about that before).  The larger
message, the one that echoes more clearly throughout the novel, is
something like this:

The young person entering adulthood sees a daunting array of obstacles, is
fearful of the hardships ahead, fearful of the unknown, and full of hope
for reward.  Given a happy reality via the magic pillow, the young person
overcomes all the difficulties and rises higher than ever dreamt, and
still, as an old person, the same individual would like to live that one
day over again when the path was all before rather than behind.

The story at first seems to be a "sour grapes" or "can't win" sort of tale
(where human nature is such that happiness is denied everyone, ultimately:
like the Grimm's tale [iirc] of the Fisherman's Wife, who isn't happy even
as the Pope), because the philosopher chides the man and splashes hot water
in his face.  But I sense something else, since the young man picks himself
up and continues on to Peking.  He has had a vision of his future and he is
carrying on, possibly to fulfill it. And also there seems to be a gentle
understanding that the young person's fears and hopes are balanced by the
older person's nostalgia for that same moment: neither one is to be
condemned, really.

Smart responds with his Tale of Mr. Tilly.  I think its personal message to
Olivia is something like this:

Smart is himself the hero of Olivia's tale, the young man on his way up (in
contrast to the other suitors, who are all established and settled in their
places); the man with the vision (dreamy orange alchemy vision), unafraid
of the obstacles ahead.  Smart's "philosopher" was the alchemist Tilly, and
Smart has learned some magic from looking over his formulas -- something
involving oranges that "may make folks sit up and take notice one day
(Berkley p. 127).

So, Olivia choses Smart.  But then she starts morphing, and when she
commits adultery with Macafee in front of the Chinese egg, she is herself
trying to return to the day of Macafee's 41st birthday.  The irony is that
she is the one who, for whatever reason, regrets the choice she made -- the
hex she cast on Macafee has bounced onto her.  And the egg has become the
pillow, as it were.


Sirius Fiction
booklets on Gene Wolfe, John Crowley
29 copies of "Snake's-hands" until OP!


<--prev V210 next-->