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From: "Nigel Price" 
Subject: (urth) Sons and Lovers
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 2003 23:50:24 -0000

Mantis wrote:

>>It would be easier (or should that be "possible"?)
>>to approach this if I had some examples of a few
>>authors inside and outside of genre who write
>>fiction about love (monolithic or otherwise).
>>Fictions that you find convincing.

I don't want to get into the "can and does Wolfe write convincingly about
romantic love debate", because, as I've tried to explain in my other post, I
think the real issue is whether it would suit his thematic and artistic
purposes to emphasise happy and contented love in his stories. I don't think
so. There are many love stories woven into his books, and if they are
problematic and often unhappy, then that's because that's the kind of
melancholic story he likes to write.

To underline the point, I need only think of another author I greatly admire
and enjoy but who is utterly unlike Wolfe in her output: Lois McMaster
Bujold. The romance between Miles Vorkosigan and Ekaterina Vorsoison that
blooms in the later books of the Vorkosigan saga is wonderfully described.
It is often funny and sometimes deeply moving, but I find it utterly
convincing. Ms Bujold doesn't shy away from serious issues in the stories,
but she can't help being warm and life-affirming, and what she creates are
wonderful, joyful, light comedy adventures that achieve the seeminly
impossible feat of being both funny and exciting while never being in the
least bit trivial.

As I say, the result is just so unlike anything Wolfe has ever written that
it's hard to get one's head round the idea that both authors are from the
same country and allegedly writing in the same genre!

Wolfe is doing something very, very different and in many ways unique. His
books have a distinctive flavour that comes partly from their exquisite
prose style and partly from their characteristic mood. When he tries to
write something lighter and really different, as in "Pandora by Holly
Hollander", some of us only see the sinister overtones, while the rest of us
complain bitterly of their absence and declare that we don't like this sort
of thing nearly as much as his other books.

But I'm rambling here!

I meant to mention that, whatever his track record when it comes to writing
about romantic love, Wolfe is extremely good at writing about children, and
especially small boys, who feature in many of his stories. They are usually
compassionately described and end up suffering horrid fates. The torturers'
apprentices are trained to be torturers and are so limited in their
worldview that they think this is "normal", Little Severian gets zapped,
Tackman Babcock lives with a mother who is a junky and ignores him much of
the time, the boy in "When they appear" ends up in the clutches of a
paedophile, Little Tib has a fairly miserable time of it...there are
probably others, too, that I can't remember.

There's a strong neo-Dickensian element in all this. The torturers'
apprentices are distant cousins of Fagin's child pickpockets, and they and
the other Lupine boys follow in the unhappy footsteps of Paul Dombey and all
the other doomed Dickensian children.

Forgive my subjectivity, but I also get a strong impression that Wolfe puts
a lot of himself and his own boyhood into his literary children. I can't
prove it, but that how it comes across to me. There's a settled and
sympathetic melancholy in his depictions of young people and their plight
which, to me at any rate, carries a considerable emotional charge. I may
simply be responding to good writing, of course, but my instincts suggest
that that good writing draws on something very deeply personal.

And despite all the sorrows which he puts them through, at least in his
stories, I can't help feeling that Wolfe is very fond of children.

But what do I know?



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