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Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2003 14:17:38 -0600
Subject: Re: (urth) Wintry thoughts on Wolfe
From: Adam Stephanides 

James Wynn wrote:

> V.R.T. (FhoC) hunting his mother across too planets
> Dorcas (BotNS) she seemed to genuinely love Severian
> Agia (BofNS) violently in love with her brother
> Latro (SoA) was genuinely in love his Amazon girlfriend
> Auk (BotLS) in love with Chenille and Tartaros

I haven't read the Soldier books in a long time, and my memory of them is
dim, so you may well be right about Latro.  But V.R.T. is searching for the
truth about himself, not for his mother, at least as I read it.

As for the other three, I did originally say "protagonists."  Especially in
Wolfe's books, it's the viewpoint character who dominates the reader's
experience.  The effect on the reader of being tied to the consciousness of
a man unable to love won't be dispelled by observing from afar other
characters who love.

Having said this, I must confess with embarrassment that I'd forgotten when
I wrote my original post about Severian's relationship with Thecla.
(Interesting that nobody brought this up in reply.)  Though I haven't reread
TBOTNS in a while either, I'd be willing to concede this as a counterexample
to my original claim.  But note how gingerly Wolfe handles the
Severian-Thecla relationship: not until long after Thecla's death do we
learn there was any sexual component to it, and even then we only learn of
this in brief allusions.  And Severian's final judgment on Thecla is rather
clinical, iirc.

Rostrum wrote:

>> But I'm not sure why you need this information to "approach" my claim.  If
>> you believe Wolfe's protagonists are capable of genuine love, why not say
>> so?
> Because this sort of thing is so subjective.

Not so much so.  My point had been, not that Wolfe does a poor job of
portraying what I confusingly called "genuine love," but that, for whatever
reasons, he generally chooses not to portray it.  (See my other reply for an
attempt to clarify what I meant.)

And if it were subjective, so what?  Responses to literature are inherently
subjective; that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile to talk about them.

(The work of explication done on this list is very valuable; but it
sometimes seems to me that in the process we give short shrift to Wolfe's
work as literature (and I include myself in that "we")).

> You say Horn's love for
> Nettle is "unconvincing" (Meaning Wolfe failed to convince you the
> characters were real?  or failed to convince you that Horn really loved
> her? Or that Horn is unconvinced?).  I didn't have that reaction.

Meaning that Horn failed to convince me he really loved her.  Or, strictly
speaking, the Narrator.  He says he loves her, but his behavior isn't
consistent with this imo.  His betrayal of her to Krait in the pit can
perhaps be excused as simple human weakness (it occurs to me that this scene
is very reminiscent of the Room 101 scene from 1984).  And his adultery with
Seawrack can be excused by the Mother's spell.  But Jahlee didn't place him
under a spell; nor did his wives in Gaon.  (Smoky's brief affair with Sophie
hardly compares to Horn's serial adultery.)  And, while Horn leaves a great
deal out of his written narrative, he includes his betrayal and his
adulteries in an accouont he knows Nettle will read, and be hurt by.  These
do not seem to me the actions of a man who loves his wife.

Whether Wolfe intended to convey that Horn genuinely loved Nettle or not, I
don't know.



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