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Date: Mon, 3 Mar 2003 08:40:40 -0500
From: "Fernando Q. Gouvea" 
Subject: (urth) the book seminar

Well, I thought I'd report a little bit about the book seminar I'm
running. In the first session, we discussed "The Island of Doctor Death and
Other Stories", "Alien Stones", and "La Befana". I found it was harder to
generate discussion than I expected! Most of the students seemed to have
settled for reading the stories at a rather superficial level, and were
surprised that I wanted to poke at them further. Still, a few seemed to
have captured some of the hints (for example, that Daw may not be what he
seems in "Alien Stones", or that he may have intentionally caused the death
of the empathist). But overall it seems to have gone reasonably well,
though I'm hoping that I'll do better at generating discussion with the
next batch of stories.

The next three are "The Hero as Werwolf", "Three Fingers", and "The Death
of Doctor Island". There are obvious non-literary issues to pursue: genetic
"improvements" for "Hero", the Disney corporation and their brethren for
"Fingers", and mental health and utilitarian calculations about who is
valuable to society for "Doctor Island".  Of course, in each case there are
interesting literary questions too. Suggestions for avenues to pursue are

Some questions of my own:

- Does anyone know why Wolfe chose the spelling "Werwolf"?

- Is the drug mentioned at the end of "Three Fingers" a real drug? If so,
what does it do?

- How should we read the ending of "Doctor Island"? Has the boy been
helped, or has his personality been destroyed?



Fernando Q. Gouvea                      
Department of Mathematics          Editor, FOCUS and MAA Online
Colby College                      Mathematical Association of America
Waterville, ME 04901               http://www.maa.org

The Byzantines hammered away at their hard and orthodox symbols, because
they could not be in a mood to believe that men could take a hint. The
moderns drag out into lengths and reels of extravagance their new orthodoxy
of being unorthodox, because they also cannot give a hint -- or take a hint.
Yet all perfect and well-poised art is really a hint.
  -- G. K. Chesterton


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