From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes"
Subject: Re: (urth) What is your favorite quote of any work of Wolfe? Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2003 22:01:35 -0700 This is a great topic. I have three especial favorites. They're all from tBotNS, and they're all (I'm afraid) rather long. 1. I think Wolfe isn't generally so much a writer of memorable lines but of gorgeously constructed sequences that build up, at times, to climaxes of astonishing power, lines that are memorable because of what has come before them. This comes from SHADOW, chapter XXIV: [Dorcas said] "...Your face was full of beauty, of a kind of nobility. When the world is horrible, then thoughts are high, full of grace and greatness." I looked at her, thinking she was mocking me, but she was not. "The world is filled half with evil and half with good. We can tilt it forward so that more good runs into our minds, or back, so that more runs into this." A movement of her eyes took in all the lake. "But the quantities are the same, we change only their proportion here or there." "I would tilt it as far back as I can, until at last the evil runs out altogether," I said. "It might be the good that would run out. But I am like you; I would bend time backward if I could." "Nor do I believe that beautiful thoughts - or wise ones - are engendered by external troubles." "I did not say beautiful thoughts, but thoughts of grace and greatness, though I suppose that is a kind of beauty. Let me show you." She lifted my hand and slipping it inside her rags pressed it to her right breast. I could feel the nipple, as firm as a cherry, and the warmth of the gentle mound beneath it, delicate, feather-soft and alive with racing blood. "Now," she said, "what are your thoughts? If I have made the external world sweet to you, aren't they less than they were?" "Where did you learn all this?" I asked. Her face was drained of its wisdom, which condensed in crystal drops at the corners of her eyes. 2. My second example is just an amazing illustration of what science fiction can do that no other kind of writing can. In SWORD, chapter XIII. Severian tries to sleep "in the lee of a naked rock" in the mountains, and mostly fails. The passage is actually quite long, and all excellent; but I excerpt her my favorite part of it: ... I spent the remainder of the night staring at the stars; it was teh first time I had ever really experienced the majesty of the constellations, of which Master Malrubius had taught us when I was the smallest of the apprentices. How strange it is that the sky, which by day is a stationary ground on which the clouds are seen to move, by night becomes the backdrop for Urth's own motion, so that we feel her rolling beneath us as a sailor feels the running of the tide. That night the sense of this slow turning was so strong that I was almost giddy wiht its long, continued sweep. Strong too was the feeling that the sky was a bottomless pit into which the universe might drop forever. I had heard people say that when they looked at the stars too long they grew terrified by the sensation of being drawn away. My own fear - and I felt fear - was not centered on the remote suns, but rather on the yawning void; and at times I grew so frightened that I gripped the rock with my freezing fingers, for it seemed to me that I must fall off Urth. No doubt everybody feels some touch of this, since it is said that there exists no climate so mild that people will consent to sleep in unroofed houses. I have already described how I woke thinking that Hethor's face (I suppose because Hethor had been much in my mind since I talked to Dorcas) was staring into mine, yet discovered when I opened my eyes that the face retained no detail except the two bright stars that had been its own. So it was with me at first when I tried to pick out the constellations, whose names I had often read, though I had only the most imperfect idea of the part of the sky in which each might be found. At first all the stars seemed a featureless mass of lights, however beautiful, like the sparks that fly upward from a fire. Soon, of course, I began to see that some were brighter than others, and that their colors were by no means uniform. Then, quite unexpectedly, when I had been staring at them for a long time, the shape of a peryton seemed to spring out as distinctly as if the bird's whole body had been powdered with the dust ground from diamonds. In a moment it was gone again, but soon returned, and with it other shapes, some corresponding to constellations of which I had heard, others that were, I am afraid, entirely of my own imagining. An amphisbaena, or snake with a head at either end, was particularly distinct. When these celestial animals burst into view, I was awed by their beauty. But when they became so strongly evident (as they quickly did) that I could no longer dismiss them by an act of will, I began to feel as frightened of them as I was of falling into that midnight abyss over which they writhed; yet this was not a simple physical and instinctive fear like the other, but rather a sort of philosophical horror of the thought of a cosmos in which rude pictures of beasts and monsters had been painted with flaming suns. 3. Finally, as if to prove that Wolfe can run down an epiphany as well as the next post-Joycean, this bit from CITADEL, chapter XXXI. Severian, having just told of his discovery that the Claw is the thorn of the rosebush, considers: At that time I did not think of it, being filled with wonder - but may it not be that we were guided to the unfinished Sand Garden? I carried the Claw even then, though I did not know it; Agia had already slipped it under the closure of my sabretache. Might it not be that we came to the unfinished garden so that the Claw, flying as it were against the wind of Time, might make its farewell? The idea is absurd. But then, all ideas are absurd. What struck me on the beach - and it struck me indeed, so that I staggered as at a blow - was that if the Eternal Principle had rested in that curved thorn I had carried about my neck across so many leagues, and if it now rested in the new thorn (perhaps the same thorn) I had only now put there, then it might rest in anything, and in fact probably did rest in everything, in every thorn on every bush, in every drop of water in the sea. The thorn was a sacred Claw because all thorns were sacred Claws; the sand in my boots was sacred sand because it came from a beach of sacred sand. The cenobites treasured up the relics of the sannyasins because the sannyasins had approached the Pancreator. But everything had approached and even touched the Pancreator, because everything had dropped from his hand. Everything was a relic. All the world was a relic. I drew off my boots, that had traveled with me so far, and threw them into the waves that I might not walk shod on holy ground. Next? --Blattid _________________________________________________________________ Help STOP SPAM with the new MSN 8 and get 2 months FREE* http://join.msn.com/?page=features/junkmail --