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Date: Fri, 11 Apr 2003 21:34:40 -0700
From: Dan Rabin 
Subject: (urth) Favorite quotes

I agree with Blattid about the beach scene, especially "The idea
is absurd. But then, all ideas are absurd," and "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" with its echo of Exodus 3:5 
(Moses before the Burning Bush).

I am also very fond of the speech of the mate-vendor at Saltus Fair:

"Oh, it rose all right.  When my grandson-in-law heard about it, he 
was fairly struck flat for half a day.  Then he pasted up a kind of 
hat out of paper and held it over my stove, and it went up, and then 
he thought it was nothing that the cathedral rose, no miracle at all. 
That shows what it is to be a fool--it never came to him that the 
reason things were made so was so the cathedral would rise just like 
it did.  He can't see the Hand in nature."

This has something in common with the passage about symbols inventing 
us, with Wolfe twisting the modern scientific attitude around into a 
defense of the religious attitude.

But I also agree with Mr. Danehy-Oakes that it's the quality of the 
construction more so than the striking nature of the sentences in 
isolation that characterize Wolfe's writing.

I just opened _Shadow and Claw_ to find the quote above, and I 
started to marvel once more at how much Wolfe packs into the first 
chapter of _The Book of the New Sun_.  We learn in the first 
paragraph that the narrator, Severian, may have known his future, was 
a torturer's apprentice, has experienced exile, and also a 
near-drowning.  There follows an exciting fight involving some 
aristocrats who are doing something involving a recent grave, and a 
bunch of commoners who want to stop them.  The narrator comes in on 
the side of Vodalus, and concludes the chapter by reflecting, "I was 
quite correct--it was, as I sensed, perfectly feasible for me to 
serve Vodalus and remain a torturer.  It was in this fashion that I 
began the long journey by which I have backed into the throne."

Well, I've known people who never finish reading _New Sun_, but I 
can't imagine anybody stopping right there, with a once-exiled 
present ruler claiming that his acceptance that he could serve both 
the state and its enemies made him the Autarch he is today.  Must be 
quite a story in that.

(Of course, his predecessor was doing the exact same thing.  Did I 
notice the connection before now?  No.  Did it have an effect on me 
anyhow?  Of course--things act of themselves, or not at all!)

   -- Dan Rabin


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