Date: Sat, 19 Apr 2003 14:24:44 -0400 From: "Fernando Q. Gouvea"
Subject: Re: (urth) Short Story collections I've been following this discussion with some interest, because I do like many of Wolfe's short stories. They are a very diverse bunch of stories, of course, with the novellas at one end of the spectrum and stories that are little more than jeux d'esprit at the other. Still, here's my take on the various collections: The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories includes several essential stories and several others that are fun but light. The best, I think are the title story, "The Death of Doctor Island", "The Eyeflash Miracles", "Tracking Song", and "Seven American Nights". In addition, I have a soft spot for "La Befana". Finally, there's "The Toy Theater", which I think is just brilliant, an elegantly cut gem that ends up making a significant point about whether it's worthwhile to sacrifice one's life for one's craft. Castle of Days includes the short stories that originally appeared in Gene Wolfe's Book of Days. As several people have pointed out, "Forlesen" is an amazing story. I also like "Beautyland" (which has since lost some of its power because it was too correct), "How I Lost the Second World War and Helped Turn Back the German Invasion" (this one seems not to get much respect, but I still think it's great fun), and "The War Beneath the Tree". Castle of Days also includes "The Castle of the Otter", a collection of secondary pieces about the Book of the New Sun, of which the best, I think, is "These Are the Jokes" (which is brilliant). Endangered Species includes several stories that stand out for me, including "The Cabin on the Coast", "In the House of Gingerbread", "When I Was Ming the Merciless", and "The Detective of Dreams". Several others are at least interesting: "The Last Thrilling Wonder Story", and the two "The Woman Who Loved" stories. Pound for pound, this is probably the weakest of the collections. Storeys From the Old Hotel, though meant as a kind of collection of less significant stories, actually contains several that I think are among his best: "Westwind", "Parkroads", "A Solar Labyrinth", "Cherry Jubilee", and (I'm sure choosing this one will annoy people) "In Looking-Glass Castle". In Strange Travelers, there are several strange stories that I haven't completely processed yet. Still, "No Planets Strike" seems very fine to me, "And When They Appear" is disturbing but well done, "Ziggurat" is again disturbing but packs a punch, and "Counting Cats on Zanzibar" is very good. "Bed and Breakfast" is fun but minor. Some of the others I'm not sure what to do with yet. That's quite a good bunch of stories, I think, of many different types and styles. Perhaps not as good as the very best sf short story writers, but pretty close. Fernando -- Fernando Q. Gouvea Department of Mathematics Editor, FOCUS and MAA Online Colby College Mathematical Association of America Waterville, ME 04901 http://www.maa.org firstname.lastname@example.org ========================================================== Genua had once controlled the river mouth and taxed its traffic in a way that couldn't be called piracy because it was done by the city government. -- Local-body politics explained Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad --