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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Generic Considerations
Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 13:17:47 -0700

Side note to Craig: Yes, THE JEWEL-HINGED JAW is excellent,
as is its successor, STARBOARD WINE.

Chris writes:

>>From Blattid's excellent, intelligent, and well-written post I pick out 
>only the part I think I disagree with:

Goodness, how dare I argue after that flattery? 8*)

But I seem to be argumentative this week.

>>We get into a cateogry error when we use the concept of "reality"
>>in discussing a fictional text -- that is, when we discuss any text
>>at the level of fiction. The world of discourse is precisely _not_
>>"real" -- though the text which embodies the discourse clearly is a
>>"real" text. (But is the discourse, is any discourse, "real?" What
>>does it mean to call a discourse "real?")
>I would say that this is not to be taken for granted. Philosophically 
>speaking the idea that the world is itself a type of text goes back quite a 
>ways; if you're a postmodernist, it's almost inescapable.

H'mmm ... I don't consider myself a postmodernist, though I am
comfortable using some of the tools of the structuarlists and
poststructuralists for my own purposes. How shall I say: my
episteme is not that of postmodernism, and _particularly_ in that
I refuse to regard the world as constituted of text or discourse.

To consider it so is anthropocentric in the extreme; those who hold
this view need to ask themselves what there was before there were
animals capable of "thinking discourse," and if they answer that there
was no "world" as such because "worlds" exist only with relation to
a subject then I throw up my hands in despair of communicating with
such persons, because they've disappeared up their own, uh,
idiosyncratic use of standard vocabulary.

Perhaps some postmodernists do indeed live in worlds consituted from
discourse and text. If so, I pity those persons. I live in one
constituted of things like rocks, air, wine, bread, pain and joy,
which also (to my ongoing pleasure) contains many interesting texts.

The other option is to suppose that the world is a text (textus, web)
constituted of all these things as signifiers; but I'll just go all
Kantian on you then and insist that a rock exists in- and for-itself
prior (both logically prior and chronologically prior) to any
existence it may have for-us as a signifier -- that its 
existence-for-us-as-signifier is always already supplementary to
its existence-as-such.

>I wish I were at home to provide some examples, not because they're needed 
>so much as that they're simply beautiful and eloquent. My favorite is from 
>Mallarme, but you could as easily use an example from Wolfe himself: Horn, 
>in IGJ (I think) has the insight while the Outsider is standing behind him 
>that, to the outsider, *everything he called "real" was a kind of story*.

And...? That we can perceive "everything" as a story speaks to
our way of perceiving -- is pure subject -- not to the objects
we perceive. The danger (to me) of this way of thinking and
speaking is that it threatens to confuse our perceptions with
the things we perceive; BUT, a perception is always a signifier,
and the word is not the thing, the map is not the territory.
Horn is operating here at a very high level of abstraction.

In fact I also do conceive the world as a "story," told from the
point of view of the Increate. But that's at a level where we
are all absolutely objects as over against the Increate, Who is
pure subject.

>In any event, what I'm getting at is that you have to be able to treat a 
>textual object as "real" *within the bounds of the text*. When you're 
>examining the text as it would look from the inside, it seems as proper to 
>use the term "real" as it ever can be. Of course, there are other ways of 
>looking at texts than this, which we use more often than not (and are 
>generally not consciously aware of the transition) - these are more akin to 
>metaphysics, and using the word "real" then becomes questionable.

I suppose my problem is that I don't exist "within the bounds of
the text," I always am looking at the "within" of the text from

>>One difference between fact and truth is that you can alter fact
>>at will in creating discursive worlds, and remain in good faith with the 
>>text and the (hypothetical, hypostesized) reader; if you alter
>>truth, you enter into a condition of bad faith with the reader, the
>>text, or both.

>*Within the realm of the text*, you can't alter facts without altering the 

Well, I'm not sure how that plays out, but that wasn't what I was
talking about to begin with; I was saying that, in creating a fictive
world for a text, the creator can make it false-to-fact with respect
to the consensual world and still be in good faith, but if she
falsifies "truth" as I described it, she will be in bad faith. And
this is a matter of degree -- obviously if she changes the facts about
how hot boiling water is, or the sensitivity of human skin to heat,
she can change the very minor "truth" about it scalding you. If she
messes with more major truths, she will wind up in bad faith.

In other words, the fiction needs to remain "true to" the writer's
experienced truth, even if the events she writes about are not events
that she or anyone else has ever experienced. A failure of this is
a failure of faith.

>If you take this thread of conversation and apply it to Silkhorn, who is 
>presented as being able to alter other people's stories *and his own*, you 
>get a monstrosity of logic that makes me want to stick my head in the 
>microwave. The root of the problem, near as I can tell, is that the 
>relationship between reader and storyteller is unresolvable.

Well, I suppose it is in some ways. The story doesn't exist until
someone reads it -- all that exists is marks on paper (or pixels,
or whatever). So the reader is always in a sense the creator of what
she reads.

>I probably put that fairly obtusely. But I guess a good leading question to 
>ask is: in your opinion, if Silkhorn is in a condition of bad faith with 
>his reader/text, does this mean that Wolfe is of necessity in a condition 
>of bad faith with his? If you say that it does not then it implies that 
>there are different layers of truth, not just fact, involved.

H'mmmm. Okay, let's say that the Narr is in bad faith, because he
suppresses or falsifies some facts and/or truths. Wolfe, though he
writes exactly the same words the Narr writes is nonetheless _not_
telling the same story that the Narr is telling; Wolfe is telling the
story of the Narr telling that story. For him to directly reveal what
the Narr conceals would itself be a falsification of the story Wolfe
is telling.

Then for Wolfe to write in good faith with his readers directly
involves the Narr being in bad faith with his; if Wolfe does not
accurately (truthfully) present the Narr's bad faith, then Wolfe acts
in bad faith. However, the Narr does _not_ act in bad faith with _us_,
because we do not read his narrative; we read Wolfe's.

Does anyone's head hurt yet?

The point here is that the truths the Narrator seeks to tell or
suppress or falsify are not the truths that Wolfe seeks to tell
(leave it at that, because I am assuming Wolfe to act in good
faith), because the truths Wolfe seeks to tell are precisely
_about_ the Narr's telling, suppressing, and falsifying.

One can call this "different layers of truth." But it seems to me
that Wolfe has to deal with the Narr's truths as well as his own,
which creates an asymmetric relation in that the Narr doesn't have
to deal with Wolfe's. Further, Wolfe has to deal with the Narr's
truths as honestly as he does with his own, in order to accurately
tell about the Narr's suppressing and falsifying them.

I conclude then that there is only one level of truth in the
textual world, in that the Narr is not aware of the Lupine layer.

I conclude also that, though there are (at least) two layers of
truth in the consensual world, Wolfe must treat both layers with
integrity in order to remain in good faith with the text and the

>Another fun question, of course, is "how many texts is the Book of the 
>Short Sun?" Akin to "How many Torahs are there?"

Or, "Is Pierre Menard's DON QUIXOTE a different text from Cervantes'"?

Or, "Is Chris's SHORT SUN different from Blattid's?"


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