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Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2003 21:08:56 -0400
From: Thomas Bitterman 
Subject: Re: (urth) Generic Considerations

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes wrote:

 >H'mmm. At this point I have to ask the questions I've been unasking
 >throughout this discussion. I don't like these questions, I suspect
 >them of being inherently unanswerable. But:
 >Correspondence with ... what?
 >And what does "correspond" mean in this context?
 >Unless and until someone answers those questions, which I don't
 >see anyone doing real soon, any "correspondence with reality test"
 >seems to me not only misleading, but meaningless.
 >All of which is ... I think ... very relevant indeed to Wolfe and
 >his "unreliable narrators."

I've always seen Wolfe's work as an impassioned fight against this
line of thought.  Wolfe likes puzzles, and tosses them all over.

The problem with theories that "the reader brings their own meaning
to the text", "the meaning of the text is socially constructed", and
other vaguely postmodern-type-stuff is that it would be impossible to
have puzzles if books were like that.

Consider the puzzle posed in _Lexicon Urthus_: "Who (or what) is the
intelligence in the depths of the mine at Saltus?".  Many hours have
been spent poring over the text and thinking about what it could be.
If the meaning of the text were socially constructed it wouldn't be
such a big deal - any answer you could get people to agree on would
be fine.  I hereby start the group that believes it to be a giant
potato.  It's favorite song is "The Eyes of Texas are Upon You" and
it plans to cover the world in JuJuBees.

That's a stupid theory.  I know it, you know it, and Wolfe knows it.
That's the point.  Wolfe puts puzzles in to show that _the meaning
is in the text_.  He believes very strongly in the truth of a text.
The Truth.  The Text.  If the truth-value of every text is radically
indeterminate, why believe?




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