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From: CoxRathvon@aol.com
Subject: Re: (whorl) More Whorl Mysteries
Date: Sat, 11 Jan 1997 10:38:42 

[Posted from Whorl, the mailing list for Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun]

This is to thank Patrick O'Leary for the recent "Whorl" comments, which seem
to me insightful and interesting.  (But I wish, Patrick, you'd enlarge upon
your closing comment: "It annoys me a bit."  I too find Wolfe's work
unsettling in many ways--and I do not belong to his religion--but I'd like
you to expand on your comment, if you can, to let me see if we're reacting to
the same qualities in Wolfe's writing.)

I too am in the midst of my third reading of the "Long Sun" series, and I
must say I'm enjoying it more than ever and perhaps understanding it better.
 Patrick mentions some particularly mysterious points.  He asks: 

"Has anyone else gotten the impression that all the political maneuvering and
intrigue, strategems and plots, temporary victories and reprieves--a large
portion of the Long Sun story, in fact--amounts to nothing?"

My answer is--yes, very much so, and I agree with Patrick that Silk's hour of
despair atop the airship derives in part from this perception of the largely
futile surge of history.  It's typical, I think, for Wolfe's stories to take
place against a backdrop of war, espionage, and political chaos--all of it
absorbing and vital to its participants--which however is ultimately
pointless when compared to one's search for self or truth or God.  Wolfe's
vision seems to be that mankind will *always* be thrashing about in politics
and war, and that innocent people will be swept up and killed in these
endless, bloody tides.  If anything, this inevitable social chaos makes the
quest for a deeper meaning more precious--and more difficult.  Poor Silk is
thrown into the midst of a political storm at the very same time that he's
shown a path of redemption.  It must tear his heart to realize that so many
people will perish in the chaos without sharing his vision.

But of course, Silk has some purely personal sorrows in that hour of despair
on the airship, and I'm still trying to understand those.  One involves
Hyacinth and another involves Maytera Marble, as Patrick points out.
 Hyacinth, as has been suggested in recent postings here, is almost certain
to have done some spying for Crane and Trivigaunte; evidently she and
Chenille have not fully divulged to Silk the extent of such activities. But
also, it's clear that Kypris used to visit Hyacinth (through the glass at
Blood's villa), and is therefore apt to have possessed her and "left a piece"
of the goddess with Hyacinth.  Does that perhaps explain Hyacinth's ability
to overcome a trooper?  I'm still not sure and would welcome further
suggestions from fellow readers.

As for Maytera Marble, she seems to have lied about her past (she was not
Moly after all) in order to marry a soldier.  She had good reasons for
pursuing happiness in this way, but nevertheless she lied, something Silk
finds saddening.  I suppose he's struck, in that moment on the airship, at
both the futility of politics on a large scale and the frailty of individuals
on a small scale.

As for the tour of the talus factory, I think it simply illustrates Silk's
determination to do his job as calde.  He doesn't know he'll be leaving the
whorl in a matter of days, so he's laying military plans that could be
effective months in the future.  Whether his special-ordered taluses are
manufactured in time to be effective in Viron's wars remains unknown--and of
course, is ultimately meaningless.

Perhaps I should add that although I do not, as I've said, share Wolfe's
Catholicism, I do respond sympathetically to a vision of humanity in which
cruel chaos is the rule on a large scale while redemption of some sort is
possible on a personal scale.  I think the "Long Sun" books explore this
vision in a fascinating way--with a lot of extra twists and turns, of course,
of an almost postmodernist literary sort.  

Sorry if I've carried on too windily.  I'm still working a lot of this out in
my own mind.  It's great having a forum in which to compare thoughts.

--Henry Rathvon

Questions or problems to whorl-owner@lists.best.com

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