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From: David_Lebling@avid.com
Subject: (whorl) Finding the Wolf(e)
Date: Fri, 14 Feb 97 09:44:45 

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

I first encountered Wolfe in Damon Knight's _Orbit_ collections. At the
time I wasn't terribly impressed. I vaguely recall thinking "The Fifth
Head of Cerberus" was overwritten and "mannered," whatever that's
supposed to mean.

In retrospect, I realize that I was reading very fast, very uncarefully.
That was a period in which I would have listed Niven, Tiptree,
Cordwainer Smith, and Leguin as my favorite SF authors (which is not to
say I don't like them today). None of them, whatever their gifts, writes
the way Wolfe does. No one in SF writes the way Wolfe does, and Nabokov
being dead, I'm not sure anyone anywhere comes very close. (What Nabokov
did was a different sort of similar thing, anyway).

I reencountered Wolfe in _The Devil in a Forest_, which is one of his
more accessible books (probably YA originally). I recall reading it
twice in fairly short order, and it rekindled my interest.

I'm much more of a novel reader than a short story reader, so although I
saw and even read some of his short stories, it was not until _The
Shadow of the Torturer_ (which I bought based on a reviewer
recommendation), that I really began to aggressively seek out his work.

I know I read the _New Sun_ books much too fast the first time, and
missed almost everything. As someone remarked, it hardly matters with
Wolfe, because you know in advance that you will read his books multiple
times. I've read all of Wolfe's work I can find. (How many of you have
read _Pandora by Holly Hollander_? Raise your hands!)

My literary tastes are not terribly high. I read a great deal of SF,
less fantasy (although I'm always on the lookout for good
non-Xerox-of-Tolkien). I read the occasional mystery. For a writer who
uses something like Wolfe's "don't tell them more than once" style,
check out George V. Higgins (_The Friends of Eddie Coyle_, for example).
Higgins, like Wolfe, is someone I recommend to friends, but always say,
"I like him, but he can be a tough read."

I read a lot of history. I've read Borges, and Nabokov (though not all
of Nabokov, by any means), and Barth, and Joyce, and Pynchon, and
Coover. My typical taste in mainstream fiction runs more to Patrick
O'Brian, though.

I don't think most people want to work when they read. Wolfe is hard
work, and the more you read, the harder he gets.

For example, what was the business with Eland having pus on his legs,
and Urus not, when they were lifted out of the tunnels in _Exodus_? He
even comments about "the old man." Is this another Quetzal bite?

The thing about Wolfe is you never know when something like that is
significant. I've fantasized about scanning _Long Sun_ into my computer
so I can do searches on it, set up hyperlinks, and so on. Paper is _so_


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

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