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From: douge@nti.com (Doug Eigsti)
Subject: (whorl) Where Wolfe?
Date: Sat, 15 Feb 1997 12:22:52 

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

Lupine devotees unite!

	I remember reading THE FIFTH HEAD OF CERBERUS and liking the mood
but feeling clueless. Upon rereading (after NEW SUN) it came to life. I
realized Wolfe was cloaking reality from the reader in the same way it is
hidden from the characters. It was less about reading about people having
adventures on faraway planets, than having the adventure personally.
	In times past I read, almost exclusively, what was marketed as
Science Fiction. THE SHADOW OF THE TORTURER was sitting on the shelf of a
SF/Comics store I used to frequent. I studied the cover, trying to absorb
the contents for months before deciding to buy. I was into Niven, still
am, and liked the way he frolicked on the "Playgrounds of the Mind"; 
(Niven's law for writers: It's a sin to bore the reader). SHADOW proved to
be remarkable in so many ways. I read each volume as it came out, not
rereading the previous book, and so got a disjointed first impression of
THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN. Even so I ranked it among my favorites. This
amazes me now; that a book can work well on every level (as Fernando Q. 
Gouvea observed); action-adventure, stylistic quest, and the
puzzle/mystery level that so many of us Whorling Dervishes (mantis' term)
enjoy. Wolfe makes proper use of playground equipment.
	Wolfe elevated my reading to the point where I could revel in
feeling disoriented, definitely an acquired taste. Not for everyone. As
Master Ultan would say "I found that I was limiting my pleasure by only
reading the things I enjoyed". I was reluctant to recommend Wolfe because
I know how hard he makes his readers work. But, after raving about his
stuff for years, the discussion group I read with decided to sample. I
found success with "The Island of Dr.  Death, and Other Stories" and with
"Seven American Nights". The latter being a good taste of uncertain
realities, (with each egg being equally likely as the next as the cause of
his bizarre experiences). With the former story I challenged the group to
read just the first paragraph then stop and think about what they had
learned about Tackman Babcock. After finishing the story see if their
feelings were confirmed. They were, in every case. Wolfe can compress more
information into a paragraph than the words alone contain. Some of the
things he does are so clearly difficult and obscure that one forgets this
magic capability he has over the English language whereby he can implant
details in one's mind that are later impossible to find direct references
	I, too, have read about all the Wolfe I could find. I find that in
some of his stories he experiments with different forms, not always 
successfully. But his best are triumphs. He can emulate multiple authorial 
voices. PANDORA, BY HOLLY HOLLANDER reads like it was written by a, very 
precocious, 14 year old girl. An amazing book. My other favorites are: 
PEACE (I need to reread that one), and THERE ARE DOORS (ditto). 
	I think Wolfe is a puzzle to most of the SF community. He is too 
unique to be very influential. How can one copy what he does when only 
magic can explain much of it? He is held in awe by some, myself included.


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

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