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From: straight@email.unc.edu (Michael Straight)
Subject: Re: (whorl) Re: Digest whorl.v007.n018
Date: Thu, 4 Sep 1997 09:54:50  (Eastern Daylight Time)

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

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Alga quoted and then wrote:
> > of Wolfe's answer indicate that he seemed somewhat saddened by the fact
> > that people felt they had to ask him; I sometimes suspect that Wolfe is
> > upset by the degree to which we the readers attribute to him both
> > infalibility and infinite cleverness. Generally, there are answers to any
> > question we might have, and we just have to ask the text correctly.
> I'm a little confused by this. Why should he be saddened? He writes puzzle
> stories; we, the readers who like them (not a majority of the reading
> public) puzzle them out and he should love the effort we put in. As an
> author and a professional editor (I am also a professional editor and I
> have some idea of what this entails), he was and is certainly knowledgeable
> about the author's responsibility in how stories succeed in getting through
> to readers. If he seemed saddened at how we +failed+ (especially of a group
> like this), it seems a bit arrogant to me; it means that he was unclear or
> too cryptic or that his editor was too distracted to straighten things out.

First of all, I'm not sure I'd agree with the description of Wolfe's works as
"puzzle stories."  My impression is that Wolfe is just trying to tell stories
in which many of the things that happen are told in a subtle way, and that his 
aim is that a careful reader could catch most of what's going on.

His "sadness" is probably like when you make a comment or a subtle joke and no 
one gets it.  It's a fine line, you want people to get your jokes, but the more
subtle you can be and still have people get it, the more fun it is.  

And then some of the people you know start saying "Oh! She's being SUBTLE!" 
and proceed to find all these "hidden meanings" in everything you say.  

I'm the first to admit that I've missed major points of some of Wolfe's works
that were obvious once they were pointed out, but on the other hand, I feel
like some of the discussion on this list is streching things way beyond what
Wolfe was trying to do.  That's not to say it isn't fun or that there might 
be interesting connections that he wasn't even aware of, but I can see how it
would be frustrating for Wolfe both to find that something he thought was clear
turns out to have been too obscure for many readers and also to find people 
fixating on details that he didn't mean to attach much significance to.

Frankly, considering how many people would love to be able to write half as 
well as Wolfe, I have little sympathy for him.  :-)


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