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From: Dan Rabin <wolfe-lists@danrabin.com>
Subject: (whorl) [spoiler] Narrative technique in _Return_, and trilogity
Date: Wed, 7 Feb 2001 22:35:29 

This third volume in the series adopts yet another distinct set of 
techniques for interleaving two narrative time frames.

In _Blue's_ we had the Gaon story interrupt the quest story, 
eventually dominating by the end of the volume.

In _Green's_ we're mostly in the Blanko story, with the continuation 
of the quest in flashbacks and the stories in the story-telling game.

In _Return_, we pretty much get a chapter-by-chapter alternation 
between the homeward-bound story and the _Whorl_ story, told in very 
different styles.  Homecoming-protagonist pretty much continues his 
persona from _Green's_, but as Whorl-narrator he adopts a very 
mannered avoidance of identification with the Whorl-protagonist: he 
never names that person (always referred to via third-person pronouns 
or as "the man who...").  He keeps this up even when meeting his 
*father*.  It's as if he wants to claim that that guy might or might 
not have been Silk, but it sure wasn't *me*.

As a bonus, we get chapters in Hoof and Daisy's own distinct voices, 
and an afterword in which Silk is once again separated from the 
now-current narrator.
(I found Hoof's style to be rather charming.)

Oh, and the volumes are separated by interruptions in 
Horn/Rajan/Silk's supply of paper in the frame in which he is writing.

Reading this trilogy is like listening to Bach.  There's a highly 
evolved formal structure available to enhance your enjoyment, but 
you'll still come out way ahead if you just go ahead and listen.

I note in this connection Wolfe's remarks in 1982 in the essay "The 
Rewards of Authorship" in _The Castle of the Otter_, reprinted in 
_Castle of Days_, on p. 280 of the hardcover edition:

   Q: [the professor] also said that each volume in a trilogy should be a
      finished story in itself, the various parts being interconnected by a
      progression in time and overlapping characters.  You don't do that in _The
      Book of the New Sun_.  Shouldn't you have?  It's sort of all one book,
      with breaks in between.
   A: That's right.  Did you enjoy the books?
   Q: Yes, but it still seems wrong.
   A: Because your professor said so.  Did he enjoy them?
   Q: I don't think he read them.
   A: I don't think so either.  Did you like _The Lord of the Rings_?
   Q: I loved it!
   A: That's "sort of all one book, with breaks in between" isn't it?
   Q: I never thought of that.  I wish I had mentioned it to my professor.
>>A: It wouldn't have done any good--he wouldn't have read that 
>>either.  I just wanted to point out that Tolkien was a professor of 
>>Anglo-Saxon at Oxford.


It seems to me that _Short Sun_ is in some measure a further argument 
in Wolfe's dispute with that imaginary professor.  One of our 
contributors who is in touch with Wolfe has reported Wolfe's glee at 
finally having written a trilogy...

   -- Dan Rabin


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