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From: Michael Andre-Driussi <mantis@sirius.com>
Subject: Re: (whorl) Heresy
Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2001 12:43:50 

BMeyer7@aol.com wrote:
>OK, I'm sure I'll be the target of the wrath of many, but here goes. First,
>let me set forth my background--I've been reading SF/F for my entire life
>(I'm 40), have read every published word of Wolfe, and, while not nearly as
>sophisticated as many on this list, am not a total Wolfe-dummy.  I figured
>out lots of stuff (including what was going on in "Fifth Head") on my own,
>before such lists provided the insights of others.  OK, reading this list,
>is striking that after 7 books in this series, the very, very, smart people
>posting cannot come up with a consensus about what the hell is going on with
>respect to key issues. Now a series of rhetorical questions:  At what point
>does intentional obscurity on the part of an author become a self-indulgent
>pretention that gets in the way of artistic expression?  How much do we
>really love Wolfe because he's a great writer and how much because it's fun
>to solve puzzles? Has Wolfe crossed the line from not giving all the answers
>to creating texts that must be pored over by talmudic scholars rather than
>actual readers of novels?  Is Wolfe writing for a smaller, and smaller
>audience of  expert Wolfe-interpreters?  Discuss.

Well BMeyer7, as you no doubt recall from the days of GEnie, if not before
then, it all boils down to "you like it" or "you don't like it."

Case in point: Henry Kaiser, in his review of RTTW for Amazon.com, I think
makes some of the same statements you are making, but he is making them
from the clear position of "I like it."  For example, iirc, Henry says that
Wolfe is making it harder rather than easier on his readers, and Henry
=likes= this detail, it amazes him that Wolfe may be writing for a smaller

At every step along Wolfe's career there have been those who felt he had
crossed some line: people who loved 5HC but found TBOTNS to be something of
a fakeout (I believe we can safely put Robert Silverberg in this "New Sun
is a fakeout" category); people who loved TBOTNS but feel that URTH is a
fakeout (witness recent revival of that chestnut); people who loved the
Urth Cycle but didn't like TBOTLS (Christopher Culver is a gracious
example).  Or people who like everything =but= when Wolfe gets
LETTERS HOME (alga is the gracious example).

You probably remember more than most what my least favorite Wolfe novel is.
Everybody has their own taste.  The rest is just ferreting out the details
of why we like or dislike something, and like I tried to illustrate above,
the same elements can be used for liking or disliking something.  I myself
am not too good at figuring out why I dislike something--it is too much
labor, whereas figuring out why I like something is an intoxicating joy
that I have done for free, regardless of the real cost.


Sirius Fiction
Catalog and errata sheet at http://www.sirius.com/~mantis/

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