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From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: (whorl) Heresy
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2001 09:08:29 

BMeyer7@aol.com wrote:
>OK, reading this list, it
>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.

I've worried before about the apparent impenetrability of some of Wolfe's
mysteries, but I think your specific complaints here are a bit off base.  In
the first place, it's a bit early to worry about the lack of any consensus.
The book's only been out for about a month, and few of us have had the
chance to read it more than once.  I'm more concerned about the inability of
the recent discussion on PEACE, which has been out for over two decades
(iirc), to reach a conclusion on key issues.

In the second place, the fact that a few posters disagree doesn't in itself
demonstrate a lack of consensus.  "Mainstream" literary criticism
demonstrates that any work, no matter how clear, can spawn wildly divergent
readings.  For there to be a real lack of consensus on RTTW, the "silent
majority" of serious Wolfe readers would have to be as split as the few who
have taken positions so far; and we don't know that yet.

In the third place, speaking as one of the people involved in these
arguments, I don't particularly enjoy the puzzle-solving aspect of Wolfe's
books, although I do enjoy his play with narrative conventions.  I've never
been engaged, for example, by the questions of who was buried in the
mausoleum in TBOTNS or what caused the disturbance at the gate between
_Shadow_ and _Claw_.  Speaking as a biassed observer, while there are
obscurities in TBOTSS, I don't believe they include the "key issues" we've
been arguing about.  I honestly think the evidence on these is clear, even
though intelligent readers disagree with my positions (but how many do we
don't know, as I said above; and if Wolfe really has failed to make the
protagonist's identity clear, then the book _is_ seriously flawed).  Nor do
I think that RTTW is the most obscure of Wolfe's books, or even second most.


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