Feb 18, 2018

Operation Ares, Chapters 3-4

5 comments

Wow. That was quite an episode! I am frankly not sure that this text of Wolfe's quite deserves it (many others definitely do, so this makes me all the more eager for future ones...), but it was a blast to hear you guys rocket through 2,000 years of philosophy. I particularly enjoyed the Christian theologians material, about which I personally know less, and which I know Wolfe is very engaged with.

 

I don't have a ton to contribute, honestly, but I'll throw out a few thoughts.

 

1) The idea that people have no duty to obey an unjust government is, by this point, so ubiquitous in our common culture, that I find it hard to imagine anyone, whatever their philosophical orientation or political view, arguing the contrary. (It strikes me as a very pre-modern idea, for some definition of "modern" (the modern: beginning in 1517? 1789? 1910? Depends what you mean...). Thus I, of course, agree with you both that John has no duty to obey this government. Which leads me to the thought that a far more interesting story, perhaps, would be from the Captain's point of view. Since that isn't what pretty much anyone thinks these days, it'd be fun to really try and get in the head of someone who did, sincerely & honestly, believe that.

 

2) You guys are really quite unfair to utilitarianism. I'm not a straight-up utilitarian myself, but it's a lot richer and more defensible than either of you gave it credit for. I certainly don't think that our current corrupt government (!) is in any way particularly utilitarian. I mean, sure, they claim to be doing the greatest good for the greatest number; but then, they claim to be Christians, too. You want them to represent that? — Nor do I think that utilitarianism rights off the rights of minorities, nor even, necessarily, the soul. Again, not the philosophy I would personally swear by, but you guys didn't do it justice.

 

3) It's... interesting to argue, in the midst of what is supposed to be a historical approach that Plato is the origin of social contract theory and utilitarianism. I mean, yes, all philosophy is (supposedly) footnotes to him, but really both of those are idea traditions that arose in a much, much later context. I haven't read the Crito in decades (I was a philosophy major back in the day, but the day was quite some time ago at this point, and my post-undergrad work has all been in American history), but I would guess that this is reading backwards, even if there is some line which, were it written by Pierre Menard, would clearly be a reference to social contract theory and/or utilitarianism. Not that it's a bad way to structure the episode, mind you — it allowed you to work in a lot of relevant theories — but I would suggest that it works better as a conceit than as a history.

 

4) One brief note from the recap episode: you spoke as if the "bankrupt the enemy" idea was alive and well at the time of Operation ARES's writing; as far as I recall, that's not correct: that's a Reagan-era idea (and, while he did throw it out here and there, it was far more a retroactive justification than one which was powerfully motivating at the time.

 

I think that's all I've got to say. I am finding Operation ARES... ok. I certainly wouldn't keep reading if you guys weren't covering it. But I am enjoying your coverage, so I will continue to read the text.

 

I wonder how much of that non-enjoyment is brought to the text? I honestly can't say. I know that, with other Wolfe works, I tend to assume there is something deeper going on until I go through a story enough times that I decide there maybe just isn't (as I think there isn't in some of his tales), and even then I am always willing to be convinced I just missed it. Here, I tend to assume there isn't much. Maybe I'm not being fair to it. I can't say. But certainly it's not at a level of craft anywhere near most of the stories you earlier covered.

 

But your episodes are great. I look forward to the next pair.

Feb 18, 2018

Well, we're not certain we'd keep reading if we weren't covering it (though I'm glad that we did), so thank you for reading along with us, Stephen, and, as always, for these great comments.

 

1) Right, this is essentially right there at the core of our identity as Americans. I like your idea of turning it around, but of course the Captain would disagree with our premise that this is an unjust government. I'll say more about this in point 3.

 

2) Haha, right, well I (at least) don't have much background in Utilitarianism, and have only read a handful of texts by Mill and Bentham. That said, those texts that I have read have always seemed to disregard an individual's personhood and to treat individual humans no differently than a piece of equipment. But I would like to hear more in defense of it, especially as this will certainly come up again in Wolfe.

 

3) Yikes, I hope I didn't say "origin" without qualifying it with "what we might call" or "would today call." But this language in the notes and introductory material of most translations (the OWC for sure), and seems to be how philosophers treat the text (but, yes, not how a historian would). It's been three years since I've been able to teach the first half of Western Civ, but I usually spend three weeks on the Trial of Socrates in which my students will place themselves in this debate (and others). Interestingly, while a narrow majority of students usually decide that Socrates should escape, those who think he shouldn't always point to the social contract. I'm looking forward to the day that shifts, because then I will know that there's been a generational cultural change, presumably rooted in whatever video games those students were playing in middle school.

 

4) Yes, this is apparent even in the text, and when I teach the Cold War (all the time lately since I can't get assigned to my beloved Western Civ) I never talk about a spending war. But Brandon has made this claim in both episodes about Operation ARES (and maybe one more time?), so it's interesting to me that it's fundamental to his cultural memory of it. I teach it within my course's theme of "empires," so my focus is much more on how Americans and Soviets interacted with the rest of the world than with each other, so I'm really not current on scholarship about the end of the Cold War, but do scholars even think about it in fiscal terms?

 

As you say, it's not a great book, but I've really enjoyed Wolfe's foray into political philosophy, and we have another discussion about this in our penultimate episode. It all makes me very excited to do an episode about the ideology of rulership in BOTNS, though we have a long way to go before we get there.

Feb 19, 2018

Stephen, I can't tell you how much I look forward to your contributions to our forum, primarily because you fill a blindspot that I struggle from; namely, actual facts regarding American History. I rely on Glenn to some degree to be the historian for both of us, but we are a little fuzzy when it comes to the particulars of 20th century history. I only know what I know because it tangentially relates to my interests in philosophy and English Literature, where filling in context can be meaningful to interpretation. As such, you will often find me falling into Menard's trap, which I'll attribute to my interest in Gadamer's sense of Hermeneutics. But even going deeper down the Phenomenolgy rabbit hole, I am sometimes ok going down the wrong path in the hopes that I am participating in a community where there are people more knowledgeable than I am about these subjects. To me, the discourse is always enervating and I genuinely enjoy your thoughts. I'll give my take on your comments below:

 

1. While it may be the explicit belief of many that they have no obligation to obey a corrupt government, they are often caught up in pseudo-activity that does little more than reinforce the status quo. I'm referring to protests (the Occupy Wall Street movement is a great example of this) and other forms of virtue signaling. This type of activity relieves the itch that many people feel that they ought to be doing something, without doing anything. They ascent to the moral claims without acting in such a way that challenges the corruption of the institutions that also provide them much of their comfort. John is courageous in this story that he is willing to disrupt his diminishing comforts provided by the stability of the government (at least in the White City and beyond) in order to take action that disrupts the status quo.

 

2. This all feeds into the notion of utilitarianism, which is caught up with the language of rights. I tried to briefly outline the conflict between the language of duty and the language of rights. When a society encourages its individual citizens to be alerted to violations of their rights and does not ask them what they actually owe one another (or even themselves), it is presented with the situation where citizens demand more and more and offer less and less. I think that this is because rights are infinite (what we can demand from the world and others -- all rights are negative in that the require others to recognize them in order for them to function, while duties are positive in that the require action from the dutiful in order to function) and duties are limited. I think these notions are caught up in our discussion of utilitarianism, but you're right to say we didn't give it its full due.

 

3. To discuss Menard again (and to maybe read a bit of Foucault into the implication made by raising Menard), we are caught up in complex networks of meaning where origins can be occluded by the "unthought", by the background of our society that provides a basis for meaning without our need to reflect deeply upon it. I think origins is a tricky word, but by discussing how things have been used and interpreted by later societies, or by ourselves (reading backward) we can begin the difficult work of excavating meaning. My hope is that some of this will be a starting point for people to investigate our claims rather than taking what we say as the final word.

 

4. Thanks for this! Glenn is absolutely right to discuss my "cultural memory" in regards to what I spout off in the episode. I really do encounter the cold war in terms of what was going on in the 80s rather than really looking at the earlier part of its history.

 

I think you'll get a lot (as Glenn and I both did) out of the wrap-up conversation with Marc Aramini. I really hope none of what I wrote above is read as "conflicty." I'm trying to lay out my methods so that you (and whoever else stumbles on our humble forum) can engage at least myself, with a clear understanding of my methods and modes of communication.

 

I've been swamped with work and hope to be able to be more active with my responses as well. Thanks again!

Feb 20, 2018

I've been traveling and haven't had time to properly reply, but I did want to state that I certainly don't think any of this is too "conflicty": I am a great believer in friendly, respectful, energetic dialectical argument, and I take it that that is what we are engaged in here.

 

1. I take your point, Brandon, and it's a good one. I personally think the Occupy movement was a lot more efficacious than you make it out to be: it put inequality, long discussed only in academic circles, at the forefront of our national conversation in a way that was very valuable to me. More recent events have led to its sliding a little next to issues like racism, tribalism, etc, but I still see it as a real achievement.

 

You're right, of course, that it doesn't really challenge our institutions per se. But at the risk of sounding like the more conservative party in a conversation (not a role I'm used to!), I think there is also some value in that. Much of our current predicament, I think, is the eroding of institutions (such as the erosion of respect for factual and theoretical arbitrators like science, reporting, etc, and one that is now threatening to extend out to elections. So while I agree our institutions (political, economic, social) need real revision, I don't think that revolutionary activity is going to go anywhere positive at this point in time.

 

Or, to put it another way: "Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." (And, yes, their own list of complaints totally fails this test.)

 

2. I, personally, would see deontological ethics as more devoted to, and tied to, rights-based language than utilitarianism. The notion of rights as fundamental is very much rooted in the idea that people have fundamental worth that can't be overwritten for utilitarian reasons. Certainly there's no reason one couldn't make a robust utilitarian defense of the notion of duties (just as you can, and I would, make one for rights: rights-based utlitarianism is a thing, but it's a particular branch of utilitarianism, not fundamental).

 

I think that what you are really getting at is the division between individualistic and communal moral approaches, which is, as far as I know, not correlated with the deontological/utlitiarian split: both can be both. I agree that modern discourse is more individualistic than communal, but that's true of deontologists as well as utilitairanism (say, to pick the leading recent example, Rawls).

 

My fundamental feeling about these things is one I heard expressed in a classroom lecture by philosopher Stanley Cavell, where he pointed out that rather than competing theories these (and others, including the Emersonian perfectionism he seeks to elevate to equal status with deontological/utilitarian approaches) they tend to apply to different moral issues; his examples were that most of us these days feel that racism is wrong not just for utilitarian reasons, but regardless of that calculus; but that international interventions (this was during the 90s Yugoslavia break-up) tend to be rightly judged on utilitarian grounds. I don't recall that he said this in print — although it's such an obvious point that I feel like someone must have. But that's the idea I would hold on to if pressed.

 

(Gottra run — more later.)

Feb 20, 2018Edited: Feb 20, 2018

Thanks so much for your response! And thanks for invoking Stanley Cavell and reminding me that I need to read more of him. In theory he's someone who I think I'd appreciate, but I'm sure you can empathize with the time constraints involved with a full time job, side project, and the desire to pick up more great philosophers. And thanks for your graciousness in reading and responding to my comments. I was concerned I came across needlessly defensive.

 

You're points about utilitarianism and deontological ethics is well taken. I guess when I think about how these concepts are explored within the public discourse, they inevitably slide into a discourse of rights. For instance, a utilitarian calculation about a policy decision may be discussed publicly in terms of whose rights will be limited or improved by the policy rather than in terms of what we owe to one another merely by agreeing to live together in a society.

 

International interventionism and foreign policy (regarding your comment about utilitarianism as a is something we entirely overlooked in our discussion of social theory in philosophy. This is a big oversight in my mind because the book (spoilers!) makes a move into foreign policy in a way that is a bit puzzling. But perhaps Wolfe is exploring some of these notions on the rural-local, urban, national, and international scales. This exploration could even account for some of the way the novel is structured. (end spoilers!)

 

Regarding the Occupy Movement: I have very conflicted feelings about it especially in relation to what it actually accomplished. I do really appreciate the fact that it brought some of the massive inequities facing our nation (and provided a common language with which to discuss these issues) into the limelight. I think that conversation has largely been beneficial.

 

In terms of a violent revolution in the tradition of historical revolutions, I don't think that will accomplish much these days either. I am much more of the belief that what needs to happen first is a movement that takes a moment to contemplate the rapid changes that are taking place within our society and maybe refuse to do anything at all. No activity in my mind is better than psuedo-activity.

 

By the by, Borges' Menard is one of my favorite literary creations. There's a great play on the concept that was executed by Clickhole, The Onion's clickbate-based sister site. They publish the core text of Moby Dick as a blog with a clickbate headline. It's a fantastic joke.

 

Did you take a course with Stanley Cavell during your philosophy undergrad?

Feb 20, 2018

I did indeed take a class with Cavell as an undergrad (a class on the later Wittgenstein, co-taught with Hilary Putnam), although frankly that seems to be the least effect he had on my education: many of my TAs were Cavell's grad students, and there was a lot of influence there; I audited a class of his after graduation (my now-wife was taking it); and he was one of the readers of my undergraduate thesis (on J. L. Austin). And of course I've read a lot of his work, too. He's very much his own thing — certainly outside the main stream of contemporary analytic philosophy — but I think he's brilliant and, at least for me, essential. I understand having a long reading list and too little time, but do add him to it!

 

Menard is a favorite of mine, too. I actually have an essay on that story that I am trying to place, but it's sort of in the uncanny valley of too-academic-for-the-popular-press and too-popular-for-the-academic-press.

 

...I think that's all for now? I'm sure I'll have more to say after Chapters 5&6, if not before!

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  • Damn that was a good story. I last read it in the 1970’s before I went to medical school (I am now an internist and geriatrician). It didn’t make much of an impression on me then, but it sure does now! I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but am looking forward to doing so. I will share my thoughts about the medical aspects of the story. There are some spoilers, so read the story first. Medical schools are adding close reading of literature and patient narratives to their curricula. (1) This would be an excellent source for that. I’ll show how that might be done. Page numbers are from the 1st Orb edition of The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories. Page 80 - ‘a stubble of brown hair threatened to erase the marks of the sutures; with dilated eyes…he paused’ The boy has had head trauma and/or brain surgery. A drug or toxin is likely responsible for both eyes being dilated. A unilateral dilated eye would indicate acute brain damage. Page 86 - ‘his head swaying from side to side as he walked, like the sensor of a mine detector.’ He probably has a visual field defect, possibly related to the brain surgery/trauma. Page 86 - “I set fires to things.” Could the surgery have been a lobotomy to control his behavior? Page 88 - “and cut all the way through my corpus callosum.” Nick’s brain surgery was a corpus callosotomy. (2) This surgery is usually done in patients with difficult to control seizures. The main side effect is problems with speech and alien hand syndrome—control of the non-dominant hand. (3) Nowadays, newer medications and other neurosurgical procedures have mostly supplanted callosotomy. Page 88 - “I only see what is on the right of what I’m looking at, and the other side…only the left.” This is known as a hemianopsia (4) and is a result of the callosotomy. The ‘I’ is the speaking half of Nick—the left side of his brain -or- “left-brain Nick.” Page 89 - “He had uncontrollable seizures.” “Did you?” the girl asked. “I had visions.” We find out the reason for Nick’s callosotomy. He had visual auras before the seizures when he would “see things.” Nick seemed to enjoy these auras and was probably upset when they ended. Page 91 - “there’s something you ought to know about Diane, she gets confused sometimes, we’ve had her to doctors, she’s been in the hospital…try not to get her excited.” Diane has some major Issues. The most likely conditions to cause a 19 year old to be hospitalized would be major depression, a debilitating anxiety disorder like OCD, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Although Diane is skinny, anorexia nervosa is unlikely because the treatment certainly wouldn’t be stranding her on an island with no food! Page 92 - Diane said, “I feel better when it rains.” “That should help you to understand yourself.” Is Dr. Island using cognitive behavioral therapy? (5) Although this is a rather expensive way of doing it! Page 94-95 - “Sickness is…relative” “Diane was not functioning…you were not functioning either.” This is a major motif of the story; illness, specifically mental illness, is defined by society. In our society, a schizophrenic person may take a night job at the post office working alone, then go home to their one bedroom apartment and pull the shades to keep out the world. They would watch TV, eat dinner, go to sleep. They are content and even happy with this routine. They are contributing to society. Are they mentally ill? Page 96 - “We have treatment for disturbed persons…but we have no treatment for disturbing persons.” “Disturbing persons” - people with personality disorders? The best you can do is place limits on people with personality disorders and teach their families/friends how to cope with them. If they become unmanageable, societies tend to place them in prison. Could Dr. Island be a prison? Page 97 - ‘He noticed…that she was looking at him oddly, then realized that his left hand had risen to touch her right breast.’ Alien Hand Syndrome! (3) “Right-brain Nick” is acting inappropriately. Page 98 - “They kept me locked up because I kept burning stuff…I bite people.” Again, “right-brain Nick” is causing all these problems. Page 98 - “Then they stuck me full of Tranquil-C.” That is why Nick’s eyes were dilated. Page 98 - “I still think you’re angry somewhere, deep down.” Taking away Nick’s auras (visions) could be the root of his anger. Perhaps the visions occurred in “right-brain Nick” and that’s why he burns things? Or is "right-brain Nick" just frustrated at his lack of control? 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Page 104 - ‘The doctor had been a therapy robot, but a human doctor gave more status. Robots’ patients sat in doorless booths…and talked to something that appeared to be a small, friendly, food freezer.’ I have never heard of Amana being involved in cognitive behavioral therapy. Page 104 - “What is the cause? I mean for her?” “I don’t know.” “And what’s the treatment?” “You are seeing it.” “Will it help her?” “Probably not.” With all their space bending technology, it seems that the prognosis for schizophrenia hasn’t changed much in the Wolfe-ian future. Page 113 - “Your record shows no auditory hallucinations, but haven’t you ever known someone who had them?” “I knew a girl once…she twisted noises.” Auditory hallucinations are very common in schizophrenia. Ambient background noises are screened out by the normal brain. People with schizophrenia are unable to ignore them and experience the noise as voices saying bad things to/about them. The voices could also be internally produced by the brain.(7) Page 115 - “Let Ignacio tell you a story…” After unpacking Ignacio’s tale, it seems that he is a feral child. Unlike other feral children, he was taught language and self-care skills. His only lack was human contact and learning how to interact with others. Feral children have a lot of problems becoming socialized and integrating back into society. They usually aren’t homicidal. (8) Perhaps being a “high-tech” feral made him violent to others. Page 119 - “Did I tell you about the bird, Nicholas?” She had been not-listening again. “What bird?” “I have a bird. Inside…She sits in here. She has tangled a nest in my entrails, where she sits and tears at my breath with her beak. I look healthy to you, don’t I? But inside I’m hollow and rotten and turning brown, dirt and old feathers, oozing away. Her beak will break through soon.” Okaaay, as Nick would say. This dispels any doubts that Diane has schizophrenia. She has a somatic delusion, which, while not as common as paranoid delusions, are frequent in schizophrenia. “Usually the false belief is that the body is somehow diseased, abnormal or changed.” (9) Page 119 - “I have been trying to drink water to drown (the bird.) I think I have swallowed so much, I couldn’t stand up if I tried…” Diane has psychogenic polydipsia, which is common in schizophrenia. They can drink gallons every day—so much so that they disrupt their electrolyte balance and develop very low serum sodium levels. (10) Page 125 - “About 100 years ago, Dr. Harlow experimented with monkey’s who had been raised in complete isolation.” Harry Harlow is a real person who did indeed perform these experiments as Dr. Island has carefully outlined. Harlow was a Professor of Psychology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. (11) Many of those experiments are now considered an unethical treatment of animals. I suspect that the inspiration for The Island of Dr. Death came about when Wolfe read about Harlow’s research. You might consider Dr. Death to be a 2150 version of Harlow. ================Major Spoilers================== Page 129 - “Nicholas, you are upset now because Diane is dead—” “But you could have saved her!” “—but by dying she made someone else—someone very important—well. Her prognosis was bad; she really only wanted death, and this is the death I chose for her.” This is the death I chose for her. Those words are the core of the story; did Dr. Island have the right to sacrifice an individual for the greater good? In medical ethics, this encapsulates the conflict and tension between the ethical models of deontology and utilitarianism. (12) It seems that Dr. Island is a firm believer in the later. This is why The Death of Dr. Island would be a great source for a close reading of literature. It is a natural jumping-off-point for a spirited discussion of medical ethics. Page 130 - “Nicholas, who was the right side of your body, the left side of your brain, I have forced into catatonia.” Dr Island has essentially killed “left-brain Nick,” the person who has been our view point for the entire story. This is the death Dr. Island has chosen for Nick. Did he have the right to do so? REFERENCES 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4721945/ 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corpus_callosotomy 3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_hand_syndrome 4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemianopsia 5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_behavioral_therapy 6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schizophrenia 7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auditory_hallucination 8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_child 9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delusion 10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primary_polydipsia 11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Harlow 12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4778182/
  • My wife and I listened to this episode on the long drive back from a music festival this weekend. The podcast caused great discussion in the car, making the miles go that much faster. Jessica thinks that Wolfe didn't have the new messiah being born to one of Zozz's people because it would have overly complicated and lengthened the story. I agree. It got me to thinking about what Wolfe's inspiration might have been. Then I remembered that National Lampoon had an infamous cover of an alien crucifixion done by Frank Frazetta. The question is, when did it appear? A little research showed that it it was probably on the streets in May 1972. La Befana appeared in the January 1973 issue of Galaxy; probably too soon after the Nat Lamp issue for it to have been an inspiration--unless Frazetta let Wolfe see it before publication. Nah. Here is the National Lampoon cover.
  • Hello, from indecisively sunny Tasmania! This is my first post, so I'd just like to say first and foremost that I am really enjoying the Wolfe podcast, which I started listening to after The Fifth Head of Cerberus enraptured me (It's quickly become one of my favourite books), and which I'm now darting in and out of as I read his Book of Days . Anywho, I can't fully recall the episodes on 'A Story by John V. Marsch', so forgive me if you mentioned it and this is a redundant post. But I was just paging through Jack Vance's Dying Earth , which is a known inspiration for BotNS, and noticed that in the chapter on 'Mazirian the Magician' the title character spends some time trifling with 'Thrang the Ghoul-Bear', and it struck me as intensely likely that this inspired the creature in the aforementioned novella, not just for the name but a particular sentence within the passage he appears. The passage reads thusly, though of course this spoils the Ghoul-Bear in that story, not that he plays a large role: "Thrang's lair was an alcove in the rock, where a fetid pile of grass and skins served him for a couch. He had built a rude pen to cage three women, these wearing many bruises on their bodies and the effects of much horror on their faces. Thrang had taken them from the tribe that dwelt in silk-hung barges along the lake-shore . Now they watched as he struggled to subdue the woman he had just captured. His round gray man's face was contorted and he tore away her jerkin with his human hands. But she held away the great sweating body with an amazing dexterity. Mazirian's eyes narrowed. Magic, Magic! So he stood watching, considering how to destroy Thrang with no harm to the woman. But she spied him over Thrang's shoulder. "See," she panted, "Mazirian as come to kill you." Thrang twisted about. He saw Marizian and came charging on all fours, venting roars of wild passion. Mazirian later wondered if the ghoul had cast some sort of spell, for a strange paralysis strove to bind his brain. Perhaps the spell lay in the sight of Thrang's raging gray-white face, the great arms thrust out to grasp. Mazirian shook off the spell, if such it were, and uttered a spell of his own, and all the valley was lit by streaming darts of fire, lashing in from all directions to split Thrang's blundering body in a thousand places. This was the Excellent Prismatic Spray-many-colored stabbing lines. Thrang was dead almost at once, purple blood flowing from countless holes where the radiant rain had pierced him." I personally think Thrang comfortably shares the same attributes as Wolfe's Ghoul-Bear: huge, thick-limbed, and stinking (sweat rarely smells pleasant). Maybe I'm reading too deeply, but a tribe that dwells in silk-hung barges along a lake shore sounds at least superficially similar to the Marshmen. Further, the specific lake they dwell next to is called 'Sanra Water, the Lake of Dreams', which you could perhaps posit has something in common with the plan to kill Sandwalker and have his soul flow into the sea and out to the stars. I'm no literary buff, but I think there's enough textual evidence to cite a clear connection between the two, especially as Jack Vance so influenced Wolfe's later work. In any event it made me feel very big-brained.

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