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Episode 71: the Slingshot
In Gene Wolfe
marcaramini
Jul 04, 2019
of Course, the tools with which the Abos are handiest are all degradable: vine nets and ropes. The “counterfeit tools” are also symbolic of my reading of the counterfeit utility of the entire culture: they look like they once did something but they never did. I hope it is not insensitive to bring up something that lack of tangible evidence reminds me of in literature - Ida Fink’s treatment of evidence and fallible memory in The Table. In that play, prosecutors are trying to ascribe guilt through evidence of a widespread massacre event in WWII years after it happened. There is no remaining physical evidence, only completely conflicting accounts. No one agrees who pulled the first gun and started firing or the shape of the table or where people sat. But at the end of the day, hundreds of bodies were left behind, and all agreed that the snow was stained with blood. The event happened even without physically verifiable accounts - the heart of every testimony was true even as the details were wrong. Who is to blame? Is it collective? If there is no physical evidence, there is still a memory, and I feel that so much of Wolfe is invested in taking some things by faith which are completely intangible that sometimes it makes little sense to ask for physical evidence. There is a heart of objective truth behind things, though it might be poorly apprehended. I think Wolfe loves to make irony come to life, and Aunt Jeanine proposing a theory she does not believe in which describes her perfectly is a paragon of that Narrative tendency.
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VRT, Sections II-III, and Thoughts on Podcast Method
In Gene Wolfe
VRT, Sections II-III, and Thoughts on Podcast Method
In Gene Wolfe
marcaramini
Jun 06, 2019
I want to add my voice to Stephen’s here, though your podcast must remain your own of course In methodology and approach. Your take on Operation Ares was the best thing ever done on it by far; in some ways, the book is primarily worth reading for your coverage. Peace and New Sun are different animals: there has been a ton of quality work done on Peace in particular that is analytically very sound, and the structural approach of Wolfe in design is something that can only be apprehended when the entire novel sits in your mind (sorcerer’s house and Evil guest, to me, were really exercises in structural meaning- the mirrored first and last chapters of Evil Guest reveal something startling, but it is practically invisible even after five to six back to back readings). Peace is similarly constructed out of structural set pieces that make sense when applied to the whole novel - the short story coverage won’t suffer from this issue, and certainly the discussion of some themes make plot and puzzle issues irrelevant, but there are a few places I want the discussion to go further than it ever has in Peace and New Sun. The zeitgeist of “Severian is an awful liar” is terribly banal and disappointing, as are mimetic approaches to archetypal characters in his later work when he moves from SF to fantasy in focus and feel. the question on Peace and New Sun is do you risk reinventing the wheel? There wasn’t even an axle for Operation Ares and your episodes are in my opinion the definitive scholarship on it, with no need to go further unless someone is writing a sociological progression or comparative work on Wolfe or with another author.
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Marc Aramini in about the novella "Fifth Head"
In Gene Wolfe
marcaramini
Apr 22, 2019
I will email you privately.
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Marc Aramini in about the novella "Fifth Head"
In Gene Wolfe
marcaramini
Apr 22, 2019
Also, the key explanatory moment for me is Jeanine floating in the middle of the helix and looking at Number Five the whole way, who is his father's image. That's how the abos imitate and why she looks like him. Perhaps there was another Jeanine once, but there is no evidence that David is actually Maitre's child at the end; Jeanine winds up occupying the same position as Phaedria will when she returns with the child in the final page of the first novella. the symbolism of the floating staircase scene IS my reason. The novel isn't important, but once Wolfe told me something about one of his books that most people disbelieve. The primary textual evidence of that is this passage: When [we] were real little we used to play in the pools up above your mill. … One time we found a really pretty one, that had a lot of pretty little fish in it, and spotted frogs. Green with blue spots, I think. … Well, while we were looking at them we saw this one leech, a red one. It was pretty big. It was swimming right at one of the frogs, and me and [my brother] yelled for it to look out. … Only the frog didn’t pay attention, and just about the time it opened its mouth I figured out that it thought the leech was a fish, and it was going to eat it. … The frog got it in its mouth and spit it out, and it swam around in back where the frog couldn’t get at it, and fastened onto the back of its head. When we came back there was a dead frog, only the leech was gone. What I was thinking of was they don’t look enough like fish, not really, to fool us. But that one fooled the frog, he thought it was a little fish, and it probably fooled the fish, too. [A woman in the text] fooled me the same way until you told me. I thought there was two women in the house, an old one and the young one, but they were both her.This passage is the primary expository means that Wolfe "explains" that a red planet in the plot with parasitic life has taken the place of a green satellite. This is a metaphorical expansion on what happened to the solar system in that novel. I won't explain that here, but that is the upshot of a textual detail directly revealed to me by Wolfe. In comparison, the genetic strand of the helix staircase in Fifth Head is downright overt: Number Five is natural, Jeanine's inheritance is based on looking at him and does not involve the typical use of the genetic helix. Aubrey's name means elf queen. She has the inutile legs and the avaricious natures of a species that sees no problem in taking identities wholesale as it serves them. The butterfly and larva imagery of the girls and streets in Port Mimizon are also, in my mind compelling. It is not random, nor is the name of the city and its structure. Why haven't there been new buildings in 200 years? I'll tell you why with certainty.
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Marc Aramini in about the novella "Fifth Head"
In Gene Wolfe
marcaramini
Apr 22, 2019
What it really boils down to for me is using the most possible details from the text. One of the street names is translated as Street of Maggots. While this might suggest rot and death, when coupled with the imagery of "many pink butterflies" and the idea in a story of a larval stage (we were long and lived in the branches of trees) suggests an adult form that is like a butterfly. Nerrisa, Phaedria, etc are named after such moth or butterfly-like creatures. Port Mimizon (suggesting mimicry) and its hand-like structure are not explained, nor are the strange street names, unless we assume that the abos have actually proliferated. I suggest an entire life cycle. My readings have to take into account every name, from Bloodyfinger to sweet mouth to cedar branches waving, and make sense of cryptic details like the burying of Sandwalker's mother's feet in sand to soak up the nutrients and the lack of mobility of the female abo (seven girls waiting?) compared to Sandwalker. The legs of jeanine are long narrow useless protrusions; the abo girl seven girls waiting stumbles around and says that it will not come to Sandwalker until he is old (immobility). Basically, Veil's hypothesis is like Checkov's gun. My reading uses it. It uses all of the names in a story, the tree imagery, the leg association with abos, explains why the men who arrest Marsch in the third novella have the same face and have scars on their foreheads (certain abo groups are scarred ritually), and it explains the dystopia of Port Mimizon as well as its name and the idea that the streets are named after maggots and the girls with odd legs after butterflies. I'm sure you have access to my entire writeup using the central novella in my book, but here is a link to my video on Fifth Head and the essay. https://youtu.be/esAjkChAy7M, https://www.youtube.com/redirect?v=esAjkChAy7M&event=video_description&redir_token=HB8E3V4oAmI2Hrtag3TMFuimAe18MTU1NjAwNDQ2MEAxNTU1OTE4MDYw&q=http%3A%2F%2Fultan.org.uk%2Fvariance-reduction-techniques%2F
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