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La Befana
In Gene Wolfe
Michael Frasca
Oct 22, 2019
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Hour of Trust
In Gene Wolfe
Michael Frasca
Oct 10, 2019
Great wrap up! Nice mention of Eisenhower's farewell address and the fact that it supposedly included the phrase "Military Industrial Congressional Complex" but his aides made him take it out because it would be too provocative. The exploding and combusting people I also took to be a spiritual/mystical event caused by the outrageous circumstances of their lives. Sort of like their saying "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" With that cultural reference here are some movies that pair rather well with The Hour of Trust: - Rollerball (1975, directed by Norman Jewison) This film is NOT about a violent game. It is about how the forces of globalization/corporatization use misdirection to keep the masses placated with bread and circuses. - Network (1976, directed by Sidney Lumet) Continues the theme of the negative effects of ongoing globalization/corporatization and distracting the populace with entertainment rather than news. Ned Beatty's screed ("You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it!") would have fit right in to The Hour of Trust. - The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003, directed by Errol Morris) This documentary touches on all the themes of The Hour of Trust: corporate responsibility, the change in corporate culture, and the military-industrial complex. McNamara was a big proponent of process improvement and analytics, so he pulls no punches in critiquing the mistakes of his life, especially Vietnam. You can easily find all three films on most streaming platforms.
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Feather Tigers
In Gene Wolfe
Michael Frasca
Sep 06, 2019
I very much enjoyed this episode. The description of kittens as "impressive purveyors of violence" was well worth the price of admission! I learned very early on that asking Gene about a story or book was like asking a magician how they do an illusion. They smile, chuckle, and wave their hands a bit, but you never really find out. Gene was like that. If you listen to him VERY closely, Gene might OCCASIONALLY let slip a little nugget of information to give you a clue about one of his stories. A great example was the February 31st prank at college becoming The House of 31 February in The Island Of Dr. Death and Other Stories. (see my comment under "The island of doctor death and other stories, redux”) I read Feather Tigers for the first time a few weeks ago. I immediately recalled a story that Gene told us about an experience he had in Korea. We would have Gene over for dinner on occasion. One time, after a most enjoyable repast, the talk turned, as it inevitably does, to the Korean War. Gene told us this story. Gene fought at the tail end of the Korean War. After the fighting ceased, Gene’s unit was stationed close to the newly established Demilitarized Zone (DMZ.) The DMZ is a 160 mile long, 2.5 mile wide strip of wild, undeveloped temperate forest that separates North and South Korea. Nobody dared enter the DMZ, Gene said, and not just because of the land mines. You see, he explained, all the wildlife in the area naturally fled the battlegrounds for the sanctuary of the DMZ. And where the deer and boar go, the apex predator follows. At night while sleeping in his tent, he could sometimes hear the coughing of the tiger as it patrolled its territory. His Republic of Korea compatriots would tell stories about the ferociousness of the cats. There are no longer any tigers in South Korea and no one knows about North Korea. The mines have been removed from the DMZ, but no one is quite sure whether tigers still prowl there. So watch the shadows closely. I bet that Gene’s experiences at the DMZ inspired Feather Tigers. I wish I were able to ask him, but he would probably just smile with that twinkle in his eye and enigmatically say “Perhaps.”
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Gene Wolfe, May 7, 1931 - April 14, 2019
In Gene Wolfe
Walkabout and "A Story" by John V. Marsch
In Gene Wolfe
Toy Theater
In Gene Wolfe
Michael Frasca
Sep 19, 2018
I am enjoying reading along with the podcast. We had Gene over for dinner and a movie last week. "Hey Gene, did you know that you are the subject of a literary podcast?" I played the beginning of one of the episodes for him and he got a big grin on his face. We didn't listen to much- "Murder Ahoy" with Miss Marple was waiting. My take on Toy Theater is that Stromboli was a fraud. He was unable to do women's voices and when his wife couldn't (or wouldn't) accompany him off planet, his solution was to use two or three female robots. That is how he was able to control five puppets at once- at least two of them were robots! The three singing "puppets" (Julia, Lucinda and Columbine) were actually robots and Stromboli only pretended to control them. He brought at least one robot back with him- Lily, who he keeps hidden back in the woods for perhaps his own pleasure. She is now neglected ("once we were notorious... he lives with his wife now and wishes the world to think he is a good husband") and exacts revenge on Stromboli by revealing to the narrator that there is no puppeteer in control of her and that Stromboli, by inference, uses robots to "do five." Stromboli hears of her escapade and goes to the spaceport to ask, through Zanni, that the narrator keeps it under the rose- "it" being the fact that he uses robots for the female parts. After all, what would be the bigger scandal- that Stromboli cheats on his wife or that he cheats in his art? It is also possible that Stromboli may have been passing on his secret for controlling five puppets to the narrator so it could be said "he can do six" at his funeral. I haven't run this past Gene because we usually talk about other things. I suspect that he would probably smile and say something like "That's one way of looking at it!"
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Michael Frasca

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