Forum Posts

Sumant Natkar
Aug 22, 2021
In Gene Wolfe
Really enjoyed reading this section of story, as I think we are getting some anchors regarding what Weer is exactly telling us, and some sub-text regarding that. As you guys rightly pointed out that this section is dominated by Mr Macafee, and the Chinese egg, although there is a lot to come as regards to Chinese egg, we get lot of information from Weer, regarding Mr Macafee, the first fascinating aspect which I found was that the name Macafee is actually composed of two words, and one of the words is Peace. Also Weer talks very high of Macafee, which he hasn't talk so much about Professor Peacock, and he is not only impressed by the style of Mr Macafee's clothes, but he thinks him to be a genuine kind person, who is interested in music. The part about when they visit the park to hear the band playing, he specifically mentions to us that his Aunt Olivia sat between him and Mr Macafee, and this seems strange to me, but I think we can concur from this that, Macafee is the only person except Hannah, who behaves kindly with Weer, and Weer actually seems to enjoy his company. Also when the store is purchased by Weer, he tries to get more information into Macafee as a person, so I think he may be acts as a sort of role model for Weer when growing up. The monument part was really a fascinating listen when you guys talked about it, because nowadays we just don't care that much about them, but they represent kind of milestones in our specific country history, and when you guys pointed out that Wolfe is actually trying to view history from a different context here, and as part of that he is using Weer as a guinea pig of sort, because Weer does not have any caring adults in his vicinity who can answer correctly regarding all the doubts he has as regards to a monuments in his town, and due to that he has started making some wrong assumptions about the same, but these wrong assumptions can be other context with which Wolfe may be trying to view the American history. Other significant point which you guys said was how money is coloring relationships in this family, and also socially with regards to suitors of Olivia, and how Weer has started noticing that, and he is naturally attracted to a person who is best dressed and has significant wealth and status in the town i.e. Mr Macafee. The fairy tale is clearly about Aunt Olivia because the symbolism of princess name associated with olives, but the words Fire will win her I interpret them that Olivia will be consumed by her hobby, and her hobby is definitely red china and dragons, dragons fully symbolize Fire and the red color of Chinese flag may be another symbol pointing to Fire. Also when Olivia opens her booth, Weer mentions she painting crocodile tears on a bowl, and he immediately says to us that he can still find it in the house, the same thing he mentioned to us regarding the Napoleon bust, so Weer clearly has some part of his house which is dedicated to Olivia or has some of her artifacts tucked away, and this is strange because till now he tells us that he has his house designed in such a way that it reminds him of some old memories, but those are just places which he is trying to reconstruct, but Olivia till now and Mr Macafee are only people whom he seems to be genuinely interested in. Perhaps once in a lifetime an infant comes into a life as though he or she had been dropped from sky. We know that Weer has associated a lot of symbols with Olivia, we have Olives,George Sand, Cloistered Princess, Songbird, China, Dragons. From the above lines can we take that he is also trying to call Olivia a Changeling, now there have been specific mentions of changeling in this book, because we have Midsummer's Night dream, invoked time and again, we also Wolfe mentioning his short story Changeling here. Also I will try to argue about one more reference, if we see at the start of the book, Wolfe has specifically dedicated this book to his wife Rosemary, and she definitely was responsible for Wolfe becoming catholic, and not only she was a changeling in Wolfe's life but she also was responsible for bringing Peace, in his life as he was a complete mess after the Korean war. Now I have been reading Odepius The King since last few weeks, and there is Freudian analysis of the play which states that subconsciously a child wants to murder his father and sleep with his mother, now I won't go that far here, but I have read about a theory where in we try to find partners in our life who have some characteristics of our parents, but what about Weer ? He spent the significant amount of his teenage years in the company of his Aunt who does not like him, but may be afterwards he is trying to find some partner in this town which mirrors Aunt Olivia, who will be changeling in his life. The dream sequence is really weird it felt more like he is imagining a painting of a sort he has seen, and this is due to the fact that he tells us that the boundaries appear as to they are coming towards him. Another part is he is completely aware of he is in a dream, and this I don't occurs when you are in a nightmare and trying to justify this isn't happening, but this certainly doesn't seem like a nightmare to me. Also I don't have any dreams where I am able to tell me exact age, but Weer tells us exactly he feels like an 25 year old in the dream, and doesn't want to comeback from it, also as we some symbolism as regards to the troll the bird and the colors along with the broken paper lantern, some of which point to Olivia again. May be I am reading into this too much but weer gives us an observation from store in Macafee's where in he says that Men tend to observe the furniture regarding how sturdy and strong it was, while women just glossed over the surface, this suggests to me that Weer is trying to come to conclusion based on observing very few people in his life, and that too people who are fortunate enough or have money enough to visit a furniture store and buy there. The Electric Kiln which Weer mentioned I think gives us some definite date regarding the story because he tells us that his aunt has just started using it, and looking into Electric Kilns I found that they filed for patent in 1929 and the patent got approved in 1931, so our story is definitely taking place during that period of 1920-1930's. Another strange thing which Weer says in this chapter was Bobby black's incident happened 4 years ago, but Eleanor visits his aunt when Bobby would have been grave for at least 4 months past, again another strange time dilation for me. Also part of resentment which his aunt felt for him may be due to the fact that Eleanor was one of her best friend in the town, and Weer staying with her, may have consequences on the friendship between Olivia & Eleanor.
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Sumant Natkar
Jul 21, 2021
In Gene Wolfe
I really enjoyed listening to the Part II podcast today, and I am also surprised that I am still lost, where exactly are we heading to in this book, because this is certainly a memoir of an old man who has, had parenting issues when he was a child, but the direction this memoir is heading to is still unclear. As to Weer's parents I think it clearly points to me that they really did a bad job raising him, because although no parents are perfect, but abandoning the child, when the child most needs them, and leaving away for Europe, casts them in a very poor light, because it was actually Dennis who needed to be away from this negative reactions which he is getting from the town's people or even his friends at school, because this being a small town, everyone must have known what has happened, and given Weer a hard time about it. I don't think Olivia is a sort of person, whom any parent will like to have his children with, because not only she does not cook anything substantial she is living mostly on packaged food. Also Olivia is clearly has her role model as George Sand, which you guys clearly pointed out, because she is trying to break all the stereotypes in this town, by doing all sorts of eccentric things, and what exactly motivates her to behave in this way is unclear to us from the text. Also Weer's gives us a line in first section of the chapter "In my grandmother's house I had always felt that the house knew but would not tell; in my aunt Olivia's that the house itself had forgotten". So by this is he trying to describe the characteristics of the person living in the house, that his parents were secretive about many things, but his aunt Olivia just doesn't care about many things, that's what I am reading from this. Also what's special about Olivia's house is that everything looks to be out of sort, not even the walls are uniform, but they are arranged in an haphazard way. We also get a lot of green color in the house and outside the house, so basically green as color is suppose to have a calming effect on the person/person(s), why do we have to so many green imagery here is unclear. Her garden also has elves & gnomes so again we have a fairy tale connection, or as you guys are saying imaginary world or lost places invoked over here. The other thing which I sensed in this chapter was Dennis is typecasting all the women of this town as having the farm wife mentality, and also telling us that they feared Olivia, because they were envious of her freedom , we also get line in this chapter where he describes his town of corn growers and cattle grazers, who wouldn't know about University existing thirty five miles from the town, this I see as projection of anger towards people who are maybe avoiding him or giving him hard time, due to the accident which happened with Bobby Black. Also you guys were right to point out that, Dennis is not all sorry for the fact that Bobby Black died, he just mentions it casually to us, but I think this death is very much on his mind, because no wonder he is thinking about killing Olivia's dogs on the picnic, as he thinks funerals are fun. I also find the start of the next section where in Dennis mentions going in the branches of Elm tree a bit weird, and then he invokes a nursery rhyme about weather, this is really a curve ball which Wolfe has thrown at us here, because I tried reading the words again and again, but still can't make sense out of them. Peacock seemed an interesting personality to me I think you are right in the fact that he is definitely teaching anthropology at the university, because my first hunch was he was teaching political science because he mentions about the "troglodytes & Montesquieu". So may be he is teaching political science, but has interest anthropology. And that was fantastic catch on Wolfe, where in Wolfe is self reminiscing about people having to work in one field, and having an interest in different fields. The catch regarding the river flow is fantastic, because no way it is random. Also now we have a confirmation from Weer himself that his visit to Dr Van Ness is or was imaginary, we also get Crazy Pete from Changeling invoked here. What can I say about Olivia she is weird because not only she is giving all kinds of names to the flowers, but also she mocks the scholars, also is this a good idea to take a child on such a dangerous trip because by the look of it they are climbing down into big heights, and what if an accident was to happen, this clearly shows us the fact that she doesn't care enough about Dennis, also when you guys told how peacock and Olivia mock Dennis regarding killing someone, that's really brutal, clearly this shows that Dennis hasn't had an easy childhood. I am still can't make up my mind as to where exactly this novel is going because at one time Weer talks about how the rocks helped preserve some natural trees, and at the next moment he wants to chop down trees. We also get a lot of native indian imagery time again, it's all over the place for me, because I can't hang of theme of this book besides being a memoir.
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Sumant Natkar
May 28, 2021
In Gene Wolfe
I just went through the 2 hour podcast and really loving how you have unpacked a lot of things which we encountered in the first chapter, and also went through the last part of the first chapter, in the previous podcast. The record keeping part, I have different take on it from you guys, I liked the part where you said that, the image standing behind Weer, is us readers, who are also now part of his story, and in a way we are keeping him alive in our world, by being part of his world, and this is what he says by record keeping, that by reading his memoir, which is this book, Weer will always be alive in our memory, and he will be truly be gone, when no one will read his memoir or think about him. And as per Weer for him what matters to him is not the physical world, but the manifested world of memory where the dead go on living without care, and I think this is what he means when he says about his mother, that she was alive for a long time in other sense. Also I liked the fact that you have a difference on opinion regarding the present of Weer, what exactly is his present ? Is he the old man who is living in the museum house or is he the person who is present at the doctor in the present ? Because this gives us two different ages for Weer, because if he is in his house, then that makes him a old man who has had a stroke, and if his present is doctor, then that makes him around middle aged person. But the thing going at the doctor is also so weird, because he sees all the people from his memory there, also if this is a memory, then how come Dr Van Ness talks back to him, and questions his perception about the world. Also the test which the doctor gives him is completely different from the normal tests. The imagery about nature, and how you unpacked it, it's perfect because Weer is definitely thinking about how nature finally overcomes everything no matter how wonderful or big, and this he's probably thinking as he finds himself in an decaying body, which won't last long. And that's why he always portrays nature darkly, where he thinks that the trees are addicts for sunlight. Another imagery which keeps coming back in the chapter is that of deer and a stag, I don't know what to make much of it, but there is a strange scene in doctor's office when Weer is near the window, and he puts a branch of elm tree which is shaped like a horn of a stag on the window, and says this is not what I wanted ladies. The lost places & the folk tale imagery which keeps on repeating in the first chapter definitely has a connection to Weer's memory, the lost places he has re-created in his own home, but not all the places which were denied to him due to god or science, the folk tale imagery seems to me like Weer is trying to find answers to some of things which has happened to him in his life in these folk tales. Because the image of cruel mother and dead infant is very strong as you have suggested, and may be we are going to encounter something like that going forward. The native Indian connection is also there where we have ceremony going on the Weer's house, and also how he thinks the native Indian race to be alcoholics, and how this was shaped as a narrative when their land was taken from them, this invokes so much fifth head for me, because we have lot the same questions which are asked in fifth head, regarding the narrative which is created by the invaders regarding how the aboriginals living there were lost, and it we who saved their souls by conquering them, fantastic unpack again. The cosmology stuff, I think you guys are experts in it, and I agree with your observations regarding Weer questioning his position in the universe in the end, and by that means invoking Dante. Most of all I agree to the last observation, regarding Weer himself, who was an important and successful person in his life, and who had things going his ways when he was at the peak in his life, but now he finds himself in the old age an abandoned person, who doesn't even a normal living person to talk to, that's why he's trying to find answers to the questions in his life by reviewing his memory and whatever he has read, he just trying to find answers to questions. Now does that make Weer insane or is he actually memory travel ling, also can we trust his memories, because he has himself suggested that he has painted his own memories according to his own perception, that will become more clear or more confusing considering we are reading Wolfe going forward. Can't wait to start the next chapter, but will probably read the first chapter again, and the next 7 pages, and wait for you guys to till 6th July.
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Sumant Natkar
May 13, 2021
In Gene Wolfe
I just finished reading this section today, and this was a fantastic section, the themes which I can think of at the top of my head which describe this section are A death in the family. Irish folktales Indians Old houses Memory travel A death in the family. The page 42 starts with this where we have Weer reminiscing about Elanor Bold, and how she being dead now won't be able to see her own suggestion, what stands out to me here is that he again thinks about her red skin color. Then he moves on to his mother whom he thinks died too young, and then again thinks she lived a long life, the last part which he says sounds interesting to me where he says, that she may have lived forever(as perhaps elsewhere she has). Then he thinks about keeping records of people who had lived, by the people who knew them, so that they going on living through memory ? And they really are only dead when no ones knows them. From this we shift to Weer asking Hannah about the Indian story, and then we move to Irish folktales & Indians Hannah again tells him a story about her own dead mother, and how she woke up one day to find her own mother dead, and how her father created a coffin for her mother. It was the sound of hammer on pegs which actually woke her up. Weer still insists on hearing about the Indian tale So Hannah tells him about a dark tale about Banshee- is a female spirit in Irish folklore who heralds the death of a family member, and about a boys heroics of getting the girl he loves. But the tale is so dark, that I don't know about it should be told to children or not? and Hannah tells us that they lived pretty much alone on a hill with less people coming and going, it must have frightened her out of her wits hearing such tale. The interesting aspect about the tale to me was "Well he struggled and fought ever so like kilkenny cats, I was about to say, but it's more like St Brendan and the devil." The kilkenny cats looks to be like another Irish folklore. The Kilkenny cats are a fabled pair of cats from County Kilkenny in Ireland, who fought each other so ferociously that only their tails remained at the end of the battle. Often the absurd implication is that they have eaten each other. We also have St Brendan invoked again with the devil. "Let me go now says she to Jack, for I've given back what I got from you tonight, and the dead they never rise. No says Jack, but there other's to come, and a babe in the cradle and a old man in chimney corner forever. I've heard it is said that the banshee have the second sight. Well if that's so and you'll be lettin up on my neck, I'll be telling you about it. I've a question for you, Thrice you have asked me who is to die-once I'll ask you, who's to be born. Tis the Antichrist says the banshee, quick as a snake, an you to be father of it. " We again have a dead infant imagery repeating over here, which we will again have repeating when we get to the Indian part of Hannah's tale, and again we have the mention of the devil. Also the old man in chimney corner forever definitely looks to be how we encountered Weer at the start of this chapter. "I've been wantin a word with you darlin. Who's that I see behind you? It's just little Den, Katie. He's been there before.Yes but there's another dimmer yet, behind him. " This is a strange sentence which gets thrown at us out of no where at the end of the tale, and how come we have Dennis physically present in Hannah's memory tale, and it looks like the dimmer shape seems to be elder Weer to me. Still young Weer is not satisfied he wants to hear an actual Indian tale, and then Hannah tells him how they had visited an Indian family probably living alone. "They had a little house, it wasn't one of them pointed tents like you see in books, but a house made of all of sticks, with bark on outside. The Indian women was inside there, with a tiny little bit of fire that went up through the roof where a piece of the bark had been taken down, and she had a little Indian baby on her lap- it was laid on a piece of real soft leather, and it didn't have anything on. There was a bible pushed over against the wall that I guess some missionary gave them, and little bundle of feathers, and some wood for fire, that was everything in the house. The man had a gun & knife." Here we have a bible with Indian, and turns out there some interesting history in the united states between Christianity and the native Indians, I read a big article online, which said that the native Indians, looked on Christianity as in relation to be a colonizers trying to enforce themselves on the colonized native Indians, So here we clearly have another connection to fifth head. The Knife again brings Weer back to his house, where he was last seen searching for Knife. Old houses This is one of the strangest section in the few pages, because Weer does remember the houses he has been lived i,n and the houses he has been to, but strangely he can't remember the plan of his own living house. "There was never a time when I could feel sure of drawing the floor plans of this house correctly; that is fault of building late, of moving into a new home at a time when the various old ones have settled into the brain and become a part of landscape, their walls like those of old romantic walls in nineteenth-century paintings, with bushes and even cedar trees sprouting from crumbling stones. I remember Elanor Bold once told me that the rose called Belle Amour was growing from a wall in a ruined convent in Switzerland; the walls of those old houses in my mind are like that rotting and falling, yet at the same time armed with thorns and gay with strange flowers, and bound tighter with the roots of all the living things that have grown there than they were with mortar and plaster." This is such a strange para, because it seems that Weer compares the old houses which he had lived in, and made good and bad memories during that time, as something living, and I think this rounds off his reminiscing at the start where he is trying to tells us that not all the dead people are gone, unless someone has forgotten about them. And he specifically mentions a Cedar tree here which symbolizes "poets and artists have conveyed the tree as a sign of strength and eternity, especially given the tree's endurance through tumultuous periods of history." So it seems to me like Weer is thinking much about life after death in this section especially, the relationship which memory has with life and death. There is so much more in this para where he tells us about him getting lost in maze of pictures without names and doors that open to nowhere. Memory travel This is big revelation section where we find that Weer is surprised to find himself sitting in the Doctor's office, he asks the Doctor that how come has not disappeared yet. The doctor then makes him take some of psycho analysis test, which I think Weer completely fails, because he does not describe his physical appearance in the correct way. The doctor even contradicts Weer's statement of him being a tall man. "You know, all I really wanted from you was advice about the effect of exercise on my stroke, I've got that,and now I really should wipe you out. Do you really think that you could do that, Mr Weer ? Of course. All I have to do is turn my mind toward something else-naturally I can't prove that to you, because you wouldn't be there to see the proof. Do you feel you can control the whole world-just with your mind? Not the real world-but this world yes.In the real world I am an elderly man, sick and alone, and I can't do anything about that. But this world-your only world now, Van Ness-I have conjured from my imagination & memories. This interview between us never took place, but I wanted advice about my stroke." This is a fantastic para because the thin lines between memory and reality seems to be blurred for Weer most of the times, but here I think he is in the real world and not in the world of memory, because how can characters have their own mind in Weer's imaginary memory world ?
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Sumant Natkar
May 08, 2021
In Gene Wolfe
I just finished listening second time to the podcast for pages 26-42, and I am also on page 51 of the book, and I think we are on correct track regarding the themes which Weer is evoking so far. The below images keep on repeating itself 1. Fairy tales 2. The color red. 3. Old Nick 4. St Brendan's Isle 5. Irish connection 6. Houses The fairy tale connection is becoming stronger and stronger with each section, and we know for the fact that Weer liked to read during his younger years, and he seems to be influenced by them a lot because he is always trying to go to a place which does not exist, and trying to tells us about the purity and perfectness of such places. St Brendan's Isle is such place which he takes to at the start, the second fairy tale connection is again the name Mab which you guys pointed out literally means fairy queen. There also seems to be an Irish connection with the fairy tales with St Brendan's Isle, and also Hannah's step mother being Irish. The color red also keeps on poping up time and again, and Weer also associates the Bold sister's with the color red. This old nick is a fantastic pick, because we have something coming up in the next section, which again will be invocation of this in literal terms. Also you pointed out correctly that Weer is supposing a lot of things which he has experienced in the past based on his present prejudices, and he himself tells us that, and still goes on to do it time and again. Especially the gift swap is perfect example of it, because as you guys discussed, it may be that grandpa is just trying to express gratitude towards Mab for taking care of him, but Weer, interprets it as per his convenience. Also we get discussion about lot houses which Weer visited as child, and he seems to be associating each house with a specific set of memories, and again this is going to come up in the next section, and we will get a very specific imagery about it.
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Sumant Natkar
May 01, 2021
In Gene Wolfe
I just finished reading these 16 pages today, and they are really dense, because Weer's flow of conscious memories takes us to strange places. The last we saw Weer, he was recommended exercise by doctor, and he tells us that he likes to exercise with his Boy Scout knife in his garden, and his past time seems to uproot flowers and vegetables rather than weeds present in his garden, this sort of creates an imagery of haunted house to me, because we think he is living in a big house, which is dark most of the time, and then he has a garden in front of his house which is filled with weeds, and looks to be not being properly kept by anyone, this feels so much like a haunted house image to me. Weer then goes on about talking about addiction, and he thinks the trees are addicted to sunlight more in the summer, and they are more alive in the summer due to drug of sunlight, he compares this addiction to his finding his boy scout knife, its a bit strange, but so are many things in the book. Also I found the blind god can be Hod, then we have an Ape God, and finally Blind Idiot god is Azathoth which is an HP Lovecraft reference. Then he compares the color of the leaves to the bruises on the skin of people, and then he goes in a complete different direction, where he starts thinking about if only we could have had mythical scarlet, yellow and brown races, and they were denied to be in America by a weird chance, he goes on to describe some islands which are mythical and some which do exist, the connection which I found to Fifth head was the Tethys sea the time when Gondwanaland existed, the shadow children tell us they are also from this land. The stimulated stag also seems to be an extrapolation to me. When he remembers about his knife he throws in a line that when my life was over I came to my desk, and this seems from an memory when he was asked to leave from his job, or the day when he left his job. Then we shift into the Christmas day memory when he was gifted this knife at his Grandfather's place, he is travelling in a smelly old coach of train to his Grandfather's place, where his mother and Weer are picked by a chauffeur, we discover there that his Grandfather is having an affair with a woman named Mab Crawford, whose husband has ran away from her. Also Mab after three months went looking for her husband, or did she went for another purpose?, about that we don't get any definite information. Also one thing which I noticed was a day before Christmas the streets are empty, and the shops are shut, this seems to be off, because the shops should be open, and they must be bustling with people, but here we don't have that. The below things particularly stand out for in this section is that, The Weer's were not economically sound when Alden had to visit his grandfather, because not only they are travelling in second class of the train, his mother does not have any money to give to the taxi driver. Also one more thing which points me in this direction of thought is he is wearing shoes which are too small for him, and his mother can only remove those shoes, he tells us that his father will be busy hunting, but I don't believe him, because generally Christmas is the time which is spent with Family, but he has to go to his Grandfather to celebrate that, also it does not look to be a family reunion because his other aunt Arabella is not present there. Also if Aunt Arabella is his aunt from his mother's side then who is Aunt Olivia ? Is she his father's sister ? Or she is one of neighbors of Weer's ? Because we don't any physical description of Arabella, so far which looks like she hasn't had his attention but his Aunt Olivia, played significant part in his childhood. Weer also tells us that the memories from his childhood are the hardest to remember, and so remember what he may, may not be the accurate memory, and definitely his feelings which he is showing to be having are present prejudiced, and he may not have felt that way in that situation. We also get a confirmation that Bobby Black did fall, and looks like Alden may also had the fall. Also all the memories which he has about his grandfather's visit have an imagery of cold or snow associated with them, so may be these memories are not happy memories for him. Weer also tells us that he thinks he directly arrived at the station, and does not remember more details about the journey, so we also have some kind of time dilation going on here. You guys mentioned last week Inception, but I feel more like Weer's house is a black hole, where he is sitting alone and time has stopped for him, and he can see all the memories/events whichever he want in his life. At the dinner we get a sort of confirmation that Mab and his grandfather are having an affair, because the way Mab is talking with Weer's Grandfather, also we have an interesting part where we have Grandfather mentioning "you have that little scamp to keep you on your feet whole day", so who exactly is he referring to ? Because Alden hasn't mentioned of a sister so far, does he mean someone whom Alden's father is having an affair with ? maybe Aunt Olivia ? Also why does Mab accompany Weer's Mother to her room ? Is she is trying to hide something which has changed ? Alden is not able to sleep due to the cold, and then he tries to go the parlor and loses himself in the house, he tells us that the house looks more like a museum, and he also mentions to us previously that if Santa Claus will actually come in this dusty house. When he finally finds the parlor we have his Grandfather telling him the tradition about not opening gifts before breakfast, and also how his daughters use to sneak down same way on the Christmas night to see the decorations and the gifts, his mother has definitely gifted him the Mermaid book, the imagery of Mermaid he associates with wet girls he has seen in his life, which again sounds a bit creepy. Also the toilet water seems to be some kind of alcohol bottle which his Grandfather although he says he is gifting to Mab, but gifts his mother. The necklace he gifts Mab. Looks like his grandmother wanted to be buried Evadane(character who when her husband was killed, threw herself on his funeral pyre) with her jewels. Also we have Grandfather asking to Weer to read time, but he is not able to do so, and he slips up into another memory where he describes America as an magical land, the house is moored in the universe by the stove and smoke coming from it. For all of the memories it feels to me like he is giving us commentary, by being actually being present over there. And he remembers so much of his past, but he can't remember small things about his present. He also gives us his definite age during the memories, which is so hard, because the memories which we have are random, and it's very hard to actually associate them with a age number, especially the childhood ones. Well those are my thoughts so far about this section.Going through podcast now.
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Sumant Natkar
Apr 22, 2021
In Gene Wolfe
Hey guys, I went through the podcast once on Saturday, and yesterday after re-reading the first 15 or so pages for the nth time, I listened to your podcast again, and first things first as you have mentioned, this book is really crazy, and the first few pages are just the start I think, there are going to be a lot of rabbit holes in this book, and we are going to fall into it, let's hope we are able to come back from them. You made some really great points in the podcast, and at the start only we have both of you reading this book in a different way, I am leaning towards a kind of middle read, because there is definitely some kind of time dilation going on with Weer, because he can't remember even his age in present, but he can remember, the spring day of his birthday exactly to the color of the cake. Also another strange thing which Weer does at doctor's is he plays with Life magazines, and his exact words are he has a pair of Life's before him, and he tries to arrange them chronologically based on their condition but fails, if we replace the word Life's with memory, then we have some strange hypothesis coming from this, because Weer seems so sure of his age at his memories. Also when he goes to doctor he says that he's dying but the nurse tells him that he has to follow line, so if we take her exact words, does that mean that all the people which he is seeing in the waiting room all of them are dead ? or are they going to die before him ? Another point which you guys made was that how Weer notices, the eye color and the hair color of all the women he has met in his life, and this the thing which he keeps on repeating, even the nurse he meets, he first notices her hair, and says to us that she may be Swedish. He tells us about his Aunt and the circle of friends they had, but he never gives description of his mother, instead he sort of feels like more connection to Hannah, and it is the only women we have met so far, for whom he gives us her description of arms, he says that her arms were red. Also during his birthday, although he is having a stand off with bobby black in the house, he gives us the conversation which the ladies will be having in the lawn, it's like he's able to be physically present over there, even though he's not there. Also when I read the first few paras, there definitely seems to be a pattern, where one thing reminds of another, as you guys stated in the podcast. He definitely seems to be a wealthy man, because he says to doctor that he won't speak to any worker in his plant, like the way doctor speaks to him, so does he own a factory of some kind ? because the way he's living alone in his house, does not seem to suggest anything at all of that kind. We also get a lot about Aunt Olivia, but what about Aunt Arabella. There so may strange things going with Weer, that it's very hard to conclude anything as of now, because is he having hallucinations ? is he losing the sense of reality ? is he talking to dead people ? so many questions to answer.
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Sumant Natkar
Apr 17, 2021
In Gene Wolfe
First of all I have been waiting for I think more than an year to start with Peace, after I finished Fifth Head, I haven't read Wolfe at all, and I am so much excited to start another Wolfe novel with you guys. I am going to give my first impression of the pages I read, without listening to your first podcast of peace, because it will help me then to brainstorm your ideas with mine. First thing which I noticed when I started with the first chapter was, how the One is written at the above Alden Dennis Weer, it's like someone with a shaky hand has written that, or someone has written this with some object, which has no sharpness at all. Also the first chapter starts with falling of an elm tree, and elm trees signify new beginnings, and so they are generally found in the college campuses, that what I got from the web regarding the significance of an elm tree. Our narrator if we can say his name to be Alden which means an old friend, does not hear this crash of an old tree, but sees it has fallen in the morning, also he does not have any electricity in his house, but uses candles for light, and he seems to at ease in dark, because, he tells us that he lights those candles as little as possible. The other interesting thing which he tells us is that he was first sitting up in his bed, and then he became awake after sometime, I find that rather odd, because he starts hearing things only when he became awake. Then he goes on a big monologue regarding his ax, which he uses to chop some branches of that elm tree, dos the action of chopping an elm signify something ? Also he seems to be living alone in the house, and he thinks that its better to be alone. He doesn't seem to be going out much because he tells us that his heart will develop a condition and he will die from it, also at the start he thinks he has woken up due to an heart attack, but afterwards we realize he's not got any problem whatsoever with his heart, but he has vision or dream where he is dying due to the heart condition. The sentence regarding doctors can be interpreted in many ways, he says that doctors they may be consulted even though dead, so does this mean that he thinks himself to be dead ? or can he see dead people like Dr. Black, whom he consulted as a boy. People generally are afraid to go to doctors but he seems excited with the fact that he will be visiting a doctor. Another significant detail is the doors of the building as well as that of elevator are made out of bronze, and I think bronze doors signify the gates to paradise. This whole part where he meets the doctor is so strange, because not only he recognizes all the patients, but the doctor has Life of Czar playing in his waiting room, I find hard to exactly mention a date as to when this story exactly takes place, is taking place at in the midst of 19th century or is it taking place during the end of 18th century. Even though he recognizes all the patients but none of them recognize him, we also have a strange thing happening where we have Margaret Lorn, throwing the Life magazine, and straight way walking into the doctor's office, Sherry gold seems to be pregnant, and then who is Mrs Price ? The other thing is our narrator is constantly comparing his age with others, and when Alden's turn comes he says strange thing to the doctor I am living at a time when he and all the rest are dead. I tried reading this multiple times, but just could not wrap my head around the meaning of it. Alden's gives a wrong age to the doctor, and when the doctor tells him his actual age, he falls into his memory and starts telling us about his birthday when he was five. The environment I can imagine seems to be from 18th century, where we have children arriving to his birthday, in old looking cars, he really relishes this memory, and contrasting to the death like winter in his present, it seems to a true spring in his childhood during his birthday. The big white house, which he mentions seems like a chapel to me, where he seems to be living with his mother, father and the cook Hannah. His aunt Olivia whose literal meaning of the name is peace, have all come to his birthday, and they seem to be having a party in in the backside of the chapel. He also sees his grand mother's ghost at his birthday party, who tells him things about Barbara Black, now these two sisters namely Barbara Black and Elanor Bold are an interesting lot, because the elm tree which has fallen was planted by Elanor, and Barbara is the wife of Dr Black, and they have a son called as Bobby Black, who seems to be bullying Alden. We also a lot of rumors circulating for Elanor Bold, namely due to the fact that she is more beautiful and athletic. We are informed that they have a Methodist Church meeting which some of these women are part of. The house has three floors, and on the last floor of the house, in one of the rooms, we have a painting of Joe, who is the had been an uncle of Joe, but unfortunately seems to have a died at the age of four. Alden then keeps going on regarding how this room is now used to store apples, and the background of picture interests him more, during his childhood he thinks it is from from children's fairy tale, but afterwards recognizes it to be a Tuscan garden. He goes on to say that the fictitious garden is the real paradise, and even gives us Dante's Paradiso. I found Hannah to be an interesting character in this chapter, because Alden can actually hear her thoughts, and knows all about her. When he comes back to present we have the doctor lecturing him about how he can treat something which he doesn't have, so it means that he hasn't had his stroke yet, also I find pinpointing his age a bit difficult. Well these are some of my thoughts, I know I haven't scratched the surface yet, but with Wolfe books, you can never got one answer, we all draw our own conclusions, and may be all are right. Going to dig into the pod next.
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Sumant Natkar
Nov 16, 2019
In Elder Sign
Just finished reading this story of Poe, and I haven't gone through the podcast yet, but I really liked this detective story by Poe, the story starts weirdly enough where we are given kind of info dump by Poe, regarding people who are analysts and people who are genius. From my understanding what he wanted to say was people who read other people can be termed as genius, because analysts operate within a given set of rules, like chess players who follow a stringent set of rules to win. From this we are quickly introduced to our watsonesque narrator who meets an eccentric man in Paris, called as Dupin, and they quickly hit it off, as they share the same interests. But Dupin is not your normal person, who can see through people as if he watching someone through a window, and the way he arrives at conclusions seemed so much like Sherlock Holmes to me. Then we have mysterious murders happening in Rue Morgue, and police find themselves at wit's end finding exactly what can be motive for murders, also the witnesses can't seem to identify the second voice in the room which seems harsh, and unidentifiable. The way Dupin arrives at conclusion is fantastic, and reminds the methods Sherlock Holmes methods. I don't know who inspired whom but Dupin & Sherlock have lot of characteristics in common, they are interested only in solving the mystery, and finding out the truth, although Sherlock sometimes does show some humane characteristics. Also Dupin is clearly french while Sherlock also seems to have some French connection, but are interested in music, although Dupin seems to be more inclined towards theater and books.
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Sumant Natkar
May 05, 2019
In Gene Wolfe
I just went through your podcast, where you guys discussed themes of freedom & slavery at depth. Subsequently I have been reading Brothers Karamazov & War with Newts, while reading The Fifth head of Cerberus. I think you guys had a discussion about faith when reading second novella - A Story, and in it you had mentioned Brothers Karamazov. But the theme of patricide in Brothers Karamazov resonates so much with The Fifth Head Of Cerberus, we also have one time Ivan saying to Alyosha , regarding the feud between his father and his brother Dmitri, that one reptile, will devour another reptile, isn't the same thing happening in the first novella ? Another fascinating resemblance between both the books is the poem The Grand Inquisitor, which Ivan recites to Alyosha, this poem is a master piece, and it questions faith,freedom and free will which has been given to humans as a whole, and do they really deserve it. Below is an excerpt of the poem taken from Wikipedia The tale is told by Ivan with brief interruptive questions by Alyosha. In the tale, Christ comes back to Earth in Seville at the time of the Inquisition. He performs a number of miracles (echoing miracles from the Gospels). The people recognize him and adore him at the Seville Cathedral, but he is arrested by Inquisition leaders and sentenced to be burnt to death the next day. The Grand Inquisitor visits him in his cell to tell him that the Church no longer needs him. The main portion of the text is devoted to the Inquisitor explaining to Jesus why his return would interfere with the mission of the Church. The Inquisitor founds his denunciation of Jesus on the three questions that Satan asked Jesus during the temptation of Christ in the desert. These three are the temptation to turn stones into bread, the temptation to cast Himself from the Temple and be saved by the angels, and the temptation to rule over all the kingdoms of the world. The Inquisitor states that Jesus rejected these three temptations in favor of freedom, but the Inquisitor thinks that Jesus has misjudged human nature. He does not believe that the vast majority of humanity can handle the freedom which Jesus has given them. The Inquisitor thus implies that Jesus, in giving humans freedom to choose, has excluded the majority of humanity from redemption and doomed it to suffer. Despite declaring the Inquisitor to be a nonbeliever, Ivan also has the Inquisitor saying that the Catholic Church follows "the wise spirit, the dread spirit of death and destruction." He says: "We are not with Thee, but with him, and that is our secret! For centuries have we abandoned Thee to follow him." For he, through compulsion, provided the tools to end all human suffering and for humanity to unite under the banner of the Church. The multitude then is guided through the Church by the few who are strong enough to take on the burden of freedom. The Inquisitor says that under him, all mankind will live and die happily in ignorance. Though he leads them only to "death and destruction", they will be happy along the way. The Inquisitor will be a self-martyr, spending his life to keep choice from humanity. He states that "anyone who can appease a man's conscience can take his freedom away from him". The Inquisitor advances this argument by explaining why Christ was wrong to reject each temptation by Satan. Christ should have turned stones into bread, as men will always follow those who will feed their bellies. The Inquisitor recalls how Christ rejected this, saying "man cannot live on bread alone", and explains to Christ: "Feed men, and then ask of them virtue! That's what they'll write on the banner they'll raise against Thee and with which they will destroy Thy temple. Where Thy temple stood will rise a new building; the terrible tower of Babel will be built again, and though, like the one of old, it will not be finished". Casting himself down from the temple to be caught by angels would cement his godhood in the minds of people, who would follow him forever. Ruling over all the kingdoms of the Earth would ensure their salvation, the Grand Inquisitor claims. The segment ends when Christ, who has been silent throughout, kisses the Inquisitor on his "bloodless, aged lips" instead of answering him. On this, the Inquisitor releases Christ but tells him never to return. Christ, still silent, leaves into "the dark alleys of the city". Not only is the kiss ambiguous, but its effect on the Inquisitor is as well. Ivan concludes: "The kiss burns in his heart, but the old man adheres to his idea". So what the inquisitor is aiming is that he questions Christ in giving humanity freedom & free will, because humans by nature are rebellious and can never be happy, and they don't have the capacity to appreciate their freedom, and they will trade their freedom at once for bread. Also freedom leads to misery because due to freedom & free will people start believing in all sorts of things, and they end up fighting with each other, to establish the superiority of their ideas. So the inquisitor has done away with freedom of the individuals by mystery,miracle & authority, has made them truly happy, so although now all of them are kind of slaves, but it is really him who carries the burden of their freedom. Isn't this the crux of Constant's argument ? Also Saint Croix government is literally ruling it's masses with iron glove of authority. So in sense isn't this the Saint Croix government the realization of the vision of The Grand Inquisitor?
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Sumant Natkar
Apr 22, 2019
In Gene Wolfe
I think for me this was really an interesting aspect of VRT after Veil's Hypothesis in Fifth head. This postulate if we read into it gives us a bit of insight into what actually happened after the first landing on Saint Anne. Perhaps(this is the first time I have thought of it) she is trying to secure my release as well; she possessed real intelligence as well as a fascinating mind, we had a number of long talks - often with one ore more of her 'girls' as she called them for audience. What I concur from above is Victor visited Aunt Jeanine no of times during his stay in Saint Croix, although we get only one encounter from point of view of number 5. Notice the emphasis given in text on the word girls, it just got me thinking, did Jeanine also conduct experiments in parallel with Maitre, because Victor seems to suggest to us that they conducted interviews of her girls. Aunt Jeanine developed Veil's hypothesis, and from the text we have concurred that she was an out crossing like David, who was cloned or birthed, and she seems, like David have had interest in abos as a society, rather than the anatomy and consciousness of abos. So there is a definite possibility that Victor had something like A Story, brewing in his mind when he met Jeanine, no of times, and they may even be collaborating on it, because even though Victor is passionate about finding abos and establishing them like human society, even when he spends three years in the back of beyond, we do not get a single encounter with any abo by him. All the encounters which he has are in a dreamy state, which we cannot trust solidly, while in Cave Canem, we have abos being created right and left, in a controlled environment, I think this will really peak interests of Victor. Getting back to Liev's postpostulate She believed, though she pretended not to, that the Annese have devoured and replaced homo sapiens - Veil's Hypothesis. If we take this devoured word literally and go back to the interview of Mrs Blount we get the text below Of course I've seen them. Why when I was a child I used to play with the children, the little ones you know. Ma didn't want me to, but when I was out playing alone I'd go out to the back of our pasture and they'd come and play with me. Ma said they'd eat me. Now here Ma may just be scaring young Blount, or as we have seen from A Story, that the abos did eat each other, for sustenance. So it may be that there may have been instances where they have eaten human small children, which may be easy trappings for the abos. This explains the ruthless killing done by Mrs Blount's father of the small abos who look liked children. So during the first landings there exists a possibility that the abos may have eaten small children, due to which a ruthless killing of anything abo was done by the French colonizers, and even when the abo hybrids like Victor adopted to human society, they were considered an abomination. So here comes the twist in the tale, although Victor wants the abos to be considered as humans, but he also fails in his observations to see them as a different kind of sentient species, same thing which the French did, because they applied the same moral laws to abos, one of which is you should not eat a flesh of human being, but the abos don't share same values as humans. But who, then Tante Jeannine are the Free people? Conservatives who would not desert the old ways? The question is not, as I once thought, how much the thoughts of the shadow children influence reality, but how much of our own do. I have read the interview with Mrs Blount - a hundred times while I was in the hills - and I know who I believe the Free people to be. So here again Victor fails in his observation by applying a human term to an abo society, we find that paradox so much in his observation, because we are trying to understand a completely new culture by using human terms, because that is what we do, and may be that's why humans failed to understand and comprehend the abo culture. Another interesting aspect from victor's observations is that it was not the shadow children, but it was the abos who could influence reality around them, and if we tie the sleeping place, in this thread then there is a big possibility that the Hill abos definitely had the ability as group to become invisible. May be this was the reason why victor could not find a single abo in the back of the beyond. So although the ability to hide the planet as a whole seems to be exaggerated, but there is surely a possibility that the Hill abos could disappear, we also find a reference, that the Marsh men had to form a ring around an area to find Sandwalker. Victor says to us that he knows now who the Free people are, can we summarize that they are French? Below is some evidence from the text from an interview with Mrs Blount Women that was expecting wasn't to come on board,you see, though lots of them did as it turned out. So there was an influx of children being born when the first colonizing ships landed, Mrs Blount concurs from this that, that like her Ma, many pregnant women were successful in sneaking onto the colonizing ships, but what if the abos were first replicating children, which may be there were finding it easy to replicate ? Because a small child cannot speak clearly. It may also explain the fact that, why the colonists were reluctant to send their children outside, to play, because there may have occurred instances, where the original was getting replaced by the abos. But then the abos got smarter in imitation When I was growing up those little French girls that had been too small to fight was growing up too, and weren't they the cutest things? They got most handsome boys, you know, and all the rich ones. So the abo girls started marrying into so called rich aristocratic families of french, and may be these hybrid abos who had no sense of identity as to where they human or abos, were the only ones to escape the war of colonization. But few unfortunate like Victor were left on Saint Anne, and were brutalized by the local culture, so that's why I think there is no redemption arc to the story of V.R.T. The angels trumpets, at the end of the book I take for their poisonous and hallucinogenic effect, but this time it is not us who are under its influence, but the whole abo culture as whole.
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Sumant Natkar
Apr 13, 2019
In Gene Wolfe
I just went through episodes 61-64 in a space of two days, and really loved all the observations and discussions you guys have made. Following are few tidbits of my observations When the fighting was over, the military commander here to our good fortune made a decision which proved to have great consequences. Perhaps I should say he made two. First he decreed that every conquered Frenchman and French woman was subject to compulsory labor to rebuild installations destroyed by war - but he allowed those who could raise money to purchase exemptions. They were never wholly stripped of authority, and now they are an influential element once more in life of our world. At the same time they were regaining lost ground it became customary to increase the number of unremunerated workers from other sources, principally criminals and orphaned children. No, I must have been telling you that on saint Croix some men are free- in fact, most men are free. While on Saint Anne and, for that matter, Earth, most are slaves. Although you guys have gone in great lengths regarding the discussion of slavery, I am just amazed like how dissimilar the culture of both planets have gone on to develop, under the same colonizing force. Saint Anne although it is not an ideal culture, seems a bit better than Saint Croix, which seems to me like a complete corrupt society, where slavery and money are means of power. And what does Constant mean when he says that most men on Saint Croix are free ? I think what Constant may be referring to the fact that although a man has a job on Earth,, and means of living, but at the end of the day he has an authority above him, to whom he reports to, and who is ultimately responsible for his pay. May be Wolfe may be referring to Forlesen short story where in he shows us the meaningless everyday corporate life. Constant I read Phantom comics when I was young, and he always referred to as Ghost who walks in the comics, because everybody thought that he could not be killed, but the secret is that their were generations of people playing the role of Phantom, could something similar be happening with Constant ? Unfortunately I lost the tapes while I was in the field. At Roncevaux I had the opportunity to catch up on the literature of my profession. All the tapes which the officer has gone through so far, have they been doctored by V.R.T ? Because V.R.T is quite capable of imitating someone's voice. Also all the facts he writes about Dollo's law just seem like something written by a bookish experience, rather than an experienced anthropologist. Roncevaux they are convinced that the free people are extinct. The ab original culture was, and is, dendritic. I think we should entertain the possibility that the abos as a species may could have gone extinct after they came in contact with the humans. And although they may still exist among us by imitating the human form, but as a species they must have surely gone extinct, and those living among the humans just can't remember how they existed previously or how to reconnect with ones existing in the back of the beyond. I think you guys did an excellent job when you analyzed the word dendritic, it means that abos and the trees are heavily linked, but even in A Story, we do not get how exactly this species reproduce, and there seems to be some involvement of trees in it. Cassilla's saliva had streaked his body; now he felt pleasure in removing it. This kind of other worldly experience took place in A Story, when Sandwalker is given a small part of drug by the shadow child, immediately he feels Every part of him had vanished, so that he saw without eyes and felt without skin, hanging, a naked worm of consciousness amid blazing glories. Could the above two experiences be linked with each other ? I have the same ability, though not to the extent she did; but I chose to cover everything with this beard instead, because I was afraid of it - frightened of myself. I thought, then, that my mother was somehow in my cell with me, for I saw her eyes in the dark. How could my mother have taught me to become a man? She knew nothing.She tried to teach me all I would need to know to live where I was not living and am not living now. How am I to know what there was of this place and that place I did not learn? And now we have a VRT who is an human, abo hybrid he has neither skills to survive as a human, and neither can he keep living as an abo is the back of the beyond, because either he can't find any abo like him or maybe they exist in such a form, that is not possible to interact with them. In human society he must be despised as he is an hybrid, because any such children which are born from colonizers and existing culture are always considered an abomination in any society, because a colonizing force is always considered as evil by the aborigine culture, and children born from such are always considered as abomination. But in this case it is not the abos who despise Victor, but basically the French colonists, so may due to this he calls the abos the Free people, because their society does not have boundaries like the human society, where each one is identified as per his race/region/religion. Also VRT idol worships his mother as she is an abo, and from the instances which he recalls she has been kind to him, so clearly his motivation for coming to Saint Croix is to find his mother, because he searches for her in the back of the beyond for a period of three years.
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Sumant Natkar
Mar 31, 2019
In Gene Wolfe
I haven't gone through the latest two podcast by you guys, but I have just completed reading unto the point. But this section is packed so much with content that I am just going to pen my thoughts. 1. Cultural difference between Saint Anne & Croix. From the text we can safely assume that that these twin planets were colonized by French at the same time, and that's why they are refereed to as the sister planets. Also Marsch observes in one of his notes that the first colonization(probable French) helped developed the human like form of Abos in the first place, and this was the conclusion we can draw from A Story too. But that's where the similarities stop. From the questioning's of Marsch we come to know that Saint Croix has a sham of justice system, the state thinks that it is god, and whatever it does serves the truth, so anyone it suspects must be guilty of done something wrong. Also there is no concept of prisoner rights in this society, even answering basic questions of a prisoner is considered as endorsement that the prisoner may not be guilty. It's really a weird system. Also keeping slaves in the society has been a law of sort passed by government itself, and exclusively during early times they had french slaves, but the rich french can buy themselves a ticket out of this system, it's a complete form of corrupt government. We don't have any inferences from the text as to how Saint Anne is governed, but nonetheless it's also worse here, because any English speaking person can and have sieged the property of French speaking natives. The only positive here is that they don't have any slave system in that society, and the French and English seem to be co-existing. 2. The war. Now we surely know from the text that a war was fought between the French & English speaking people, and on both the planets, and the English speaking people have emerged victors in it, but in this section we also get a reference that again we have a war going on between Saint Anne & Croix. Now why the first war was fought, has been so far a mystery to us, and we conclude that Wolfe does not agree with Star Trek vision of federation of planets, but his vision is somewhat similar to Operation Ares, where we have militarily ruled dictator nations on Earth, who developed technology to travel far and beyond. Now regarding the second war, we also don't have much of clue as to why it is being fought. 3. The Abos. Now from the text we can conclude that their were multiple species of abos present on Saint Anne, the species we know are Hill people Meadow mere Shadow children Trees These are just some of the species which we have come across so far in the text, out of that Hill people and Meadow mere people surely had same anatomy like humans. The trees are a complete mystery because we have encountered them just once in text when sandwalker comes across seven girls waiting residing at its root. What if the shadow children are also abos but a corrupted form of them, where in they got so intoxicated by the drug, that they were not able to maintain their human form completely. The drug expanded their consciousness, but left them completely devoid of their abo powers to transform into human anatomical form, but due to vicinity with humans, their consciousness has also mixed with humans, which has led them to believe that they themselves are humans. Also the bite of a shadow child transforms consciousness from one personality to other, what if Maitre's developed slaves which was a cross between Tree Abo and shadow child abo, which makes the demimondaines in cave canem so irresistible. May be Casilla is one of his few genetic failures which he sold to the Saint Croix military, this may explain the officer washing himself up at the end of the section. The trees are really fascinating because in hill people culture not only are they revered but they are consider as to be gods themselves, which brings me to the temple site, which Marsch is shown by Trenchard, my observations are 1. The site is huge. 2. The trees are so evenly spaced to each other, it is as if by magic. 3. 127 Saint Anne years I think is really less period for development for such huge site, although it's Saint Anne atmospheric conditions may have changed. The temple looks to be definitely an interesting site to me. 4. V.R.T. & Marsch Again we have a dichotomy here, in one case we have a anthropologist whose technique of study to shoot it first, and we have Victor who has lived in nature most of his life, he has seen many magical things which he can't explain in words. Although we haven't come to that part, but someone has died on the expedition which Marsch undertakes, also Marsch does not seem a type to me who will live for 3 years in mountains, also what rouses the suspicion further is that suddenly Marsch appears out of no where in Laon, stays their for a year, and tries to study more, and contact the university department of anthropology. Marsch also sends a radiogram to Trenchard, informing him of his son's death, gains weight, and does his beard done by a specific barber. At the end of section we have Marsch/V.R.T writing in prison without using his thumb, which seems a hard process for a human being. 5. Free people/hill people This another interesting part of the story because V.R.T tells us that his ancestor was Eastwind, who we clearly know was a meadow mere abo, but he does not identify himself with meadow mere culture of Abos, who clearly searched the heavens for some sign. Another fact is Eastwind was castrated by the meadow mere abos, then how did his genial line progress ? Again brings to the fore the question as to how the abos reproduce. He identifies himself with the hill people whom he considers as free people, these species of abos believed that you don't need to look at the heavens to sign from god, but god can be found in nature.
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Sumant Natkar
Mar 09, 2019
In Gene Wolfe
I just finished listening to your second part of V.R.T and below are my thoughts regarding part I & II. We have Karel Capek's epigram at the start of this novella, and does Wolfe wants us to think more than the short story which he has provided to us ? Because I am reading Capek's "War with newts", and although it is not similar to fifth head but, in that book humanity discovers a new species, but due to selfish and shortsightedness of humans, as well as their behavior to use anything and everything for their own purpose, they ignore the long term consequences of such discovery. While in fifth head we have a group of natives, who have completely become extinct on their home planet, and humans just don't care as to why and how did this happen. The slave is described to us as having high shoulders with sharp chin, and a shock of black hair, the same description which we get from Dr Hagsmith of how the abos looked like he says specifically that "They looked like people but with color of stones and great shocks of wild hair." The officer seems like an peculiar case to me because he does not give a damn about the way he carrying out this investigation, because depending on his judgement a person's life is to be forfeit. Also he has a bias towards people having good handwriting skills, because he immediately discards V.R.T 's composition book and considers him a savage due to his poor writing. Also the composition book of V.R.T starts with him seeing a skull shrike bird, and I think the bird has caught it's prey, if only we could get more from the composition book, we could get more background details regarding V.R.T. The initial entry in the diary of Marsch gives us mention about some explorer who went farther south, and are supposed to have reported signal drumming on standing trunks of hollow trees. What made me curious here is how can we have a tree which has an hollow trunk ? Marsch does not seem happy at all with Saint Anne, as he thinks that it a back of civilization, also he does not like the climate because he feels hot and humid in it. There is also some quality about the light on Saint Anne which makes you imagine things, and question your sanity. We also discover that the tide which Saint Croix causes completely changes the environment on Saint Anne, for the time the tide is active, and once it resides the planet goes back to a rotting state. Marsch writes in his diary that "To this indigenous people, human kind and technological culture must have proved more toxic than to any aboriginal group in the history." From this it can be surmised if a A Story is to believed that the abos were sentient race which were present on Saint Anne, and they took fantastic shapes of nature. They did have consciousness and communicated with each other in some form of telepathy. Then they encountered humans, and starting adopting human shape along with their culture and religion, but they did not try to understand the reason behind the things which they were adopting. Due to such imitation they not only lost their identity, but as number five dreams, they have been stuck on a ship which is heading no where. Then we have the interviews he conducts "Our men just took land or stock or whatever they wanted." - Mary Blount "They looked sometimes like a man, sometimes like wood." - M. Culot "Oh. it's quite unlucky to see one." - Dr. Hagsmith "You can find them at the wharves,or at their sacred places" - Dr. Hagsmith "The wife use to steal with abo part." - Dr Hagsmith "No not really human, you see, the abos can't handle any sort of tool." - Dar Hagsmith Although Marsch makes a lot of assumptions about the natives by comparing them to earth like caucasoid pygmies, or terming his own term for the natives namely by calling them Annese in every interview, but there are few points which I think we can summarize from these interviews. The early french settlers have at least tried to come in contact with the natives, and how exactly this contact happened or what did they discover exactly has been lost in the war. The english speaking people haven't tried from their end to find the natives and whatever research the french have done, they consider it a fable. Also the english speaking people term the abos as thieves, and have ruthlessly murdered them without even seeing that they are killing children. Also what can be said about the governance on Saint Anne during the english speaking days, when someone murders three children, but isn't even convicted. Also Marsch's trial is done in a military court I think because an officer in the military is going through all the evidence. So basically the planets of Saint Anne & Saint Croix seem to be under military rule. Also why was the war fought between the french and english in the first place ? because the planet of Saint Anne seems to be mostly covered in marshes, while Saint Croix is mostly made up of water, there is nothing precious natural resources found here, but still a bloody war was fought. There seems to be two species of abos because one sighting is that of natives having human like features, and other sightings is that of natives looking like a tree. Also if Hagsmith is to be believed the natives tried to escape from the planet, that's why they designed the test to shovel some dirt, this exact test is the officer subject to, when the brother officer asks him whether he is going to come to spade tomorrow ? I think from the second part we come to know why exactly Marsch landed here fresh from college, he wants to make reputation of himself here by discovering the Annese, by which he will be able to establish himself in the field, and get some good college to teach in. But his methods are all bookish, not only he sets out on the expedition in just a month, but he trusts information from a drifter Trenchard, who will say anything for s few sols, Trenchard even shows him an annese temple near the docks. Also Marsch's understanding of philosophical anthropology is to go in the wild in search of native people shoot anything and everything in sight, discover the natives and become famous. V.R.T is an interesting character because he seems to have lived in woods if he is to be believed with his mother, he has also seen elk men, gods traveling on logs, and traveling trees, I think he is not able to tell clearly in english what he wants to convey. He also seems to be good at tracking, and using tools, and that partially quashes the assumption that abos can't use tools, because he believes that he is half abo. Also he seems reluctant to learn to use an gun. I think his most interesting statement is that he calls the abos the free people. Also we have encountered four cats - A cat in epigram - A cat mentioned by M Culot - The graveyard cat - The cat which is following Marsch
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Sumant Natkar
Jan 19, 2019
In Gene Wolfe
I started reading "A Story" by John V Marsch, from the start again today, as Wolfe stories get better on second read, and also they give you more perspective regarding what actually happened when you read it for second time. Few my observations below 1. Her body hung shapeless after giving birth. This is described to us as soon, Cedar branches waving gives birth to Eastwind and Sandwalker, and we know that the abos have replicated the first colonizing force on this planet namely the shadow children, but we can conclude from the above that their replication is not fully complete. 2. Sleeping place So much is mentioned about the sleeping place to us by Sandwalker, it is if that their existence is completely dependent on finding the sleeping place. Few things which he mentions about the sleeping place are i. No predators are able to find them at sleeping place. ii. Only a food bringer is able to find a sleeping place, for hungry mouths its twists and turns, and then disappears completely in stones. iii. The songs of shadow children is like wind blowing over the sleeping place. So my conclusions from sleeping place is that the hill people are able to cast some kind of conscious and unconscious halo about them at sleeping place, which can be compared if leap of faith is to be taken to the halo which the shadow children are casting about Saint Anne, by singing the songs of "Bending paths". This halo not only protects them physically but also subconsciously, because when sand walker first encounters shadow children by hearing their song, even before they see him, he says that he is lost now. So basically the shadow children are able to sense they the abos even before seeing them. 3. When God was king of men. Sandwalker tells us about the long dreaming days, but I find it really hard to believe that the concept of "God" has developed so fast in abos. Now if the shadow children are to be believed then the abos of Saint Anne did not have any physical shape when they first came in contact with them during the first wave. But afterwards as the abos have the capacity of replication they replicated the shadow children's physicality. But also while replicating the physical form, did they subconsciously replicate the some of the thoughts of shadow children like their faith. Now I am not a theologian, but the concept of god came into place after long time in humanity's development through ages. I just went through the below link https://www.bu.edu/arion/archive/volume-18/colin_wells_how_did_god_get-started/ Scholars believe that not until the eighth century bc was the first biblical account of creation composed (starting at Genesis 2:4), and that only a couple of centuries later did an anonymous priestly author write down the full-blown version we get starting at Genesis 1. So it has taken humans quite long journey to come to this concept, while the abos have the same faith and theology as us simply sounds unrealistic to me. 4. You sing a happy song. When sandwalker first meets the old wise one, and after their feasting on tick-deer, they strike up a conversation, at that time the sandwalker feels content after eating the meat, the old wise senses this and says the above to him. Sandwalker also thinks that the wise one may be a ghost, but the wise one is able to hear this too, and he launches into an explanation regarding, what exactly he is. So the wise senses not only his thoughts but his feelings too due to the herb. 5. That which you call nothing is what holds things together. when it is gone all the worlds will come together in a fiery death. Now the force which holds up together can be said to be gravity, and if we go at atomic level they are said to be quarks which are the heart of matter, Now the herb has given a shadow children ability telepathically communicate with each other, but they also have telekinetic ability to influence the humans in the ship which are coming to Saint Anne. But what about guidance instruments on those ships ? Are the shadow children able to influence them too? They could if they are in control of heart of matter namely the quarks. No wonder they don't want other colonizers finding this planet, with so much power they have at their hand. 6. The Tree Both the species of abos have completely different approaches to a tree, know the marsh men live in a place which is surrounded by trees, but they don't give any significance to it, nor are they shown to be talking to it. While the hill men revere trees, and even think they are born from trees. Also for one time we come across the tree in hills, Sandwalker approaches it with hesitation and even accepts its permission to stay, know the entity which Marsch is describing could actually be a tree ? or for our convenience Marsch has named it tree ? 7. But I know how it must feel, sitting alone, waiting for it to come when no one comes. It must be terrible. You are a man it will not come to you until you are old. This a piece of conversation which Sandwalker strikes up with Seven girls waiting at the oasis, but what exactly are they trying to convey with this conversation ? I think the female abos are more vulnerable because they are not able to protect themselves by casting a halo, physically or subconsciously, that's why the first thing which seven girls asks sandwalker is whether he will make this his sleeping place, so they require a male to do this probably. Also all this talk of the tree being a father and him protecting mary pink butterflies and seven girls seems bit of a hoax to me, it may done because she does not know exactly what intentions sandwalker has towards them. We again a black imagery when we encounter Seven girls waiting because sandwalker describes her hair as black as floss, this same imagery we encountered with cedar branches waving. 8. Thought as he dreamed that were he flying feet he would feign death until they brought him to air again. Meantime flying feet's churning of the river had ceased. This is another clue that the hill people have some kind of telepathy going on between them, which clearly does not exist in the marsh men, and the songs which the old wise one refers to the abos having, can be exactly this ability which allows them to read each other's thoughts. Also sandwalker is not only able to convey his thoughts to flying feet, but he actually experiences the drowning of flying feet, because he is not able to breathe for some time after that, and this also leads affects seven girls waiting and mary pink butterflies. So something is definitely going on here regarding people in a sleeping place or part of community being subconsciously connected with each other. 9. The water took him again and he spun onto his belly and thought of the otter, imagining that he too had nostrils close to the top of his head and short, powerful swimming legs in place of his long limbs. He stroked and shot ahead. Now I am not a swimmer but learning to swim is a kind of practice, but diving into a river and then imagining I am an otter and doing the same thing that's just mind boggling. Clearly the hill people have some ability or the abos to able to replicate something so fast, that it's just unimaginable from a human perspective. 10. He tried to ask questions, and discovered he could not. as soon as his thought was no longer the thought of the song, as long it no longer swayed and pleaded with the others the touching was broken. This happens to sand walker when he is communicating with shadow children, as they are singing sorrow song, could this also explain reason that why some hill men get lost when they try to find the sleeping place when are hungry after the day's hunt, because their songs or thoughts do not align with their tribe, and so in the process they become lost. 11. To be hunted by starving men was no new experience- twice as child he had been hunted by starving men- and it would be simple to melt away and find a new sleeping place or return to his old one. So the shadow children are correct when the say that the natives are hunting and eating each other commonly. This also explains why seven girls waiting is initially skeptical and afraid when she talks to Sandwalker. Also makes sense when you connect the fact that why a hungry men should not find a sleeping place as they pose direct danger to the group, and that why if we make a leap their thoughts are manipulated by the group, and he is not able to find the sleeping place, and this can also be connected to the thoughts of men in star crosser being manipulated by the shadow children by making them skip both the twin worlds. 12. The stars tell God, the blind prisoner mumbled stubbornly, and the river tells the stars. Those who look into the night waters may see, in the ripples, the shifting stars coming. We give them the lives of you ignorant hills men, and if a star leave its place we darken the water with starwalker's blood. Now a case can be clearly argued that the shifting stars are the rockets which are moving to and fro in this part of the space from the milky way. Also it can be argued that the rockets tend to hover over this place for a long time, and a star leaving its place means either they are coming towards to the planets or they are moving away, and this is a great significance for the Marsh men as they drown their most leaned star walkers at the time of this event. Now what other species on this planet don't want the colonizers coming ? they are definitely the shadow children, we also know that the abos have evolved from the shadow children, so did they take this tradition from the shadow children too? Because initially when the shadow children landed and before they successfully set up a barrier over the planets, they would have definitely observed the sky for the incoming ships. And abos took this tradition from them and completely changed it's meaning, as they blindly followed it without understanding the crux involved. 13. There was a presence in the land as there had not been in empty miles at the highland's feet, a presence cruel and detached, thinking deep thoughts, contemptuous of everything below clouds. Now in this case whose thoughts is Sandwalker sensing when he has actually come very near to finding his people ? Is it lastvoice or the people travelling in the rockets ? 14. The starwalker of these wetlanders say their minds -perhaps they mean their souls - leave the ground, tumble through space, kick off from sisterworld, and, drawn by the tractive universe, glide, soar, sweep, and whirl among constellations until dawn, reading everything and tending the whole. so they told me in my captivity. The old wise one made a spitting sound and asked sandwalker, do you know what a starcrosser is ? Clearly the the actions of wise one signify that all this mumbo jumbo which the marsh people are making claims to have been an act of replicating the shadow children, and doing something without understanding it. Wolfe just shows us clearly that how a colonizing force has completely changed the colonizers not only in physical sense, but they have completely altered their sense of identity. Now these abos who did not have forms in the first place have not only taken human form, but they are also taking human culture without understanding the science behind it. 15. For this we have given up everything, because this is more than anything, though it is only an herb of this world. My theory regarding the herb is that when the humans first landed on this planet they came across these beings who had fantastic shapes, and were living in the holes of the trees of this world, one of the reasons they consider the trees holy. Now these beings were to sense the thoughts of other beings and communicate telepathically with each other. Humans came in contact with them, and they adopted the human form, but the Marsh men so completely adopted the human form that they lost the ability to change forms, and it is this ability of replication which also provides them with sub-conscious ability to communicate with each other. Now the Hill people although they took human form, but they did not lose ability of communication, and that's why the Marsh men are always stealing their babies to turn them into star walkers. Now at the same time what happened to humans on this planet is that they came across the herb and upon using it got so much absorbed in their different abilities that they just lost their sense of being, and become high in this super consciousness. so not only the colonizers were affected by the landing but also the colonized, and it has taken such a huge mutation and loss of identity, that no one understands or cares who they were actually. This also connects with the verse which we have at the start of this novella, because the shadow children are trying to posses the herb so that other humans do not get an access to it. The marsh men are trying to know all by reading the sky and doing these ritual sacrifices, and both are trying to access God, the shadow children by the use of herb and the Marsh men by reading stars and doing sacrifices, but as per St John of the Cross, if you try to posses anything, it will never lead to god.
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Sumant Natkar
Jan 06, 2019
In Gene Wolfe
My theory just went into air after hearing you guys discuss actually what happens, I did not consider that sandwalker started contributing to the ideas which wise one discusses after the deaths of two shadow children, that's why basically the wise one not only increases in size, but also starts discussing ideas like At the top of my head this has been roller coaster of section, just when I thought I had figured out what actually the shadow children were, Wolfe throws a big spanner in the jigsaw puzzle, and I am left starting from the start. My few observations after the end of story were 1. The wise one thinks that the Marsh men are making things up about surfing the stars, because he mentions things about starcrosser, when Sandwalker talks to him about Marsh men surfing the stars. 2. The biggest question I have after reading this section is What are shadow children ? Are they our ancestral species who come from Atlantis,Mu,Gonwanaland, Poictesme which are by the way all fictional cities or continents which are exiting in myths of our civilization. Did humans from these cities land on Saint Anne and as told by Last voice come across these shape shifting species ? Also did they get so intoxicated by the herb on this planet that they severed all the human ties with their species ? Or are the shadow children actually spirits of this land who took form from the thoughts of humans once they landed on Saint Anne ? Because we come to know that the wise one, that they did not have names before the men from stars came, so basically humans not only shaped the physical world in terms of Abos on Saint Anne, but they also influenced the spirit world of this planet. 3. Why are the shadow children blocking the humans from landing on Saint Anne ? My theory here is that the spirits of this land possessed the original humans, and they also introduced the herb to the humans, this created a binding of sort on human spirit due to which the human spirit keeps floating in nothingness while the spirit which has possessed has complete control of the body. Or I may be just shooting in wind with this theory. My theory just went into air after hearing you guys discuss actually what happens, I did not consider that sandwalker started contributing to the ideas which wise one discusses after the deaths of two shadow childrean, that's why basically the wise one not only increases in size, but also starts discussing ideas like We were mostly long, and lived in holes between the roots of tree.
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Sumant Natkar
Dec 21, 2018
In Gene Wolfe
I just went through your two podcasts regarding 'A Story' by John V Marsch, and let me first start by saying their were some fantastic observations in podcast. Especially the second podcast where you went through the evolving religious divide on Saint Anne. I generally communicate with you guys through twitter, but this my time my observations have become so long, that I have decided to write a post about it on the forum. Following are some of my observations 1. Sand walker confuses the gift of priest and the dreams that as Eastwind, the priest’s gift is interesting because not only can sand walker who has lived all his life in hills can swim as good as an otter, but he can also remember the safe places of the otter, he can also catch fish and duck as an otter does. This transformation is really fascinating, but the question which I have is, can Sandwalker now can absorb memories of a dead creature, or was this for one time only ? 2. Are the marsh men hunting shadow children? and was this the significant event which last voice discussed with Eastwind? I think this is definitely the event which Lastvoice was talking to Eastwind about, where in they capture Sandwalker. 3. Sand walker when he says he can melt into the ground and make this sleeping place, and next time when he says that he slept at a place where few shrubs can grow, is clearly referring to he camouflaging himself against the ground so that he can’t be discovered, so basically a sleeping place can mean a place where the hilly men have such a huge camouflage going that it can’t be discovered by anyone. Also the marsh men have to form a circle while finding sand walker such a complete transformation or camouflage, sand walker is capable of. Although this was the first question which you guys discussed in the podcast, but I think something is definitely going on regarding how the hill men are able to vanish in places which can be easily be found by someone. 4. The shifting stars the marsh men observed in their rivers are they spaceships which are coming to Saint Anne? 5. Sand walker also feels an contemptuous presence above the clouds, is he sensing the aliens on space ships? I am interpreting this as aliens observing the species on Saint Anne, and preparing to land on Saint Anne. Also it can mean that there exists two completely different spiritual realms on hills and in marsh. 6. Also the marsh men seemed to be reading the stars to find a fate of their own, so they seemed a bit advanced as an society, but sandwalker’s society seemed to be treating the human body as existence of god, so he accuses of east wind of defiling it by killing flying feet. I interpreted the accusation of Sandwalker as Eastwind violated god's own creation by killing flying feet for selfish purposes, but this open for interpretation. 7. When east wind says to sand walker that they both are same, makes me remember Maitre and the discussion number five have with Dr Marsch. Is this our link to first story, and is this what Maitre and his subsequent generations trying to reproduce ?. But Maitre has some selfish motive behind it, and here these two brothers have a spiritual connection with each other, which can be produced artificially ? 8. I think the basic difference between the marsh men and the hill men is that, the hill men think that god is within us and can be found in nature, and maybe that’s why they revere trees which is a sort of oasis for them in high place, and the marsh men are trying to find god in sky, so they give a great importance to the stars and sky walking. 9. Everything in nature is made up of five basic elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space. Knowledge of the five elements allows the yogi to understand the laws of nature and to use yoga to attain greater health, power, knowledge, wisdom and happiness. This arises out of deep intuition of how the universe operates. 10. I think the abos especially the hill men are on the right path regarding the concept of god, because they operate with harmony in nature and the shadow children actually can teach them how to manipulate these elements and transcend to higher level of consciousness. The marsh people are going in exactly opposite direction by doing things forcibly like castrations of their star walkers, then drowning people to get more knowledge or eating the flesh of shadow children or hill people. I think Marsch is trying to show us the evolution of religion on Saint Anne, but what is his purpose until now I am not quite sure about it.
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Sumant Natkar
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