(urth) One Good Book

Eric Mattingly eric_mattingly at hotmail.com
Wed Dec 1 20:20:51 PST 2004

But first, Dan'l.  I think you are right and if I was (and I was) obtuse, it 
was my fault and was a result of the orgiastic rush to present the ideas I 
had been sitting on for about two years.  Maybe I can clarify my point 
better if I say that I believe Christianity to be a phenomenon that does not 
escape the bounds of history.  So many things in human culture (like, for 
instance, "humanism") cannot be explained outside of the actual processes 
they exhibit.  This, of course, is part of my general critique of the idea 
of transcendence.  To put it simply: if a thing is transcendent we cannot 
know it.  If we know it has become immanent and thus has become part of the 
"world" which implies partiality, prejudice (in Gadamer's sense), 
limitation, and, finally, definition in terms of the world.  Even if there 
is a God that at one time existed outside of the cosmos, the fact that we 
can even speculate on it means that he must have joined the cosmos.  Anyway, 
to stay on point, Wolfe may accept the idea of transcendence but that 
doesn't mean that it is justified.  No one can truly be "christian" in the 
sense that "Christianity" implies unworldliness-- which cannot be expressed 
(or known, I would argue).  I appreciate your comments, especially since 
they helped me to clarify myself.

And now, about the One Good Book.  For Wolfe, I think that tBotNS is the 
framework from which he ironed out the other two series'.  As I said in my 
other email, I interpret that novel (I will call the whole thing one novel, 
since you did and I agree wholeheartedly) as a mythos toward gnosis and 
restoration (which become one and the same-- salvation through knowledge, 
the ultimate heresy in early Christianity).  The succeeding two novels 
emphasize different aspects of the ascent-- like epicycles traveling around 
their original.  The Book of the Long Sun is, I believe, a meditation on the 
specific moment of knowing ("Patera Silk received enlightenment on the 
ballcourt: nothing could ever be the same"), while the Book of the Short Sun 
is concerned with the struggle to conform oneself with the knowledge gained. 
  The Book of the Short Sun is also the most personal thing of Wolfe's I've 
read since it concerns the struggle of a regular man to conform himself to 
an impossible ideal (the ideal held in his book, though not necessarily in 
Calde Silke).  God, while obviously the idea to which all the heroes aspire, 
also remains curiously distant.  He remains always the outsider (see above 
re transcendence).  I think that the Book of the New Sun is definately 
Wolfe's one commanding book.  But, I like the Book of the Long Sun better 
than any fantasy/sci fi. I've read that's not Wolfe, Tokien, or Lewis, and I 
think that The Book of the Short Sun is utterly fantastic (I am still 
reading Return To the Whorl, and that is impressing me more than the other 
books in the series).  Also, we cannot forget about "Fifth Head of 

I agree with you on Joyce.  For Chesterton, probably "The Man who was 
Thursday."  Tolkien, yadda. Lewis, any one of the Chronicles of Narnia or 
"Out of the Silent Planet" (not a fan of the other two space novels at all). 
Proust, yadda. Borges "Ficciones." And it goes on.

This is great stuff.  Has anyone read Borski's book yet?  I think I might 
buy it for myself for Christmas.

Dei, sive natura, give you good rest.


A heretic is a man who sees with his own eyes.

-- Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

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