(urth) urth Digest, Vol 26, Issue 12
Daniel D Jones
ddjones at riddlemaster.org
Mon Oct 16 19:50:59 PDT 2006
On Monday 16 October 2006 15:25, Kieran Mullen wrote:
> >> I agree that The Death of Doctor Island is accessible in terms of
> >> understanding the plot, but I also find it to be one of Wolfe's most
> >> disturbing and offensive stories. I can't imagine what a mass
> >> audience
> >> would make of it.
> > Care to expound on why you find it offensive?
> I am not David, but I can write why I find the story disturbing: an
> innocent young girl is brutally murdered in order to salvage one
> mentally disturbed adult male, drive an innocent boy catatonic, and
> manifest the more useful subdominant personality in the boy. This
> is all based on some utilitarian calculus: the low probability that
> the girl will be cured, the preference for the subdominant
> personality in the boy, the chance that the man will be cured. It's
> the cold sacrifice of one life to improve another's life. But I
> think that's the type of death offered by Doctor Island, and this is
> the point of the story.
No question that the story is disturbing. If the story doesn't disturb you,
then you have serious problems. But there's a great deal of difference
between calling a story disturbing and calling it offensive. The story is
meant to disturb. That's it's whole point and purpose. And it succeeds
masterfully. But I disagree that that makes the story offensive. If a story
doesn't move you in some way, is it worth investing the time to read?
I first read the story many years ago while in high school. It was the first
thing I'd ever read by Wolfe, although I didn't realize that until recently.
I only recently picked up a copy of IoDD&OS&OS. When I started reading DoDI,
I literally jumped out of bed and shook the book in my wife's face. "This is
it! This is it!" I then had to explain that I'd read the story some 25
years ago but had had no idea who'd written it. I couldn't remember the
details of the events but it was one of the most powerful, most disturbing
stories I'd ever read and I couldn't wait to read it again. It did not
disappoint on the second reading.
It's not often that a book or story literally gives me cold chills but this
story did. Both times. It's incredibly disturbing and incredibly powerful.
But that doesn't make it offensive. Quite the opposite.
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