(urth) Long Review Essay on Wizard Knight
sfrug at post.harvard.edu
Tue Sep 18 14:13:55 PDT 2007
Thanks for the comments so far! I think I'll wait until I reply
fully, hoping that there will be more of them.
And don't worry about "piling on" -- I knew what I was doing when I
posted a largely critical review of a Gene Wolfe to a Gene Wolfe
board. I expected disagreement -- in fact I hoped for it, since I'm
curious about other's views.
But I will ask responders to keep in mind two (related) things.
First, please don't assume I've never read Wolfe before, and/or don't
understand how complex his works can sometimes be. I worked hard to
make it clear that I have read a lot of Wolfe (not everything he's
written, but a great many of his books), and that I *do* understand
how complex he can be. I know that Wolfe "has never in his life told
a straightforward tale" -- that's why I quoted John Clute to that
It's simply that I don't think that *everything* about his work is
that complex; I would argue that there is a surface *as well as*
depth to his works.
Which leads me to point two: I don't think it's a sufficient answer
to say that any criticism must *a priori* be wrong since this book is
written by Wolfe. I made -- I trust -- a good prima facie case about
some problems in The Wizard Knight (problems that I *don't* think all
his work has -- thus my examples of The Book of the New Sun and The
Fifth Head of Cerberus as more complex and, I argue, ultimately more
This, it seems to me, switches the burden of proof. I *acknowledge*
that Wolfe is a subtle, devious writer who uses unreliable narrators
and tells his stories in oblique and hard-to-decipher ways. *Despite
this* I claim that the criticisms I made hold.
Thus it's not answer to say that "perhaps something more complex is
going on", or "Wolfe's narrators are sometimes unreliable": I think
that you have to actually *argue* that in *this* case this is true
*in ways relevant to my critiques*. Either make the case here, or
present a link to another case.
I think this is true in all of the aspects of this argument.... but
most especially in terms of a sentiment like "If you found the ethics
to be problematic then perhaps the situations were intended to cause
the reader to reflect on those problems.", where I not only made a
textual case, but also pointed towards a lot of extra-textual
evidence about Wolfe's views and intents.
None of this is to say that I think my position is unassailable: on
the contrary, I posted the review here because I am interested in
counter-arguments. But I am interested in counter-*arguments*, not
unsubstantiated claims that it is (or, worse, a priori must be) more
complex than I am presuming.
I look forward to more arguing against my position! (Or, heck, for
it too. If people pile on great, but I wouldn't *mind* agreement. :>
PS: Oh, and remember that "glory, honor, courage, or hallow" is a
*quote* -- from Ernest Hemingway -- not my words. I presented it as
an exemplar of a broader change in attitude that occurred (in complex
ways at various times, but most especially) after the first world
war. If you think I'm wrong that this happened, or this attitude's
wrong, then fine. But to nit-pick the choice of those four words is
to miss the point: they weren't my words, it was my citation of
(The block-quote is clearer in the blog-version of this review, which
you can find here:
-- I apologize if my unfamiliarity with the formatting of the Urth
list made what was a quote and what wasn't less clear than it should
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