(urth) Long Review Essay on Wizard Knight

Stephen Frug sfrug at post.harvard.edu
Tue Sep 18 16:39:09 PDT 2007


When I quoted Hemingway, I was not appealing to authority (which of 
course I agree is not a relevant mode of argument), but nor was I 
saying that his every word was precisely what I would have written 
myself; I was doing something else, namely, citing him as an example 
of a change in attitude, the general thrust of which I agreed with -- 
which doesn't mean that I agree with every word he wrote 
(particularly given that that quote is from a novel, etc.).

All of which is to say: if you disagree with this view, then fine: 
that's a valid point of view.  I might engage you on it later.  You 
are certainly right that I more or less assumed that readers would 
agree with what I am calling the modern view, and that if you don't, 
WTF is a reasonable response.

As for the criticize me for criticizing Wolfe... remember that my 
earlier post was a general post: I don't think you were doing that.

Anyway, let me reiterate that I am not trying to shut off criticism, 
and that I hope that this discussion can be conducted with mutual 
respect on all sides.

As i said, I was writing in a way that assumed agreement... probably 
I unwise, but what can I say, I'm imperfect... and I'm not sure I 
want to get into a meta-argument about the value of these values. 
(Though, again, it was certainly a reasonable line of critique for 
you to make.)

But as a basic stab, let me try this.  You rightly re-focus attention 
on Wolfe's words rather than Hemingways, and cite the trio from the 
Gaiman interview (which I also cited): "honor, courage, and 
fidelity".  So I'll phrase my point using those words.

Wolfe says -- to put those words in a bit of context -- that he hoped 
The Wizard Knight would take readers "To a country where honor, 
courage, and fidelity actually mean something".

I agree that honor, courage and fidelity are words that can have 
perfectly valid, worthy meanings -- in today's world, among others.

But I think that the specific meanings of those words that is implied 
not only by their being used together, but also by the implication 
that today's world is not one in which they "actually mean something" 
-- in other words, the meanings specified by an idea that it is the 
specific meanings of the words that is absent in today's world but 
present in the society portrayed in the Wizard Knight -- I think that 
those specific meanings of those three words add up to a specific set 
of ideas -- an idealized version of a medieval knightly ideal -- 
which is basically the same set of ideas that Hemingway's quote was 
pointing to.

And I certainly will maintain that, in today's world, that idea -- 
the one pointed to by both Hemingway's sentence (negatively) and 
Wolfe's sentence from the Gaiman interview (positively), and which I 
argue is pointed to in Wolfe's Wizard Knight -- I think that that 
idea is, in fact, quite troubling and dangerous.  Which, again, is 
not to say that there aren't other types of honor, courage and 
fidelity which remain perfectly valid, indeed crucial, values.

Hope that clarifies.

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