(urth) Long Review Essay on Wizard Knight

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes danldo at gmail.com
Tue Sep 18 18:11:45 PDT 2007


And, of course, I did not believe you were appealing to authority.

Hemingway does, indeed, represent a kind of sea-change in attitude and
values, which we might as well call "modernism" (though the application
of that term to others, like Joyce and Proust, leaves me gaping, wondering
if the term actually means anything at all!) But that change was not as
universal, by any means, as academic modernists seem to believe; not
only is it generally untrue of conservatives (whom academic modernists
tend to think of as ignorant and discount in any survey of attitudes), but
a surprising number of folks who would identify themselves as liberal.

In this particular group, you've got everything from traditionalists to
modernists to some pretty serious pomos.

I take Wolfe's comment -- "a country where honor, courage, and
fidelity actually mean something" -- not as a general statement that
they do not in the here-and-now, but that they are disvalued by, well,
modernism. They do mean something in the here and now: try
suggesting to a United States Marine that they do not. (I promise to
send flowers.)

Before Hemingway, the medieval knightly ideal had been far better
dissected and shown as flawed by other writers, notably Twain (who
skewers it gorgeously in "A Connecticut Yankee") and Cabell (any
number of his "comedies").

But the problem with the m.k.i. is not its failure as an ideal, but the
failure of humans to live up to it: in short, the same problem that
any serious ideal tends to face. I believe that Wolfe, to his credit,
does show Able at times in a light that suggests that, even with
all the helps and cheat codes he's given, he is not able to live up
to it. (Able believes he does, but that's a separate matter, and is
the reason I mentioned, earlier, the unreliability of Wolfe's
narrators. Of *course* Abel believes he is a parfit gentil knicht.
But he isn't.)

> 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
> and dangerous.  Which, again, is not to say that there aren't other types
> honor, courage and fidelity which remain perfectly valid, indeed crucial,
> values.

May I inquire, gently, _why_ you find the knightly ideal

Dan'l Danehy-Oakes, writer, trainer, bon vivant
I am miserable, he is miserable,
We are miserable.
Can't we have a party? Would he rather have a party?
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