(urth) "Wolfer" and "The Eleventh City"
JBarach at aol.com
JBarach at aol.com
Thu Feb 7 15:43:17 PST 2008
I'm in the midst of Innocents Aboard. I read "Wolfer" last night and "The
Eleventh City" this morning, and I have a few questions about each of them. I
didn't find either of them mentioned when I searched the Urth archives, so
if I've missed a discussion of them, please point me to it!
(1) "Wolfer" starts with a discussion of the meaning of names, a subject
that evidently interests Wolfe very much, given his name and the similarity that
it has with the name of the protagonist, Janet Woolf. That suggests to me
that all the names (or at least the last names) in the story are likely
On the other hand, when I try to figure out the significance, I don't get
"Granstrom is my name," says the big man who gives Janet the wolves, and
that way of putting it seems to me to tie what he says to the way the story
begins. So what does his name mean? Well, a quick look at one webpage
(http://www.ancestry.com/facts/Granstrom-name-meaning.ashx) ) indicates that it's a Swedish "ornamental
name" from gran ("spruce") and strom ("river").
The person to whom Janet is supposed to give the wolves is named Larry
Ventris. Ventris is Latin and means "belly" or "womb" (as in the line from the
"Ave Maria": benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus: "blessed is the fruit of
your womb, Jesus").
The ranger toward the end of the story is named Jerry Baumgarten. According
to this site ((_http://www.ancestry.com/facts/Baumgarten-name-meaning.ashx_
(http://www.ancestry.com/facts/Baumgarten-name-meaning.ashx) ), Baumgarten is
Germanic and means "orchard" from baum ("tree") + garte ("enclosure," hence
"garden"). The name would have been given to someone who owned, lived by, or
worked in an orchard. It was also the name of several villages, so someone
from one of those villages could have had that name. It also appears as a
Jewish (Ashkenazic) ornamental name.
On top of that, I'll add the names of the two Scotties: Kyoto and Wasabe,
who both have Japanese names. The former is a place name; the latter an
alternate spelling of wasabi, a kind of Japanese horseradish. Oh, and (perhaps in
keeping with the discussion of Barnes and Noble?) the gun is frequently
identified as a Smith & Wesson, but I don't know that there's any significance to
that (a smith is, of course, a blacksmith; "Wesson" is an alternate form of
"Weston," which indicates someone from the western town or settlement, so
there's no imaginary link as the lecturer proposes there is between B&N).
Those are all the last names. But are they significant? The opening of the
story certainly sets us up to expect significant names. Margaret Bishop is
treated as if she has a significant name ("Let us pray," she says once, and
doing work for her leads Janet to what she takes to be a vision of Christ
[?]). But what about the rest of them? Or am I barking up the wrong tree here?
(2) In some ways, the story seems straightforward (which in Wolfe is
probably a tip-off that it isn't really)
At a lecture about the meaning of names, a woman named Janet Woolf (who has
been thinking a lot about the meaning of her name) flips out a bit and ends up
meeting Margaret Bishop, who gets her involved in a plot to bring wolves
into a park in Michigan. The woman picks up the wolves, tries to deliver them
but can't, and so takes them to the park herself, where she's confronted by a
ranger who doesn't seem to mind. She drives off, has a vision which she
takes to be divine blessing on her work, and plans to do more of this sort of
thing in Texas.
And yet ... there are a few elements of the story that aren't so simple:
* What's the significance of the opening discussion of the meaning of names?
* What's the significance of Janet's own last name "Woolf," and why is she
so adamant that the lecturer isn't right about her name but that instead she's
a servant and friend of wolves? That makes sense in the rest of the story,
but why is Janet convinced of that already at the beginning?
* What's the significance of Janet's divorce and return to her maiden name?
Are there any hints of what her married name might have been? (I don't
think so.) Is the divorce and all the stuff related to it -- e.g., having to
borrow the SUV from her ex-husband -- more or less irrelevant? If so, why are
they there at all? They make the story longer, but do they add anything to
it? Why couldn't Janet herself have been single or married or (at any rate) an
SUV owner herself? Why does she have to borrow it from her husband? What's
the significance of her being divorced?
* What's the howling that Janet hears? Wolves, obviously, but what's it all
* Are we to take the various things that Kyoto and Wasabe and the wolves say
as Janet's own projections? Or are we to believe that they really do
communicate to her?
* Is there any significance to "Suicide Road"?
* Why does Jerry Baumgarten simply let her go?
* What's the vision all about at the end?
THE ELEVENTH CITY
Again, this story appeared quite straightforward. It didn't entirely work
for me. I would have preferred, I think, to have it end with Cooper in some
danger or somehow actually involved with the events described. Instead, we
get the story, as it were, at arm's length. I wonder why? Am I missing
something? Are we supposed to feel a sense of foreboding as we come to the end?
Or is it just Sam Cooper passing on an odd incident, as it appears on the
surface to be?
A couple more questions:
* What's the significance of the title? It clearly refers to the passage
from the Gospel of Mark which Cooper quotes in his letter. The man who had the
legion of demons (which were cast into the swine) then proclaimed what Jesus
had done in "Ten Cities" (which is the region of Decapolis, across the Sea
of Galilee from the region of Galilee).
Those were "ten cities," but the title refers to an "eleventh." Which is
it? The city where Cooper is? If so, what's the significance? I suppose
Cooper is "publishing" (the word for proclamation used in the version Cooper
quotes) the news of another exorcism wrought by Jesus, by means of the blessed
sacrament, in this letter to an eleventh city, Lincoln, Nebraska, and he's
asking whether he ought to publish this account in his book.
Of course, technically, it was the man who had the demons who then published
abroad what Jesus had done. Here, it's Sam Cooper asking whether he ought
to publish this account.
Anything more? I ask because the title pushes us to wonder about "the
* Why did Jacinta throw stones at Sam Cooper? I notice that later he says
"I was stoned by her," which calls to mind the stonings practiced in various
stories in the Bible. (In fact, it makes me wonder, because Dell makes a
point of saying that Jacinta was a loose woman, but, even now, she isn't the one
who is stoned; rather she does the stoning ... of Sam Cooper.) What's going
* What does the postscript really add to the story? I suspect it does add
something, but I'm just missing it.
Now it's your turn. Thanks in advance!
**************Biggest Grammy Award surprises of all time on AOL Music.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Urth