(urth) Suzanne Delage redux

Gwern Branwen gwern0 at gmail.com
Wed Dec 8 20:01:39 PST 2010

> From: "Gerry Quinn" <gerryq at indigo.ie>

> Suzanne Delage is a kind of horror story, but the supernatural element is something we do not think of as supernatural, because it is the stuff of very romance novel - only Wolfe has inverted the story.  The element is as follows: there is one person who is made for us, and when we meet them we will fall in love, perhaps have to overcome some vicissitudes, but eventually live happily ever after.
> The key to it is near the beginning, in the paragraph that starts: "When I had switched off the light I lay recalling, very pleasantly on the whole, my life. It has been a pleasant life, though I fear a dull, and perhaps a lonely, one."
> So might a goose nailed to the floor of a foie gras forcing pen describe its life, if it were philosophically inclined, and determined to look on the bright side of things.  This man's life is empty and blighted.  Why? Because by some perverse operation of chance, he has never met his other half, the woman he is made to love.  (Does the converse apply to Suzanne?  I do not know. Perhaps her life works okay both ways.)
> At the end after "the usual half teasing reproaches about my (supposed) gay bachelor life" he sees and is enchanted by Suzanne's daughter, who is (we are told) the image of Suzanne at the age when he should have met her. There is no auctorial duplicity here. She is indeed the daughter, not Suzanne, and she is indeed the image of Suzanne.  The description is deliberately sensuous in regard to her body "the virginal breasts half afraid to press the soft angora of her sweater, nor the little waist I might have circled with my two hands", and also refers to her spirit "vivacity coupled with an innocence and intelligence that were hers alone".  There is no doubt here - this is the image of the woman he would have loved.  If only he had met her.
> By some perverse conspiracy of chance or fate he did not, and his life has been wasted.

This is a very good exposition of the missed-chances theory
(http://www.gwern.net/Suzanne%20Delage.html#missed-chances) which I
should probably steal, since it's better than my, Turner, or
Christensen's version.

I don't like this theory in general because while it works on its own
terms, its terms call for ignoring all the strange parts - Kidd's
introduction, the narrator's promise, the detailed incidents, the
pictures, etc etc.

> From: "David Duffy" <davidD at qimr.edu.au>

> You needed to polish this bit a little more ;)
> "but that lie has, nearly always, been so conditioned to consider himself the roost mundane of creatures"

Works are never finished, only abandoned!

> From: David Stockhoff <dstockhoff at verizon.net>

> I'm baffled as to why "Cloning" appears as a clue but not as a theory. To me, there are 3 "obvious" Clues, with a capital C---that is, objectively verifiable as signals from writer to reader:
> (1) Proust. This is just the narrator's hook, but the story must proceed logically from it in some way, even if it mutates.
> (2) Artificial fertilization of urchins: There are no coincidences, or rather none that go unexploited, in Wolfe.
> (3) The Snow White correspondence: We know Wolfe works this way, as commented in the entry.
> Without having thought much about the story, I propose that the story is basically a Proustian memory anecdote draped on a Snow White frame, with cloning as a mechanism to connect the two. The rest is noise.

Cloning is a clue to me because I couldn't come up with a theory to
use it that includes an extraordinary but very sinister event,
explains the pictures, covers the other anomalies, and isn't too

You say that it's 'basically' all that, but I just don't see how the
parts connect. How does A lead to B in your theory? How does the
mother lead to Suzanne lead to a sighting of a grand-daughter and the
narrator know anything about this?

(It's kind of funny you say that Wolfe does no coincidences and then
later say 'The rest is noise'.)


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