(urth) The Sorcerer's House

James Crossley ishmael at drizzle.com
Mon Mar 15 20:01:18 PDT 2010

On 3/15/10 1:59 PM, "Russell Wodell" <wrustle at gmail.com> wrote:

> As in Castleview and parts of Free Live Free, there is such a plethora of
> weird incidents, conveyed at really breakneck speed by a typically laconic and
> unemotional Wolfe narrator, that I find the necessary suspension of disbelief
> very difficult. 
> Wolfe is very much smarter than I am, so he must anticipate something of this
> reaction. The story seems to demand being read straight; yet there are, for
> another example, no less than three sets of identical twins at large, plus an
> evil dwarf bent on rape (who is explicitly identified with a Dickens character
> I will not name here).
> Does he want us to laugh? I add that Wolfe's few explicit attempts at humour,
> such as his Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe parodies, have always struck me as
> leaden failures.
> Russell Wodell
I¹m about two-thirds of the way through Sorcerer¹s House and find myself in
agreement with much of what you¹ve said.  I can¹t really imagine how this
stuff reads to anyone not very familiar with Wolfe¹s work.  The characters
seem inconsistently buffoonish and brilliant, and major events are glossed
while inconsequential conversations take up paragraphs‹to all appearances.

As with other late-period Wolfe, the surface reading is off-putting not
because of baroque vocabulary or complexity, but for opposite reasons.
Everything is played so straight and so (apparently) simplistically that
there¹s next to no pleasure to be had for anyone not racking his brains to
keep up with the subtext.  Now, I love the puzzling subtext and think the
book is worth reading just for that, but what I always really enjoyed about
the greatest Wolfean works was the richness available on all levels.

Does anyone on the list really find these late volumes‹I¹m thinking of Evil
Guest and Pirate Freedom, and even Memorare‹enjoyable as anything other than


-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.urth.net/pipermail/urth-urth.net/attachments/20100315/2be6f414/attachment-0004.htm>

More information about the Urth mailing list