(urth) [BGSpam]Re: Typhon's nature

Gerry Quinn gerry at bindweed.com
Mon Oct 17 04:31:15 PDT 2011

From: Marc Aramini 

> > > --- On Sun, 10/16/11, Gerry Quinn <gerry at bindweed.com> wrote:

        Why would Wolfe engage in a complicated, arbitrary, pointless scheme such as this?  He is writing his own stories.  Science fiction stories.  Yes, he enriches them with classical references, but he is not rewriting the classics.  Yes, he loves to place keystones of his story in a subtle and understated way, but they are always there in plain sight and they are NOT in general found in proper names.  [To place them in proper names would in fact be a gross dereliction of artistry, excluding the reader who is attentive but lacks a particular literary background.  I will allow that they can be in proper names as well as in the story proper, and that exceptions could be made in certain circumstances.]
      > Gerry, in general I agree with you on this, but I do think Wolfe DOES at times perform this
      >  "gross dereliction of artistry" for the reader with a particular background (not necessarily literary).

      > For example, the short story Suzanne Delage - her very name is pulled from a book about a 
      > narrator who eats something and involuntarily remembers things he had completely forgotten 
      > from his childhood that COMPLETELY changes how he perceives the world and the people he 
      > knew.  In this case, Wolfe is clearly saying the narrator has involuntarily forgotten something 
      > with that allusion, in addition to invoking the Spanish Influenza offhandedly (called the 
      > forgotten illness) etc etc.  The point is these things point to forgetfulness of extraordinary 
      > events, and the premise of the story itself is that extraordinary things will be forgotten.  So, 
      > yes, sometimes you are just out of the loop.

      I don’t agree that the name of the main character in Suzanne Delage is significant, or that it is about memory.  Sure, the name is apparently that of a minor character in Proust, and Wolfe is known to like Proust.  But nobody has ever, as far as I know, proposed any particular connection between the actual Proust character who bears the same name, and the character in Wolfe’s story.  If the story was called Mary Macdonald, I would read it exactly the same way as I do.

      It does, in my opinion, require that the reader be familiar with one aspect of Western culture, the romantic love ideal, in which each person has a soulmate whom they will, it is hoped, marry and live Happily Ever After.  The One In A Million.  Wolfe’s story is an inversion of this trope.  It is a horror story of sorts, about a man who has lived in a small town along with his Perfect Woman, and by some malign conspiracy of fate, has never encountered her in person.  

      The scene is set at the start: “I lay recalling.. my life.  It HAS been a pleasant, though I fear a dull, and perhaps a lonely, one. ... I have twice been married, but both marriages were brief... my wives bored me ... and I bored them.”

      Then comes the bulk of the story, in which he describes how he might have met this mysterious presence in his life on so many occasions, but never did.

      Finally, he sees her daughter and instantly falls in love.  Note the sensual language of the passage describing her, used nowhere else in the story.  And then the other shoe is dropped: “She’s the very image of her mother at that age.”

      Perhaps readers would be less confused if the story had been, in fact, called Mary Macdonald.

      - Gerry Quinn

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