(urth) memory and Suzanne (offshot of Typhon's nature)

Marc Aramini marcaramini at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 17 08:09:02 PDT 2011

--- On Mon, 10/17/11, Gerry Quinn <gerry at bindweed.com> wrote:

From: Gerry Quinn <gerry at bindweed.com>
Subject: Re: (urth) [BGSpam]Re: Typhon's nature
To: "The Urth Mailing List" <urth at lists.urth.net>
Date: Monday, October 17, 2011, 4:31 AM

> > 

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

You see, we disagree greatly on it because the premise of the story is, in italics, "that every man has had in the course of his life some extraordinary experience, SOME DISLOCATION OF ALL WE EXPECT FROM NATURE AND PROBABILITY, of such magnited that he might in his own person serve as a living proof of Hamlet's hackneyed precept - but that he has nearly always, been so conditioned to consider himself the most mundane of creatures, that,  finding no relationship to the remainder of his life in this extraordinary experience, HE HAS FORGOTTEN IT." (361-362, 1st print Endangered Species)
We can accept this as true in which case the narrator DOESN'T remember or can't make the connection , which would tell us why pictures of Suzanne would be cut out for scrap booking and the creepiness  of possibly encountering his own daughter, or even of spreading small pox through the sheets when he and Suzanne got it on on them, but the point is the EXTRAORDINARY EVENT CAN'T BE REMEMBERED BY THE NARRATOR, which is EXACTLY why the name of Suzanne Delage and Spanish Influenza and small pox quilts, all associated with forgotten or shameful memories, are present in the text.
So we'll just disagree on our readings, but the text says the narrator can't be trusted to relate the extraordinary event and PUTS HIS MEMORY IN QUESTION with those references.  millions of people died of Spanish Influenze, and he isn't certain about what disease hit his town.  His memory is faulty.  He claims he has no idea what Suzanne looks like, then claims the daughter looks just like her.  This is not Wolfe being lazy with details.
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