(urth) Thecla's "Identity"

Michael Thayer michael.o.thayer at gmail.com
Fri Apr 5 06:50:25 PDT 2013


No, Borski's navigator chapter is awful. It is the saint, Brendan the
Navigator, not JFK.

Wolfe does way more mythological and religious references than 20th century
ones. I usually say literary and mythic allusions are a positive match,
engineering and mechanical puzzles a yes, but some of Borski's associations
really get to me as blatant and intentional misprision, though he does
occasionally do a wonderful job. He is VERY hit and miss in terms of
actually making valid comparisons and claims in the text, in my opinion.

Some of James Jordans interpretations were closer to the heart of Wolfe's
intent because he always pulled out the religious connotations, but too
often he would descend to his own particular obsessions - the idea
salvation through works and acts instead of faith.

In that way sometimes Wolfe's elisions are a litmus test, but the theories
that have the most explicative force and answer mechanistically WHY things
happen are the best, in my opinion.
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There can be no dispute that most of Wolfe's allusions are religious,
mythical, or literary.  Many of these allusions are plain, e.g., Saint
Catherine, Christ, Cephissus, Theseus, Cthulhu.  But Vomacka raised a novel
question about a potential allusion to a 20th century figure.  Regardless
of whether we agree with the theory, this seems to me to be fertile ground
-- not because Wolfe's modus operandi is to reference 20th century figures,
but because this ground hasn't been farmed by critics and reviewers as much
as the ground of religious & mythical allusion.

While I agree that Borski's Navigator theory is bogus (and, Aramini, I
agree with your general assessment of his penchant for "intentional
misprision"), I'm glad he published it, because it raises the broader
question -- the same broad question raised by the Thecla as Rosenberg
reading -- which is:  to what extent is tBotNS tethered to the 20th century
-- will readers 500 years from now recognize the Book as a text written by
a Korean War vet (a First Korean War vet?) sitting in a basement in Ohio
during the 1970/80s, a man who lived through the Rosenberg trial, JFK's
assassination, and the Apollo missions?

Answering such a question is important, I think, because we still lack the
proper keys to unlock many of the mysteries of the text.  If there is even
a shred of legitimacy to the JFK theory (as noted, I tend to doubt it) or
the Rosenberg connection (I remain skeptical) then we should at least
entertain the idea that one or more of the keys we seek may lie in 20th
century history/politics.  If we create a full and comprehensive list of
potential 20th century allusions -- 1. Armstrong, 2. Borges, 3. JFK, 4. E.
Rosenberg, etc. -- and then ultimately cross each one off the list as a
bogus over-reach, then so be it, we have lost nothing, but if we find that
some or many of these connections are valid, then we may have moved one
step closer to finding a few of the keys we seek.

[Now, if you want to speak in terms of priorities, then, for me, this
investigation is behind about 100 others that come to mind!]

[Aramini:  I am not familiar with James Jordan's work aside from the pair
of interviews collected in Wright's SotNS.  Where can I find his stuff?]
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