(urth) This Week in Google Alerts: _Home Fires_, 1982 roundtable

Stephen Hoy stephenhoy at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 9 17:05:33 PDT 2013

Taking a moment to piggy-back a few thoughts atop Marc Aramini's several posts about _Home Fires_.

In the first chapter of _Home Fires_, Skip Grison mentions the last two cases he personally handled. One case involved a jewelry wholesaler, the other involved a cyborg murder. We learn later that John J Weyer is the client in the cyborg murder. The Weyer name reminds us of Alden Weir in _Peace_, but also suggests Johan Weyer, the student of Dutch alchemist Cornelius Agrippa. An interaction with Weyer may have provided an opportunity for any memory manipulation on Grison, whether it was a removal or an addition.

In the final chapter, Wolfe introduces a character named Martha Watson who married Vic Ott. At the coffee shop, Chelle "reminds" Martha of someone she went to school with, mentioning a few details that shows the two were quite close. Chelle recognizes her former schoolmate but doesn't identify herself. It's a seemingly unplanned meeting. When Skip arrives, he seems a lot younger than the same-aged Martha. From various info found as early as Ch 1 Greetings, we can estimate Chelle’s subjective age would have gone up by two years and a hundred-day or so. “Twenty-five” is her present age, "forty-nine" for Skip. Hardly seems plausible that Martha had a spark of recognition that failed to ignite in the presence of such a familiar trigger. Moreover, Skip is robust, but Martha carries herself as a lost, lonely, helpless widow of someone 20 years older. Curiously, Skip and Martha don't recognize each other--and it's not clear that they should. Even so,
 recognition memory is the most robust, so we have to suspend our disbelief that both Chelle and Skip have changed so significantly that their combined presence would not have transported Martha into a Eureka moment. 

On a slightly different tack, when I re-read _Home Fires_ a few months ago, I jotted down what I thought were the key sentences of each Reflection. These are direct quotes cut and pasted from the e-book.

Reflection 1
We sleep, and we believe we wake in the minds we carried into bed with us....We wake, and compose ourselves with a new mind (if some other does not compose it for us)....we construct a new mind and call it our own. And yet the personhood, the soul remains.

Reflection 2
Love is blind...Like God, the lover sees but forgives.

Reflection 3
Vanessa had (or they had thought she had) some small item...a thing that might have been hidden almost anywhere... If it did not exist, what was it they thought she had?

Reflection 4
What of the woman whose body Vanessa wears?...Why did this one want to hide?

Reflection 5
Seven of us were present, Tante Élise said. Chelle, Vanessa, Achille, Tante Élise herself, the dead man, and me....And I want to look at the stars.

Reflection 6

Even a murderer deserves to have someone to speak for him, someone who will explain to the jury why he did what he did and show him where his best interests lie.

Reflection 7
The captain and I, alone and frightened here on this ship, are humanity in the same way that the word represents the thing. Or if not humanity, then Western civilization. Here, I am the law and the ideal of justice, the ideal our masters have forgotten—the ideal they would spit upon if they recalled it. I am justice, law, and civilization; and I am going to fight like a rat in a corner.

Reflection 8
It was me they wanted. Me, specifically. The leader’s complaint must have been meant to disguise that; he had gotten the man he wanted, and did not want that man to know it. Why?

Reflection 9
It wasn’t until Rick Johnson had left his seat that I saw Susan behind him. I’ve never been more stunned.

Reflection 10
There has always been something tragic about Susan, and I believe I’ve come to understand what it is. It’s the tragedy of the second-rate, the helper, the sidekick, the supporting actor, the horse nearest the door. 

Reflection 11
Find the name of the employee they’re looking for—surely they’re looking for her by now—and trace her associates. 

Reflection 12
Defending criminals doesn’t bother me in the slightest, and I ought to have told the captain that. Criminality depends upon circumstances much more often than not. “I know you to be a man of the most scrupulous honor, one who cannot be tempted to a shameful or dishonest act, save by money.” I read that somewhere. It’s not me. If defending criminals is somehow dishonest, why, I can be tempted by nothing at all. I often take pro bono cases. 

Reflection 13
God only knows what she did on Johanna....Why is it my dreams are never the dreams I would like?

Reflection 14
Does anyone, any wise man or woman, any supercomputer concealed beneath a mountain, really understand the Os? We do not even understand ourselves. The proper study of mankind is man, they say: nosce te ipsum. But what do the Os say?...Silent leges enim inter arma.  [In time of arms, law is silent.]

Reflection 15
Summum Jus Summa Injuria    
Extreme adherence to the law is extreme injustice.

Reflection 16
Edith Eckhart. [the answer to Reflection 11] Associates are Susan Clerkin and Rick Johnson.

Reflection 17
Coal is black and Mr. Blue was Mr. White. Chelle Sea Blue—Shell Sea Blue. He likes to play games with colors. He’s playing a deep game now, and I may be better off not knowing what it is. 

Reflection 18
...it seems to me that there is only one explanation and that it is a fairly obvious one. Charles Blue is a double agent.

Reflection 19
The courtroom had given me so much practice, putting on a brave face for clients I knew would perish, pressing each argument with every fact I could lay hand to—and every sophistry. With conviction, above all. Conviction is the seed of passion, and before nine juries in ten passion will carry the day. How often have I won cases I knew were lost? 

Reflection 20  [Chelle's reflection]
He came back to our stinking studio and he’s signed on with Chet Burton. God knows I didn’t know much, but I knew who Chet Burton was, the guy the celebrities went to when it was win or die and blood on the knife in their car.

 From: Marc Aramini <marcaramini at yahoo.com>
To: The Urth Mailing List <urth at lists.urth.net> 
Sent: Friday, June 7, 2013 11:34 AM
Subject: Re: (urth) This Week in Google Alerts: _Home Fires_, 1982 roundtable

Here is the quote I was talking about - Chelle says: 
"Tante Elise said there were seven people there. Remember, Mother ? I think she thought any gun-". Skip had his finger to his lips. "Well, you know."
Was she saying any gun should be able to kill everyone there? 

--- On Fri, 6/7/13, Marc Aramini <marcaramini at yahoo.com> wrote:

>From: Marc Aramini <marcaramini at yahoo.com>
>Subject: Re: (urth) This Week in Google Alerts: _Home Fires_, 1982 roundtable
>To: "The Urth Mailing List" <urth at lists.urth.net>
>Date: Friday, June 7, 2013, 9:10 AM
>Well, we do get to see four of the guns (the one Vanessa chooses).  So we see four guns and two are never displayed.  Tante Elise does not need one.  I think the six guns stand for the characters, excluding Tante Elise.  Two are never seen, Tante Elise doesn't need a representation.
>Skip - pearl and dark handle
>Achile- worn six shooter
>then the guns Vanessa and Chelle select, leaving two unseen ones.  Chelle does say something about the number and the guns afterwards, but is cut off by Skip.
>--- On Fri, 6/7/13, Marc Aramini <marcaramini at yahoo.com> wrote:
>>From: Marc Aramini <marcaramini at yahoo.com>
>>Subject: Re: (urth) This Week in Google Alerts: _Home Fires_, 1982 roundtable
>>To: "Stephen Hoy" <stephenhoy at yahoo.com>, "The Urth Mailing List" <urth at lists.urth.net>
>>Date: Friday, June 7, 2013, 9:06 AM
>>thanks Stephen.  Right now I am simply not sure if the body Vanessa possesses should be counted as a person (Edith Eckhart?) in that scene.  since she Vanessa is dead already, " Tante Elise" calls Vanessa and requires no money to speak to her, getting her to walk through the gate.
>>1. Tante Elise
>>2.  Chelle
>>3. Jane Sims
>>4. Achille
>>5. Vanessa
>>6. Skip
>>7. (Edith Eckhardt?  the dead man who will soon show up? something in Skip?)
>>I think the guns Tante Elise offers (of which there would have been six) are also related to the people there.  One has a pearl and a dark wood handle on opposite sides that would cost too much to repair- Chelle rejects it (Skip, with his light and dark sides?) the other is a worn six shooter, then an officer's fancy new gun, the one Chelle chooses (is this Chelle?).  
>>We don't get to see the second three options.
>>I no longer think Skip has another "person" inside him - he is just not entirely who he believes himself to be.  That dead shadowy figure halting Achille is interesting in light of two mysterious disappearances by Achille - once when Skip goes down to negotiate, and again when Skip confronts Rick, Susan, and Blue in "Jerry's Room" when Chelle is a hostage.
>>Twice Achille simply vanishes during the action and then reappears when needed later.
>>I don't have a problem with the Sharia law or the cell phone issue somebody else brought up - it's pretty clear the future is poor and it states in the text the government wasn't going to do anything about the situation anyway. Skip does get out a mobile call, but is shut down by the those who control the coast guard for assistance. Even the NAU doesn't really care in light of all the other problems it faces.  Who can you call when no one cares?
>>--- On Fri, 6/7/13, Stephen Hoy <stephenhoy at yahoo.com> wrote:
>>>From: Stephen Hoy <stephenhoy at yahoo.com>
>>>Subject: Re: (urth) This Week in Google Alerts: _Home Fires_, 1982 roundtable
>>>To: "The Urth Mailing List" <urth at lists.urth.net>
>>>Date: Friday, June 7, 2013, 8:27 AM
>>>Marc: Thanks for sharing your ideas that relate the six/seven Caribbean island characters to other characters in the book. I imagined the interlude was a bit like Wolfe's dream sequences in other works, but hadn't looked much beyond Vodoo's obvious parallel to mind overlays. The sequence can be read as an instance of Wolfe blending myth/legend with speculative science, providing credibility to each. Relating shadowed characters to revealed characters adds a layer of storytelling that I missed until you pointed it out.
>>>A few months ago, someone on list wondered why Wolfe had to bring Sharia law into _Home Fires_, Sharia law provides a plausible basis for a handless character like Achille. Without this backdrop, a reader might be inclined to come up with a different reason for his handlessness. Then we might not have the great scene which recalls Aesop's fable of the mouse and lion.   
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