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

Marc Aramini marcaramini at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 9 18:08:12 PDT 2013

--- On Sun, 6/9/13, 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: Sunday, June 9, 2013, 5:05 PM

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.
the bodily identity of Skip and Blue are problematic.  At the start, Skip thinks that Charles Blue must most probably be dead, but then considers what use he can put him to, or what use Charles would put him to (and stating Charles would have to pay - he describes him as a ruthless man.)  However, it does say that Chelle had inherited the blue eyes from the man who is looking at her at the very end, but then it calls him "the man who was no longer her father".  Searching for Coleman Baum gets Zygmunt killed, certainly.  Yet whenever Skip ponders something and there is no definitive solution, maybe we should wonder at it too.
For example, he theorizes the explosion that rocked the ship was from an explosive device Rick Johnson found below, but there is no definitive conclusion offered as to the nature of the explosive device.  He also wonders where Chelle's mother went after Chelle is rescued and Rick Johnson blows up - wondering what Blue and the mother could have been up to alone, perhaps implying there could be time for something like the deeptrance to convince the mother that the man is in fact her husband.
Blue is called fat and moon faced in Chelle's dreams and flashbacks - is this lean old man with his beard the same man?  

What caused the explosion?  How autonomous is Skip from Blue, Rick Johnson, and Susan?  Why did Susan originally join the suicide ring, unless she knew something she really couldn't handle?  what was Vanessa's couch slashed open for? Why does Achille disappear twice when the action heats up?  Identity is always problematic in Wolfe, but I don't think most of the mysteries are actually solved by Skip's cross-examinations, especially concerning Blue, whom he forgets not once but twice after he runs into him (And Blue's stories of coming to the room to save Chelle in the manner in which he did are kind of ridiculous)
Susan does say that Skip makes one mistake in his assumptions about that room where Rick Johnson was killed.  It involves either the number of accomplices or the number of weapons in the room - and Skip comes to the conclusion that Blue must have had a concealed weapon he did not use.  Is this in fact the correct explanation?
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