(urth) barrington interview

Lee severiansola at hotmail.com
Mon Oct 6 21:02:06 PDT 2014

>Rick Norwood: Also, I find Wolfe enjoyable on a first read.  The depths are fun to probe, 

>but the surface is fun, too.  Thus I do not see Wolfe as a puzzle game, where unless you 

>solve the boss puzzle you lose.  Rather as many layered fiction, with something extra for 

>those who read the classics.

Thanks Rick. I agree and I suspect most here agree. I think our discussions are skewed toward

 the more difficult puzzles and away from the superficially enjoyable aspects of Wolfe's work

just because there is more to discuss. "Severian met a giant.." or "Sir Able fought a dragon.."

"..wasn't that cool?"  "Yeah, it was". What more can be said than that? Perhaps a sad truth of 

human discourse is that disagreement is often a more compelling subject than agreement.

>Marc Aramini: Whoever explains the most narrative events and patterns without resorting to 

>misprision is right.  Some people are better at logic puzzles than others....There is plenty of 

>evidence. Some readings are right.  Some are often consistently wrong. We don't need Wolfe's 

>consent, though at times it would be nice.

Marc you say this without acknowledgement that the terms "misprision", "better", "logic", 

"evidence", "right" and "wrong" are all subjective judgments, especially in regard to fiction.

How do you know something is evidence? How do you know someone is right or wrong or 

misunderstanding the text? The answer is, invariably, because you say so. This ends up being

a fancy way of saying "I'm right". After all, are you prepared to say that any of your own current

theories are wrong? It would be absurd for you to say that. And just as absurd for anyone else

to say it about their own theories. You may think others are wrong, just as you always think

you are right. Such thoughts don't make it universally so.

There is no scientific method for understanding fiction for the same reason there is no scientific

method for belief in God. The concept of a Creator and the presence of Intelligent Design 

tosses out scientific method. Take Occam's Razor. It doesn't apply to fiction or God because the 

author/Creator may well have decided that the most complex explanation is the right one. Take

statistics. A penny doesn't have a 50/50 chance of heads or tails in fiction. A fictional penny has

only the 100% chance of falling however the author writes it as falling. Throw out experimentation 

and repeatability etc. They don't work on fiction.

It is tempting to put the author in the role of Creator in this analogy but it should be noted that 

fiction exists in the minds of all involved parties. Thus, each reader becomes a Creator also, as

soon as a fictional mental image is created in each mind. 

Perhaps there are those who have such pure utter faith in their own judgment of a work of fiction

 that they are willing to claim all others are wrong. But just like personal religious faith, it is rather 

unrealistic to actually expect all others to share the minutiae of what you personally believe in.

>Richard Simon: My own view on this is as follows: most of Wolfe's 'puzzles' have a direct bearing on 

>the story.

I agree.

>I do not believe that symbolism in the work of Gene Wolfe has any relevance outside the frame of the 


I disagree. While I agree that Wolfe's puzzles and symbolism almost always bear on the storyline, I think

they sometimes have multiple levels of meaning which can extend outside the story.

Perhaps the classic example is Wolfe's own admission that the name of the main members of Number 5's

family in 5HoC is "Gene Wolfe". I don't think he really means to imply that he, personally, is in the story.

Similarly, Andre-Driussi has spent significant research showing that the events of BotNS seem to parallel 

the life of Gene Wolfe. And I think the family dynamics of Horn's family in Short Sun are too similar to

Wolfe family dynamics to dismiss them as purely and entirely fictional.

As I recently quoted from the Larry McCaffrey interview, Gene Wolfe notes that BotNS serves as a way of

expressing  the ramifications of his own personal religious beliefs. It isn't just a rippingly good yarn.

At least not to Gene Wolfe. There are real world personal elements to it. 		 	   		  

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