(urth) barrington interview

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen danielottojackpetersen at gmail.com
Tue Oct 7 03:49:47 PDT 2014

I agree with you up to the 'nothing more', Andrew.  For it is, of course,
possible for the technical quality you describe to be central and yet also
for Wolfe's many evocations of philosophical inquiry to be central as
well.  Like the poetic conceits, he weaves philosophical and theological
exploration (even exposition I would contend) into the narratives in a way
consistent with them (always the craftsman, yes), but not merely for
allusive code-cracking.  Repeated Eucharistic images and instances in Short
Sun, for example, are not their only to tie up some technical aspect of the
narrative, but also to evoke something Wolfe takes to be a recalcitrant
fact of fictional and real worlds:  people are spiritual and they have
spiritual experiences.  That may not develop or tighten plot, but it
deepens worldbuilding and 'literary' quality ('literary' in the sense of
intentionally and centrally exploring, through the writing of fiction,
longstanding human cultural and philosophical concerns, and not being
content to merely entertain).  Wolfe is simply not content to merely
entertain.  He never aims to do less than that, but he does often aim to do
more.  Whether and to what degree he succeeds is a separate question.


On Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 4:29 AM, Andrew Bollen <jurisper at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 1:42 PM, Richard Simon <gallebuck at yahoo.co.uk>
> wrote:
>> My own view on this is as follows: most of Wolfe's 'puzzles' have a
>> direct bearing on the story; that is to say, they conceal information that
>> could help the reader understand something more about the plot, the
>> characters, the subtext, etc. They are functional, part of the mechanics
>> of the story itself.
>> Occasionally, when he thinks it is possible for him to do so without
>> endangering the sense or misleading the reader , Wolfe will add a poetic
>> conceit, usually a classical allusion. Decyphering it will add something to
>> the reader's enjoyment but little to his understanding.
>> I do not believe that symbolism in the work of Gene Wolfe has any
>> relevance outside the frame of the story. I often see his interpreters
>> present some example of the use of symbols that they have found (or think
>> they have found) as a full and sufficient explanation of Wolfe is up to at
>> that point in the narrative. They read it as an attempt to convey some
>> extra-literary meaning. They are mistaken. Gene Wolfe is a creator of
>> popular entertainments, nothing more. He is certainly a great author —
>> 'great' as in 'for the ages' — but he is not a preacher or a philosophical
>> huckster. He is a technician, a craftsman above all.
> Wholehearted agreement!
> Also: I think the most fruitful approach to Wolfe is via considerations of
> character and ethics. Why did this character do this or that; and did he or
> she act well or badly in the circumstances?
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Daniel Otto Jack Petersen
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