In the early 90s a friend gave me four paperback volumes of “The Book of the New Sun”. He’d said that he’d never heard of this guy, but he’d made three unsuccessful attempts to start the books and had finally “pushed through” and was impressed by their originality and craftsmanship. When I got to the third volume, my wife remarked that I sure was “spending a lot of time on those books. What are they about?” I told her that I had no idea. “Then why are you reading them?”
“I have to find out how it ends!”
I didn’t know yet that Gene Wolfe stories have no ending. Nor a beginning or middle.
It was disorienting to read an author who required from me a new way of reading a novel: To read it as people read the Bible or the poems of Blake or Cummings. It was as if an adult discovered a door in the house where he grew up that led to a new upstairs wing that he didn’t know about.
Some years later, I finally got around to reading “Peace”. I knew more by then. Half way through it, my wife asked, “Is it good?” “Oh, yes!” “What’s it about?”
“Well, that’s really the point of reading a Gene Wolfe story.”
Read the rest: Drip Drip Drip: On Gene Wolfe.
We believe that we invent symbols. The truth is that they invent us; we are their creatures, shaped by their hard, defining edges. When soldiers take their oath they are given a coin, an asimi stamped with the profile of the Autarch. Their acceptance of that coin is their acceptance of the special duties and burdens of military life–they are soldiers from that moment, though they may know nothing of the management of arms. I did not know that then, but it is a profound mistake to believe that we must know of such things to be influenced by them, and in fact to believe so is to believe in the most debased and superstitious kind of magic. The would-be sorcerer alone has faith in the efficacy of pure knowledge; rational people know that things act of themselves or not at all.
The Shadow of the Torturer, Gene Wolfe
via Lupine Nuncio – Gene Wolfe News and Rumors.
Why a quotation from a Gene Wolfe novel? Because every blogg.er should do so on a regular basis, that’s why
In Gene Wolfe’s excellent tetrology, The Book of the Long Sun, Patera Silk receives a vision from the Outsider that his predecessor’s prayers for help have been answered. He is the help. But this means he must not expect help. The help is him.
This seems symmetrical with what we need to realize about reaching modern culture. God reached modern culture by calling us. If we need to reach modern culture that defeats the entire point.