Gene Wolfe Fans discussion

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Rereading Wolfe

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message 1: by Mark (new)

Mark Boyle (severian67) | 2 comments Gene Wolfe was an author whose work rewards rereading, in particular (in my opinion) The Book of the New Sun. Since being introduced to the books by a neighbour at my college hall of residence in 1985 I have made a practice of reading the entire series again every year (which makes this year's run no.36) and have always cited TBotNS as my favourite novel. Do any of you have a congruent experience with Wolfe's writing?


message 2: by Bart (new)

Bart Everson (editor) | 11 comments Absolutely. I have only (only!) read New Sun about a dozen or so times, starting about the same year as you. I've read the four books in reverse order, and also the entire chapter by chapter sequence in reverse. I've read New Sun aloud three times. I have found it reveals so much more each time.


message 3: by Simonfletcher (new)

Simonfletcher | 5 comments Bart wrote: "Absolutely. I have only (only!) read New Sun about a dozen or so times, starting about the same year as you. I've read the four books in reverse order, and also the entire chapter by chapter sequen..."
Wow, that's impressive! Reading aloud sounds like an interesting experiment. How did you find it read?


message 4: by Bart (new)

Bart Everson (editor) | 11 comments Simonfletcher wrote: "Reading aloud sounds like an interesting experiment. How did you find it read?"

Every morning I looked over the chapter I was to read that night, and I read it aloud to myself, so that I could get the inflections right and look up the many unfamiliar words. All day long I would relish the thought of it, and it comforted me at my meaningless job to think that when I got home, I would read my companion a chapter. Severian's flowery sentences don't always lend themselves to being read aloud, but if you make it through to the seventh chapter, where he meets Thecla, most listeners will know if they're on board for the whole journey.


message 5: by Daniel (last edited Jan 27, 2020 04:08AM) (new)

Daniel (zlogdan) | 15 comments I really envy you guys. I have read only a few books twice but BoTNS seems to be one I will read more than twice. I actually started rereading it.


message 6: by Mark (last edited Apr 20, 2020 12:51AM) (new)

Mark Lewin (marklewin) | 2 comments I have re-read a handful of books in my life, but BoTNS more than all of them combined. Every read reveals (or obscures) a little more. I stumbled across the series by accident but have been hooked ever since. In some way, Wolfe's story speaks to me, but I'm at a loss to explain why. Has anyone ever read these tales, appreciated them, and gained something concrete and explainable from them? They just mystify me but keep drawing me back in. Like there's something they're trying to tell me, but I'm just too dense to see it. I've never experienced anything like them.


message 7: by Bart (new)

Bart Everson (editor) | 11 comments Mark, I feel I've garnered some wisdom from the books. As some critic noted, that commodity is in short supply in contemporary fiction, but Wolfe offers plenty. In particular, I've often come back to the idea that "all two-valued systems of thought are inherently false." A caution against over-simplifying things. Also, how about the notion that reality is weaker than the words we use to categorize and delineate it? Our words give shape to the chaos of reality; they simplify it and break it into discrete parts. That simplicity may be an illusion, but it allows us to deal with the world. Powerful stuff!


message 8: by Mark (new)

Mark Lewin (marklewin) | 2 comments Bart, I definitely think you're on to something there.

I can see, too, almost the opposite: that words are too weak to describe reality so we are forced to live with a very inadequate representation of the real truth. This relationship between what's real and how we talk about it is strained even further over time because the words we use change through constant retelling - a bit like in the game 'Telephone'. I think Wolfe plays with this idea via Severian who, despite claiming an eidetic memory, clearly mis-remembers or even outright lies to the reader.

But I am far from certain what Wolfe's motive was with tBoTNS. I'm always wary that maybe he just wanted to spin a good yarn and would laugh at any attempt to read more into his story than that!


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