'How could the Outsider have chosen such a bungler? ...When had he ever offered a single sacrifice, however small, to the Outsider? Never! Not one in his entire life. Yet the Outsider had extended infinite credit to him... Certainly he would never be able to repay the Outsider for the knowledge and the honor, no matter how hard or how long he tried.' (Gene Wolfe, Nightside The Long Sun)

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Year, More Wolfe

I didn't say 'New Year, New Wolfe' so as not mislead.  I didn't want anyone to be let down that this wasn't an announcement of a new Wolfe novel going to press.  On that note, however, I do so hope he'll finish the novel he is currently writing called The Land Across.  (He's apparently working on his third draft of it, so it sounds promising that it'll see the light of day!)  I also hope he'll write a follow-up to An Evil Guest that takes place on Woldercan. 

But my blog title was merely an exclamation of my intention to read more Wolfe this newly minted annum.  I'm very torn which direction to go.  I'd like to re-read Pirate Freedom and An Evil Guest to give each a decent review here.  (And so I can go on to newer novels, like The Sorcerer's House and Home Fires.)  Then again, I'd like to get busy reading older standalone novels as well, such as Free Live Free, There Are Doors, and Castleview.  (For that matter, a re-read and review of Peace is long overdue.)

But all this looks indulgently trivial next to my burning need and pressing responsibility to re-read the Solar Cycle!  Even if I decide to do that, I'm torn where to start!  I'd dearly love to start on Book of the Long Sun again.  Yet, Book of the New Sun is calling also.  I kind of want to start with the former to let it breathe in its own atmosphere without New Sun hanging over it as a broodier elder brother that always draws all pomp and pageantry to himself in preference to his obscure younger siblings.  But I'll probably only be able to do one of the tetralogies this year at best.

These are the oscillating cogitations that attend the Wolfean disciple's desire to read more of the master!  Well, one or the other(s) shall be done.  I resolve!

If there's anybody out there, what Wolfe are you reading or planning to read (or have just read)?

16 comments:

Neville Park said...

I'm also thinking of re-reading the Book of the Long Sun--if only because I've become a municipal politics junkie and, hey, this is possibly the ultimate "turns out you *can* fight City Hall!" science fiction series.

American Wind said...

interesting topic for me because i just re-read the book of the new sun for the third time, finishing the last book just yesterday. i've only read the long and short sun books once so i am eager to read them again. before i start them though im going to burn through some good short stories - just got the 'songs of the dying earth' tribute to jack vance and so far its great. im still bewildered as to why wolfe didn't contribute a story to this collection especially since he considered the 'the dying earth' as his 'book of gold.'

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Neville, that's really interesting. I know lots of fans are clued into Wolfe's politics (even those on opposite political poles like China Mieville), but I'm not a very political animal myself, so it kind of goes over my head. However, studying some political philosophy over the past few years at university (mandatory - I wouldn't have chosen to) has begun to give me whole new appreciations for yet another layer of depth and subtlety in Wolfe's fiction. In Long Sun and elsewhere Wolfe's sympathies seem to lie with something along the lines of some kind of 'conservative' 'revolutionary' view? Is that an oxymoron in many people's minds?

American Wind, I've totally wondered the same thing about that anthology! I mean (speaking of 'politics'!) I couldn't help but suspect is was a deliberate 'oversight' on the part of the editors - as if they thought Wolfe's gotten enough and too much credit already as the successor to Vance and they just wanted to give some other writers the limelight without having to stand in Wolfe's giant shadow. (A rather silly move one way or the other in my opinion.)

Anyway, yes, clearing the palate between Wolfe readings is essential I find. I did read all twelve volumes of the Solar Cycle right in a row over a year or so once - and it was great in its way. But it also creates a certain kind of literary indigestion - not unlike reading all four Gospels of the New Testament right in a row. You lose the uniqueness of each Book in the overlapping similarities. Best to space them apart with other things between. I've been on a break from Wolfe for probably the better part of a year now, so I'm primed and whetted and voracious...

Zachary Kendal said...

I think my Wolfe reading list is similar to yours, Daniel. I'm caught up on Wolfe's recent stand-alone novels, but I still have to read some of the older ones - Peace, Castleview, Free Live Free, The Devil in the Forest, and Operation Aeres. I've read There Are Doors, though, and I absolutely loved it. It's probably my favourite of Wolfe's stand-alone novels (that I've read). I also have a lot of Wolfe's short fiction still to get through.

I'd love to re-read The Book of the Short Sun, as that's the only part of the Solar Cycle I haven't re-read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it the first time through. And, shamefully, I haven't even touched the Soldier series yet (it's on my Wolfe shelves, staring at me as I write...).

Most of all, though, I'm itching to read Letters Home, which I acquired late last year. I feel I should dedicate some serious time to it, though, and I've been so busy lately! (A theme that may continue for a while, unfortunately.) I'll probably blog about the book when I finally get around to starting it, though.

Anyway, thanks for the post! It's always interesting to read what other Wolfeans are up to!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Great to hear from you Zachary! I know you've had a long hiatus on your Wolfe blog, but don't let that tempt you to never take it up again. We patiently await new posts, be they ever so intermittent. (And I very much hope you will indeed someday do a fairly thorough review of Letters Home, with liberal tracts of ample quotations, as I think most of us are not likely to obtain it any time soon.)

Can I recommend you not 'waste your time' with Operation Aeres? It's so obviously an 'apprentice novel' that didn't really come together and to me shows very little of Wolfe's promise that will burst out very shortly after with Fifth Head of Cerberus and so on. The Devil in the Forest is also one to put off until others are read, I'd say. It's decent, but one could live without having read it. (They're both curiosities that you'll want to read some day - but not priorities.) Peace, however, I would recommend making a priority. It probably won't be what you'd expect, but I think it's some of his finest prose. (By the bye, I started There Are Doors once and only stopped because I had no business picking it up to begin with as I was FAR too busy. I loved the handful of chapters I read and looking forward to returning to it.)

Short Sun is possibly my favourite of the Solar Cycle and I look forward to a re-read of that too.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Oh, and Zach, I too share your shame of having not really entered the realms of the Soldier series. (I did recently read half of Soldier in the Mist, but again stopped because I had started it on a foolish whim when I didn't really have time. It's good though. Amazing counterpoint to Severian at various levels. Also interesting connections to Long Sun in terms of gods and theophanies and so on.)

Zachary Kendal said...

Thanks for your replies Daniel! I'd heard Operation Aeres isn't a masterpiece, but hadn't read anything about Devil in the Forest. Peace and Free Live Free are probably the next stand-alones I'll read. I have read Pandora by Holly Hollander, though, and that would almost certainly fall into the category of Operation Aeres.

I don't feel quite so bad knowing there's other Wolfe fans out there that haven't read the Soldier books! Like you, I just can't find the time at the moment, and they seem pretty daunting. I did manage to get through The Wizard Knight last year, and I loved it, but it took my ages and I don't think I got as much out of it as I could have if I'd read through it in a shorter amount of time.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Good to know about Holly Hollander - it's the only older standalone I don't own as it happens. A concentrated and fairly swift read of Wizard Knight is actually what finally properly got me into Wolfe after a few earlier swipes. (Followed shortly by Innocents Aboard - then I was totally hooked and went back and read the entire Solar Cycle with great pleasure and awe.)

Jonathan Strange said...

If I might offer a suggestion, I would say go with Castleview soon. Very haunting, beautiful fantasy. It is similar in many ways to The Sorcerer's House, another of my favorite Wolfe stand-alones. Both operate on the same level of dreamlike immersion found in Peace; it is very effective because the stories take place in "our" world.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Ah, thank you for the very tantalising recommendation, Jonathan. I have a feeling I'll probably take you up on it as I've been curious about that one for some time (and have heard good things from others too). I do think Wolfe can be pretty dang great at 'urban fantasy' and sort of magical realism type stuff - you know, this worldly meets otherworldly.

Jonathan Strange said...

"I do think Wolfe can be pretty dang great at 'urban fantasy'"

For sure! My current dilemma is whether to continue the Short Sun books (just finished On Blue's Waters) or finish the 80s-90s stand-alones. I think the only ones I still have to read are There are Doors and Free Live Free.

Also, I saw Pandora mentioned and would like to add that I thought it was a great little book, but very different than what you might expect having read a lot of Wolfe. It felt more like an elongated, clever short story than anything else, and while it is never written badly, it is perhaps his most straightforward novel. An A+ effort from other authors is often a B- from Wolfe!

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

I'd probably recommend finishing Short Sun now that you've started, Jonathan. You're likely to get a bit bogged down by the third book (though it has some of the best writing, I think), but I found the trilogy really needed to be read all together - breaking it up makes one lost.

Glad to hear that alternative report about Pandora. I'm intrigued. And I know exactly what you mean bout B- Wolfe being an A+ for lots of other authors.

Jonathan Strange said...

Yeah, I will probably finish the Short Sun books next. I think part of the issue with me finishing them is that I really don't want to ever run out of "Solar Cycle" books ... reading New Sun and Long Sun has been one of the most meaningful and rewarding reading experiences of my life, and I don't want to finish!

Glad you are reconsidering Pandora. I can't tell you why I liked it so much without spoiling it, unfortunately, but just go into it with your usual Wolfe-reading tools ready. He is arguably at his most meta-fictional in this book.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

I'm more and more tantalised by Pandora with everything you say.

Well, the good news is... I don't think the Solar Cycle really *does* finish! I've still only read through the whole Cycle once, so I feel like I have many deepening adventures of re-reading ahead of me. Getting through to the end of the last book just felt like finishing a very engrossing preface to me. I immediately felt the need to go right back to the beginning again and re-live it. I'm so looking forward to it. (But I agree, for me also it was one of the most meaningful and rewarding reading experiences of my life.)

Editor B said...

I've found the Book of the New Sun lends itself to reading in reverse order. I've read it backwards by book and by chapter. I realize how crazy this sounds but after a couple "straight" reads you might be surprised what it reveals. Anyhow, I believe the same principle might apply to the Solar Cycle as a whole. So by all means I'd encourage you to read Long Sun first.

Daniel Otto Jack Petersen said...

Ah, thanks for that very interesting suggestion, B! It doesn't sound too crazy as I've done similar things with different works - some really lend themselves to ludic reordering. I need to have at least one more read-through in the published order (of the individual 'Books' at least) before I experiment to that extent probably.

I don't know, though - I'm suddenly struck with the idea of reading Shadow of the Torturer, then Nightside the Long Sun, then Claw of the Conciliator, then Lake of the Long Sun, and so on - to watch the narratives of Severian and Silk develop side by side. Whoah, not sure I can resist that scheme now! Thanks regardless for the stimulating ideas.