NABOKV-L post 0007257, Tue, 10 Dec 2002 16:23:34 -0800

1): Dmitri Nabokov's on Carolyn Kunin's Norns 2) Gene Wolfe & VN
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jerry Friedman" <>
> > Message
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > Hear is a footnote to Carolyn Kunin at al. regarding Norns, etc.
> >
> > "Norn" is not "lost" in England. There was, in Norse legend, an original
> > single Norn, a giant, sinister demigoddess also known as "Wyrd." She
> > multiplied into three, named Urth, Verthandi and Skuld, specializing,
> > respectively, in the past, present, and future (hence the Weird Sisters
> > in Macbeth).
> >
> > Norn was also a dialect word in Shetland and the Orkney Islands (an
> > obsolete usage).
> A look at my New Shorter Oxford suggests that Norn *means* a dialect,
> namely the dialect of Norwegian spoken in the Shetland and Orkney
> Islands till the late eighteenth century. Does it have another
> meaning in those islands?
> ----------------------------------------------------------
> But that's not what this post is about. It's about one of my favorite
> writers, Gene Wolfe; his masterpiece, _The Book of the New Sun_, is
> set on a future Earth called Urth.
> Here are two quotations from the critic Nick Gevers in the April 7,
> 2002 _Washington Post_ <>:
> "If any writer from within genre fiction has ever merited the
> designation Great Author, it is surely Wolfe. This Texas-trained
> engineer (he helped design Proctor & Gamble's original Pringle's
> potato-chip machine), born in 1931, a Korean War veteran, and a
> full-time writer since 1984, reads like Dickens, Proust, Kipling,
> Chesterton, Borges and Nabokov rolled into one, and then spiced
> with all manner of fantastic influences from H.G. Wells to Jack
> Vance, H.P. Lovecraft to Damon Knight."
> "But if Wolfe is so important, the Nabokov of speculative fiction,
> why does he not automatically qualify for that list of sf writers
> famed, or potentially famed, beyond genre borders?"
> Gevers again, introducing an interview at
> <>:
> "He is simultaneously the Dickens and the Nabokov of the
> speculative genres: the author of huge, memorious novels of great
> psychological and spiritual penetration, and the ludic
> confectioner, the playful deployer of every trick in the literary
> compendium."
> And here's Wolfe himself from an Internet chat at
> <>:
> "Jude: i've heard academics compare your work to Nabokov...was his
> writing any influence on yours, do you think?
> [snip]
> "GeneWolfe: Nabokov: Yes, somewhat. I came to Nabokov somewhat
> late, but the basic answer is yes."
> Such Nabokoviana is certainly on-topic here. I hope I can also be
> permitted some comments and recommendations. Wolfe is like Nabokov
> in beautiful sentences (there are two excerpts from _The Book of
> the New Sun_ at
> <>), fun with
> words and names, events that to many readers are fantasy but that
> the author may think of as possible [*], a hidden story underneath
> the obvious one, and endless reader debates about what the real
> solution is. Some differences are that he's Catholic, he "lives"
> more in myth and fairy tale than in the European literature of the
> last few centuries, and he often writes series. This last means that
> in some of his best work, he couldn't revise the beginning after
> changing later parts, so you don't get quite the everything-in-
> perfect-place feeling that you get from Nabokov's best work--though
> Wolfe comes amazingly close.
> If you're interested, where would you start? My favorite Wolfe novel
> is _The Book of the New Sun_. Not very Nabokovian, but magnificent.
> The first of the four volumes is _The Shadow of the Torturer_,
> also packaged with the second volume as _Shadow and Claw_. There's
> an alleged sequel, _The Urth of the New Sun_, about which the best I
> can say is that you don't need to read it to enjoy the first four
> volumes. There are people who like it.
> Some "Lupophiles" recommend starting with his novellas from the
> '70s. These can be grim, sometimes approaching horror. If you
> like "The Fifth Head opf Cerberus", Wolfe added two other novellas
> and lots of Nabokovian ambiguities and published the result as a
> book with the same title.
> Among Wolfe's stand-alone novels, he recommends _There Are Doors_,
> which isn't my favorite, but what is my opinion compared to his?
> The novel _Peace_ was marketed as "mainstream", though it apparently
> has fantasy elements. (I haven't read it.) From what people say
> about it on the Urth mailing list, I suspect it's one of Wolfe's
> more Nabokovian works.
> You shouldn't read _The Book of the Short Sun_ trilogy till you've
> read _The Book of the Long Sun_, a tetralogy, and probably _The
> Book of the New Sun_ as well. Other than that and _The Urth of the
> New Sun_, you can't go too far wrong.
> [*] I'm not sure what Nabokov considered to be possible, but surely
> he believed more in survival after death than I and many other
> readers do. Right?
> Jerry Friedman
> __________________________________________________
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