Orpheus and Eurydice

April 9, 2020

Tongue-tied Orpheus before Eurydice. He loved her
for undoing the knot and setting free dove-sweet sounds, fearful
and terrible
in their beauty. He loved a glimpse
of the tendons in her throat, glistened
with fresh sweat. He adored her
unbound thoughts, squeezed
through a nasally tone. He worshiped at the altar of her
guttural moans.
Her voice was imperfection to his honey-drenched head.
While he could coax a lion into sleep, her shrieks
could wake the dead. But she untied him –
she undid him –
and when death wrapped
her up, he was
undone.

Alex Ranieri

Classifying Wolfe’s work with any taxonomical precision is further complicated by the allegorical cast of his imagination and his willingness to intermingle magic and fantasy elements together with scientific principles. Wolfe’s sensitivity to the ambiguities and contradictions of human experience (and those of the physical universe, as well) makes it similarly difficult to reduce his thematic preoccupations to simple polarities (“optimistic/pessimistic,” “liberal/conservative”) or formulas. Like Joanna Russ, Samuel Delany, Stanislaw Lem, and Gregory Benford, Wolfe frequently plays with and eventually deconstructs SF’s stock paradigms in order to question their assumptions. In a certain basic sense Wolfe’s works oppose the usual principle guiding most SF in its emphasis on the subjectivity of human perception rather than on the assurances of rational thought and scientific methodology. An even more radical departure from SF norms is Wolfe’s suggestion that it is religious faith, science, or any other system, which provides our most profound insights about our relationship to the universe. This religious orientation — akin to a sort of cosmic mysticism but specifically associated with Catholicism — finds its most complete expression in New Sun. Undoubtedly there will continue to be readers and critics within and without SF’s boundaries who will be bothered or puzzled by many paradoxical features of Wolfe’s literary imagination. But if it is true that a great man is one who never reminds us of someone else, then Gene Wolfe has the marks of greatness.

Larry McCaffery
On Encompassing the Entire Universe: An Interview with Gene Wolfe

Adventures

April 9, 2020

Adventures always come to the adventurous, there’s no doubt about that!

Enid Blyton
Five Go to Smuggler’s Top

Book

April 9, 2020

A book is not shut in by its contours, is not walled-up as in a fortress. It asks nothing better than to exist outside itself, or to let you exist in it. In short, the extraordinary fact in the case of a book is the falling away of the barriers between you and it. You are inside it; it is inside you; there is no longer either outside or inside.

Georges Poulet
Phenomenology of Reading

With a long cloak and grotesque bird-like mask, the European ‘plague doctor’ was a disconcerting sight. The eccentric headpiece served as a kind of primitive ‘gas mask’ for medical practitioners in 17th-century Europe, designed to protect its wearer from the foul odours associated with the plague. Physicians completed the look with a wide-brimmed hat, long coat, and wooden cane (which enabled them to examine patients without getting too close).

The first description of such a get-up dates to 1619, from Charles de Lorme, a physician to the Medici family: “The nose [is] half a foot long, shaped like a beak, filled with perfume”. The hooked snout contained substances including lavender, camphor, vinegar sponge or laudanum, which were thought to ward off the ‘pestilence’ in the bad air.

BBC History Revealed, March 2015

Give yourself a treat

April 9, 2020

A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips – but who gives a damn!

absurdity

April 9, 2020

At last – a picture of my absurdity