Sunday, August 30, 2009

Introductory notes, "Shadow" dedication

I've decided to reread "Book of the New Sun" by Gene Wolfe yet again. It's one of those books you can always have some new thoughts about, or maybe just old thoughts you forgot you had. To combat the latter, I'm going to go slowly and keep a record this time. My goal is to post something every weekday. Not an essay or anything, just little notes on my thoughts. Thus this blog's title. The Book of the New Sun is.... Well, I'm expecting it to take hundreds of blog posts to start to decide what it is. It's epic science fiction. It's fantasy, although I think all the seemingly magical things in it have alternative rational explanations. It's a pastiche of ancient cultures. It's an allegorical novel like Pilgrim's Progress or Moby Dick. Just what the allegory means is something I hope to make progress on here. It's a theological and philosophical rumination. It's a commentary on the fallibility of human perception. I'm sure it's other things that I haven't thought of yet. And because of (or in spite of) all that, it's a good book. The first volume is "The Shadow of the Torturer." It's kind of a corny pulp fiction title, which might be the idea, since Wolfe puts elements of space opera and mystery stories in there, and occasionally makes the title character play hard-boiled detective. After the title page, where some authors like to put a quote that hints at the subject or inspiration for the novel, is the excerpt
A thousand ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.
It's pretty obvious who it refers to, but I checked to be sure, and it's from the hymn O God, Our Help in Ages Past, which is an English versification of Psalm 90. So, the subject or inspiration for the novel is God. And since the quote is in the place some authors put the dedication, I think it's also dedicated to God. Wolfe also references the setting of the novel here (the far future), and starts with the sun symbolism. If he didn't start in the title, that is ("Shadow"). Well, I've gotten through the title and dedication of the first of four volumes; I'll call it a day. This might take a while.

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