Ruminations Involving Peace

* * * SPOILER WARNING * * *

The following thoughts about Wolfe's novel Peace were posted to the Urth mailing list April 17, 1998. I've made minor revisions, but thought other readers of Peace might find them interesting. I really like Peace, and enjoyed the change of pace from the more "pure" SF storytelling Wolfe uses more frequently. I always recommend Peace as a novel that you might try to get your lit-crit SF-avoiding friends to read.
The final story of the geese seems to be crucial for making sense of Peace. As Adam Stephanides already said Weer is the one who has dwindled. But if Christian Baptism is the only hope for Weer in the novel, one might ask where else is this intimated and does Weer ever receive it, or possibly demonstrate the "baptism of desire".

Some thoughts, since I just finished reading Peace and had a small book club discussion on it.

  1. The Book of Gold in Peace are the books of Mr. Gold, including one that has a greek name that translates "The Book that Binds the Dead". In other words, the Necronomicon, fitting right in with Cultes des Ghouls, which was purchased for a small Massachusetts university library (Miskatonic). Weer himself may be similarly writing a "Book that Binds the Dead" as he passes through so many stories of his own life and tells his own ghoulish ghost stories along the way.

    (Another Lovecraftian nod is found on p.6 of the Orb trade paperback, where in a brilliant musing on the potential for other racial stereotypes Wolfe writes:

    the bland chance of the scientists (whose blind, piping ape-god, idiot god, we have met before; we know you, troubler of Babylon)
    which seems to bear more than a passing resemblance to Azathoth.)
  2. The Necronomicon is a "fake", though described by Lovecraft, but Gold has brought it into existance and in a few hundred years there will be thousands of copies. This is the actual case with the "Necronomicon"; various occult weirdos have made facsimiles and mockups, and you can buy them in bookstores.
  3. Weer's old childhood home has been converted into a library, filled with books. But significantly, the library purchases the fake diary of Kate. This purchase generates the interest in searching for the buried treasure, which creates a rift in the developing relationship between Weer and the librarian (when she pulls a gun on him).
  4. Following this idea, Weer is searching through the memories of his mental house and calling up stories. But, are the stories true or false? Are they beneficial, or harmful, leading to similar ill-fated relationships?
  5. Weer's "true love", Margret Lorn, find the Resurrection Egg after running through the rain to the farmhouse. If anything this might qualify for a baptismal scene which will save Weer from his indulgent self-referential memory trip.

    Also of note is his meal of donuts and tea with sugar, which Maggie slips him under the table.

    What of the Egg? It contains scenes of the 'less dramatic elements of the resurrection narrative. One of which (breakfast on the shore) is the story of Peter's restoration after his betrayal, also relevant for Weer's situation.

    The Egg as art-object though causes no end of trouble as Macafee and Olivia scheme to get each other to give it to them in return for marriage.

  6. What's with the memos and such nailed to Weer's desk?
  7. The general themes of inheritance and carrying on into the future are all over. The town will revert to the indians. The women play at being indians. Olivia is concerned with how archaeologists will perceive her breeding project. Weer considers himself the last human being and feels as if an archaeologists spade is digging up his skull. Gold "salts" the future with fake books. Weer leads the plant tour in reverse, going from final product, up the conveyor belt, into the processing plant.
I realize that there's not much coherence in these observations. Maybe someone else can piece these together.
Gene Wolfe Page

Comments to: Paul Duggan
pduggan@op.net

All contents except cover reproductions copyright © 1998, 2000 Paul Duggan

Published to Web September 26, 2000.