A Q&A with Gene Wolfe

This is a syndicated post from The Curt Jester. [Read the original article...]

Here is an absolutely wonderful interview with SF great Gene Wolfe. Some interesting questions did get asked along with what you would expect.

Which writers have most influenced you?

It’s a difficult question. My first editor, Damon Knight, asked me the same thing when I was just starting out, and I told him my chief influences were G.?K. Chesterton and Marks’ [Standard] Handbook for [Mechanical] Engineers. And that’s still about as good an answer as I can give. I’ve been impressed with a lot of people—with Kipling, for example; with Dickens—but I don’t think I’ve been greatly influenced by them.

What struck you about Chesterton?

His charm; his willingness to follow an argument wherever it led.

Most of the interview concentrates (as it should) on the themes in his various books. Along with some of the craftsmanship often found in his writings regarding the unreliable narrator.

I was happy to see in a interview for the MIT Technology Review (Wolfe was originally an engineer at Proctor & Gamble) that they did get around to the use of religion in his books and his being Catholic.

Were you born a Catholic, or was Rosemary?

No, I was a convert.

Like Chesterton.

It’s a bad thing in that born Catholics tend to look down on you. But being looked down upon has its advantages.

Like what?

You don’t put yourself forward as an expert. You understand other people who are in similar situations, and not only in religious matters. I once met Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who we’re trying to get made a saint now. He looked at you and you felt that he knew all about you, that he had taken your worth, both positive and negative, and had formed a correct opinion about you, and that was it.

Did Sheen feel saintly? He was canny by your account; he had an intelligent eye.

Sheen was a very intelligent man. He was smaller than I had expected. I suppose he was about five-five, five-six, or something like that.

John XXIII was a little man, too.

Well, size only counts with football players, really.

But did Sheen feel saintly? Did he have a quality of holiness?

He had a quality of something really quite extraordinary. I was at a party once for locally important politicians—a former governor of Illinois, for example. And Sheen came through as somebody who was actually on a higher level. A hundred years from now, he was the only one at the party who would still be important. The rest of us were lost. 

I really enjoyed his responses and the last answer he gave really made me laugh.

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Jeffrey Miller (601 Posts)


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