liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (f. wolfe: wolfe's perfect day)
[personal profile] liviapenn posting in [community profile] milk_and_orchids
Okay, so I started working on my Fer-de-Lance post and, like, fifteen paragraphs later, I realized that it was getting really long and kind of needed to be two posts, one talking about Fer-de-Lance as the "pilot episode" for the whole series and discussing the general set-up & dynamics that are established in this book, and then another one talking about Fer-de-Lance specifically. So, here's the first post, I'm still working on the other one. :)

Fer-de-Lance is interesting in that, as you'd probably expect from a first book in a series (especially one where the author couldn't be sure it would become a popular series) a lot of stuff is established that later gets changed, from minor details of canon to major shifts in characterization.

Throughout the series, Rex Stout regularly contradicts himself on various minor canon details, most often (according to him) because he forgot that he'd already established something else. I kind of like this-- it makes it feel really organic, and perversely it makes it easier to believe in the "reality" of Archie as the author of the books, because Archie *would* totally (1) lie about things and (2) not bother to keep up a consistent lie when it's really obvious that he's lying about something, and why. *Obviously* he's not going to tell us the real address of the brownstone, or the real first names of important people who were involved in Wolfe's cases. That would be why (for example) Orrie's first name is Orvald in one book and Orville in another, because that's not his real name in any case to begin with, it's a pseud that Archie made up. So there's no real point in being consistent with it anyway.

That being said, there's a whole huge laundry list of things that are set up in Fer-de-Lance that are contradicted, corrected or ignored in later books. It's interesting to think about them from both a Watsonian & Doylist POV, both as things that Stout changed to make stories/characters more interesting, (or just because he forgot he'd established something one way already) and also as things that Archie changed around, either because felt like he'd revealed too much and needed to create confusion on certain points, or alternately because he'd been too cautious and after a while loosened up and could tell more of the truth about things. Which are which, though-- that's definitely a point to discuss. *G*

Some of the details that are set up in "Fer-de-Lance" and either changed later or never referred to again:

-- Archie mentions that pre-Depression both Saul and Fred were Wolfe's salaried employees, rather than freelancers. Also, Fritz drives the car. I'm pretty sure Fritz never drives the car after "Fer-de-Lance." In later books Archie is Wolfe's only permanent employee (well, permanent detective-related employee, you know what I mean) and also the only one who ever drives the car.

-- Wolfe's mother is mentioned; she's alive and lives in Budapest. (IIRC, this is the only hint we get that Wolfe might be anything but a natural-born American until many books later.) Also Archie mentions that both his parents both died when he was a kid. This does get contradicted in a later books, but it could really go either way-- he could be lying in Fer-de-Lance, or he could be lying later on. I personally like to think of Archie as an orphan, possibly with siblings, but definitely an orphan.

-- The layout of everyone's sleeping arrangements switches around. Fritz is on the top floor, and Archie and Wolfe sleep on the same floor. Theodore is also on the top floor, which doesn't change. Purely from a logistics standpoint it makes more sense to me to have Fritz in the basement-- he gets way more room, which is appropriate to his status, plus he's closer to the service entrance to accept deliveries, closer to the kitchen in general, has to deal with less stairs (although of course if he had stayed on the top floor, there's always the elevator), etc.

Getting away from minor details & into major characterization changes--

-- The way Archie relates to Saul and Orrie completely reverses. He seems to have warm feelings towards Orrie, or at least look forward to hanging out with him, and he and Saul snap at each other in a much jerkier, less playful way than they usually do. (Also, Orrie chews tobacco; maybe originally he was going to be one of Rex Stout's cowboy types instead of a sophisticated city guy?)

-- Theodore also changes around completely-- Archie calls him "Horstmann," whereas in later books he's just "Theodore," and late in chapter 15 of FDL he actually willingly goes up and hangs out in the plant rooms with him for a while, in an attempt to cheer himself up. (He also mentions, introducing Theodore, that he has a contentious relationship with Wolfe and often yells at him about stuff-- as opposed to later books where Archie resents Theodore for "babying" him.) Just from a story-structuring POV it makes more sense for Archie and Theodore to not like each other-- it's an excuse not have *another* character actually involved in the everyday running of the household or commenting on the various cases that push their way into the brownstone. (Now that I think about it, *does* Theodore not like Archie, actually? He really doesn't seem to have a personal problem with Archie the way that Archie has a problem with him, but maybe if we were seeing things from Theodore's POV we'd learn differently).

IMO, Theodore getting on Archie's nerves adds a nice note of reality to the world of the series, in that there's always one person like that, in every extended family or workplace, somebody who just gets on your nerves and yet you have to co-exist with them, because people have to co-exist with each other, and there's just nothing you can do about it. Without the Archie-Theodore dislike to add a note of discord, the brownstone might just be *too* perfect and homey and domestic and generally adorable. Yes, we'd still have the Wolfe-Archie and Wolfe-Fritz bickering, but we know that in reality they respect and esteem each other underneath and the bickering is really just everybody trying to prod everybody else to do their best for the greater good-- it's not like anybody is going to say something totally unforgivable while arguing about garlic vs. onions or whether Archie needs a new typewriter. But Archie doesn't respect or esteem Theodore, he just plain *doesn't like* him. (To the point of being kind of unfair to him, imo, in some books.)

-- Archie and Wolfe's relationship also changes tenor over the next couple of books. It's definitely very different in the post-war stories, so it'll be interesting to read more closely as the discussion goes along in chronological order and try to pinpoint the exact change. But anyway, in the earlier books, Archie just seems so much *younger*, especially in Fer-de-Lance-- I'm thinking of a bit in Chapter 13: Then I went to the kitchen. Fritz was making cherry tarts; a pan was just out of the oven and I nabbed one and stuffed it in and darned near burned my tongue off. That's totally adorable, and also totally *twelve years old.* Anyway, this younger!Archie is much more admiring of Wolfe, much more of a Kid Sidekick type than an equal partner. Personally I don't see Fer-de-Lance Archie as someone who could (if he wanted) be successful as a private detective all by himself.

I don't remember when in the series that Archie first mentions that one of the most important parts of his job is, basically, kicking Wolfe in the ass to get him to work, and that Wolfe knows it and *he* knows it-- but you don't get any hint of that here. Wolfe has a relapse in Chapter 6, but Archie clearly states: I had never really understood Wolfe’s relapses. ..... He was out and that was all there was to it. Nothing that I could say made the slightest dent on him.

FDL!Archie enjoys the occasional sarcastic remark, but he would never dream of pulling some of the stunts he pulls in later books. Wolfe is definitely the man in charge and Archie is just "omg, I'm so lucky to be here watching the Great Man work, I've learned so much from him, eeee!" Which, although it is totally adorable to watch Archie mooning around the office man-crushing on how tooootally aaaawesome Wolfe is, sooo smart and sooo scary with that level tone in his voice and so on and so forth-- probably would have gotten tiresome after a while. I mean, I like worshipful man-crushing Archie, but I also like how he is later on, say in "Black Orchids", when Wolfe wanders off for like *five minutes* and Archie freaks out like he's missing a small child. Because clearly if he takes his eyes off Wolfe for even a moment, Wolfe will immediately "fall in a hole" or "catch cold" or be lured into a van by a man with candy. FDL!Archie would never *worry* about Wolfe quite like that.

-- Another thing I'll be keeping an eye out for is the first time Archie mentions the constant dance of quitting and getting fired that he and Wolfe do as a way to relieve the stress/tension of their relationship or just as a manipulative tactic in an argument-- interestingly it's tied into Wolfe's "relapse" in this book:

At such times I usually had my tongue out from running all over town from the Battery to Bronx Park, trying to find some herb or root or maybe cordial that they needed in the dish they were going to do next. The only time I ever quit Wolfe was when he sent me to a Brooklyn dock where a tramp steamer from China was tied up, to try to buy some badden-root from the captain. The captain must have had a cargo of opium or something to make him suspicious; anyway he took it for granted that I was looking for trouble and filled my order by having half a dozen skinny savages wrap things around my skull. I quit the next afternoon, phoning from the hospital, but a day later Wolfe came and took me home, and I was so astonished that he actually came himself that I forgot I had quit. That finished that relapse, too.

I honestly kind of can't believe this is just a throwaway reference, because it's totally an entire romantic comedy third-act in a four-sentence flashback. Three, if you cut the introductory sentence and just start with "The only time I ever quit Wolfe..." (And, okay, how telling is it that Archie phrases it like that-- he's not quitting *his job*, he's quitting *Wolfe*.)

And Wolfe comes down to the hospital! And Archie is "astonished!" And it's super adorable that the resolution is specifically Archie "forgetting" that he quit-- not telling Wolfe "Hey, I take it back, you'd fall in a hole without me, so I un-quit," or meekly asking for his job back and getting re-hired, or even opportunistically hitting Wolfe up for a raise like he would in later books. He just forgets it, in the emotion of the moment-- and of course Wolfe wouldn't bring it up either. He'd be way too proud to ask Archie to come back after he nearly got him killed going out after condiments. I can totally see him just sort of assuming that Archie will pack his stuff and leave as soon as he recovers from getting bonked in the head, and then the part where Archie shows up in the door of the office on Monday and Wolfe is pretending to read papers or work on the case, making like he never had a relapse. And Archie hangs out for a second seeing if Wolfe is going to say something, and Wolfe of course doesn't, because he totally wasn't worried about Archie quitting!! Not at all!! And then both of them just go about their business pretending they're not having an Extremely Significant Relationship Moment, in an "Eliza, where the devil are my slippers?!" kind of way. <3

It's too bad that you couldn't really *write* "How Wolfe And Archie Super-Adorably Hooked Up After Archie Was Bonked On The Head On The Docks" without including Archie's early-days casual racism, which is not so bad (and by not so bad I mean only in comparison to other parts in Fer-de-Lance. Which sadly isn't saying much) in the short form version but would be kind of unavoidably ugly in an expanded version. Unless you wrote it from like 2010!Archie's POV, I suppose.

-- Last thing I'll mention, a bit from Chapter 3 where Archie is describing his room: I had lived there seven years, and it certainly was home; and seemed likely to remain so for another seven, or even twenty-seven, for the only girl I had ever been really soft on had found another bargain she liked better. That was how I happened to meet Wolfe - but that story isn't for me to tell, at least not yet. There are one or two little points about it that will need clearing up some day. .... So this totally sets up the Wolfe-Archie relationship as an erzatz marriage, I mean there's no other way to read that, basically. Second, it is intriguingly mysterious-- what about it could still be for Archie "not to tell" *seven years* after this girl ditched him? What could still be a secret? I mean, you'd think that anything that's still a secret after seven years is the kind of thing that needs to stay a secret forever. Like, suppose maybe Archie's girl killed someone and Archie covered it up. (I don't really think it was anything that dramatic, but just for example.) OK, I can see him saying in that case "I can't talk about it, it's a secret" but then why go on to say that it still needs to be cleared up "some day?" What could still need to be cleared up? And then, cleared up between who? Archie and the girl? Archie and the Other Guy she dumped him for? Archie and Wolfe? It's just really curious.

-- Wolfe's characterization also starts to evolve, shifting away from kind of a moody, deep, tortured super-genius in FDL to a more human, flawed (petty, lazy, etc.) man in later books-- it's kind of cute to imagine that it's because Archie himself is maturing and isn't as over-awed by Wolfe as he used to be. I think I'll have more to say about that in the actual FDL-plot-related post.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 12:09 am (UTC)
darkrose: (Default)
From: [personal profile] darkrose
This is really interesting to me, not least because I have yet to finish FDL. I think I've read all of the others, but for some reason, that one just leaves me with a big "Meh." Maybe I'll give it another try.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 12:38 am (UTC)
rhi: "This icon has been hauled downtown and wants you to call Parker."  A Nero Wolfe joke. (Call Parker)
From: [personal profile] rhi
Yeah, there's a mention in one of the later novels that Fritz hasn't had a license to drive since he moved to the States. And I see what you mean about this being a pilot episode -- thanks, neat post!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 02:08 am (UTC)
ladyvyola: quote: "SALT: a magic rock that makes food taste delicious" (magically delicious)
From: [personal profile] ladyvyola
it's interesting to think about what exactly happened the day Wolfe was like "the hell with this, we're gonna hire that Goodwin kid and have HOT AND COLD RUNNING ERRANDS 24/7."

I never get tired of this in fanfic - slash, gen, or ambiguously in-between. I like every single version I've read. I eat 'em up with a spoon and ask for more. Now I'm just sad that I've got no one in real life I can use the phrase "HOT AND COLD RUNNING ERRANDS" on.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 11:23 am (UTC)
ladyvyola: quote: "SALT: a magic rock that makes food taste delicious" (magically delicious)
From: [personal profile] ladyvyola
No, I'm just talking about this fandom. For such a small fandom, there's a high percentage of stories about just how Archie came to work for Wolfe.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 07:16 am (UTC)
jest: (orchid)
From: [personal profile] jest
It's my favourite for fanfic fodder too!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 01:05 am (UTC)
dorinda: Fat Pony appears in a blaze of light! (Fat_Pony)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
I like the concept of this being a Pilot Episode. Now that you put it that way, it feels so true--this book has always seemed the most different from all the others, to me.

There are so many great things to talk about here! Let me start by selecting just one...

Because clearly if he takes his eyes off Wolfe for even a moment, Wolfe will immediately "fall in a hole" or "catch cold" or be lured into a van by a man with candy.

Bwah! So true. You're right, in this book I don't see it quite yet, that obsessive-possessive-protective way that Archie regards Wolfe.

FDL!Archie would never *worry* about Wolfe quite like that.

I would agree in general, but with one exception--an exception which is one of my favorite recurring patterns between them (and which I get to talk about again when we get to The Rubber Band). Already in this Pilot Episode we get a scene of "Wolfe is in imminent physical danger! Archie is intense/frightened/protective!" <3

Here it takes the form of Wolfe calmly implying that the departed visitor must have left something in the office, upon which Archie (the man of action!) starts up with the "For God's sake get out of here, it may go off any second," trying to rush Wolfe out of the room while he himself plans to stay behind in the deadly race to find it. Even after Wolfe has talked him through opening the drawer and they're dealing with the snake, when they can't seem to kill it, Archie's grabbing at Wolfe to try to pull him away from it.

It's true that the typical emotional dynamic is not yet fully developed... for one thing, after the danger is dealt with, Archie does not say something smart-ass & exasperated to hide (and/or tacitly express) his feelings. He very quickly develops that habit; he does it in The Rubber Band, and in Too Many Cooks, and forever after. But in the Pilot Episode, if he does it, we don't get to hear.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 05:17 pm (UTC)
parhelion: Archie Goodwin/meganbmoore (Archie-gun)
From: [personal profile] parhelion
Yeah, Stout really is all about the depth of relationships (a) being measured through behavior rather than pretty speeches and (b) having a lot to do with how long people have known each other. There's a certain almost-real feeling to that point of view that I very much like.

The importance and meaning of long-term bonds in the books is also why the plot twist at the end of AFA was almost brutally effective as a wrap to the series as a whole. Don't want to skip ahead, though...

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 01:30 am (UTC)
used_songs: (Archie huh)
From: [personal profile] used_songs
Interesting analysis - I'll have to reread FDL. I also remember being struck by the abrupt change in the relationship between Orrie and Archie between FDL and later books, so much so that I was a bit shocked when Orrie showed his darker side.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 01:44 am (UTC)
dorinda: Randolph Scott smiles at Cary Grant. (Randolph_Cary)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
so much so that I was a bit shocked when Orrie showed his darker side.

Re-reading FDL for this discussion, I noticed (as I hadn't, before) Orrie being quite dark during their "attack" on the women in the car. Orrie's the one who plays the major bad guy, and he's very verbally frightening and aggressive (which is why he's the one who gets bitten *g*). I know that was his task, to make her believe that the bad guy was ending her obligation to him--but in hindsight, it's very interesting that he was the one chosen (or who volunteered) to play that role, and that he did it so well.

I'm wondering if Archie's dislike for Orrie, as a character beat, somehow came along hand-in-hand with the development/emphasis of the possessive side of Archie's nature (specifically meaning possessive of Wolfe). Since a major source of friction between Archie and Orrie is the idea of Orrie angling for Archie's job/role, and Archie pretending to be blase about it while being obviously tense.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 07:36 am (UTC)
jest: (orchid)
From: [personal profile] jest
My pet theory is that neither Johnny or Orrie really want Archie's job. I mean, they want to be big shots, not do the dusting in the office and arranging chairs and typing out orchid records. On a day to day basis, Archie's job actually involves a fair amount of menial work which would not fly with that pair. I've always felt that the real reason Archie is so threatened by Johnny and Orrie is because Archie has moments when he is fairly insecure about his looks and it makes him nervous when Wolfe has other attractive young men vying for his attention. Archie knows he's a better assistant than Johnny or Orrie could ever be, but he has a some doubt when it comes to, um, aesthetic appeal.

And, yes, every time Wolfe hires Orrie I think it is just to goad Archie.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 12:24 pm (UTC)
jest: (orchid)
From: [personal profile] jest
I love Lily Rowan! She obviously knows exactly what the score is with Archie and Wolfe. Have you read the book where Archie mentions the purple shirts? I don't remember which one it is in, but it's basically a throwaway line where Archie says that he has some shirts with a purple stripe that irritate Wolfe, and that when he first figured this out he wore them for a week straight (because he's Archie and irritating is what he does best). And then he goes on to mention that Lily is the person who gave him the shirts. OH, Archie! I'm sure that has NOTHING to do with why Wolfe finds those shirts irritating. Nope, Wolfe doesn't care at all about being the person who buys Archie intimate gifts like clothes and bathrobes and manly accessories.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 02:28 am (UTC)
dorinda: Randolph Scott smiles at Cary Grant. (Randolph_Cary)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
And/or, it makes me think of what you were saying about Theodore--perhaps it's more interesting/dynamic/textured if there are more distinct gradations of relationship between Archie (& Wolfe) and each the various subcontractor-legmen.

So we move from the comparatively-indistinct relationships of the pilot, into: Saul (stealth Gryffindor, super-awesome, Archie has a mancrush on him, only one who's personal friends with Wolfe); Fred (Hufflepuff, earnest and dogged and trustworthy); Orrie (Slytherin, and increasingly so as time goes on). For a while, there's also Johnny Keems, who overlaps with some of the qualities later ascribed only to Orrie (vanity, edging into Archie's territory). And there's Bill Gore, who...I can't remember. *g* I can see why he drops away. (And of course Johnny has a canonical reason for his dropping away.)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 05:07 pm (UTC)
parhelion: Archie Goodwin/meganbmoore (Archie-gun)
From: [personal profile] parhelion
I'd have to agree with Saul as Ravenclaw: baby concert grand that he can play in his living room, geological specimens on his extensive bookshelves, has read and quotes people like Oscar Wilde to guys like Archie. And Archie is called down by Wolfe quite frequently for his impulsive courage and romanticism, so he does make a passable Gryffindor.

Good luck on slotting Wolfe, though. *g*

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 02:43 am (UTC)
parhelion: Archie Goodwin/meganbmoore (Archie-gun)
From: [personal profile] parhelion
Wow, was this a good analysis of the series characters in this book. And, yeah, do I ever agree that this is the younger Archie, both within and outside of the canonical frame.

As a fan, I like to imagine some of Archie's character changes in the later books as caused not just by Archie growing up some more -- thankfully, in the case of Wolfe grimly sanding off some of Archie's racism-- but also by Archie gradually learning how to hide himself behind the facade of the sophisticated male. As the books go along, he takes more and more advantage of his position as the supposed author to present himself in what he sees as the best light. He just never gets quite as good at hiding himself as he hopes he is, probably due to his stated habit of abjuring self-reflection. He also increasingly hides Wolfe. Wolfe is more human in his petty flaws in the later books, but he also loses quite a few of the deeper fractures he initially is depicted as having (like the obviously depressive behavior).

In terms of the actual writing, I think the changes are a combination of Stout refining and improving his characterization and being unable to resist making characters he likes "better" heroes by his own standards of heroism.

Since his standards are an unreconciled mish-mash of the late Victorian, emotionally intense male hero that he grew up reading about, and the between-the-wars untouchable "tough guy" hero who finished coming into fashion right as he was writing the early books, the result is a unreconciled hybrid that is a lot more interesting (IMO) than it would have been if he had stuck to one period's or the others' favored archetype.

(To me, one of the minor changes exemplifying this authorial conflict was Stout's moving Archie's and Wolfe's bedrooms off of the same floor. The next door bedrooms would have conveyed a different message in something written in the teens than it did in the thirties, and Stout seems to have eventually realized that.)

I also think some of the changes during the early books were due to Stout toning down his literary style and gradually relaxing as he returned to writing books he initially considered one short step above pulp. Me, I don't find Archie and Wolfe any less interesting in the first books. They're just displaying themselves against a gaudy background painted by Stout's initial need to have every walk-on character loaded with Psychological Significance. (Holy cats, are his twenties literary novels ever loaded with Psychological Significance, especially the Psychological Significance of s*x, but that's a topic for another day. Probably the day we talk about LOFM)

As a side note, I do love the habit Stout picked up from Doyle and his successors of dropping throw-away comments about earlier events into his stories. Boy does it give the fan writer material with which to work!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 01:57 pm (UTC)
jest: (orchid)
From: [personal profile] jest
Some more thoughts...

I have a hard time believing that Archie has been with Wolfe for 7 years at the start of Fer-de-lance. I think the whole gosh-golly-aint-this-fantastic tone would have worn off more after 7 years...though, I guess from an Archie-as-author pov, he could be writing at a later date and trying to write himself as he remembers instead of how he actually was. That would explain why he occasionally comes across as twelve instead of twenty-something. People tend to have really distorted memories regarding their younger selves.

I don't buy his story about being ending up with Wolfe because he lost some girl. It sounds like an invention of Archie-as-author, rather then something that actually happened. Archie-as-author = BEST THING that ever happened to fanfic writers! Whenever something seems contradictory you get to shrug and chalk it up to Archie being an unreliable narrator.

Wolfe's characterization also starts to evolve, shifting away from kind of a moody, deep, tortured super-genius in FDL to a more human, flawed (petty, lazy, etc.) man in later books-- it's kind of cute to imagine that it's because Archie himself is maturing and isn't as over-awed by Wolfe as he used to be

I think there's more to it then maturity...

a) In my mind Wolfe was suffering pretty intense PTSD as a result of his involvement in WWI. I think before Archie came along Wolfe spent most of his time shut up alone in his house, having really horrible depressive episodes and panic attacks ie Relapses. Wolfe gets better as time passes so there aren't as many incidents as there would have been in the early years. Also, I think Archie's presence in his house would have contributed a great deal to his recovery.

b) Archie isn't understood to be a minor NYC celebrity in the early books. Later in the series other characters recognize him supposedly from reading his previous books, so he would be conscious of people reading them in a way that he wouldn't be when he was younger. It's a bit like teenagers today who pour their souls out on facebook or livejournal etc. People never understand the value of privacy until they are confronted with losing it.

It's too bad that you couldn't really *write* "How Wolfe And Archie Super-Adorably Hooked Up After Archie Was Bonked On The Head On The Docks" without including Archie's early-days casual racism, which is not so bad (and by not so bad I mean only in comparison to other parts in Fer-de-Lance. Which sadly isn't saying much) in the short form version but would be kind of unavoidably ugly in an expanded version. Unless you wrote it from like 2010!Archie's POV, I suppose.

...hmmm, I'm writing it in my Rentboy!Archie WIP. I'm sure it will probably be made of fail for lots people, but I'm from the George McDonald Fraser school of historical fiction. I think it's better to include historical racism with it's unavoidable ugliness than to ignore it as though it didn't happen.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-04-06 05:43 pm (UTC)
parhelion: Archie Goodwin/meganbmoore (Archie-gun)
From: [personal profile] parhelion
Archie-as-author = BEST THING that ever happened to fanfic writers! Whenever something seems contradictory you get to shrug and chalk it up to Archie being an unreliable narrator.

I have never thought it a coincidence that books with ongoing fandoms often have either a setting too complex to be entirely explored in canon (LOTR, HP, Age of Sail) or occasionally self-contradictory POV protagonists interacting with other strong and vivid characters (Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe, Vorkosigan books). Both kinds of books provide the open spaces fans need for their imaginations to breathe deeply.

I think it's better to include historical racism with it's unavoidable ugliness than to ignore it as though it didn't happen.

I very much agree. Also, Stout himself sometimes made a deliberate choice to show the racism and show it as being what he considered ugly, so, in this case, it's a way of paying tribute to canon. (He was actively liberal enough about the issue by the standards of his own day, if certainly not ours, that it was commented on by a contemporary or two.)

It's interesting, trying to track where he was considering the matter and trying to make a point as opposed to unconsciously typing out something really unpleasant, which he also did. Makes me want to re-read what I write to see if I can spot what I'm screwing up when my attention slips...

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-07 04:41 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ama_nesciri
I really like your point here about ptsd, it was a revelation for me--I can't believe I never really thought about this, it seems so incredibly obvious an issue for the older people like Wolfe, Fritz and even Saul (and perhaps Theodore, just based on his seemingly (or mainly) hermit-gardener life--his only company is Wolfe most of the time! It makes me wonder about him and what we don't see because Archie is the narrator.)

And I agree on the Fraser hist. fiction school; I think total realism is important, (it obvs shows us the different world they were living in), especially because it's part of their physical and psychological landscape. I mean obviously (to me) Archie has (and mentions in print) that picture of Sept. Morning for a reason--and I think often now we speak about this as some deliberate thing, macho mention or overaction etc, but to me it might not be. I think people often do whatever they're doing because they're 'performing' (as they say) their identity (and gender role) for themselves, not just for others.

I mean if I look at Wolfe this way, he has this enormous, unique, 'eccentric' life he lives out. It's like after the horror of WWI he creates this paradise fantasy where he recreates a luxurious aristocratic European/Montenegrean house in NYC, w/ expensive gardens (both the flowers and the gardener, Theo in this case), he has the best chef possible as a personal live in server, and then he gets a personal assistant. I think Wolfe also enjoys being admired, and getting to dole out largess to his pageboy Archie--a kind of personal enjoyment from this endless hospitality (not just the daily food, the car, having him live in his house, the expensive presents.) It's very Greek to me. LOL : )

I love the almost culture (and economic/social) clash of how Fritz and Wolfe see food, and how Archie does. And how Archie never wears his pretty and expensive pyjamas and dressing gown, because for him they are probably not only from an older era, they're not culturally/socially acceptable for his self-image etc. I would love to read a fic where he has to react to getting his presents LOL I guess it's interesting to me to think on how Wolfe is expressing his 'self-image'/psyche etc through his life/house/employees and how Archie expresses his psyche/image etc--they are very different, even beyond the obvious hermit/'man of action and women' duality.

And even looking at Fritz, Saul or Archie, they have their own vision of their lives--I think Archie loves being someone's confidant, as long as he can totally and fully admire/worship that person. He seems to enjoy being 'kept' but of course can justify it unconsciously w/ Wolfe's strange eccentricity/and his furniture owning lol. And Fritz seems to be totally happy getting to devote his time to cooking for someone who realllllly appreciates on many levels.

Also the constant 'insecurity' of Archie vis a vis his job/or being 'in' on a plan is to me more of an expression of wanting to always be 'in on it' w/ his bff/hero/partner Wolfe. If he didn't react that way I think it would imply to everyone involved that Archie wasn't possessive/cared/serious about Wolfe and his special place in his life. It's interesting to me to think of how aggressively Archie pursues working--he seems to almost always want to work. Unless he gets driven crazy by weeks of random food treasure hunts, he typically wants to do stuff constantly--this to me is very unique, I can't imagine any other guy being that obsessed with work. He seems to never act 'normally' in terms of slacking off, or getting out of work or whatever. I still haven't figured out what I think about this. It almost is like an obsessive desire to please, and the prideful desire to be able to do anything asked of him.

Anyway I love the discussions here and just wanted to respond to your great ptsd point : )!!!! <3<3

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-08 01:48 pm (UTC)
jest: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jest
I think people often do whatever they're doing because they're 'performing' (as they say) their identity (and gender role) for themselves, not just for others.

I definitely agree with this. I think it ties into what [personal profile] soupytwist was saying (on another post?) about the way Archie sometimes says and does things because he seems to feel that it's expected. It's like he is performing himself, or his idea of himself. Sometimes it's obvious that he is doing it for his audience, but other times you really have to wonder. One of my favourite things about these books are the moments when you see that his ideas about himself don't quite line up with the facts that he is presenting.

It's interesting to me to think of how aggressively Archie pursues working

Yes! I consider this one of Archie's defining traits. He says at one point that what he likes more than anything else is to do a good job. It seems to me that he is driven not so much by a need for approval (although he admits that Wolfe's approval makes his heart skip a beat) but rather by a desire to satisfy his pride. Doesn't Wolfe say in one of the books that Archie's pride is even greater than his own?

P.S. Welcome to [community profile] milk_and_orchids! I'm thrilled that new people are coming out of the woodwork!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-08 03:18 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ama_nesciri
I always think that the 'performing' (even ie. bitching on being 'out of something', or on someone wanting his job) is totally unconscious (I know, extreme view)--and since I think Archie is so disconnected not only from his unconscious and gender motivation I then try to think of Wolfe that way, but it's harder -- he's so different and is always presented to us through Archie's (the regular American's) eyes. I want to see a story by Marko LOL and one by Saul--and one by Fritz. And of course what's up with Theo LOL Wouldn't it be awesome if he had a totally cool backstory?

: )))!


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