As I type this message, I am listening to the Coode Street Podcast interview of Gene Wolfe. Wolfe, while widely regarded for his literary skills within genre fiction, has not achieved widespread fame. It’s really a shame, because I believe him to be one of the greatest living authors alive today.
For Christmas, I received a new procurement — Orb Book’s reissue of Gene Wolfe’s novel, Peace, with an afterword by Neil Gaiman. It was first published in 1975, but remains one of Wolfe’s masterworks next to his popular tetralogy, The Book of the New Sun. It is also one of his most challenging novels, for not everything is tied up in a nice bow for the reader. Also, Peace was never meant to be a genre novel — it was meant to be a mainstream novel set in a small town.
Instead of doing a straight-forward review of the title, I plan to discuss this book over a series of posts, examining the narrative on a deeper level.
Gene Wolfe once wrote to Neil Gaiman in a letter that his definition of good literature is “that which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure.” I have reread a few of Wolfe’s works, but Peace is one I have not braved a second time as of yet.
Neil Gaiman’s article in Fantasy in Science Fiction offers advice on how to read Gene Wolfe. One of his suggestions is to reread his works because “it’s better the second time. It will be even better the third time. And anyway, the books will subtly reshape themselves while you are away from them. Peace really was a gentle Midwestern memoir the first time I read it. It only became a horror novel on the second or the third reading.”
I hope the experience of rereading Peace will be as memorable for me as it was for Neil Gaiman and I also hope that the added reflection of this great work will be beneficial to any travelers who may stumble upon this humble blog.