It's been harder than I had expected to get a blog front end setup for thinking about Pynchon, probably because of my anticipation of this latest novel as a way to review and think about my own near 40 year fascination with the man. That's a little weighty for a single blog entry, so let's start with a thought or two about the reading we will be discussing tomorrow: "Iceland Spar" to page 260.
I'd like to come back to the question of whether we can find useful analogies in music or other arts to the way Pynchon animates the many sections of this book. Jazz? Mahler? Raga? Milhoun?
Pynchon (hopefully) trolls the too-strange-for-fiction “Chums of Chance” by us readers regularly for the effect they'll have on our understanding of other parts of the plot. Their Russian counterparts (the “Tovarishchi Slutchainyi”) tweak them with a worldly knowingness about war and betrayal, Russian style. The Chumbs seem to be early in the process of figuring out something about their own missions.
Wittily, [Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr.] allows the Chums of Chance to figure in the novel, subtextually, as storybook characters, dime-novel heroes in the kind of fiction that boys relished in series at the turn of the century. ("The Chums of Chance and the Caged Women of Yokohama" and "The Chums of Chance and the Ice Pirates," etc.) The comic is always subverting the earnest and profound in "Against the Day." The narrative may be erudite (remember your quadratic equations?) and reportorial, but it is also richly allusive and imaginative. It has the same kind of Hieronymus Bosch quality that we remember from "V.," "The Crying of Lot 49" and "Gravity's Rainbow."
Alexander Theroux. Wall Street Journal, Nov 24, 2006 (Proquest copy)
I.G.L.O.O. On rereading the section for tomorrow's meeting (pages 118 - 260, in "Iceland Spar") I am particularly struck by the whispered-of destruction of New York City in the wrathful feeding frenzy of the primordial being extracted from the ice by the good ship Étienne-Louis Malus. Our 2007 New York -- the refracted image with which we are familiar -- is prospering again, and the uncanniness of ground zero does not seem to bother the millions of city-dwellers who pass it every day.
Pynchon's account of the return southward of the accursed ship calls up at this early point in the novel expectations of Lovecraftian horror. The dark pre-history of the world has been re-awakened by modern science, and now we'll pay for our arrogance.
Then something terrible has happened to New York, and we wonder if we’ve napped through it. Much of the city was apparently destroyed by fire after its population was driven mad with fear. What's left muddles along, run by a new class of folks, but now it's the kind of New York Bogart suggested to the Germans in "Casablanca" they not invade, with an added kink.
To all appearance resolute, adventurous, manly, the city could not shake that terrible all-night rape, when "he" was forced to submit, surrendering, inadmissibly, blindly feminine, into the Hellfire embrace of "her" beloved. He spent the years afterward forgetting and fabulating and trying to get back some self-respect. But inwardly, deep inside, "he" remained the catamite of Hell, the punk at the disposal of all the denizens thereof, the bitch in men's clothing.
... and I can hear Richard Nixon hollering, "What?"
Ways of approaching this bird. Since our discussion at the first meeting of the difficulties posed by this large novel's many and bifurcating plots I've thought more about my "epigenetic" analogy, based on the old Erik Erikson neo-Freudian ego psychology I used to teach. The image I had was of a boy of various ages scribbling down on a menu card a note for a joke or a plot line for a story or a bit of word-play around a popular tune. These cards get stored in a box and periodically extracted, added to, amended, and re-indexed (cf. Dubya's speechwriter). Those pertaining to the several main plot lines are dealt out to the reader with some concern for keeping us aware that there are characters on the other quadrants of the rotating stage, and there may be times when we think we understand a particular jump from, say, Traverses to Vibes. Mostly, we just get settled on one group of characters when we’re yanked into the parallel universe of another plot line.
February 23, 2007: At least three of Pynchon's novels -- V., Gravity's Rainbow, and Against the Day -- feature moments of kinky sex. Women are dressed in fetish attire, tied up, at least imaginatively abused. Men watch these erotic scenarios and sometimes participate by playing one or another classic sadomasochistic role. In Against the Day we have:
Lake Traverse taken orally and anally by Deuce and Sloat, respectively
Yashmeen Halfcourt taking and taken in a variety of dominance-submissions scenarios, both lesbian and "straight"
- Dally Rideout's richly explored dalliances with outre settings and the performance of erotic roles
At Wednesday's session, I brought up Tristan Taormino, Pynchon's niece (brother's child), erotic perforformance artist and New Age sex writer/speaker. She has a website, and Justin Hall attended her 30th birthday party in May, 2001. Her book Down and Dirty Sex Secrets was reviewed by Metapsychology Online Reviews.
- "Against the Day" Wikipedia entry
- "Against the Day" wiki
- "The Chumps of Choice" blog
- "Research Methods for Professional Writers" blog
- Amazon's "Against the Day" page
- Reviews of "Against the Day," aggregated at the AtD wiki
- google blog search on "Against the Day" (2/7/2007: 12:10: d2's 16-hour-old posting is hit #2
- James, Henry. The Princess Casamassima
- Lovecraft, H.P. The Call of Cthulhu
- Ynglingasaga Wikipedia entry
- Tristan Taormino Wikipedia entry