The Chumps of Choice

A Congenial Spot for the Discussion of Against the Day, by Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Cornell '59, and Any Other Damned Thing That Comes Into Our Heads. Warning: Grad Students and Willie-Wavers will be mocked.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


13:31: [...] casting apprehensive looks upward at the enormous gasbag of the descending Inconvenience, quite as if it were some giant eyeball, perhaps that of Society itself[...]

Our artist is Odilon Redon, French symbolist, very active in the period described in ATD; could well have been one of Les garcons de '71 and, here I'm guessing, was an avid fan of absinthe and hashish.


At Tuesday, December 12, 2006 5:46:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Will, for finding these -- the first especially was exactly the image I had when first reading that passage!

(That second one reminds me of nothing if not Odd Bodkins!)

At Tuesday, December 12, 2006 5:52:00 AM, Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

Hey, for once all the art history courses I took may prove useful!

(I also thought I was alone in knowing about Odd Bodkins. Do I have to pull out the one OB book I have and read that too?)

At Tuesday, December 12, 2006 7:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my own personal reading mythology, Odd Bodkins are much more attuned to the malevalent surrealism of GR. (I encountered both at the same time, during a particularly malevalent summer in the mid-80s.)

I'm not an art major or anything, but if I had to pick a graphic counterpoint for ATD, I think it would be something along the lines of A Humument...

At Tuesday, December 12, 2006 9:43:00 AM, Blogger Rob Hill said...

That passage also makes me think of the Georges Méliès moon in Le Voyage dans la Lune. Especially since there's a lot of Jules Verne-iness going on in this book, what with the balloon adventures and a few other things looming on the horizon. Wonder if Verne ever attended the Columbian Expo.

At Tuesday, December 12, 2006 11:55:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

About that "Boys' Adventure" voice: I think one of Pynchon's greatest skills is the way he can make a voice like that come and go in the most natural way. For example, for the first two paragraphs on p. 10, (my favorite bit so far) the voice is what I think of as Pynchon's Own Voice. No archness or funny words, instead we find stuff like "...somewhere among the the tall smokestacks unceasingly vomiting black grease-smoke, the effluvia of butchery unremitting..."

Then at the bottom of the page, the Boys' Adventure voice fades back in. A-a-and just when that has you all nice and relaxed, you get to the bottom of p. 13, and read "... the indecorous couple had vanished among the foliage, as presently would this sector of the Republic into the falling darkness."

That's one slick little ambush of a transition, from one clause to another of the same sentence. So one purpose for that silly Hardy Boys voice is to set the gentle reader up for a sucker-punch like that.

At Tuesday, December 12, 2006 12:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The chapter title "The Light Over the Ranges" reminds me irresistibly of Ansel Adams' name for the Sierra Nevada, "The Range of Light." Will Pynch take us to the Sierra?

At Tuesday, December 12, 2006 12:48:00 PM, Blogger Will Divide said...

You know, Range is also another word for stove; electric ranges, gas ranges . . .

So the title may well be a vision of an appliance store.

At Tuesday, December 12, 2006 1:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Light Over the Ranges" also reminds me of a certain Light in Rainboy's Graffity.

At Tuesday, December 12, 2006 8:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was inspired to find out more about “Pinkerton” from p25,l16, and discovered this from wikipedia “The agency's logo, an eye embellished with the words "We Never Sleep" inspired the term "private eye."” Their logo is quite interesting.

This of course got me thinking about the epigraph. Eternal Darkness fleeing from light. Darkness absorbs light. Therefore, darkness is passive, light must constantly strive against it.

Seeing as we’re talking about light and dark and photography and the recording of light through photography etc., I’d like to say that darkness (night) is not only the absence of light, but that darkness absorbs light. It is this quality of darkness of which Monk speaks, (be ye ever vigilant!). At the same time, it is the absolute darkness of the human pupil that absorbs all light! And this is the light of information that can turn into action or inaction. Hence, the great eyeball, sucking up light and information...

At Wednesday, December 13, 2006 1:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balloons, Eyes and the Tibet Chamber of Commerce: Here's something that combines all three. "The huge balloon comes to life in the morning light, a sleeping giant decorated with the all-seeing eyes of the Buddha".

At Thursday, December 14, 2006 9:38:00 AM, Blogger Civic Center said...

Way to hit the trifecta, Gred.

At Thursday, December 14, 2006 2:46:00 PM, Blogger Employee of the Month said...

Perhaps a comment on the ubiquitous cameras, aka "eye in the sky" found at every street intersection, roadway, shopping mall, etc., today?

At Thursday, December 14, 2006 5:07:00 PM, Blogger Will Divide said...

The urban use of the Panopticon is a theme of Mike Davis' book on L.A., City of Quatrz; interesting and more-than-faintly depressing reading.

At Saturday, December 16, 2006 7:08:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As to the eyeball thing, and relevant to Will's panopticon comment, I think it's important that the eye serves not only as a passive receptor, but serves also as a means of control of those on the ground - active, if not physically acting on. There's something unnerving and manipulative about being watched and I think it's telling that the first major symbol of technological innovation that Pynch introduces into the book is compared to an eye.

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