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.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The House of Seven Babblers

picture source

A home for obscure exchanges of divers bits of Pynchonia which the General Reader of Against the Day may pass over without fear of loss.


At Monday, December 18, 2006 11:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Will, for installing this parallel channel. I think it will take some pressure off the main threads.

An obvious exercise for the curious is to Google Muted posthorn. Among the 801 hits are an agricultural transport cooperative in London, a protocol for introducing covert message channels into seemingly innocuous HTTP (!!? but way outta my depth), some dude on MySpace, a Freeper thread and an indie film and video site. None of which is necessarily a propos of anything, except serendipity-fodder and showing how the meme spreads and dilutes.

BTW, will there be a secret handshake or under-the-lapel pin?

H. Rumbold, Master Barber

At Monday, December 18, 2006 11:43:00 AM, Blogger Will Divide said...

No. No, just a tattoo. . .

At Monday, December 18, 2006 9:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a lot of similitudes between Lew and Tyrone, a lot of them, and I'm really enjoying them. Somehow, I like Tyrone better, but Lew is a really intriguing character.

At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 8:47:00 AM, Blogger Neddie said...

Miles' "go back to the tonic and wait" comment immediately brought to mind what I think of as the "Rock and Roll" chapter in Mason & Dixon -- probably my most favorite passage in all of Pynchon's works. Money quote:

"But 'my' [music] 'Thelmer,... all is become Departure, and sentimental Crisis... and at last Return to the Tonick, safe at Home, no need to even play loud at the end. -- Mason and Dixon's West fact, shares this modern Quality of Departure and Return..."

You can read a slightly abridged version of it here. I liked it so much I appropriated it for my Independence Day Sermon this year.

At Thursday, December 21, 2006 3:35:00 PM, Blogger Axiomatic.Apricot said...

As it seems to be, well, a little quiet around here, I thought I'd repeat one of Will Divide's observations from his blog, namely that AtD begins with the same word that GR ends with, "now," which in GR-speak indicates the Delta T moment when a system crosses from our linear, integrated world to the Other Side, that is the state of disintegration and nonlinearity, and vice versa. The "Single up all lines" line that follows seems to indicate that we join the novel at its first moment of integration.

This contrasts the opening of M&D, whose snowballs starr'd across the sides of outbuildings, situates the novel (or at the very least, the novel's narration, a likely non-trivial distinction) as following the disintegration of war.

This makes sense when one looks at the ages of the novels' main characters, especially if we situate the chums in their adolesence, if not literally, then at least spiritually, given their pulp parentage. GR follows, as the story of a young man, and M&D, as a story of maturity bats clean-up. We get, then, in the three "major" Pynchon novels (been too long since I read it to play this game with V., and frankly i'm wary of including Vineland for a couple reasons) a sort of ur-structure.

I'm wondering if anyone else sees this and if it seems to fit with what they see as TP's general structural strategies in creating his novels. I'm thinking especially of the fable of the "Real War" of material restructuring that permeates GR and M&D and, I suspect, WWI looming large, AtD.

At Friday, December 22, 2006 2:38:00 AM, Blogger H. Rumbold, Master Barber said...

On a slightly different vector from axiomatic.apricot's, I would concur with the importance of singularities in Pynchon's writing, but come at them not from the personal Ages of Man angle, but from a historical perspective. Note the opening of AtD at the World Columbian Exposition, during which Frederick Jackson Turner propounded the Frontier Thesis deriving America's uniqueness and vitality from the existence of the Frontier, which the Census Bureau declared closed in 1890 and confirmed by Buffalo Bill putting on his show in urban Chicago.

Just so M&D is set at the beginning of the Westward march, with the Revolution, Louisiana Purchase and Civil War over the horizon (and Pony Express, telegraph and railroads). GR at the end of WW2 with the redrawing of the map of Europe, Atomic Age and Cold War. In CoL49 we have the sixties and reference back to Renaissance/Enlightenment.

What I am finding in reading AtD is the feeling that the time is slightly out of joint. Not only is the narrative light on time cues, but scene shifts and anachronisms give this reader a sense of the nauseous vertigo associated with time travel. Par for the course, and reason to keep on reading.

What is on the other side of the line is to be seen in AtD; we have met the Archduke and WWI is around the corner, but my money's on the side of the White City, Tesla and the Electric/Atomic Age.

H. Rumbold, Master Barber

At Thursday, January 04, 2007 6:48:00 AM, Blogger Monstro D. Whale said...

I think something's going on here where a choice must be made. It's right there with the Chumps of Chance--are they going to be obviously fictional characters, possibly real characters, or real characters with legends attached (like Buffulo Bill)? The answer to that question has to be related to some concern about what can "really" happen--a choice between sciences (if you'd like, but not limited, to science). This, I think, is a lot like the Trystero and Oedipa: she has four possible explanations for her discoveries--except, in ATD, some of those explanations (or all of them) are going to revert the discoverer into the realm of fiction. I'd say more, but I don't remember at which point in the book I caught on to this thread and I don't want to ruin anything.

At Monday, January 15, 2007 5:19:00 PM, Blogger Joseph said...

I posted this on the main comments board but thought it addressed some of the questions being kicked around here. I'm a little over half way through a first reading, so sounds like we're coming at this from different points of completion.

I love anonymous pointing out that the Inconvenience is “an enormous gasbag...”, perhaps an acknowledgement of the risky position of the writer, but also like the Sun, rather important . Pynchon works a lot with the connections between two narrative threads Trystero---the “real “ postal system; The subterranean/underground /telluric/ counterforce--- the historical , the geo-political, the specific, the scientifically verifiable; TRP also has a knack for connecting the wildly imaginative to the equally strange events of history. I see it as a Double helix type structure that connects people, ideas and worlds and produces unpredictable offspring.

Any way I think in ATD he may be trying to make this connective structure more obvious with the Chums of Chance starting out as caricatures inhabiting a clearly fictionalized world and only occasionally “getting down to earth” but the Chums interact with the “more real” world of the fictional characters who live in something artfully reflecting the real world, characters with real emotional lives and self awareness; these more real characters Lew B, Dally, Merle, (they get more real as the story unfolds) in turn interact with real characters of history J.P. Morgan, Nicola Tesla, who in the end are as weird and unknowable as the fictional characters.Kind of a literary menages a trois.

It poses some damned interesting questions about what exactly is real. The Chums of Chance represent a classic serial adventure story style which in English Lit runs from Beowulf to James Bond and in which the heroic but human good guys do battle with “evil forces” always winning ,or at least surviving to fight again. Those who belive this story are wed to an inner narrative where the triumph and resolution always remains elusively in the future, requires triumph over an enemy and encourages the accumulation of cool paraphernalia. It is an enduring and fundamental myth of the self as winner and still fundamental to the cultural myth-making of our time when the leading imperial power, in a move both surreal and weirdly brilliant in its flexibility has declared war on terror. Hard to beat terror for an enemy.

Let’s face it, writers are hard pressed to give up this best selling formula but P, as always is using it to masterfully to steer us into questions that will forcibly break us out of its limits.And as akatabi suggests we're also dealing with the disorienting factor of time travel and a contemplation of the mysteries of the electromagnetic spectrum.

It seems like there is some science fluency here. I would love to see a group riff on Tesla. The man's life is as surreal as a Pynchon novel.

At Thursday, July 19, 2012 12:31:00 AM, Anonymous site said...

Little doubt, the dude is totally just.

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