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 04, 2006

Welcome, Chumps!

What you got here is the birth pangs of a place for discussion of Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Against the Day (hereafter cyberabbreviated ATD). It arose after an online chat between myself and Will Divide; I bruited the idea about at my place and received enough enthusiastic agreement from enough enthusiastic folks that we decided go ahead with it.

We'd like everybody to look back on this experiment fondly as a PlaceTime where we had fun, read some great literature, and learned a thing or three.

How it works

Once a week, participants will read a reasonably short and digestible section of the novel. I'm suggesting we use the scheme presented at The Pynchon Wiki as a starting point -- meaning that the first week we'll cover pages 1-25 of the book, the next week 26-56, and so on. We can adjust later if we find this is too fast or too slow.

Each week will be moderated by one person -- which simply means that that person posts a synopsis of that week's reading, noting anything, er, noteworthy, and perhaps posing some questions or observations that get the ball rolling on discussion.

The Moderators' kickoff posts (plus any Administrivia that needs to be disseminated) will be the only items that will appear on the main page of this blog. The rest of the action will take place in the Comments.

On commenting

Anybody -- that's anybody -- is free to comment. But see Rule 1 below.

Da Rules

Rule 1: No Willy-Waving.

Many, if not most, of the folks who expressed an interest in joining this group discussion also expressed trepidation because Pynchon has a reputation for being "difficult." We, the Hosts, disagree with this, preferring to employ the word "challenging" instead. However, we're both intensely aware that Pynchon is flypaper for academics who like nothing better than to string together ream after ream of abstruse jargon with BeWilder:ing POst|MOdren / Punk-Chew-Ation. There are forums in which this sort of thing is acceptable. This is not that forum.

Anybody who tries to make anybody else feel stupid will be mocked. Without mercy. Blogger (as far as we know) doesn't allow for bannination, but we've got some expert mockers.

Rule 2: On the Other Hand...

If you can explain, elucidate, enlighten, or otherwise entertain in a way that makes the rest of us say, "Wow! You're really smart!" without making the rest of us feel stupid, you will not only not be mocked, you will be stroked, licked, kissed and fondled. The line between Rule 1 and Rule 2 is fuzzy, but I think most adults can tell the difference. Be an adult.

Rule 3: We're Friends Here.

Friends treat each other with respect, deference, deference, respect, and respect and deference. 'Nuff Sed.

Rule 4: You Hide. They Seek.

Rule 5: There Is No Such Thing as a Dumb Question.

If you didn't understand a passage in the novel (and believe me, there are passages you're guaranteed not to understand -- by design), or something a commenter or moderator said puzzles or bemuses you, speak up! If you didn't get it, odds are extremely good that others didn't as well, and that's where good conversation and enlightenment come from.

Rule 6: Topicality Is Mutable.

We'd like to stay within at least a stone's throw of the novel, but Pynchon's writing by its very encyclopedic nature encourages wide, wide -- enormous! -- exploration of our world and all the marvels in it. Let's follow all of it where it goes -- that's where the fun comes in. Moderators, please wield a very gentle shepherd's crook.

Rule 7: Humor Is In the Eye of the Beholder.

Before you hit "Send" on that priceless satiric mot, please stop and ask yourself two questions:
1. Is it really funny?
2. Is everybody going to find it funny, or does it have a victim?
If you can't answer those two questions in the affirmative, rethink. And review Rule 3.

Rule 8: The Hosts Make the Rules.

We'll make every effort to keep everybody comfortable and happy. We believe the foregoing rules cover all the bases, but if New Rules are necessary, the Hosts make 'em.


At Monday, December 04, 2006 5:46:00 PM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

get rid of the rules !

At Monday, December 04, 2006 8:40:00 PM, Blogger Neddie said...

get rid of the rules !

See? Rule 7.1, already violated. You're welcome to try agsin...

At Monday, December 04, 2006 8:54:00 PM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

really get rid of the rules !

At Monday, December 04, 2006 9:00:00 PM, Blogger Neddie said...

You'd better be hard at work, justifying your nihilistic edict. Rules Is Rules...

At Monday, December 04, 2006 9:10:00 PM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

so you have rules to justify you having rules?

And I am nihilistic ?

I guess you have never read a Pynchon novel-he
smashes rules to smithereens.

If you want to get any comments, based on free expression and trust-

At Monday, December 04, 2006 9:45:00 PM, Blogger Neddie said...

Woah, -- you mean to tell me, Pynchon breaks rules? Wow. I'd never stopped to consider! Ah, yes, of course you're right. I've never read a Pynchon novel. That's the problem.

Guidelines for human interaction will remain in place -- but thanks very much for your input. You, we assume, will remain on the sidelines, yelping your high-pitched objections. All you're doing is helping our hitcount. Just one request: Let the grownups talk, please. Or go to your room.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 12:10:00 AM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

Out of the vast conspiratorial nexus of Pynchon's mind comes a new language of paranoia. This speech of an unconscious relieved of the dogma of the authoritarian personality, expresses a yearning for libertarian thought.
Thinking evolved from a mirroring of sexual habitues,freed from the strictures of government, market, plebiscites, legal wrangling, fixed jargons,suitably enforced codes of morality, and insinuations of personal power.
These grafts upon the tree of living are post-modern ciphers of healing our insipid proclivity towards controlling others, by standards, set by parental or organizational subterfuge.
Pynchon writes to break up the boring entrainment of the powerful, over the preterite.
He spits on rules.
And pisses on rulers.

He searches for readers mature enough to know the difference between being a guide to a virtuous
creative warmth of freely exchanged ideas, or being a dictator of cold, sterile ejaculations of codifying dimwits.

Are you one of these readers, Neddie ?

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 2:37:00 AM, Blogger E.Wurzel said...

I don't know if it makes me a dogmatic authoritarian or not, but I think I'd have an irrestible urge to go for sevenpointman with a runcible spoon if I met him...

Let's not call them "rules" let's call them "suggestions for a productive and enjoyable forum" since the reflexively anti-social will get conniptions,otherwise.

Great suggestions, Neddy. I heartily approve.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 4:32:00 AM, Blogger Neddie said...

Yes, thanks, E.

Welcome, folks, please ignore the jibbering monomane in the corner, apparently he was a squatter disturbed by the painting crew. Probably best to ignore him until he outgrows adolescence -- if he survives that long.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 4:32:00 AM, Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

I'm in Ned and Will. Just have to pick up a copy and have the book grafted to my hands. Won't take but an afternoon at Doctor Barnes & Noble.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 4:40:00 AM, Blogger Will Divide said...

I think the main reason our pal Tom protects his privacy as much as possible is to stear clear of the confident, lonely fatheads who wear meanings gleaned selfishly from his novels in lieu of hard-earned, or at least lavishly paid-for, selfhood of their own.

A knowledge of literature is almost as good as a knowledge of life. One without the other is okay, I guess, for a while. But to be missing both is a sad thing. Such people lack sympathy, nuance, gallantry, and are, for all their noise, dull.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 6:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'll be joining the fun... as soon as Amazon delivers unto me The Book.

i'm not much of a Pynchon reader: i've done Gravity's Rainbow twice. the second time i guess i missed slightly less than 75% of it - that is, i was able to follow the characters around and roughly know how they interacted. i totally missed all the layers of symbolism and arcana, as i found out when i started reading on-line dissections. hopefully with y'all's assistance, i'll get a bigger payoff on this one, the first time through :)


At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 6:49:00 AM, Blogger Employee of the Month said...

Yesterday I picked up the book as a birthday gift to myself.

A passage on page 10 took my breath away. But I'll wait.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 8:10:00 AM, Blogger Wren said...

A few gentle rules and a little mind-expansion never hurt anyone. I'm a near-total newcomer to Pynchon, but I relish a challenge and revel in writing that takes my breath away. This is gonna be a hoot!

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 9:32:00 AM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

Dear Chumps of choice-

Mommie asked me not to play with all you adults.
She said you will hurt me with all those bad words.
She said to go find some contact with nicer, kinder people who know something about what they are saying.
I began drooling and stuck my thumb in my mouth.
I thought about leaving and going to play with
children my own size-but I decided to stick around.

This is fun- I only neddie to use one tenth of my brain to pin these pompous asses to the wall.

But I am willing to give them time to really read my comments-think about what I said and stop defending an inquisitive clique of friends-who are afraid to analyse and deal with a challenge
to their intellects.

O-as for rules.

I propose #87-b2

Don't pick a fight with anybody unless you have the firepower to win.

Mommie and Daddy sez: You have not shown me anything yet.

Unite zeromanes-the only thing you have to lose-
is your sanctimonious rhetoric and your jibbering
,flatulant discourse.

Come on-lets go-put up your real ideas about

Make my "against the day"..........

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:13:00 AM, Blogger E.Wurzel said...

Christ almighty, is there a central agency which assigns at least one troll to a blog in which more than five people show any interest?

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:26:00 AM, Blogger Neddie said...

That's all right, E. -- we won't be hearing from NoPointBoy anymore.

I'll leave up his last bit of spittle-flecked hilarity as an example of how *not* to behave in this space, but he's had his last word.

LOL! -- "Don't pick a fight..."

How about, "Don't pick a fight with anybody with Admin privileges."

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:28:00 AM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:31:00 AM, Blogger Neddie said...

Yeah, like that.

And it'll keep happening, so go bother somebody else, Ignatius J.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:33:00 AM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:34:00 AM, Blogger Neddie said...


At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:36:00 AM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:37:00 AM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:37:00 AM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:38:00 AM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:42:00 AM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:44:00 AM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:46:00 AM, Blogger Neddie said...

Don't know what you think you're proving here, NoPoint, but I can keep it up all day.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:46:00 AM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:48:00 AM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:50:00 AM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 11:59:00 AM, Blogger Uncle Rameau said...

This thread is distressingly close to confirming my previously held suspicion that Pynchon might attract that kind of fan who just might have this kind of tendency.

If I can't do Joyce, do I have any hope when set Against The Day?

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 12:05:00 PM, Blogger E.Wurzel said...

Sure Sluggo,there's very little Latin compared to Joyce...

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 12:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey everybody, I just chanced upon this other Pynchon blog by this super amazing person who who just has the smartest things to say. In fact, he has so much mega smart stuff to share that fully two-thirds of the comments to His Magnificent Posts are also from Him, each so chock-full of smarty smartness that it goes on for page after perspicacious page! The bitter tragedy, however, is that so few can appreciate what he has to offer and even fewer seem willing to make the arduous journey to his distant website.

But take heart, for he has elected to share a tenth of his mighty brain with us dimwits, right here. If only he can get a post past that darn Neddie with his rules and admin privileges!

Hey, NoPoint, have you tried calling him a c*nt?

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 12:24:00 PM, Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

So much for me skippin' this because I thought it might be dry.

Oh, and I shit thee not- my word verification is iudcccp.

'kay I'm off to el flamo el seven pointo.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 12:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Decency's Jigsaw sez:

Wow, 7-point-boy was kerned a little tight. Nothing a little leading cain't fix. And I'm in too. I can even moderate sometime downstream -- 200s or 300s, like in March or something. And hullo to all. Long time listener, first time caller.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 12:36:00 PM, Blogger sevenpointman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 12:40:00 PM, Blogger Neddie said...

Thanks for the IP address.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 2:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why Pynchon writes, what or who(m? I'm lousy with those) he spits on or searches for has absolutely ass-nothing to do with these rules. These rules aren't being applied to Pynchon's writing, or even *your* writing, SPM - just your writing *here*.


Lookin' forward to it, NJ.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 2:47:00 PM, Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Rules, rules, rules. Why is it that the greatest fans of the Rule Smashers never understand that the artist must _command_ the rules before the right is earned to break them?

If you've done a lovely Pieta using human poop and tampons I will give it my complete and serious attention if you can at first show me a very, very skilled pen-and-ink of same.

Otherwise you suck and you're just trying to finesse the suck.

And I, for one, am dead tired of watching th' suck being finessed.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 2:52:00 PM, Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Dude, I just posted a thing on Mastering The Rules To Earn The Right To Break Them that is going to come after Ol Pal D and it'll look like a repudiation of what he's sayin'.

It will now go into moderazione and come out looking like a challenge to Th' D which isn't what I was after 'cause I done wroted it first.

Christ, just kill all of mine and let's get to Pinchin' some Pynchon. A-ight? Criminy.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 3:08:00 PM, Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

I also am trepidaciously in, chumps.

I have to pay th' electric first though.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 6:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

HaHaHa, sorry I missed all the fun earlier. Methinks it a good omen that we're not even out of the gates yet and our little enterprise has attracted the bons mots of the erudite "half-pica". Whom I'm sure tore himself from his translation into Cherokee of the collected works of Foucault to regal us with the heretofore unknown tribute hidden within the works of Mr. P to the opus of Ayn Rand, thereby earning for himself that elusive final point which would complete the eponym for which he has become so famous. Tally Ho!

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 6:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, I'd love to moderate in a couple months or so, once me squeamishness abates...

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 6:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding TP's attitude toward rules: sevenpointman & co. are probably right on what GR era Pynchon'ld think about a rule moderated forum, but later Pynchon, say post-M&D, probably would acknowledge the fruitfulness of considerably-less-than-fascist rules such as the whole treat one another with respect thing.

While the early works displays an almost utopian view toward anarchy, the later works problematize this position, acknowledging human suffering that is sometimes created when such rules are ignored completely. There's a reason the Chums willingly submit to the tyranny of command when they're in midair -- they fall to their death otherwise. Of course, you can argue that Pynchon, as an avowed Luddite and general distruster of technological escapades, would think that one should never be so far off the ground in the first place. But if that's the case, why would he write an entire novel celebrating the delineation of the Mason & Dixon line.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 7:42:00 PM, Blogger Neddie said...

While the early works displays an almost utopian view toward anarchy, the later works problematize this position, acknowledging human suffering that is sometimes created when such rules are ignored completely.


Louis Menand is at pains to point this our in his New Yorker review:

"'Those whose enduring object is power in this world are only too happy to use without remorse the others, whose aim is of course to transcend all questions of power. Each regards the other as a pack of deluded fools,' as one of the books innumerable walk-ons, a Professor Svegli of the University of Pisa, puts it. Authorial sympathy in Pynchon's novels always lies on the "transcend all questions of power," countercultural side of the struggle; that's where the good guys - the oddballs, dropouts, and happy dreamers -- tend to gather. But his books also dramatize the perception that resistance to domination can develop into its own regime of domination. The tendency of extremes is to meet, and perfection in life is a false Grail, a foreclosure of possibility, a kind of death. Of binaries beware."

Great comment, AA. Keep 'em coming.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 7:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody who tries to make anybody else feel stupid will be mocked. Without mercy.

Fuck, Neddie -- I have no time to do this.

But how can I sit it out when you've just composed the greatest forum rule ever?

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 8:09:00 PM, Blogger Neddie said...

Matt: Even if you only lurk, your ghostly presence will grace us and make us better people. And hey: What, you got better things to do than this?

Decency's Jigsaw: Where do you XTC creeps find this stuff? Man, I hate that band! (I kid, of course. Welcome. Your offer to moderate has been duly noted and written into the Book of Life.

Ugly Editor, likewise. And thanks.

The Moderator gig is easy, kids. Stop being such nervous nellies about it. You write a few grafs and watch the comments roll in. Duck soup.

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 8:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok; this is entirely for my own delectation for the coming waltz, but I think a new "honor jar" is in order: absolutely no WWTRPD allowed. Mr. P has finished his novel and given it to the world, so as a matter of respect (well, focus really), we should leave him out of our discussions and simply talk about the work at hand. I don't mean any disrespect, but if we start cross-comparing novels which were written decades apart then I fear we may lose some of our more interesting friends in this forum. And really, it's all about the chumps...

At Tuesday, December 05, 2006 9:14:00 PM, Blogger Neddie said...

Ugly Editor: Couldn't agree more. Here's from a conversation I had with Will before this blog was created. I hope it's OK with the wise and perspicacious Will that I'm quoting from private correspondence, but here goes:

"my main fear is that this becomes a humid pynchonarium, with too much
attention paid to the other novels in an awful, grad student stew. now
there are certainly ricocheting tropes and themes among the books which can be pointed out to the neophites, but my horror is to slog though comments of nitwits showing off their vertical comprehension of the works of t. ruggles pynchon, cornell '5[7] when, ideally, it is a horizontal feel for the landscape of am. lit., free and open to all, which would, imho, be the greater good of the enterprise."

So, in conclusion:

- Reference to previous Pynchon books, when necessary to elucidate points implicit in ATD, are fine.


- Theses built on comprehension of ATD's place in Pynchon's oeuvre are probably best peddled at the Pynchon Notes forum.

What I want to avoid is a prohibition of references to Pynchon's earlier work, which is, you must concede, at least a little relevant to the matter at hand. But I wholeheartedly take your point about making this forum independent on knowledge of the Canon. I think Rules 1, 3 and 5 come into play here, and trust the maturity of our audience to perform its self-moderating role.

Fair dinkum?

At Wednesday, December 06, 2006 6:00:00 PM, Blogger John de Conqueroo said...

"Single up all lines!"

At Thursday, December 07, 2006 8:42:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This looks fun. I've ordered the book and eagerly await its arrival. I've been waiting for an excuse to dive into Pynchon -- I have to admit I haven't read him yet. I've come close, but it just hasn't happened. Thanks for giving me a reason. This looks to be an adventure more thrilling than a balloon ride.

At Thursday, December 07, 2006 4:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, 1085 pages! Well, I got through Infinite Jest so I can get through this too, and, I hope, have a lot more fun along the way.

At Saturday, December 09, 2006 1:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

neddie, you are one sexy beast, smacking down them what needs smackin'.

If I can get to Monstro's copy (which he's getting for Christmas, in the world's least-surprising gift of the century), I'm in. If not, I'm lurkin'.

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