Location, Location, Bilocation
ATD PAGES 460-488
Frank and Stray 460-471
From the first graceful sentence of this section Pynchon uses light to define the mood and direction of Frank’s journey.
“Frank came back...splashing up droplets out of the muddy river which transmuted briefly to sunlight he could no longer in his heart appreciate.”
This reminded me of Frank’s earlier fascination with silver transmuted to gold and with the mystical properties of spar. Now it is dreams in the night of Estrella (Star) Briggs which draw him back to the southwest Colorado town of Nochecita (night). Nochecita seems foreign and impenetrable “an unreadable map” which increases his sense of “lines crossable and forbidden” (his brother’s wife?),and estrangement. In his confusion he feels that “the day... seemed set to the side of what he thought was his real life”.
He stays in Stray’s former and now decaying house for 3 "nights”* having fleeting visions of her amplified by the changing light and wondering if she can sense him too, after which he can take no more.
As he leaves he runs into Stray’s friend Linnet, still a pretty schoolteacher; possibly also a hooker. She lets F. know she thinks Stray is quite the drama queen, that Reef has left her and the country, and that she s living in NM and doing a good job raising Jesse.
Next he is slugging a glass of whiskey looking down through a green crystal haze ( more weird light) on the town of Fickle Creek . He finds a room at the Hotel Noctambulo (sleepwalker) where folks are up all night in strange but friendly pursuits. The town is full of motorcyclists, and wired with a desperado energy that includes singing unionists, nihilists, the 4 Corners Gang? , and seemingly a mountain climbing werewolf named Werner. Toward morning Frank goes for flapjacks and finds out Stray was overhead with a motorcyclist named Vang Freely. Bit of a romantic let down after them dreams. They pass him without notice, F. staring at Vang's leather clad crotch, the crowd staring at the contented looking Straying Star as she swings up her skirts to mount the bike, and well, adios.
Jolted out of the land of shamanic spirit journeys, dreams and ghosts and into a fast changing reality. Frank blows the Fickle Creek all night pop stand, and is blowing time and money in Denver when he meets Moss Gatlin (probably modeled loosely after Johann Most)
driving a motorized mini-chapel with bells and steeple, a sign that reads ANARCHIST HEAVEN, and filled with some of the lost souls of Denver. Turns out the vehicle is “borrowed” and the owner wants it back, so they haggle out a bargain over the several souls which are Gatlin’s work. Funny stuff.
We think of Christianity as safely aligned with state power but Christians were once considered dangerous godless nonconformists by the Roman authorities. Seems like throughout ATD Pynchon is outlining a broad-based anarchist faith with different branches and methods, of which are hinted at throughout this chapter. We see a kind of mirror of the dominant capitalist protestantism in Moss Gatlin who preaches about Plute Hell, “subhuman” (Deuce, Sloat) enemies, saving souls, etc. In Frank the author continues a more complex undermining and reordering of what you might call ground truths or moral/spiritual orientation.* His empathy or compassion or searchingness seems to elicit a kind of emotional/ spiritual honesty from others. Frank's mother prays unashamedly for someone to avenge her husband's murder.
This is a dialogue that runs through Western Lit and Pynchon like a vein of silver, or to some, fool’s gold, and might be a good topic for additional discussion at the risk of digging up what seemed a nugget and: “Yup, that there is pure hunnerd percent pyrite”.
Changing modes of transportation and changing names of Towns are all worth paying attention to.
Taking the train for Cripple Creek, Gatlin and F. talk about Webb. Frank is troubled about Sloat but Gatlin says it was a service even to Fresno who “ wont’ get into Anarchist Heaven”.
(F) “Plute Hell?”
“Wouldn’t surprise me”.
In Cripple Creek Frank helps a young man, Julius, who may’ve been Groucho Marx (this was figured out on Pynchon-Wiki) and knows his mother.
Mayva is running an Ice Cream parlor and their time together deepens the emotional bond with honest feelings about prayers, pension money from the mine company, about Sloat, and finally, reluctantly, about Lake and Deuce, Mayva feeling betrayed by Lake. There is some pretty classic Mother /Son, Mother/Daughter stuff going on here. Frank has the inclination to sympathize with his Mother and Father and doesn’t know how to deal with Lake and we get the sense that this incapacity is deep enough so he is finished with any pursuit of Deuce.
The chapter ends with a tender memory of Mayva’s childhood desire to run away and work in a carnival, ending on this final note:
“Yes, and there I was with all o’ you, right in the carnival, and didn’t even know it.” And he hoped he’d always be able to recall the way she laughed then.
Lake and Deuce 472-488
Down from the mountains and eastward through towns “it was better to keep clear of”. Deuce Kindred and Lake travel warily through the exposed smallness and stark social divisions of the kind of prairie town Deuce thought he had left behind.
“it was the light kept reminding him, yellow darkening to red to bitter blackness of the whirlwind brought among the sunlit, wildflowered meadows,...”
They visit Deuce’s sister in his childhood home where we find him reluctant to talk about his mother who was a laudanum user. She died during a frozen winter and couldn’t be buried till spring and the ground thawed. (phewee!) Deuce can’t sleep in this house.
We begin to see Deuce’s vulnerability in his need for Lake to forgive him, and Lake’s in her need to elicit emotions from her bottled up husband. Despite this internal tenderness and desire to transcend the as yet unspoken truth, there is a sense of forboding as they seem to be moving not toward the open possibilities of a future but into the constricting troubles of the past. Either way they have to confront the stark truth of Webb’s role in their lives.
For all the sprawl of the novel Pynchon can be amazingly spare and the shift between each one’s thoughts and the dialogue is intense. There is a powerful scene which starts with Deuce questioning Lakes love for her Father, but turns to her telling him he didn’t have to kill Webb.
“ could ‘ve stood up .” “could’ve been a man instead of a crawling snake.’
This may mark an end to the possibility of emotional communication , though emotional connection and need continues. After this Deuce has an ominous sensation” like he had put his head into a very small room ....’Well maybe “ his voice echoes, ‘” I could go out and kill a whole lot of other folks ? and then I wouldn’t feel nearly as bad about just the one...”
Funny how a few words can just blow your legs out from under you.Definitely worthy of discussion.
Arriving in Wall o’ Death, Missouri, site of an abandoned carnival with the motorcyclists Wall of Death the last intact structure, Deuce is mistaken for an expected sheriff and takes the job. Their life is beginning to seem as normal as it might when they hear news of Sloat Fresno’s death. Here are the only tears we will see from Deuce.
He tells Lake about Sloat and suggests it might have been one of her brothers. She expresses sorrow and sympathy, but he wants to hurt her back.
“you just keep bein faithful to that Anarchist shithouse you grew up in”..he was out the door...
While Deuce is gone the other sheriff’s wife, Tace Boilster, comes over for a smoke and Lake tells her the whole story. Turns out Tace was sexually abused by her Father and brother and a sympathetic friendship starts.
Lake dreams about Mayva talking with animals and understanding them,then singing
”She was only a dynamiters daughter,but caps went off where’er she passed by.”
In the final memory of the dream Mayva says” Swear Lake, you’ve gone sour in your old age.”
Tace tries to talk Lake into leaving but Lake writes in her diary:
“I can never leave him....,I have to stay, it’s part of the deal.” Deuce returns soon is begging for forgiveness. She cannot forgive Deuce or her father, will neither leave nor reconcile. Their inability to have children seems evidence of the poison between them. It is hard to fathom what is holding them together . They break into a violent fight after Deuce taunts her with final memories of Webb’s disappointment in Lake. Tace and Eugene Boilster show up with a shotgun before one of them kills the other.
Tace suggests ”You could make a case ...that you’ve both been all along in some unholy cahoots, ...”
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION?
Pynchon seems to be outlining the tragic force by which abuse is passed on and internalized, becoming a pattern. Is it a deterministic picture or does the author indicate there are better choices possible?
Why Wall o' Death? Is it obvious reference to Richard Thompson Song?
What is he logic of Deuce’s internalized animosity to the anti authoritarians?
What's happening with Mayva fantasizing about being in a carnival and Lake settling in an abandoned carnival site? or Tice's fantasy about being an outlaw?
Is there a connection between Lindsay Noseworth's marriage fantasies and Frank and Lake's journeys? Does anybody really know what time it is, does anybody really care?
I put this together on kinda short notice but had a lot of fun browsing the Denver Public Library's photo collection. Wow.
Tried to keep the precis simple and focus on the action rather than the writing. The guy coulda written westerns. Which suggests another topic. Why IS he writing a western ? And the follow -up: Why are there no anarchists or unionizers in Louis L'Amour novels?
I know my fellow chumps will mostly ask and answer their own questions anyway, so I will commence to shut up.