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, July 30, 2007

Mindless Pleasures

(This week only! Special Deal! I thought I would, con permiso, reinstate the Addl Discussion post. Future moderators should feel under no obligation to follow suit. I just have a few small observations to make that would likely take the main comment stream too far afield... I meant to get this up at the beginning of the week, but -- alas, time being what it is -- that didn't quite work out. Better Nate than lever, I s'pose. Posted 10pm CDT 8/2/07. Pre-dated to keep the Main Weekly post on top.)

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Orgasm, hallucination, stupor, sleep is a fairly succinct catalogue of Pynchon's motifs. They are the mindless pleasures of the Preterite. They are the carrot and stick, the currency more potent than lucre, that They use to bend people to Their will...



The working title of Gravity's Rainbow was Mindless Pleasures, and there is something about the closing passage of this chapter that suggests to me (once again) that this current book, in some embryonic form, was already gestating alongside an incipient Mason & Dixon and Gravity's Rainbow, as hinted at in the Donatio letters. (So another point of speculation: which is the fourth novel referenced? Some version of Vineland? Some other monster work slouching toward Penguin to be born?)

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Also, I had never before thought of Slothrop's anticipatory hardon as resembling a dog's nervous anticipation of an electrical storm, but the similarities are striking (ouch, sorry). Has this been suggested before? I mean, I know there's that strong Pavlovian theme going on in GR, but that's about conditioning -- what about plain old "animal freaking out hours before the tornado hits" type stuff? What if Slothrop was just... born that way?

And if we recall Vineland's epitaph ("Every dog has his day, and a good dog just might have two days") along with the proliferation of dogs throughout his books (almost more important, or at least ubiquitous, than TRP's beloved pigs), we might have a curious reflection on the idea of anticipation, simultaneity, mindless pleasures, the life (and exploitation) of appetites, etc etc, which seems more and more to be a basso continuo of sorts within all his books...

Any other thoughts, reactions, intimations, discuss below/within.

5 Comments:

At Thursday, August 02, 2007 8:47:00 PM, Blogger Decency's Jigsaw said...

"Orgasm, hallucination, stupor, sleep is a fairly succinct catalogue of Pynchon's motifs"

No, "motifs" isn't quite the right word. What's the word I'm looking for?... "Element"? "concern"? "splunge"?

 
At Friday, August 03, 2007 4:19:00 AM, Blogger Monte Davis said...

"I have good reason to believe that a
jog-trot life, the same from day to day, would reconcile one to
anything. One don't see anything, one don't hear anything, one don't
know anything; that's the fact. We go on taking everything for granted, and so we go on, until whatever we do, good, bad, or
indifferent, we do from habit. Habit is all I shall have to report, when I am called upon to plead to my conscience, on my death-bed. 'Habit,' says I; 'I was deaf, dumb, blind, and paralytic, to a
million things, from habit.' 'Very business-like indeed, Mr. What's-your-name,' says Conscience, 'but it won't do here!'"

-Dombey and Son

 
At Friday, August 03, 2007 4:35:00 AM, Blogger Will Divide said...

As for a possibly "missing" novel, I'd expect something in the historical continuum between M&D and AtD - a Trail of Tears/Civil War opus perhaps.

 
At Saturday, August 11, 2007 11:23:00 AM, Blogger brooktrout said...

" 'Orgasm, hallucination, stupor, sleep' is a fairly succinct catalogue of Pynchon's motifs. They are the mindless pleasures of the Preterite. They are the carrot and stick, the currency more potent than lucre, that They use to bend people to Their will..."

My question is about the implied philosophical, spiritual implications of this view of how thing are arranged. One interp feels very "gnostic" in the sense that humans are manipulated by their ignorance and addictions which is taken advantage of by religious leaders and capitalists and warriors, but that simultaneous to this arrangement is another shambalah like world the real existence of which is a matter left to the reader .
The first world is a mindset which invites an omnipotent totalitarian divinity to answer the unanswerable questions and settle the disputes. Convenient but elusive, and an invitation to violent conflict.

To leave the first world of the demigod is to enter a journey which is itself a deity. There is no final end of the journey, paradise not down the line but as close as breath. No longer a matter of choosing the right door once and for all, but for this moment. The very things that can be invitations to stupor and hallucination can be the gardens of love.

The endless choices of the empire of Capital is as numbingly totalitarian and empty as any other demigod.

The weird dangerous fun in Pynchon is the coyote way. Coyote never learns, but we are supposed to learn.The movement toward equality, mutually liberating desire, and respect between men and women is the thin line that separates addiction and abuse from the enrichment of friendship and ecstasy. Satire and laughter is the natural language of the dispossessed, a way of speaking truth to power. If taken as the ultimate truth satire is as ugly a demigod as Dick Cheney's america or a catholic priest shoving his god up a child's butt.

Well I'm rambling badly, but I think what i am saying is that it is as misleading to think of the final sentences of the book as utterly cynical as it is to take them as a message of divine hope. P indulges every whim from revolutionary revenge, to instant stand up sex, to puritan moralism; but in the end he undermines both the gods of hope and hopelessness and leaves us in the crazy world of the possible, well entertained for our nickel, but prolly still a few nickels shy of enlightenment.

 
At Saturday, August 11, 2007 11:27:00 AM, Blogger brooktrout said...

" 'Orgasm, hallucination, stupor, sleep' is a fairly succinct catalogue of Pynchon's motifs. They are the mindless pleasures of the Preterite. They are the carrot and stick, the currency more potent than lucre, that They use to bend people to Their will..."

My question is about the implied philosophical, spiritual implications of this view of how thing are arranged. One interp feels very "gnostic" in the sense that humans are manipulated by their ignorance and addictions which is taken advantage of by religious leaders and capitalists and warriors, but that simultaneous to this arrangement is another shambalah like world the real existence of which is a matter left to the reader .
The first world is a mindset which invites an omnipotent totalitarian divinity to answer the unanswerable questions and settle the disputes. Convenient but elusive, and an invitation to violent conflict.

To leave the first world of the demigod is to enter a journey which is itself a deity. There is no final end of the journey, paradise not down the line but as close as breath. No longer a matter of choosing the right door once and for all, but for this moment. The very things that can be invitations to stupor and hallucination can be the gardens of love.

The endless choices of the empire of Capital is as numbingly totalitarian and empty as any other demigod.

The weird dangerous fun in Pynchon is the coyote way. Coyote never learns, but we are supposed to learn.The movement toward equality, mutually liberating desire, and respect between men and women is the thin line that separates addiction and abuse from the enrichment of friendship and ecstasy. Satire and laughter is the natural language of the dispossessed, a way of speaking truth to power. If taken as the ultimate truth satire is as ugly a demigod as Dick Cheney's america or a catholic priest shoving his god up a child's butt.

Well I'm rambling badly, but I think what i am saying is that it is as misleading to think of the final sentences of the book as utterly cynical as it is to take them as a message of divine hope. P indulges every whim from revolutionary revenge, to instant stand up sex, to puritan moralism; but in the end he undermines both the gods of hope and hopelessness and leaves us in the crazy world of the possible, well entertained for our nickel, but prolly still a few nickels shy of enlightenment.

 

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