"Hand Me That Jar of Cosmoline!"
Venedig in Wien (Source)
We're still with Cyprian in this section. As the chapter opens, we are given a fairly blatant hint from Mister P. that it might be of some benefit to throw on the family Victrola the music that's going on "either inside or outside of [Cyprian's] head," the Adagio movement from Mozart's Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 488.
So let's give that a shot, shall we? (Pops a new window. Fazil Say, Howard Griffiths and the Zürcher Kammerorchester, November 2006.)
In your reporter's view, Pynchon, while of course an astonishingly deep writer on a mindbendingly large volume of topics, is at his most insightful and masterful on the topic of music. I think of what I call the "Rock and Roll Chapter" of Mason & Dixon, which depends for its fullest effect on the reader's knowledge of Platonic philosophy, eighteenth-century polyphony and the evolution of musical keys, the origin of the American National Anthem in a drinking-song, and the history of the Blues. It is, trust me, a stunner.
Cyprian isn't actually listening to the music, which, says Our Tom, "might have been prophetic"; the convoluted sentence that follows is a corker, punning on "romance/Romance," (that is, the emotion and the artistic style, in the time of this scene a dying genre) and hinting very darkly at "a hateful future nearly at hand and inescapable." Read that into the little tune you're listening to now....
Cyprian's in Vienna, Mozart's home when he composed this Concerto, being debriefed (ouch!) at the Hotel Klomser. I confess I'm a little unclear on whether Colonel Khäutsch -- Franz Ferdinand's minder in Chicago and recently reunited with Lew Basnight -- is the same person as the Colonel who debriefed Cyprian in a rather different sense in the last chapter. Accompanying illustrations really should be compulsory, don't you think?
The coffee's very good, it seems, as one would expect from Vienna, as are the pastries Cyprian's glomming during his interviews. It's always a pleasure to pick up a new word; apparently a "little-go" is a British university word for a minor mid-term exam.
We learn that Derrick Theign (interesting spelling for that first name) has extensive contacts in Vienna; we meet three of them: Miskolci, "not exactly a vampire" but certainly given to the occasional nip in the neck; Dvindler, whose cure for constipation had me squirming a bit in my seat; and Yzhitza, a specialist in erotic "Honigfalle [what we'd call 'honey-trap'] work" who's good enough at her work that even the "ambivalent" Theign gets a rod-on.
Cyprian, who's put on a pound or two from all the pastry, is given to evening jaunts to "his old sanctuary of desire," the Prater, a large public park in Vienna. The events that lead Cyprian into this nostalgia must have taken place offstage -- or at least at some point in the book where I wasn't paying the strictest attention, because they're a mystery to me. Clearly, now, he's cruising the park for boys, but his recent weight-gain earns him only rejection as a Fettarsch (fat-ass). He now chooses other haunts in the city, and in so doing keeps "blundering into huge Socialist demonstrations" ("talk about the slow return of the repressed!" is a nice Marxo-Freudian pun) where he occasionally gets his head busted by the pigs.
On one of these jaunts, he hears from an open window a piano student, "forever to remain invisible" (why???) playing a common piano exercise by Carl Czerny. (iTunes strikes out on Op. 299, but search on Czerny with it and you'll quickly get the idea: early nineteenth-century didactic -- formal, stiff and very Classical.) As the notes play out their "passionate emergence among the mechanical fingerwork," who should pop around the corner but ol' Yashmeen Halfcourt. The music's the cause of their meeting; "if he had not stopped for the music, he would have been around another corner by the time she reached the spot where he was standing."
Yashmeen's working at a milliner's, a job she thinks has been arranged for her by T.W.I.T.; one of Snazzbury's Silent Frocks showed up on the rack one day. She's aware of being followed around Vienna by someone "local. But some Russians as well." Cyprian reassures her that he can help her deal with the spies if she's willing to wait a few days.
They approach a simulacrum of Venice called Venedig in Wien. Yashmeen's hurting; she's doubtful about her future, and Cyprian's genuinely desperate to help. He calls on Ratty McHugh, the old school chum, who meets Cyprian and Yashmeen at the Dobner, a high-class cathouse, and repair to a safe-house of Ratty's. He plies her with questions about who's following her, and as she speaks, the depth of her predicament becomes desperately clear. Not only is she being dogged by Russians of unclear provenance, but a "Hungarian element" has entered the picture while she was offstage, "peculiar people in smocks... This sort of anti-fraud uniform everyone has to wear when they're doing research into...the 'parapsychical.'"
Ratty speculates that somebody among the T.W.I.T. contingent may have had a psychic foreshadowing of upcoming unpleasantness, because it seems they've all skipped town, leaving Yashmeen vulnerable. She thinks they had something going on behind her back, something malign, because "Whatever they had expected of me in Buda-Pesth, I had failed them."
A brief diversion to Buda-Pesth, (the mention of Váci út gives it away) where the T.W.I.T. contingent is bickering; Swome, bitched at by the Cohen, offers to stick the telephone earpiece up his ass. This scenelet turns out to have been related to Ratty by Yashmeen -- a neat little authorial trick.
Yasmeen brightens after her chat with Ratty. "Lovely to see you back to your old self," compliments Cyps. "And who would that be?" shoots back Yash. (Zing!) They go out walking on the Spittelberggasse, where prostitutes (a lot of them in this chapter, no?) display their wares in shop windows. One of them is a dominatrix, and at the sight of her, Cyprian gets himself a stiffie (lot of them in this chapter, too!) Noting this, Yash takes him into a café to discuss Cyps's "frightfully irregular" sex life. Cyps describes himself as a "catamite," a kept boy, whose "pleasure has never really mattered. Least of all to me."
Yash, ever-helpful, places her "closely laced wine-cordovan boot" (grrrrowl!) against Cyps's willie and does the kind deed under the "virginal tablecloth." Cyps goes Number Three in his pants. He is now A Man! Perhaps even, mirabile dictu, a Straight Man!
Cut to Venice. Derrick Theign is not at all pleased that Cyprian now has a "sweetheart." While his displeasure appears to arise for professional reasons, there is throughout his tirade (a pretty funny one, btw) a strong hint of sexual jealousy -- not of Yashmeen, but of Cyprian. The coin finally drops for Cyps: "Derrick. You want me to assault you... If this isn't as manly as it gets."
The closely laced wine-cordovan boot, it seems, is now on the other foot.
In my own small way I'm just as fucked-up as Cyprian Latewood. (Oh! I just got that name!) So how come no Yashmeen Halfcourt's ever given me a spontaneous foot-job under a Viennese café table? Discuss. At length.