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

Against the Day

Pages 792-805.

With this chapter and the last, we see the Event from a number of perspectives. This chapter (number 56 for those who've been counting) is divided into eight sections (with a notable parallel between the opening and closing lines of this chapter: "through the day" and "against the day".)


We begin with the Chums, who appear for the first time since about page 556. Back then, to other characters, they were growing indistinct and nearly invisible. When we saw them briefly a few pages ago, they were little more than a shadowy presence.

Last night, they anchored above a hermetic city sealed off from the sky by seamless rooftops. Darby has the 4-8 watch, and Miles is making breakfast. Pugnax, like any other animal before a storm, is anticipating the Event: on the bridge, stock still, looking east. The sky changes, and it is only with the arrival of the sound shock that the Chums themselves know where to look for its source.

The city beneath them has been utterly transformed. It is now wide open, brimming with gardens and fountains and "cheerful commotion." The Event has "torn the veil separating their own space from that of the everyday world" (793:13-14). We would do well to recall that "apocalypse" means an unveiling. But what does it mean for us, for Shambhala, for the Chums, that the membrane between their meta-universe and ours has been rent?

Linsay sez it was the Trespassers. Maybe, sez Randolph, but: if it's true that the Chums had traditionally been sent on missions to oppose the Trespassers from entering the Chums' "time-regime" (see 415:27-29), and since the Chums were not, this time, "sent here," then this suggests that the Trespassers may not be responsible. The others aren't convinced by Randolph's argument (assuming I even understand his point) but just then, Vanderjuice calls from Tierra del Fuego, confirming what we've already been hearing about on page 784: Siberian and Fuegan stuff has swapped places. Sublime wackiness. (Does anyone else think it's curious that Vanderjuice just happens to be in antipodal opposition to the Event and the Chums? This is more than a little like that other time on page 109, when the Chums were sent to the antipode of Telsa's Colorado experiments.)

And, indeed, Tesla is another prime suspect. Vanderjuice suggests that the Event might be some sort of power burst sent from Tesla's Wardenclyffe station, up to Peary's base on Ellsmere Island. The geography works out, even if the chronology and blast patterns don't: a straight trajectory from Wardenclyffe over Ellsmere Island does in fact leave you within 170 miles of the Event itself, so it wouldn't take much of a miscalculation to land the energy blast at the Event's coordinates. But: (1) Peary won't arrive at Ellsmere until the summer of 1909 and (2) the butterfly patterns of downed trees suggest the blast came from the south not the north.


The Chums meet up with the Bol'shaia Igra over Semipalatinsk, which is a tad over a thousand miles southwest of the Event, for a confab. The Bol'shaia Igra crew have known about the Trespassers since Venice (circa page 243) -- earlier than the Chums, who first met them during their sojourn at Candlebrow (around page 415). So a better question might be, why hadn't Padhzi told the Chums sooner?

The Russian government thinks Japan (or at least China) was responsible. Padhzi asks about what the US govt thinks. The Chums don't know: they work for themselves now. "You -- balloonboys -- are large American corporation?" "...not quite yet." Did anyone else find this a little creepy? especially given Pynchon's longstanding suspicion of corporations?

I love the paean to wireless communication. As an erstwhile computer tech and IT guy m'self, that was a laugh-out-loud moment. And the Chums' concern for encryption parallels the exchange between Cyprian and Bevis will have below.

The section closes with a stunningly surreal series of visions, with the "axes of Creation" having been jolted. Notable is the gridwork of rail has appeared: not a heartening sign, given what the railroad stands for both in this book and in Pynchon's ouvre. The skyful of unmanned balloons is another, which is overthetop bizarre. Any/all thoughts (except spoilers) welcome.


I'll gloss this dense section, since I'm pressed for time, and say only: I find it ironic that the humans find the so-called "simultaneousness" of the Event's repercussions and aftershocks so remarkable, when Pugnax actually anticipated it. If a protagonist from another book comes to mind, I suggest you stop by the Additional Discussion next door (coming soon, but I'll predate it so this stays at the top all week 8/2 edit: it's up)...

4 thru 7

The next four sections are brief tranche de vie scenes: Dally in Venice, Cyprian in Trieste, Reef in Marienbad, Yashmeen in Vienna. In each of these passages, we see the Event break in upon them as they have been moving thru their lives. A strange menace runs thru each, reflecting the menacing sandstorm at the beginning of this chapter. Dally's "diagreeable gent" telling her "I'm coming for you." The deliciously named Bevis Moistleigh decyphering a message and uncovering only the Albanian word for "disaster." Reef nearly caught in flagrante delictu, balancing on a window ledge as the unreal light grows in the sky. Yashmeen entangling with her old school chum Noellyn, who may be "here at the behest of TWIT. Or someone even more determined" (803:38).


This last passage is so unbearably lovely. It could justify a week of exegesis all to itself. It captures vividly both anticipation and forgetfulness, terror and calm. How we can be swept up in the promise of revolution, but then fall imperceptibly, inexorably back into grooves of habit and mindless pleasures. And, of course, we encounter the sentence that arguably supplies the book with its title. In this context, the phrase implies that the day is an implacable adversary whose quotidian onslaught we must ever be steeled for.

Qs & Obs

It might be fruitful to remark upon which characters we don't see in this chapter. Frank, for instance, and Lew. Is there anything conspicuous in their absence? At first, I thought it's a European thing, but: Lew is still in London, isn't he?

After the scavenger hunt thru the last 800 pages for all the variations on, echoes of, approaches to "against the day," it is a little jarring to see it here at last, intact. And how does it affect the Monk quote, which after all speaks of night and light, rather than night and day.

That's all for the nonce.

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.)


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?)


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.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

for Richard Fariña

A college buddy of Thomas Pynchon's, to whom Pynchon dedicated Gravity's Rainbow, Richard Fariña, would have been 70 this year. He was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1966, two days after the publication of his only book, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, a late-Beat rucksack hero novel.

An early star of the 60s Greenwich Village folk music scene, here Fariña performs his best known song with his wife Mimi, Joan Baez' younger sister, and Pete Seeger, ca. 1965. Interestingly, Richard and Mimi's first album Celebrations For a Grey Day includes a song called, simply, V.

Pynchon's affectionate essay in remembrance of Fariña is here.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Deus ex Machina, I Presume

Against the Day pp. 779-791

View from Vanavara trading post, at the moment of the explosion.
Painting © William K. Hartmann.


A heavenwide blast of light (779) heralds the Tunguska Event of 30 Jun 1908. Current thinking interprets this massive explosion as an airburst at an altitude of 5-10 km of an asteroid or comet on the order of 500 m diameter and equivalent to a nuclear explosion of 10-20 megatons (1,000 Hiroshimas in the obligatory comparison). The most notable evidence of this stupendous event over a sparsely-populated Siberia was tree-flattening over an area of some 2,150 square km.

The Bol'shaia Igra under Capt. Padzhitnoff is snooping around the vicinity, pondering the Event and the lack of an impact crater or notable debris. The locals blame the Agdy, the God of Thunder. The Chinese are, of course, suspect ("remember who invented gunpowder" 780:18). Radiation levels and reports of stones raining from the sky (déjà vu) and general political intrigue and uncertainty moot the possibilities that the Event may be an extra-dimensional interaction, with effects felt at another time and place or a weapons test by the Bol'shaia Igra, possibly involving capacitative discharge.

In another part of Siberia (and it's a big place), Kit Traverse and Dwight Prance react to the Event with hyperattention and hysteria, respectively. Improbably, two black birds pop out of the aether. The natives are restless and start up the drums, perhaps as a homeopathic talisman against the Thunder God. Prance is shot at as a Japanese spy. Religious mania ensues, centering on the star Tchernobyl (Wormwood) out of the Book of Revelation. Reindeer acquire the power of flight and red noses (we get it, Tom). Biota of Tierra del Fuego at the antipode manifest themselves. Magyakan, the Shaman we encountered on p. 143 with the Vormance Expedition, goes missing. Kit worries about the quaternion weapon that he turned over to Umeki Tsurigame back in Ostend (784).

Ssagan, a white reindeer, gives them a lift to Tuva, on the Mongolian border, a strangely tranquil region which may, in fact, be Shambala. Prance thinks it has all the trappings - an island of tibetan Buddhism in a surround of Islam, Old Uyghur, the Wheel of Life, throat singing. And after the Event, It's unclear whether their mission from Lieutenant-Colonel Halfcourt still exists. They decide to part ways. Kit rides off over the steppe (787).

The Inconvenience appears overhead, being the third Deus ex Machina in this short section. Prance asks if they're good Deities or bad Deities (c.f. Wheel of Life). Randolph St. Cosmo says they eneavor to be kind, while Darby Suckling, by now a thoroughly jaded mascotte, is surly. they invite Prance aboard to discuss compassion over a Lafite '99.

Kit, on the road, falls in with a band of brodyagi, internal exiles devolved into banditry, and their axe-master Topor, whose main pursuits are distilled spirit and Amanita muscaria. They come upon a railroad a-building- the fabled, hidden "Tuva to Taklamakan". Kit wanders into an exploring camp and has a Dr. Livingstone moment encountering Fleetwood Vibe (!). They touch on the old man ("no longer of sound mind" 789:18) and brother 'Fax (pitching under an assumed name [this would be an anachronistic Sandy Koufax] in the Pacific Coast League. Fleetwood is not seeking Shambala ("I no longer have the right 790:9), but a cluster of secret cities, csecular counterparts to the Buddhist Hidden Lands, whose doors may have been opened to him by the Event. "Whatever goes on in there, whatever unspeakable compact with sin and death,, is what I am destined for -- the goal of this long pilgrimage, whose penance is my life." (790:31). Kit's reply is "You know, you're like every other so-called explorer out here, a remittance man with too much sense of privilege, no idea what to do with it" (790:35).

Kit and Fleetwood fall into an uneasy sleep, dreaming of murdering each other and amidst a great windstorm, Fleetwood recalls back to the Event and the evil precence unleashed by the Vormance Expedition. Would Kit bring his torment to an end? But he has left in the night.

Notes and Commentary:

The "heavenwide blast of light" strongly echoes "A screaming comes across the sky" from Gravity's Rainbow and to my mind marks one of the few times Pynchon steps out of character to become "authorly".

Alternative explanations of Tunguska have of course arisen, ranging from comets to black holes anti-matter to UFOs on a progressive scale of woo-woo. and notably our friend Dr. Nikola Tesla's "Death Ray" is also raised as a possibility.

The Tunguska Event may be related to or may be (in disconnected space-time) the "meteorite" pursued back around p. 130 by the Vormance Expedition.

Kit's speculation that the weirdness of the apperance of the black birds depends exquisitely on the position of a bettle on the other side of the world is the Brizilian butterfly of Chaos theory. They also echo the sperm whale and bowl of petunias manifesting in the backwash of the Infinite Improbability field in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

The throat singers of Tuva exhibit a form of vocal bilocation, amplifying fundamentals and overtones through the manipulation of the vocal apparatus. All trained singers do this, but the singers of Tuva control the overtones independently. Ths singing commences at about 4:15 into the audio at the link above.

Tuva and Taklamakan are about the last places a rational person would want to connect with a railroad.


H. Rumbold, Master Barber

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Gate Further East

In the still-luminous sky, the thing was immense. . .

picture source

(pp. 768-778)

One of the novel's briefest episodes, as well as with the fewest named characters, it begins with one of our author's direct addresses to the reader, which seems distilled from an ocean of personal experience.

On his journey to find the Doorsa's master, Kit has reached Lake Baikal, the largest body of fresh water in the world, limpid to its mile depth, so stunning to behold, so dangerous to navigate that it appears part of a supernatural order included provisionally in this lower, broken one (769:8) On seeing it Kit feels unworthy of his quest, wants to begin it again, though when he turns to say this to Hassan, the man the Doorsa sent to guide him that far, he realizes Hassan has disappeared.

The journey in fact began with Hassan guiding Kit and Dwight Prance to the Prophet's Gate, an enormous, perhaps constructed, arch of tremendous age, set in the center of a maze of canyons that only Hassan could have led them through. Passing through the Gate, both the actual and symbolic start of his journey, Kit has a brief vision of a city, bright yellow and orange which quickly vanishes.

The trip by camel across central Asia is beautifully rendered; of oases, wolves, herds of wild asses and tall stands of flowering hemp. By now the reader has also been on a long journey of his or her own into the novel, and may feel a striking sympathy, in wonder and endurance, with Kit's expanding spirit.

Sans Hassan, Kit and Prance reach Irkutsk, a mining town very alike in many ruckus details with those Kit knew in Colorado. They meet with one of Halfcourt's operatives, Swithin Poundstock, who supplies the lads with maybe 2,000 counterfeit gold English sovereigns, with the profile of a young Queen Victoria, to spread among the natives as they journey further north.

As they do, Kit witnesses Prance talking of Shambhala with the locals, in their own languages, as a means of impressing them with the sources of the western monarchs', Czar and Queen, power. After a while they begin to bicker. Prance, clearly, has a greater mission than graduate studies in religion, one allied with the faceless powers of the secular world. Exasperated by Kit's naivete, Prance gives him a crash course (pg. 777:12-40) in the history of worldly, especially American, power's war against the realm of the spirits.

We see that Prance, like Scarsdale Vibe, is a Christian soldier who has grown steadily less Christian and more soldier as he goes along, and Kit despairs that his vision of Lake Baikal was not enough to stop him from falling now into this bickering numbness of spirit.


From Neddie:
What is up with those rock fragments putatively being thrown off by the Gate? "...Shedding pieces of itself from so high up that by by the time they hit the ground they'd be invisible, followed by the whizzing sound of their descent, for they fall faster than the speed of sound.... At any moment a loose fragment might fall too fast for Kit to hear it before it slashed into him...."? Could Our Artificer be more blatantly alluding to a falling rock[et]?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cue The Band!!

As we iron out certain bugs, why don't you give a listen to Mr. T. Sphere Monk & Ensemble?

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Madmen in the Taklamakan (ATD pp. 748-767)

Sorry to've been out of the loop for several weeks, Chumps. Summer vacations and all, I guess. Anyway, it's good to be caught up, so lets begin with a brief glimpse back at p. 677:
     She handed over a sealed Sanatorium envelope, embossed with the usual grandiose coat of arms.
     "What's this? Thought you two only used telepathy." He slipped it into an inside coat-pocket.
     Her smile was thin, formal. "Telepathy, marvelous as it is, would not be -- you say, 'a patch'? -- a patch on the moment you actually put this into his hands."
You did recall that Yashmeen had given Kit a letter to be delivered to her father, right?  I thought so... Me too. So opens this section, in an "ambigous epistolary" mode (my invented term to reflect the reader's position, not knowing whether the text represents Auberon reading the letter, Kit reading it en route to the desert, a flash-back to the time at which Yash had written the letter, or simply the contents of the letter being secretly shown to the reader courtesy of the narrator).
In the letter, Yash describes her uncertainty regarding her safety within the Tetractys-worshipping organization, members of which have begun informing secular politics with matters of TWIT obsession -- namely Shambhala. She's disillusioned; she wants out... She outlines her philosophical disagreements with her father's associates, but then goes on to describe a dream, or was it a dream?  She describes these rather luminous ("lighted from within") visitors ("the Compassionate") that she wishes to join.
Oddly, she seems just as preoccupied with Shambhala as any other TWIT member, though for different reasons, for she imagines her father at the city -- whether in physical or spiritual form (as Rinpunga's father) is not clear to me. Finally, she admits an awareness of a "strange doubleness" in her life (her bilocated other possibly in Shambhala with her father).
Next we switch to Kit's journey... Bucharest, Constantza, Black Sea, Batumi, Baku, the Caspian Sea, into the desert at Merv ("traveling sand-dunes a hundred feet high, which might or might not possess consciousness" [752]). Kit checks in with Swome and, from a stranger, learns about Namaz Premulkoff, larger-than-life hero of the local people.
At Kashgar, Kit quickly learns that Yashmeen's father, Auberon, is not lost or in danger, as was thought -- as though someone has deceived Yash into believing this to lure her away from the safety of the TWIT. Rather, Auberon is enjoying quite the posh, if somewhat absurdist, lifestyle; as is his Russian counterpart, Colonel Yevgeny Prokladka. Halfcourt and his colleague Mushtaq engage in lively "routine weekly rows" while the Russians carry on various conversations about all of the strange vices under their control in the city. This includes a number of steam-driven virtual reality machines [755]. Also notable, I think, was the mention of an "evil balloon" during Halfcourt and Mushtaq's interaction [754]. Could that be a skyship a la the Inconvenience (or, perhaps more likely, Padzhitnoff's ship)?
Next we're introduced to the Doosra, a mad, drug-swilling prophet of the desert who hands out loaded revolvers and berates his most loyal disciples. Hey, he's not just the Doosra, he's The Doosra . (A ganj-toking guy who goes by The Doosra... anyone else think Big Lebowski?)
A tough act to follow, you say?  Of course not... Enter "Al Mar-Faud," complete with English hunting tweeds and a shotgun!!  "Gweetings, gentlemen, on this Glowious Twelfth!" [757]. Mar-Faud, a known "Uyghur troublemaker" delivers a message from The Doosra that the city must be surrendered. Prokladka shows up and Mar-Faud rides away.  Halfcourt and Prokladka share reflective a moment, marveling at "these profitless wastes."
Next, we learn (if I'm reading this section correctly) about Yashmeen's arrival, how Auberon "rescued" her from some terrible fate (presumably her being sold into slavery, prostitution, or something similarly foul). (Note, she writes "slavery" in her letter on p. 750.) But, his attachment to Yashmeen is also more than simply paternal -- an inner conflict that manifests itself by (figuratively, I assume, as opposed to bilocationally) splitting Auberon into "two creatures resident within the same life" [759].
I understand this to be the conflict between his being (1) her rescuer / father figure / protector, and (2) her lover. After all, "One did not, however much in widely-known fact some did, undergo such passionate attachment to a child" [760]. The Wiki suggests an allusion to Faust, which certainly makes sense. (Notably, a line of Halfcourt dialogue on 763 starts with, "A lucifer flared" (my emphasis) referring, I believe to one of his so-called "transnoctial cheroots" [759].)
But, is he really a devil?  I suppose one could offer a least a bit of defense of Auberon. First, though the term "child" is used a few times, it could be that the term is meant from his perspective, as relative to his own age (in the way that, say a 50-year-old might view a 20-year-old as a "child"). She's described, after all, as "already womanly" on 759 at the time of her "rescue." Second, there's no reference to any occurrence of impropriety. In fact, based on her letter, she still views him as her rescuer and father figure. I'll leave it at that for now; perhaps someone else has given this complex matter deeper thought and can better elucidate.
Also interesting here is that, as Halfcourt's enrapturement is described, we're given the imagery of Yashmeen's "naked limbs flickering against the green-shadowed tiles" [my emphasis, 760]. Contrast that with Prokladka and Volodya's fascination with jade. Volodya continually reminds Auberon that "out here the local word for jade is yashm" [761].
And then there's that passing mention of "the semi-mythical aeronaut Padzhitnoff" [761].
A short section then recounts the arrival of Lieutenant Dwight Prance, geography and languages expert from Cambridge. Completely disheveled and confused, he warns Halfcourt about strange trouble brewing to the east, a highly influential visitor from "between the worlds" destined to instill unprecedented fear in all of the parties involved in this whole "Eurasia Irredenta" movement, or possibly to corral and lead them against the interests of Whitehall.
We then fast forward to shortly after Kit's arrival. Kit has annoyed Auberon, though I'm unsure why -- other than (1) Kit's appearance and attitude aren't serious enough to please Auberon, and/or (2) Auberon has read Yash's letter, in which Yash describes Kit as a brother, stirring up a bit of jealousy within Auberon. So, Auberon offers Kit a "mission eastward to establish relations with the Tungus living east of the Yenisei" [763].
He's to be accompanied by Prance. Reviewing maps, Prance tels Kit they need to begin their journey by going through a great archway called the Tushuk Tash. "[U]nless we enter by way of it, we shall always be on the wrong journey" [764].
Kit then has a meeting with The Doosra, who invites Kit to head north to meet with his master. "He will satisfy all your questions about this world, and the Other" [765]. Sorry if your moderator is a bit feeble-minded at present, but I'm admittedly unsure if this northern journey to speak with The Doosra's "master" is the same as, or even related to, Kit & Prance's journey eastward to establish relations with the Tungus. Maybe the book is like the journey The Doosra describes -- it's "a kind of conscious Being, a living deity who does not wish to engage with the foolish or the weak, and hence will try to dissuade you" [765].
Bottom of p. 765: First direct evidence we have that Auberon has actually read Yash's letter. He's disgusted with himself, with the fact that he's aged and unpresentable. This causes him to leave town rather mysteriously. Weeks later, he shows up "respectably turned out ... except for the insane light in his eyes" [766] at a book dealer (named Tariq) in Bukhara. Halfcourt is seeking directions to Shambhala. Tariq describes the book Halfourt wants, written by Rimpung Ngawang Jigdag to a Yogi "who is a sort of fictional character, though at the same time real." It seems Tariq will be able to hook Auberon up with the volume he seeks (or perhaps a more usual German translation), but can offer little further assistance other than the advice that "[i]t helps to be a Buddhist" [767].
That's about it for this section, Chumps!
ps  Per our hosts' request, we'll forgo the usual "Other Discussion" post. Just post any related thoughts in the normal comments section.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Death and Venice

... but the Basilica San Marco was too insanely everything that trade, in its strenuous irrelevance to dream, could never admit.

picture source

(pp. 724-747)

Whatever doubt the reader may have had as to whether Kit had seen Foley Walker in Göttingen, way back on pg. 619, is cleared up (indeed he did) in the opening sentence here.

Foley is traveling with Vibe, while the plutocrat tours northern Italy on a Renaissance Art buying spree, a trip which includes a visit to the bottom of the Venice lagoon, with Vibe in a diving suit, to consider a sunken mural, The Sack of Rome, yet another one of the novel's apparently flat graphic representations of the world which can tremble without warning into three dimensions.

Up on the dive boat, Foley's hands, with a certain Strangelovian will of their own, threaten to plug his boss' air intake, while Kit and Reef watch, unaware, with a pair of binoculars from the shore. They are looking to gauge an opportunity to kill Vibe, but even so bicker over intent.

Meanwhile, Dally Rideout has settled comfortably into the Ca' Spongiatosta (In growing accustomed to life there, we learn a couple pages further on, Dally has witnessed the comings and goings of the princess' many and varied lovers, as well as the mysterious departures and arrivals of the prince, who has some kind of working relationship with Derrick Theign.) Dally's now doing some cooking and marketing for the household, in the course of which one day she runs into Kit and Reef who are, she twigs, up to something. Rebuffed when she asks the boys what that might be, she stalks off.

Later the same day, out strolling with Hunter Penhallow, Dally again runs into Reef, now in the company of Ruperta Chirpingdon-Groin, who herself apparently shares an intimate history with Penhallow (which by the next evening seems to have been resumed.) Dally meets the Traverses yet again that marketing day, and now hears of their intention to, somehow, bump off Vibe, which she's long suspected has been on Kit's mind. Once the deed is done, Kit says, his immediate destination will be Inner Asia (and see ya later, Miss Rideout.)

Cazzo, cazzo. . . she thinks.

The princess advises her to forget him. There is a ball the next night at the Palazzo Angulozor (Ass sore, perhaps?). The princess will lend her a gown, introduce her to some rich guys.

By the next noon, Ruperta departs for Marienbad, Reef replaced with Penhallow. Dally and the Traverses go over firearms and tactics for killing Vibe. She advises gut shooting him, then takes the brothers to meet the local anarchist cell of Tancredi and his pals, Mascaregna and Pugliese, who already have Vibe in their sights, looking to call him to account for his many deep sins.

Turns out that Vibe is expected at the Angulozor bash, and that next afternoon the three Americans drink grappa and plot, as an ill wind blows outside.

That night as Vibe appears under the electric lights at the party's canal landing, he is rapidly approached by an apparently empty-handed Tancredi, who, because he refuses a command to stop, is immediately shot down by a cadre of hired gunmen, to the immense delight of Vibe who, after telling his guards to deface the corpse, sees Kit in the crowd watching him, and smirks.

Later on Vibe encounters Foley dancing wildly with three local girls, grateful, Foley says, that Vibe was spared - though, we are led to see, for what might indeed be a more personal future reckoning.

In preparing to blow town in separate directions, Reef and Kit argue as only brothers can, and part ways with no small ill will, born of jealousy and class.

The section finishes as Dally sees Kit off on the night steamer to Trieste, another poignant embarkation for parts unknown in a novel chock full of them.

Some things to consider:

Venice is yet another of our author's V locations, that is, a place where his characters seem to tumble one on top of another, as if directed down a funnel to the same point. Though supposed to have been built on trade (732:13), the city has an extravagant mystery and illogic, glimpsed already at several junctures in the book, at odds with the new machines of 20th century capital.

It is an element of this strange power, perhaps, with which Tancredi seeks to confront Vibe, an infernal machine which Tancredi alone could sense (742:28). We may parse the meanings in that very dense paragraph on pg. 742, though in so many words, I think, Tancredi's invisible weapon is a sort of holy anger which, fatally, blinds him to the reach of the victorious Vibe's worldly power.

And what to make of that old veteran of a war that nobody knew about (576:38), Hunter Penhollow? We learn, maybe, that he had disappeared from England years before during a cricket match, along with the rest of his team (his batting total was 87 and he was still at the crease when play was called for lack of light), and he decamps once again without a word. Demmed elusive cove, if you ask me.

Before departing, though, he warns Dally, and all within earshot, of mistaking confusion for depth. Like a canvas that gives the illusion of an extra dimension, yet each layer taken by itself is almost transparently shallow. (731:19-21)

Noted, thanks.