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, January 15, 2007

Additional Discussion of Pp. 81-118

Chumps: Here's where we discuss the above section (pp. 81-118) as it may relate to other Pynchon novels. Flights of fancy, speculation, the Interconnectedness of All Things...


At Monday, January 15, 2007 2:09:00 PM, Blogger Neddie said...

More a Flight of Fancy than anything tangible about Other Pynchon Works, but here goes...

Any other Deadwood fans here? I can not read this section of the book without seeing Scarsdale Vibe as George Hearst, Foley Walker as Hearst's Pinkerton sidekick (who gets the tar whaled out of him by Dan in that memorable street fight), Rev. Moss Gatlin as that preacher from Season One...

Furthermore, the two works explore the same themes, of civilization as a necessary dwindling of choices, and capitalism as destruction of freedom.

Damn, I miss that show.

At Monday, January 15, 2007 8:33:00 PM, Blogger Civic Center said...

"Greed" and the Norris novel it was taken from ("The Octopus") was probably the original template about capitalism run amok in the West. After that, the next original take on the same theme was Altman's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller." "Deadwood" is a riff on the same theme, and a very honorable one.

What's interesting about both the Gold Rush Dakotas "Deadwood" and the Mining Rape of Colorado from "Against The Day" is that I knew nothing about either history before seeing/reading them. Having Hearst in the former and Tesla in the latter just makes all the connect-the-dots that much more fascinating.

At Monday, January 15, 2007 8:36:00 PM, Blogger Civic Center said...

Oh, fug, the Norris novel was "McTeague" not "The Octopus." And the final scene in Death Valley in what remains of the von Stroheim silent movie "Greed" (printed onto celluloid) is the ultimate.

At Tuesday, January 16, 2007 5:41:00 AM, Blogger Will Divide said...

Norris' McTeague= Stroheim's Greed. I've not read The Octopus which I hear is very good, but McTeague is less an indictment of capitalism, than a portrait of personal dissatisfaction and conniving.

But you do get to watch as the 19th century social novel stops, when McTeague flees Oakland, and the 20th century existential novel begins, with the very strange episode in Death Valley. A kind of W.D. Howells meets J. M. Cain kind of trip. . .

And, yea, Neddo. There's that cute bit at the Palmer House meeting at 32:29, Walker is whittling and Ray Ipso has said a bit too much to Vibe about wealth insulating him from the cares of the day.

Walker pauses, knife in hand, as if in suddenly piqued interest.
"Now Ray," admonished the Professor, "we're here to discuss electromagnatism, not politics."

A similar scene comes at the end of Deadwood season two at a meeting between Tolliver and Hearst, when Hearst tells Cy to stop waving his hands in a menacing way. (I paraphrase) "I know you mean me no harm, but Capt. Murphy [Hearst's bodyguard] may not be so clear about your intentions."

At Tuesday, January 16, 2007 4:30:00 PM, Blogger Axiomatic.Apricot said...

I want to call attention to a couple lines at the bottom of p. 117, those that deal with The Chums of Chance in the Bowels of the Earth and its critic from Tunbridge Wells.

I think this constitutes an astonishingly inside joke and also an important signpost for seeing how Pynchon is construct a meta-structure for his seperate novels.

On April 18, 2000, in what was an otherwise positive Amazon review of Gravity's Rainbow, Peter Marcus of London, England observes that Pynchon commits "a grating slip" when he uses the term downtown to refer to a town in England, the term being patently an Americanism. This obscure allusion seems to suggest that we may understand The Chums of Chance in the Bowels of the Earth as being a stand-in for Gravity's Rainbow, which Pynchon might very well describe as "my harmless little intraterrestrial scherzo."

Understood this way, the War occurring in the Telluric interior is in fact WWII, or more likely the real War of GR that Mister Information describes (p. 645, Penguin Ed.), and the Chums are currently in the darkness that precedes the explosion that precedes the disintegration that terminates GR, as per Miles's speech on p. 112.

At Tuesday, January 16, 2007 10:00:00 PM, Blogger E.Wurzel said...

Ha Ha.

"expressing displeasure, often quite intense".

I believe the Tunbridge Wells reference is to that Kent town's place in the British imagination as a kind of English version of ...Peoria?

From wikipedia;

Tunbridge Wells is traditionally associated with the prim middle classes, especially in the locution "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells". (The editor of the former Tunbridge Wells Advertiser, allegedly told his staff to concoct letters to fill the letters page. One letter was signed 'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells', Icons of England). This phrase has remained in circulation because of its perceived aptness in describing the inhabitants of the town.

Disgust can certainly be quite intense displeasure.

On the "downtown" question, Working -class Bristolians of all ages refer to the mercantile centre of the city as "downtown", and I don't
think it's an americanism, despite my hometown's associations with North America.

At Wednesday, January 17, 2007 7:34:00 PM, Blogger Civic Center said...

Ezra's extremely erudite comment about Finnish stamps in the post above reads like it's straight out of "The Crying of Lot 49."

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