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, March 12, 2007

"We Shall Pretend to Know Nothing" pp 318-335

This week's reading, pp 318-335, returns to Kit, who is still at Yale, which has been losing its charm. Like all too many serious students, he has been discovering how little college has to do with learning. As Tesla's friend Mark Twain is reported to have said, "I never let my schooling interfere with my education." He mutters to himself, at the beginning and end of each day, "Tengo que get el fuck out of aquí" (318:15), or "I gotta get me the fuck outta here." He repeats it like a prayer (318:17).

With the attrition or death of several guiding lights of the math department, Kit's disillusionment comes to a head; he begins to realize Yale is little more than a "factory for turning out Yale Men, gentlemen but no scholars except inadvertantly" (318:31). Since "Gibbs had died in the spring" (318:28), this episode therefore begins during the fall semester of 1903. Kit feels like an outsider here, knowing that he "will never look like this fellow, talk like that, be wanted in that way" (319:7-8). He may be right to some extent, but he's clearly "wanted" in some way, because even though men in "expensive town suits" don't chat him up, Vibe sentinels, "eyes in leafy ambuscade," are watching him constantly.

Once again, we have a duality: Kit knows that as long as Vibe is paying the bills, he is expected to stay engaged in "applied" mathematics, but he is also aware that there is "no role for his destiny as a Vectorist within any set of Vibe goals he could imagine" (319:31).

It is ironic that an outsider like Kit is in turn perceived by Vibe as being the insider, an acolyte to an unearthly discipline, while he, Vibe, is "left behind in this soiled Creation" (319:40).


Just like Reef and Frank before him, now Kit has a conversation with his father -- though unlike the others, he does not yet know that Webb is dead. He dreams that they are in a city that, in the spirit of bilocations, both is and is not Denver. Webb berates him for his damn foolish interest in Æther, and says "nobody has to know" whether Æther exists. Kit retorts that he does, and says, "I always believed children came from heaven" (320:17). This incomplete reply, with the ungraspable logic of dreams, sounds as if Kit is about to equate the Æther with Heaven.

He wakes to find that Professor Vanderjuice wants to meet with him. He has a letter from Lake, which informs him of Webb's murder. The letter has already been opened. He and Vanderjuice skate around any explicit acknowledgement of their being prisoners here. Kit feels "the presence of a small, wounded girl" (321:36) who is trying to cry (which may be Kit's Anima). He wanders through New Haven, and finally finds himself out on West Rock, and lets himself cry. And here is yet another reference to alternate universes; this time it is vector analysis (322:2).


Across Long Island Sound from New Haven, as the spring of 1904 "two-steps" toward summer, a tower can faintly be seen increasing in height day by day. It is Wardenclyffe Tower, which Tesla is planning to use for wireless telecommunications and power transfer.

"A trusswork tower, apparently eight-sided" (322:25).

Kit and Vanderjuice get to talking about Tesla and his tower, and they discover their mutual, dual connections to both Tesla and Scarsdale Vibe. Page 323 is thick with allusions and echoes. Vibe, for example, is funding both sides of the energy research and is willing to use dynamite against any "threat to the existing power arrangements" (323:6) just as Webb used dynamite against the existing power arrangements; Vanderjuice was working on an anti-transmitter, another duality... And the passage at 323:27-31 is as succinct a summation of Pynchon's classic "They" as any I've seen. Then there's that glimmering winged object (323:39) out in Vanderjuice's peripheral vision, which may or may not be his soul, "whose exact whereabouts since 1893 had been in some doubt" (324:1-2).

(Also, I must mention in passing that I find it highly significant (or at least really funny) that Vanderjuice -- another character whose initial is "V" -- has an addiction to pizza, a wedge- or V-shaped food.)

Then things get denser and denser on page 324, when Vanderjuice advises Kit to go to Göttingen, Germany, where some really advanced math shit is going down. He wants Kit to become "something else" (324:12) besides, or aside from, a physics student. There is something about this that reminds me of Lew's Eastward journey. Something symbolic about travelling East over the ocean. And Lew and Kit will not be the only ones who face transformations when travelling east...

Also significant, but I can't say why exactly, is the description of Vanderjuice's conscience "showing signs of feeling, as if recovering from frostbite" (324:3-4). That one word, "frostbite," evokes for me the Polar adventures earlier in the book: the Vormance expedition; the Chums; Hunter Penhallow...

This dense and allusive exchange breaks against another musical number: Vanderjuice, accompanying himself on a ukelele, "produced as from empty space" (324:23), performs "That Göttingen Rag" (which will no doubt remind many of us of another mathematically-minded Tom's song, The Vatican Rag).

Kit's friend at Yale, 'Fax Vibe, is also interested in Tesla's tower, and he suggests the two of them boat across the Sound to investigate. They capsize, and warm up in the transmitter shack, with Tesla himself making them coffee.

Throughout this exchange on pp 326-7, are many compelling things. Just a few: We have a few more in a long and illustrious line of references to vision, invisibility and the Invisible, going all the way back to that day in 1893 when the Chums arrived at the Chicago Fair, when (1) Miles tripped over a picnic basket whose "familiarity rendered it temporarily invisible" (4:30-31), and (2) they were travelling so fast as to be functionally invisible (8:30); Tesla recounts to Kit his initial vision that led him to begin his researches in electricity and "wireless" power transmission. He speaks of his "Magnifying Transmitter" as existing already, "as if time had been removed from all equations" (327:18); he speaks too of how he is expected to be "consciously scientific," rather than subconsciously, or unconsciously, in stark contrast to Edison's "perspiration" that can be translated so easily into those comfortably tangible "billable hours" that clients desire...


After spending the night, Kit and 'Fax depart. The conversation they have on their way back is particularly interesting. There seems to be genuine affection and respect on both sides; the duality of the Vibe and Traverse families been remarked upon already, and the existenec of this friendship only strengthens it. It occurs to me that there's a curious parallel between Scarsdale Vibe and Webb Traverse, in that they both look upon an outsider with greater paternal affection than upon their own children. With Vibe, it's Kit, and with Webb, of course, it's Deuce. And in both instances there's something about it that's ill-advised at best. And you could wonder, too, if 'Fax's motivation to befriend Kit is anything like Lake's motivation to marry Deuce?...

Anyway, despite his being yet another agent of Scarsdale's vast network, I found myself taking 'Fax entirely at his word when he gives Kit advice about escaping; after all, he has his own very good reasons to get rid of a rival for his father's affection. The advice he gives (at 329:15-21) struck me as being the best possible plan: both he and Kit benefits, it plays to Scarsdale's weakness for votive motivations, and nobody has to get killed.


So Kit goes to see the Twin Vibes, and the meeting goes well, or as well as could be expected. Another allusive passage comes at 330:33-37. "Avalanches" reminds me of Lake's fantasy of dropping dynamite on Webb, and of the explosive that actually fell on Lew; "blue northers" evokes Lake once again; "desperate men" could mean anyone back there in the San Juans, not least Webb himself; and "unexpectedly going loco" reminds me of Tesla's story a few pages back of his mountain vision... What did y'all make of Foley snorting, as if waking, at the end of what kit says there at 330:37?

Oh, and look at 331:9 -- how Scarsdale had paid "for the elimination of many forms of inconvenience." I wish we had a concordance for Against the Day because that word jumped out at me, and I'd love to see where else it's used other than as the name of the Chums' airship...

Vibe says to Kit, significantly, "Become the next Edison" (331:28) rather than, of course, become the next Tesla. This is another odd little parallel with Webb, who in the dream had also spoken in a derogatory way about Kit being "a little damn Tesla"...

The Twin Vibes discuss Kit afterwards, and the contrasts between the two of them are once again sharpened. Foley is firm of resolve, with "cast iron" nerves. Vibe, on the other hand, is wracked with apocalyptic doubts; he is burdened and torn by his Christian duties, to love "every damned socialist" despite his belief that they are the Antichrist, "and that our only salvation is to deal with them as we ought" (332:30). It is disquieting, to say the least, to hear how one of Them speaks of Their own "Them" (that is, Us) -- "they assassinate our great men and bomb our cities" (333:9).

Some other random observations: "What we need to do is start killing them in significant numbers, for nothing else has worked" (333:22). Hm. What year is it again? There are some fields in Flanders that might work well to that end. "Smite early and often" (333:27) -- a little Chicago shoutout, perhaps?


You will notice I've glossed over the mathematics and mathematicians in this section, because I simply do not feel qualified to address any of it. I will say this much, though. The Wikipedia article on Quaternions mentions at one point that "quaternion operations have extended applications in electrodynamics, general relativity, and 3D video game programming," which seems like a typically Pynchonian collection. And given that Quaternions are useful in calculations involving three-dimensional rotations, we may have some new insight into Deuce and Sloat four-cornering Lake back on page 269... The "fundamental formula for quaternion multiplicative identities" is:

which makes no sense to me, but sets up a kute pun in next week's reading. Any math nuts out there care to try their hand at explaining all this for the rest of us, and how it all connects?

Another undercurrent in this section, continuing and deepening from elsewhere in the book, is that of transcendent worlds, imaginary worlds, alternate universes, devotional activities meant to replace traditional religion, and so on. And the discoveries and observations being made during these early years of the twentieth century about the universe are thickening, tightening, twisting: space and time function more like a fabric or a continuum than like a grid or geometric projection. Time is fluid, or unnecessary, or nonexistent...


At Monday, March 12, 2007 7:48:00 PM, Blogger H. Rumbold, Master Barber said...

"as the spring of 1904 "two-steps" toward summer, a tower..." Jigsaw, you had me going there. Thanks for noting that the death of Gibb pegs the time as late spring 1904. Which just happens to be the setting of another novel that opens with a seaside tower, June 16, 1904. Ulysses. Intentional? Serendipity? I dunno. But mark at 326:8 "storm-blown to some island as yet uncharted" and you have the other Ulysses.

Some cursory Googlage suggests that apizza in 1904 may be anachronistic by about 20 years, but I like the V-shape idea.

That the Wardenclyffe Tower Radio Shack was designed by Stanford White invites a little excursion, for those who don't know it, into the story of the scandalous demise of the architect and "The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing." Very evocative of those times and this book.

H. Rumbold, Master Barber

At Monday, March 12, 2007 11:51:00 PM, Blogger Joseph said...

Really good summary once again. It is so helpful to have read the whole, then to read a good chapter review, then to be able to read that section having a feeling for the parts you want to focus on.

What follows begins by looking back to Kit's original decision to take Foley Walker' s offer. I wrote it for the p-list but I see an interesting lead in to the first theme of learning vs. attending Yale. I get the sense that this section is in fact intended as a broader reflection on the mythology which attaches itself to a college educationvs, the realities that really drive the education system.Any way , here goes.

One way in which Foley Walker is more Vibe than Vibe himself is that he seems to be the slightly off-center personification of the Horatio Alger stories in which the eager young man serves his boss diligently and gains his attention through a brave act to be promoted to wealth and success. This story of bootstrap miracles was the mythic "justification" for the "success" of the super rich, and a capitalist interpretation of Calvinist theology of lost vs. found.

Foley knows it is his insights that have skyrocketed Vibe to his current wealth and power, but that it is Vibes capital that made the execise of Foley's gifts possible. Now Foley is offering the same kind of deal to Kit. There is an additional element of interest. Alger was a pederast and gay andwe later find out Foley has similar inclinations. Right now I am reading the whole thing as a critique of Patriarchal power structures and the difficulty of escaping this pattern of desire seduction and abuse between one generation and the next.

There is also a larger pattern of the attempt to recruit and direct scientific inquiry, the colonization of talent by commerce through scholarship programs, in which the payback is allegiance to the colonial game plan.

Of course "human" capital is not so easy to control, and there are scholarships which have no self interest. Still, valid questions are raised, especially considering the political manipulation of scientists doing global climate research, and the growing influence of commercial research in academia.

A liberal arts education is supposed to be liberating, but how so if one graduates with a large debt load?

I feel like Kit is Pynchon's way of taking the questions posed by the life of Nicola Tesla and giving them a more human scale. Showing how fragile the curiousity, intelligence, inner sight of such a soul are. How many forces want to claim and dominate these qualities. Qualities which in Kit's mind seeem to connect the aether and children.
It seems as though the explosive forces of Tesla's electrical experments, and the confrontation of mine owners and " anarchic" resistors has released Traverses to the 4 directions with powerful momentum and now there is a kind of neccessary slowing reflection, reconnection, reexamination of the course taken. At the same time Vanderjuice's conscience thaws, Kit thaws and soon reconnects to the truth of his family, weeps, reconnects with Tesla and begins to find new options. Instead of westward ho it's further eastward ho.

At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 10:59:00 PM, Blogger Joseph said...

If Vibe is a certain kind of Prospero, Foley is both Ariel and Caliban.

At Tuesday, March 13, 2007 11:01:00 PM, Blogger Joseph said...

Gee willikers where's the chumps ak?

At Wednesday, March 14, 2007 7:19:00 AM, Blogger Will Divide said...

I can only ask again that commenters exercise no small restraint in the Spoiler Dept. Some of us are taking their own sweet time reading.

At Wednesday, March 14, 2007 4:28:00 PM, Blogger Civic Center said...

I'd like to echo brooktrout's comment that forging through "Against The Day" on one's own and then coming back and reviewing a small section every week with other people has been interesting on all kinds of levels. I'm probably going to end up remembering the book through the lens of this group, which is lovely.

This week’s segment seems to be all about "dharma," or what each character was put onto this planet to accomplish. Sorry in advance for the length of this post, but the drama intrigued me.

Tesla's monologue on page 327:5-25 about his teenage visions in his ancestral valley are close to historical fact, and it's a gift that he shares with Kit who was given his own youthful vision under a Colorado waterfall. They both know what they are supposed to uncover/produce/"invent" in this lifetime from a very early age. The rest is just “theatrical impersonation--the Inventor at Work," as Tesla jokes to Kit who he knows will understand. This is confirmed on page 327:29-30 when Kit says, "I have been around them [the Vibes] long enough, Dr. Tesla. They have no idea what any of us are about.” Their mutual admiration society continues on the top of page 328:5-6, where Tesla says “I wish I could offer you a job here, but---“ gesturing with his head at ‘Fax, who appeared to be asleep.”

It seems that Tesla has already been betrayed by Scarsdale Vibe, just as Kit has been betrayed by his roommate Colfax Vibe, who it turns out has been spying on Kit for his father’s interests since day one. I loved the line at 328:29-30, which is uttered after they realize both of them have good motives for murdering the other. “Well, one of us should be just a little meaner, ‘stead of us both being unhappy like this.”

The confrontation between Kit, Scarsdale Vibe, and Foley in the Financial District office avec gargoyles is great. On page 330:11-14, there’s one of the innumerable uses Pynchon puts the word “light” to, and it’s a heartening one. “Kit had expected he’d be quaking like the young aspen before the mountain winds, but some unaccustomed light, light under the aspect of distance, had crept round him instead, bringing if not immunity, at least clarity.” This “clarity” resolves itself in Kit as a very Sicilian form of revenge, best served cold, at 331: 17-21. “He might not even have to work too hard right now to conceal his thoughts, except for one pure and steady light he kept well within—the certainty that one day this would have to be put right—the moment his to choose, details such as how and where not as important as the equals sign going in the right place….”

I have a question about page 332:22-25, where Scarsdale says to Foley, “I wanted so to believe. Even knowing my own seed was cursed, I wanted the eugenics argument to be faulty somehow. At the same time I coveted the bloodline of my enemy.” Is Scarsdale being literal here about his line being “genetically cursed” and have we read anything about this before?

The dharmas of Scarsdale Vibe and Foley are described on page 334:12-17. “His [Foley’s] own voices, which had never pretended to be other than whose they were, reminded Foley of his mission, to restrain the alternate Foley, doing business as Scarsdale Vibe, from escaping into the freedom of bloodletting unrestrained, the dark promise revealed to Americans during the Civil War, obeying since then its own terrible inertia…” Bilocations, indeed.

As far as brooktrout’s remark: “Alger was a pederast and gay and we later find out Foley has similar inclinations,” I think you’ve misread the passage. It’s Scarsdale who is the twisted closet case enthralled with young men, not Foley. On page 334:25, after Foley asks Scarsdale why he’s bothering to single out “any of them” anarchists, Scarsdale responds. “This boy Christopher, for one thing. He’s different.” 334:26-32 starts out with “Foley was no innocent” and relates that he knows his way around “fairies” in Cooper Square, but Foley has the following insight about Scarsdale: “…and it would have figured only as one more item of city depravity, except for the longing. Which wasn’t just real, it was too real to ignore. Foley had at least got that far, learned not to disrespect another man’s longing.”

This just confirms an odd detail I remembered from Kit’s first meeting with Scarsdale at the Taft Hotel when the Harvard/Yale game is being played. Page 158:10-14 reads as follows: “The man [Scarsdale] had been looking at him strangely. Not a fatherly or even foster-fatherly expression. No, it was—Kit almost blushed at the thought—it was desire. He was desired, for reasons that went beyond what little he could make of this decadent East Coast swamp of lust in idleness to begin with.”

At Wednesday, March 14, 2007 11:01:00 PM, Blogger Joseph said...

sfmike asked
I have a question about page 332:22-25, where Scarsdale says to Foley, “I wanted so to believe. Even knowing my own seed was cursed, I wanted the eugenics argument to be faulty somehow. At the same time I coveted the bloodline of my enemy.” Is Scarsdale being literal here about his line being “genetically cursed” and have we read anything about this before?

Could be a reference to his interest in boys. His brother is a gay theatre writer, director, producer.

But I think the desire Vibe feels toward Kit is much more than sexual. It is the desire to posesss and ocupy Kit's openness, his curiosity, his longing for something true. Vibe has given Kit access to all the prestige and knowledge at Yale and Kit is uninterested, unseduced. In some ways I think Kit is like a glimmer of another part of the Bible Vibe tries to avoid , the pure in heart who see the unseeable, the poor who are rich in spirit.
Christ (opher) is the bloodline of his enemy, which he covets even while he attacks it with Darwinian aggression.

Foley sees Vibe with an inescapable clarity because he has tasted what it costs to pay for Vibes self righteous war and ends as Mike said wondering about his own dharma " is this what you were saved for ? this mean, nervous, scheming servitude to an enfeebled conscience?"

At Thursday, March 15, 2007 3:57:00 AM, Blogger kirkmc said...

sfmike: that would be more likely "karma", not "dharma"...

I don't have much to say about this section, other than it is transitional - ie, getting Kit on the road.

However, sfmike again:

"I have a question about page 332:22-25, where Scarsdale says to Foley, “I wanted so to believe. Even knowing my own seed was cursed, I wanted the eugenics argument to be faulty somehow. At the same time I coveted the bloodline of my enemy.” Is Scarsdale being literal here about his line being “genetically cursed” and have we read anything about this before?"

This seems to me to be a key element in the story, at least as Scarsdale is concerned, and, eventually, how the Traverse family is linked to him. I'm not sure he think there is any genetic curse, but rather that vague concept that one's family is cursed because there have been bounders and cads in the past. It's also interesting that he mentions his "enemy"; I think there will be some later revelation regarding a link between the two families. (No, I haven't read ahead, so if this is true it's not a spoiler, but simply speculation.)


At Thursday, March 15, 2007 7:07:00 AM, Blogger Will Divide said...

Vibe, we see, has nearly the same doubts about Yale that Kit has, calling it "[...] the formerly proud institution you now attend [....]" (320:6) Once upon a time, that is before the Civil War, higher education was meant to produce ministers and christian gentlemen.

Fortunes then were mainly in land or sea trade. The industrialization brought on by the Civil War and the piling up of capital in its wake, turned what had been essentially religious institutions into agencies of capitalist management. The Vibe headquarters has all the outer trappings of a cathedral, but the inner workings of a heartless commercial enterprise. (Note: the Vibe building elevator doesn't go all the way to the top, slang for crazy.)

Vibe, "[...] a man of religion despite all appearances [...]", (329:18) in fact has been divided in two by the war, each half looking to mitigate the worst aspects of the other. But vengence seems to have its own spiritual appeal.

"What happened to us, Foley? We used to be such splendid fellows." (332:14)

Foley's recurring nightmare on pg. 332 sounds a lot like the Cold Harbor battlefield, where a Union assault into and up a very narrow bowl was raked on three sides by dug-in Confederates, thousands died in minutes, a blizzard of killing on a scale never before seen, and a preview of WW1.

Foley, we learn, was at Cold Harbor (the only attack Grant ever regretted ordering) and wonders, as do we, how he could have been preserved there only to fall into this mean, nervous, scheming servitude of his other half.

At Friday, March 16, 2007 5:03:00 AM, Blogger Monstro D. Whale said...

Some, er... criticism.

I like Pynchon. I like him a lot. But is this book GOING ANY WHERE? I mean, how many characters do I have to pay attention to who aren't related to one another except that they met once? Why do I need 4 Traverse kids? Is this Lew Basnight's story? Merle Rideout's? The Traverse family story? The Vibe story? I am on page 350; I'm still meeting main characters and I have no faith that that is going to stop.

Okay, I'm fine with the novel being about all of these people as long as there's something, some event, some plot, some thing, to which it all adheres, and which ultimately justifies the need for a story of this complexity.

Now, I am not saying that this book isn't wildly amusing. It is. It's also amazingly interesting. But if the point here is that what we see isn't things, but rather light, well...that's a little too old hack for me. And it's certainly a story that could be told without having ten main characters.

I know we don't spoil on this blog or anything, but could someone seriously spoil it for me. Just some kind of reassurance that this is going somewhere.

Lastly, I'm playing a bit of devil's advocate here. Know that. I love Pynchon and like this book, but at the same time, I'd like to know whether or not this isn't just a 1000 page collection of Pynchon randomness with a few hints of American disaster thrown in.

At Friday, March 16, 2007 6:33:00 AM, Blogger Will Divide said...

Yeah, I've had this sinking feeling for a while myself.

Lacking a central character, the novel becomes by necessity episodic. What it is also missing is any trace of expository passages. That is, the narration tends to unwind in a constant present, even the trips back and forward from the narrative "now" are presented in the present tense, with no omnicient voice recaps or "filling in".

The sustained lack of centrality and exposition ('nother name for a World's Fair, btw) in the book are remarkable technical feats but remain, as such, challenges to the reader.

Robert Altman's film Nashville is another narration without a central character, full of odd characters, randomness and American disaster, and so presents an interesting parallel to ATD. Worth watching, or watching again, though I see no relation between it and the novel under discussion, besides their formless forms.

At Friday, March 16, 2007 7:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

was thinking the same thing.

i'm up in the low 400's now, and running a little low on patience. it's tough to keep this huge cast of characters straight, and yet he keeps introducing more and more of them. it feels like it's getting bogged down in set-up. but, i did just hit a section that feels like it might start to pull things together a bit, at least thematically. so maybe i can begin to hope that maybe there's a method to this vast madness.

At Friday, March 16, 2007 9:31:00 AM, Blogger kirkmc said...

Gotta admit, I've been having similar thoughts. Much of the negative criticism I read about the book when it was released mentioned the cast of thousands.

However, it does look like several of these characters are going to meet up soon...

At minimum, the writing leaves me breathless at times; there are some of those sentences that just say so much. Yes, there's perhaps an overdose of characters and ideas, but, so far, it's been a fun ride.


At Friday, March 16, 2007 2:05:00 PM, Blogger Robert Z. said...

Let me say a word or two about the concerns being voiced, to the effect, "where is this going?" As one who's finished the book, I can say that in my view, the best is very much yet to come. (What's that line from Gravity's Rainbow, a "progressive knotting into..."?) That's not to say that there aren't other stretches that kinda drag (but knowing this group, one man's drag is another man's hit, if you know what I mean).

One of the best things I've seen about the experience of reading ATD (and perhaps of reading Pynchon in general), is from this review. It's rather spoilerish, so if you're not part of the "Done or Nearly Done" Club, I don't recommend you actually read it. I'll just quote the relevant passage:

"There is no narrator quite like Pynchon. The other evening I was up late with this book and it hit me, there in the deep quiet after everyone had gone to bed, that he's really most like an all-night DJ, spinning his favorites, talking about them, riffing on this and that and not really caring too hard who's listening. But like the best of those DJs, sometimes what comes out is so beautiful that your heart just jumps right into your throat."

That said... Yes, it's going somewhere. Will everyone be satisfied with Pynchon's answer to the question "where is this going?" Will there be a "pay-off" or a "resolution" that'll make the effort of having read the previous 1085 pages worth it?

I honestly don't know. YMM seriously V. It was completely worth it for me. But it's a hell of a ride -- in the long, smooth straightaways; the rough bracken tangles; the tortuous switchbacks over black chasms. I am cautiously optimistic that the majority of Chumps will find the experience "rewarding," if for no other reason than we all went through this together.

That's all the spoiling you'll get out of me. After that -- name, rank, serial number as I roll the cyanide pellet over a molar...

At Friday, March 16, 2007 2:57:00 PM, Blogger Civic Center said...

Really, chumps, enough with the whining and single up all lines. It's the journey, not the destination, that counts with this book and much else in life.

At Sunday, March 18, 2007 7:20:00 AM, Blogger Monstro D. Whale said...

Decency's Jigsaw...thank you. That's really all I needed to hear.

SF Mike--right as usual, I will take the demerits for insubordination, but hey...a little devil's advocacy is good for the mind.

Here's my thought on the subject--I'm taking two things here. First off, cast of thousands and a lot of them are, what you would call, main characters and, second, they all manage to meet at the world's fair at the beginning of the book. Oh, and also, I haven't read the book past 400 so this is pretty much conjecture:

It seems to me important that people from alternate universes are all able to meet and greet each other like old friends. I mean, that's big. Not that the Chumps don't know that they keep landing in alternate versions of the world but that it isn't spectacular enough to be worth mentioning, as if meeting somebody from an Earth where Tesla's remote energy idea works has the same impact as meeting someone from the next town over. It suggests, I think, a commonility of human beings that goes beyond politics, science, etc.. Now, I know that Pynchon knows this, so I expect he'll play with the concept and attempt to break it, but I think there's evidence of this breakage even at the beginning of the novel. If there is a commonility between people, what better way to demonstrate it then with a thousand characters? But how hard to demonstrate such a commonality for a reader who wants no such thing, but would rather seperate the characters into main, supporting, and peripheral. What this means, I don't know, but I'm waiting.

At Monday, March 19, 2007 9:04:00 PM, Blogger Joseph said...

SF MIke asked:
Is Scarsdale being literal here about his line being “genetically cursed” and have we read anything about this before?

My response began:
Could be a reference to his interest in boys. His brother is a gay theatre writer, director, producer.

I just want to be clear that I harbor no sympathy for the notion that there is something cursed about non hetero sexual preferences, only that Vibe would probably think so, given his Calvinist philosophy.

At Monday, March 04, 2013 2:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sfmike,i agree 100%.
*Ithaka was the home island of ancient Ulysses
greetings to all chumps from greece!

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