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, April 30, 2007

Additional Discussion, pp. 489-524

Stoker OIC Bodine (p. 517) and his relation to Pig Bodine should be elucidated, as well as some remarkable parallels in the work of Neal Stephenson.


At Friday, May 04, 2007 9:38:00 PM, Blogger Civic Center said...

I have a copy of Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" sitting unread by the similarly unread "Mason & Dixon," and I have a feeling the former may be next on the Serious Reading List after I finish this leisurely, yet intense, stroll through "Against The Day."

Upon seeing the name OIC Bodine, I was enchanted. Who could ever forget the name Pig Bodine, Benny Profane's Best Sailor Friend in Pynchon's outrageously precocious bit of genius, "V." I just pulled the book off the shelf (and though it's a long story, I even have a ridiculously valuable publisher's advance copy of the book) and started reading the first chapter where Pig makes his entrance at the Sailor's Grave Saloon. The prose was so enticing I had to put it away immediately, but before reading "Cryptonomicon" I think another whirl through "V" as an older, wiser fart might be in order.

I was a freakishly precocious brat as a teenager, and when a young Jewish intellectual couple who were friends of my parents gave me Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" for my 13th birthday, I not onlyended up enjoying the heck out of it but became an instantly fearless young reader. (Dostoyevsky is great for precocious adolescents, by the way, although I can't read him as an adult.)

Anyway, I hitchhiked from coastal California to Boston at age 15 and continued on down to Washington, D.C. where I stayed with an aunt married to an uncle who was pretty much the personification of the Military Industrial Complex, being a former Air Force pilot who was working for General Electric while having an office at the Pentagon figuring out "what the threat will be twenty years down the road, we're not even really concerned with what's going on in Vietnam," he told me. Deeply alienated and horrified by my relatives, I spent a 100-degree August day in the Mall area with a beautiful schizophrenic man in his 20s who had just walked the Appalachian Trail. He looked me in the eye and took my hand and led me through the Fountains of The Mall, wading illegally in each one as if we were in that John Cheever story, "The Swimmer."

This is all to preface the moment where I was dropped off by my hideous relatives at then-Dulles Airport to fly back to California, and I bought a copy of "V." at the airport bookshop simply because I liked the cover. The book was an education, which I savored slowly, and probably taught me more about the world I had been born into than any other contemporary novel. To get old with the same author writing an older, wiser version of "V." feels like a blessing. And to be reminded of Pig Bodine is priceless.


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