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Even the denial of a true idea creates a space which vibrates with possibility.

James Hamilton-Paterson


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Monday, June 4th, 2012

(weather permitting)

Hm, well I live (as I mention now and again) in the northeastern U.S., where it looks like conditions are not going to be particularly good tomorrow evening for viewing the Transit of Venus. If you live somewhere where the sun is shining, be sure to check it out! Cornell's Fuentes Observatory invites you to come take a look, rain date December 11, 2117. More info at nasa's Eclipse website.

Below the fold, from hyperarts, an account of Mason & Dixon's time at the Cape of Good Hope, where they observed the Transit 250 years ago; taken from the Monthly Notes of the Astronomical Society of South Africa, November 1951. (Thanks for the link, Henry!)

posted evening of June 4th, 2012: Respond
➳ More posts about Thomas Pynchon

Friday, October 15th, 2010

The Gerry-Mander

The Wrap runs an article by Jeff Reichert on the Bad History That Gerrymandering Often Produces -- Reichert directed the new documentary Gerrymandering, in theaters now. He writes about "detouring into the odds and ends of history" -- "the meat of the film is everything that happens around" the main story, which concerns a redistricting fight in California. The film is strongly influenced by Mason & Dixon; a quote from the novel was hung on the studio wall during production, Captain Zhang's feng shui observation that

Nothing will produce Bad History more directly nor brutally, than drawing a Line, in particular a Right Line, the very Shape of Contempt, through the midst of a People,-- to create thus a Distinction betwixt 'em,-- 'tis the first stroke.-- All else will follow as if predestin'd, unto War and Devastation.

posted evening of October 15th, 2010: Respond
➳ More posts about The Movies

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Is this what I think it is? [No.]

Bearing in from either Limb of Sight,
A-thrum, like peevish Dumbledores in flight

Timothy Tox, The Pennsylvaniad

Could Pynchon have put a Harry Potter reference into Mason & Dixon? I don't even know if that's possible chronologically... Both books were published in 1997, so it seems unlikely, though I don't know the months...

Aha! The name is according to Wikpædia an early Modern English word for "Bumblebee".

Update: Looks like somebody else noticed this and asked the same question a while back... Mildly amusing synonym for "dumbledore" is "cockchafer".

posted evening of September 13th, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about Readings

Structure

Something I've gotten used to in reading novels, and that Pynchon really challenges, is a tendency to feel the connection between the scene I'm reading and the plot of the book at large, to read at least in part for the motive sense of of the book, to be borne along by the plot. Reading the Armand Allègre/Duck of Vaucanson sequence in the middle of Mason and Dixon I got thrown off momentarily by a spell of trying to figure out what was happening in the broader plot of the book before I got back on track... It is a hilarious and lovely story taken on its own (or with the rest of the book as background).

There is apparently a movie based loosely on Gravity's Rainbow that is screening now at the Las Vegas film festival -- from the trailer it seems cute but pretty amateurish, and yet I think I would go see it if it were in a theater. Even without much shape, the Pynchonian images are fun to watch, particularly seeing how they get modified passing through somebody else's imagination.

posted afternoon of September 13th, 2009: Respond

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

During a flashback to Mason's childhood, when he is apprenticing in his father's bakery:

"What happens to men sometimes," his Father wants to tell Charlie, "is that one day all at once they'll understand how much they love their children, as absolutely as a child gives away its own love, and the terrible terms that come with that,-- and it proves too much to bear, and they'll not want any of it, and back away in fear. And that's how these miserable situations arise,-- in particular between fathers and sons. The Father too afraid, the Child too innocent. Yet if he could but survive the first onrush of fear, and be bless'd with enough Time to think, he might find a way through..." Hoping Charlie might have look'd at him and ask'd, "Are you and I finding a way through?"
This passage really gets me -- the voice is just right, the sentiment is real. I'm kind of taken aback. This kind of unironic sentimentality is a bit uncommon in Pynchon's work -- not absent certainly but it is not what I expect to find.

posted evening of September 6th, 2009: Respond

Annotations and Flow

...And maybe the best thing yet about Inherent Vice: it appears to have cured me of the intimidation I've felt towards Mason & Dixon, allowed me to really start digging that book! (Backstory: I read M&D when it came out 12 years ago, participated in the pynchon-l's "Mass Discussion of Mason & Dixon", tried my hardest to understand it and to love it, and sort of dropped the ball (or whatever sporting analogy is appropriate) -- and ever since it has been sitting on my shelf beckoning me to reread it, to try again.) So on Friday night, with Inherent Vice fresh in mind, I picked it up and opened it -- and found myself transported! It is a work of beauty. I'm following the pair's peregrinations around South Africa and St. Helena with bated breath, where my memory of reading it before is that this section was something to be gotten through so I could read the story set in America...

I'm a little annoyed with my younger self's pencilled annotations -- there are a whole lot of them throughout the book and they are pretty unbearably earnest -- looking at a scribbled cross-reference with question mark I can see myself at 27 reading the MDMD, trying to make a point in the discussion, hoping for praise from the other participants... (Some of the notes are useful of course but they do break into the flow of the text and they are difficult to ignore entirely.)

posted morning of September 6th, 2009: Respond
➳ More posts about Inherent Vice

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