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Posts about Thomas Pynchon
READIN started out as a place for me
to keep track of what I am reading, and to learn (slowly, slowly)
how to design a web site.
There has been some mission drift
here and there, but in general that's still what it is. Some of
the main things I write about here are
listening to (and playing) music, and
watching the movies. Also I write about the
work I do with my hands and with my head; and of course about bringing up Sylvia.
The site is a bit of a work in progress. New features will come on-line now and then; and you will occasionally get error messages in place of the blog, for the forseeable future. Cut me some slack, I'm just doing it for fun! And if you see an error message you think I should know about, please drop me a line. READIN source code is PHP and CSS, and available on request, in case you want to see how it works.
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.
Oh we're the LOONIES ON LEAVE, and
We haven't a care --
Our brains at the cleaners, our souls at the Fair,
Just freaks on a fur-lough, away from the blues,
As daffy, and sharp as -- the taps on our shoes!
A group of students and faculty at Portland State U. have set to music 15 of the lyrics from Gravity's Rainbow: The Thomas Pynchon Fake Book. Excellent takes! Lotsa Laffs! Here is a Vulgar Song:
posted afternoon of February 25th, 2010: Respond ➳ More posts about Readings
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...
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.
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.
...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.)