Thursday, July 01, 2004

The offhand and fragmentary Memos show one more thing about Charles Ives. In the old days, in music and in prose he had done rough sketches like most artists, then fleshed out and connected and shaped them. By 1932 he had lost the energy or ability to connect and shape, to follow through. His writings of latger years are letters, memos, isolated pages of poetry and rant. That is why though he still had musical ideas he could no longer compose; nothing pulled together any more. The centrifugal elements of his nature had lost their coherence, his pen its directing consciousness. Paradox was no longer part of his message but part of his problem. As the Memos reveal, Ives had fallen into dissenting fragments.

This passage, in Jan Swafford's engaging biography of American musical genius, Charles Ives, Charles Ives: A Life With Music, reminded me of Slothrop's disintegration in Gravity's Rainbow (page numbers, in brackets, from the 1973 Viking and 1987 Penguin editions): now--early Virgo--he has become one plucked albatross [...] Scattered all over the Zone. It's doubtful if he can ever be "found" again, in the converntial sense of "positively identified and detained." [712]

He's [Bodine] looking straight at Slothrop (being one of the few who can still see Slothrop as any sort of integral creature any more. Most of the others gave up long ago trying to hold him together, even as a concept--"It's just got too remote" 's what they usually say. [740]

Another Ives/Pynchon parallel, also from Swafford's biography: Ives refused to accept a gold medal from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, reminiscent of Pynchon's refusal of the Howells Medal.

As pynchonoid nears the end of Swafford's book - stretching out the reading the better to savor it - yet another parallel:
The Pulitzer Prize [1947] set off one more period of discovery. Ives was all for attention to the music but steadily fought off publicity about his person. A press photographer practically broke into the Redding house, but was kept at bay by a fresh-painted floor and ejected.

This echoes a myth about Pynchon - who, like Ives, protects his privacy - that appears to have been shattered by fellow pynchonoid, Richard Lane, as revealed in a Pynchon-l post in May. Sorry, but Pynchon apparently did not jump out a window to avoid a photographer in Mexico.