Thursday, September 30, 2004

strange are the dynamics of oil and the ways of oilmen

From Pynchon-l, links to an article on the history of the Soviet language reform in Central Asia: How alphabetic is the nature of molecules, continuing in part two. Excerpt:
The business about Kumiss-whisk, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, reminded me of Thomas Pynchon's treatment of Soviet linguistic imperialism in Central Asia. This is in Gravity's Rainbow (chapter 34, p. 338-359 in the 1995 Penguin edition). It's a long, typically strange mixture of obscure facts and wild inventions. I'll share some of it with you now, because mixed in with mentions of Pishpek, kumiss, an oil man from Midland, Texas with an interesting relationship to Saudi Arabia, and the development of a new alphabet for Turkic languages, there's an interesting meditation on the similarity between linguistics and the oil business.

Gravity's Rainbow, p. 342:
Strange, strange are the dynamics of oil and the ways of oilmen.