Wednesday, December 17, 2008

magazine cover by Chums of Chance-related Harry Grant Dart

posted @ with the following caption:

Magazine cover for "The All-Story" by Harry Grant Dart, taken between 1900 and 1910. Dart was an illustrator and comic artist who also created the short-lived cartoon "The Explorigator", on which the "Chums of Chance" from Against the Day might be modeled, making this my second (speculative) Pynchon reference in a few days. Note that Harry had no problems with women steering!

from John Carvill @ Pynchon-l, re TRP autographed letter

Has this been seen on the p-list before? Apologies, as usual, if so.

A listing (now defunct I think) for a very interesting sounding Pynchon letter. I'll post the entire text here in case the link dies. Essential reading I would say. Sorry for the lack of paragraphs, that's, um, inherent to the listing itself. Definitely worth the effort to read, I promise.

334. PYNCHON, Thomas. Autograph Letter Signed. January 21, 1974.

Two tightly printed pages, on both sides of one sheet of graph paper, written to his friends, authors David [Shetzline] and his wife Mary [M.F. Beal]. Last paragraph written in pencil, including the signature "Love, Tom." A lengthy letter, over 1000 words, to two friends who date back to his college days 15 years earlier. Both Shetzline and Beal were students at Cornell, and a part of the group that came to be known as the "Cornell School" of writers, including Pynchon, Richard Fariña, Shetzline and Beal. Shetzline published two novels in the late 1960s -- Heckletooth 3 and DeFord, which is dedicated to the memory of Fariña -- and Pynchon wrote blurbs for both of them. Pynchon also wrote a blurb for M.F. Beal's novel, Amazon One, about a group of radical activists of the 1960s. She also wrote what many consider to be the first lesbian/feminist detective novel, Angel Dance. All of these elements come into play in this remarkable letter, which deals with literary matters, poli!
tical matters, and the correspondents' longtime friendship. Written four months after Gravity's Rainbow was published, the letter sheds light on Pynchon's state of mind in the aftermath of the work of writing that novel. The letter starts out apologizing for writing to them together instead of "one by one but haven't been able to write anything to anybody for a couple years, and will be lucky even to get through this one letter here..." He goes on to tell them that his agent, the legendary Candida Donadio, "turns out to be a closet MF Beal freek [sic] and would really dig to establish contact..." He advises Mary to write to Candida but says "don't ask me what about, though, I can't understand any of this literary stuff" -- a remarkable comment from someone who has just finished writing Gravity's Rainbow. A long paragraph details events in New York City, where he is living, including an "Impeachment Rally" in Greenwich Village. Pynchon is self-consciously disdainful of this !
round of political activism: "Maybe I am wrong not to show up,!
after a
ll think of all that great neurotic pussy that always shows up at things like -- oh, aww, gee Mary, I'm sorry! I meant 'vagina,' of course! -- like that, and all the biggies who'll be there..." He goes on to describe that he is having "what the CIA calls a 'mid-life crisis,' looking for another hustle, cannot dig to live a 'literary' life no more..." A "lump of hash I lost somewhere in Humboldt County 3 years ago" figures into what becomes an increasingly textured, complicated narrative, much the way his fiction does, at the same time that it represents his side of an obviously ongoing dialogue, and elicits further contact from the recipients: in referring to stories of bad LSD circulating, he asks "You might as well tell me. How many times'd you end up sucking on the rug?" A dissection of the general state of mind among the self-proclaimed hip in New York City follows, and he waxes nostalgic for the West a couple of times: "Last fall I rode around on the 'Hound for a while.!
Would've dropped by [their place in northern California] except by the time I got in your neighborhood I was bummed out..." Future "master plan" was "to go across the sea, but now I don't know. I've sort of been keying my plans on Geraldine, part of general resolution not to impose shit on her, also cz I'm lazy and can't make decisions... so maybe we will head west, and then again maybe not, but if we do we'll be by your place, OK?" A remarkable letter, exhibiting all of the characteristics for which Pynchon's writing is known, and many of the concerns that he raises in his writings, and addressed to two of his closest and oldest friends. Pynchon even used Shetzline's name in Gravity's Rainbow: Shetzline was credited with having written the "classic study" of "the property of time-modulation peculiar to Oneidine." Folded in twelfths for mailing, else fine in hand-addressed envelope folded in fourths. In content and style, probably the best Pynchon letter we have ever seen.

'bout half-ways down the page.

I found this link about a week back, browsing pretty much at random on The Fictional Woods. What a find!



Dave Monroe wrote (and see also the recent post on mineral evolution,


This article appeared in the May 1996 issue of Postmodern Culture and
is still archived at PMC. If you would like to know why I reposted it
at this site, go here.

Copyright (c) 1996 Wes Chapman

Male Pro-Feminism and the Masculinist Gigantism of Gravity's Rainbow
Wes Chapman

The title of Tania Modleski's Feminism Without Women refers, Modleski
explains, to a confluence of two political/intellectual trends: the
subsumption of feminism within a "more comprehensive" field of gender
, accompanied by the rise of a "male feminist perspective that
excludes women," and the dominance within feminist thought of an
"anti-essentialism so radical that every use of the term 'woman,'
however 'provisionally' it is adopted, is disallowed" (14-15). The two
trends are linked, Modleski argues, because "the rise of gender
studies is linked to, and often depends for its justification on, the
tendendency within poststructuralist thought to dispute notions of
identity and the subject" (15). These trends are troubling for
Modleski because she fears that, insofar as gender studies tend to
decenter women as the subjects of feminism, they may be not a "new
phase" in feminism but rather feminism's "phase-out" (5).

My concern in this essay is with male-authored work on gender of the
type identified by Modleski, and in particular with its intersections
with anti-essentialism....


That this politics of discourse may tend to decenter women as the
subjects of feminism is suggested by the one direct and I think
suggestive reference in the novel to a contemporary feminist, M. F.
Beal.8 Felipe, one of the Argentinian exiles, makes "noontime
devotionals to the living presence of a certain rock" which, he
believes, "embodies . . . an intellectual system, for [Felipe]
believes (as do M.F. Beal and others) in a form of mineral
consciousness not too much different from that of plants and animals"
(GR 612). M. F. Beal was (or is) a friend of Pynchon's, author of two
novels, Amazon One and Angel Dance, several stories, and Safe House: A
Casebook of Revolutionary Feminism in the 1970's. David Seed, who has
written most about the relationship of Pynchon and Beal, explains that
the reference to Beal in Gravity's Rainbow refers to a conversation
that Pynchon and Beal had about "the limits of sentience" (227): "Beal
implicitly humanized the earth's mantle (containing of course rocks
and minerals
) by drawing an analogy with skin. . . . " (32) In effect,
Beal was espousing what we would now call a Gaia philosophy9; as Seed
writes, "[i]f there is such a thing as mineral consciousness then the
earth's crust becomes a living mantle and man becomes a part (a small
part) of a living continuum instead of being defined against an inert
environment" (227). There is a version of this belief in "mineral
consciousness" in Safe House:

Only recently have a few modern men begun to learn anything about life
and what they are learning is that the only difference from the point
of view of chemistry between living and non-living substances is their
ability to reproduce themselves. (86)

As in her discussions with Pynchon, Beal here minimizes the
distinction between plants and animals on the one hand and
"non-living" beings like minerals; if the "only difference" between
them is the ability to reproduce, then in other ways they are the same
(so, perhaps, rocks are sentient, as Beal had argued to Pynchon

One tenet of Gaia philosophy is that the Earth acts as a conscious
organism to protect itself. In Safe House, Beal speculates that one
mechanism by which the Earth might be trying to protect itself is what
she calls a "strategic retreat" -- the possibility that "adult women
given the choice will choose to live without [men] -- to eat, sleep,
work, rear children and dwell without them" (87) -- in other words,
female separatism. Beal wonders whether the contemporary urge toward
separatism might be not just a conscious choice by particular women
but a manifestation of some larger biological necessity:

Could it be that we are witnessing an unfathomably significant genetic
reflex for species survival? Could it be that the DNA code has been
triggered by some inscrutable biological alarm system from the threat
of male violence and annihilation? Could it be that this is some
ancient reoccurring pattern which has activated female response over
the millennia to withdraw, to protect and defend themselves and their
progeny? (87)

For Beal, man has turned away from the earth to "violence and
annihilation," just as for Pynchon humanity has turned away from the
Titans to the "structures favoring death." But for Beal, this turning
away is specifically coded according to gender; the "man" in the
previous sentence refers to men, not to humanity. Conversely, women
are a key part of the Earth's counter-struggle: the earth is
triggering in women, who are open to the message of survival because
they "have always known all things are alike and precious," a "genetic
reflex for species survival," which consists of a disentanglement from
"male violence and annihilation." In Gravity's Rainbow, the
genderedness of Beal's vision is lost; the Titans in Greek mythology
were half male and half female.

Safe House was published in 1976, three years after Gravity's Rainbow,
so it is impossible to be certain whether Beal had in fact worked out
within a specifically feminist framework the belief in "mineral
consciousness" which Pynchon attributes to her. But it seems to me
likely that she had, or at least likely that Beal was a feminist by
that point, and that that feminism was part of her discussions with
Pynchon. If the critique of masculinism in Gravity's Rainbow was
influenced by Beal, then we can see the novel a kind of appropriation
and recentering of feminism; Pynchon subordinates his critique of
masculinism to a critique of militarism, and in so doing defuses the
genderedness of his subject. Within the play of pluralized discourses
in the novel, none of them privileged, none of them untainted by the
structures of power, the issue of gender is subsumed within the issue
of gender discourses. But if everyone is trapped within masculinist
discourse, then masculinism is not a problem of men at all; it is a
role one takes on or steps out of, as Greta Erdmann steps so easily
out of the role of masochist in Alpdrücken and into the role of sadist
with Bianca.


Works Cited

Beal, M.F., and friends. Safe House: A Casebook of Revolutionary
Feminism in the 1970's. Eugene, OR: Northwest Matrix, 1976.



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Remedios Varo born 100 years ago today

"Photograph of Remedios Varo in her studio painting Farewell, 1958, courtesy of Walter Gruen" from

More details & links in this Metafilter post:



2008年12月11日 09:12 来源:东方早报 发表评论

  核心提示:在中国翻译家和出版商多年的共同努力下,35年来不停搅动美国文坛,以晦涩、庞杂著称,但又对大众文化影响巨大的后现代经典小说《万有引力之虹》(Gravity's Rainbow),终于由译林出版社推出了中文版。

  在中国翻译家和出版商多年的共同努力下,35年来不停搅动美国文坛,以晦涩、庞杂著称,但又对大众文化影响巨大的后现代经典小说《万有引力之虹》(Gravity's Rainbow),终于由译林出版社推出了中文版。



  奇书背后必有奇人。《万有引力之虹》的作者托马斯·品钦(Thomas Pynchon)在隐居术方面的修习,与JD.塞林格几乎不相上下。除了小说,他几乎将自己在这个世界上存在过的所有物证统统湮灭,外界能够看到的品钦照 片大概只有两张,其中一张还是他二战从军时模模糊糊的黑白戎装照。

  1973年,《万有引力之虹》在美国出版,大为轰动,孰料引发次年普利策小说奖的大地震。三人评委会支持给品钦授奖,但11位理事推翻了评委的 决定,裁定此书“无法卒读,浮夸,滥施笔墨,淫亵”。1974年的普利策小说奖因此空缺。而数月后,美国国家图书奖坚持表彰了《万有引力之虹》,没想到品 先生拒绝受奖,最终找他人代领了事。


  小说分四个部分,“零之下”、“戈林赌场的休假”、“在占领区”和“反作用力”。故事发生在1944年圣诞节到1945年9月期间,主要情节是 盟军追查德国人正在制造的威力惊人的导弹,美国中尉泰荣·斯洛索普的一张“性交地图”却出人意料地屡次与德国导弹的轰炸地点吻合。寻找,寻找,所有的人都 在不停地寻找。



  “自虐”的说法决不算夸张,但这世上知难而上的品钦迷、甚至野心勃勃的品钦本人,必以之为赞辞。厦门大学外文学院副教授刘雪岚曾援引英国批评家托尼·坦纳(Tony Tanner)的话说:“《万有引力之虹》的深奥与恢弘拒绝任何归纳和概括。”

  刘女士这样形容此书:“它的内容从文艺学、社会学、历史学、心理学到数学、化学、物理学、弹道学、军事学,几乎无所不包;它的文体从哲学沉思、 历史百科、间谍侦探到滑稽喜剧、歌曲民谣乃至戏仿反讽,仿佛无所不能。小说包括73个场景,400多个人物,发生的故事遍及南北美洲、非洲、中亚、东欧和 西欧。涉及的社会阶层包括盟军和轴心国的将军和士兵、科学家、政治家、持工、妓女乃至非洲土人。使用的语言包括英、法、德、拉丁和意大利语等等。”(《美 国全国图书奖获奖小说评论集》,吴冰,郭棲庆主编,外语教学与研究出版社,2001年)





"I am embarrassed to admit that I have read a book"

[…] it's not often that new work from the fascist genocidal dictator comes to light, which is why military historians and creepy Nazi memorabilia collectors who live in basement apartments are so excited by the discovery of an aircraft concept designed by Nazi engineers near the end of World War II, a design which smacks of exactly the pants-shitting desperation you'd expect Nazis to be feeling at that point in the war:

dart glider.png

Here's the desperately insane idea: Dart-shaped gliders equipped with pilots and 1,000 pound bombs would be carried by conventional planes into allied airspace and dropped. The glider pilot would steer the bomb toward its high-priority target -- a factory that printed posters warning G.I.'s about the dangers of venereal disease, for instance -- and at the last minute, release the bomb and activate a balloon which would explode out of the tail and lift the glider to safety, all of which bears a creepy resemblance to certain details in Thomas Pynchon's big, fat novel Gravity's Rainbow. WHOOPS, sorry for the inexcusable lapse into Fancy Ladism, y'all, I am embarrassed to admit that I have read a book. But if the indignant comments occasionally left by Ayn Rand enthusiasts on certain Daily Briefs posts can be believed, I probably didn't understand it, and am also completely retarded, and anyway probably didn't even read it in the first place. […]


"I don’t expect to encounter things that will frustrate the reading process, the way I might in the work of Pynchon"

[…] I suppose I approach a title that I know has been labelled as Y.A. thinking that it’s going to be a more relaxing reading experience—maybe relaxing isn’t the right word, but more pleasurable, perhaps—because I don’t expect to encounter things that will frustrate the reading process, the way I might in the work of Pynchon, say. This isn’t to say that Y.A. fiction can’t be highly cerebral or experimental, just that I presume the author wants to cultivate a relationship with the reader that is more welcoming and, yes, probably more emotional. […]

mineral evolution & "a Soul in ev'ry stone. . . ."

Kevin Kelly offers an interesting take on "mineral evolution" & links to a recent paper, that may shed some light on a sermon in every stone:

"The theory of "mineral evolution" -- the idea that the Earth's rocks are dynamic "species" which emerged over time, sometimes in concert with living things -- is a radical new idea…"


back in the saddle again

It's official. I re-subscribed to Pynchon-l, I'm reading Pynchon (working through Against the Day and enjoying it), and looking forward to the new novel next year. Maybe I'll start updating this blog.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

signed copy of ATD

…from Chronicle of Higher Education:

M.H. Abrams: A Life in Criticism

In literary studies, M.H. Abrams is an iconic name. It appeared as "general editor" for 40 years on nearly nine million copies of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, and has also, in a detail that only scholars would know, led the indexes of many a critical book for a half-century. (In fact, one scholar I know cited "Aarlef" just to avoid that custom.) In addition, Abrams, now 95, stamped the study of Romantic literature: His book The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1953) was ranked 25th in the Modern Library's list of the 100 most important nonfiction books of the 20th century, and he was a prime participant in debates over literary theory, especially deconstruction, during the 1970s and 80s.

Last summer I interviewed Abrams — Meyer Howard, but he goes by Mike — at his home in Ithaca, N.Y., up the road from Cornell University, where he has been a professor since 1945 and still goes to his office in Goldwin Smith Hall. Colleagues at Cornell had held a birthday celebration for him, and among the gifts was an inscribed copy of Thomas Pynchon's latest novel. Pynchon had been a student of Abrams's in the 1950s and sent it on. Abrams has the book on the coffee table in his living room.

Friday, June 27, 2008

"ad the Metro’s owners carted off the decorations that had lodged within the imagination of young Pynchon"

…from today's New York Times:

Then we combed Valletta, marching up and down the hills looking for evidence of the now-sleepy city’s illustrious past and marveling at the cute Victorian-style balconies. On Strait Street in the heart of the Gut, the entertainment district once frequented by visiting sailors, I was hoping to find the Metro Bar, where a key scene of Pynchon’s unsummarizable “V” takes place. We asked old-timers and were directed to a doorway filled with cinderblocks. The Metro Bar was no more.

Like the New Life Music Hall, the Smiling Prince and the Blue Peter — whose faded signs hung over locked and cobwebbed doors — the Metro had shut down sometime after 1979, when the British naval base closed, and I was left to wonder what lay within. Did it still look, as Pynchon wrote, “like a nobleman’s pied-a-terre applied to mean purposes”? Did “statues of Knights, ladies and Turks” still line the “wide curving flight of marble steps” that led to the second-story dance floor? Or had the Metro’s owners carted off the decorations that had lodged within the imagination of young Pynchon (who presumably visited Valletta during his 1955-57 stint in the Navy)?

Today, all that remains of the Gut’s glory days is a 90-year-old tattoo parlor and a few graybeards who remember the noise and chaos and fun. “But now it’s too quiet here, too quiet,” one of them told us. “If you come at Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, you can bring shotgun and you can shoot and nobody, nobody take notice.”

His nostalgia was palpable, and another Pynchon line seemed apt: “Monuments, buildings, plaques were remembrances only; but in Valletta remembrances seemed almost to live.”