Friday, September 13, 2002

"....Dulcinea and V., of course, are products of very different centuries. Writing in the transition period from the Renaissance to the Baroque, and casting Dulcinea as the supreme embodiment of Don Quijote's chivalric dreams, Cervantes has created a fascinating figure who is the end result of courtly love and Neoplatonist traditions —as well as a parodic reminder of the anachronistic nature of those traditions. The gorgeous green-eyed blonde, physical heir to Melibea, of Don Quijote's fantasy is also a coarse peasant woman of doubtful morality. As Riley has astutely pointed out, Dulcinea's “connection with money is maintained to the end” (Don Quixote 140) through the cave passage, Sancho's paid lashes, and finally the cricket-cage. Dulcinea, like the Orianas and Laureolas of the books of chivalry and the sentimental novels, belongs to the past; Don Diego de Miranda, the bourgeois country gentleman, is more “modern” than Don Quijote. Yet people cherish the ideal in all periods. Thus Dulcinea is very real for Don Quijote, and for the reader, even though we all acknowledge her ethereal nature.

V., on the other hand, is a product of the postmodernist milieu. (But are the two periods so different? According to Ferreras, Cervantes “escribe o recrea un universo donde el desorden, y también el crimen y la sangre, destruyen toda armonía, toda comunión en un solo ideal” [23].)10 While I emphatically agree with Riley that “any detached and overall view of Dulcinea must combine the very disparate images of her presented by Don Quijote, Sancho, other characters and the narrator” (“Symbolism” 73), these images do tend to conform to either the “ideal” Dulcinea or the “anti-Dulcinea.” In one sense, this is also true of V., “The V composing and forestalling the vide” (Redfield 159). The over-abundance of V.-signifiers in Pynchon's novel, however, corresponds well to postmodernism's “commitment to indeterminancy, openness and multiplicity” (Connor 16), its “denying dichotomies, bipolarities, . . . dissolving binary oppositions” (Mellencamp 98).11 V. is more definitely a what (“‘what: what is she?’” [53]) than a who. Perhaps, like Stencil, she is essentially a lack, a lack of order: “Pynchon does not . . . offer us Order, and in that he reflects the postmodernist outlook” (Hume 192). This is for me the greatest difference between his worldview and that of Cervantes. Even with the marked sense of desengaño and sadness found in much of Don Quijote, particularly in Part II, Cervantes always conveys to the reader some sense of order, even though it be a Baroque “orden desordenada” (I 519). Alonso Quijano on his deathbed may repudiate “los detestables libros de las caballerías” and their “disparates” and “embelecos” (foremost among them the overly-idealized Dulcinea) (II 1105), but he dies comforted by the supreme Order of grace, “‘las misericordias . . . que en este instante ha usado Dios conmigo’” (ibid.). Alonso Quijano dies sane, with “juicio . . . libre y claro, sin las sombras caliginosas de la ignorancia” caused by too much reading of the books of chivalry; his mind regains its order. In marked contrast, the final chapter of V. is a flashback to the death at sea of old Stencil, a death caused by a blind natural disorder, a gigantic waterspout (492): “Veronica Manganese had kept him only as long as she had to” (492). This is the reader's final glimpse of V., as she turns old Stencil over to disorder and death.

According to Van Delden, “the problem of how and where to find a principle of order in the modern world” is central to V. (118). The problem is unresolved at the novel's close. In comparison with the tremendous positive development of Sancho Panza, Stencil's luckless companion Benny Profane ends the novel much as he started out. Asked by the girl Brenda in Malta, “‘Haven't you learned?,’” Profane answers simply, “‘I haven't learned a goddam thing’” (454). This sense of emptiness and futility is the essence of the “lady V.” Dulcinea, even when viewed as a comic or threatening figure, never conveys such a negative impression. Enough of the ideal forever clings to her, to soften and to dulcify her image.

Dulcinea and Pynchon's V. by Carole A. Holdsworth; originally published in Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 19.1 (1999): 27-39.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Deep in the heart of Texas...

"The manuscript for an unproduced musical called Minstral Island by Pynchon and Kirkpatrick Sale. Early notes, outlines, and drafts for the 1958 collaboration between Pynchon and Sale which explores the year 1998 when IBM dominates the world and artists (including musicians, sailmakers, and prostitutes) are pariahs who have yet to be assigned roles in the new world order. Pynchon collaborated on the manuscript with Sale in 1958, prior to the publication of Pynchon's first novel, V. Kirkpatrick Sale has written extensively on the political, economic, sociological, and environmental impacts of technology, even going so far as to reconstitute the term Luddite to describe a contemporary movement that is skeptical of uncontrolled technological advance. Pynchon manuscripts are notoriously rare, which makes this unpublished gem particularly exceptional."
Ransom Center Newsletter, Summer 2002

Thanks to fellow Pynchonoid, Rich Romeo of PYNCHON-L for digging this up.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

"When a CNN camera crew caught up with Pynchon in Manhattan recently, he phoned back to strongly request that he not be pointed out to viewers in any videotape (a request which, after much debate, CNN opted to honor). 'Let me be unambiguous,' he said. 'I prefer not to be photographed.' .... Pynchon himself rejects any characterizations of him as a recluse, telling CNN that 'my belief is that recluse is a code word generated by journalists ... meaning, 'doesn't like to talk to reporters.' He has proven himself willing to step out of the shadows from time to time -- but on his own terms. .... Pynchon's enigmatic reputation has created an aura of mystery about him. But the truth turns out to be not quite so exotic, according to Sales. He leads a somewhat conventional life in New York City. 'He shops at neighborhood stores. He lunches with other writers. He spends weekends in the countryside with his family,' she says. Indeed, he is so conventional that you might not know him if you saw him. While CNN agreed not to isolate him and identify him specifically, he does happen to be among the people you will see in street scenes in the movie accompanying this story."
Where's Thomas Pynchon?
CNN tracks down literary world's deliberate enigma
June 5, 1997

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

"One night in early June of 1967, my Pynchon connection phoned me at my apartment on Shattuck Avenue. Pynchon was in town, staying with her and her boyfriend. He'd been living in L.A., flown up to Seattle to visit friends from Boeing, and on his way back to L.A. had stopped off for a day in Berkeley. She said, "Tom wants to meet you." This was like a command audience with the Pope. I kick-started my motorcycle and, I think, made it across town to her place near San Pablo Avenue before she had time to put down the phone. ....Pynchon was evidently a man of few words. I wanted very much to talk with him, to sound him out, at least to get him to laugh, but as we sat on the floor and passed around buzz bombers and grew progressively more zonked, he didn't say much, just listened intently as our hostess and host and I talked. The conversation was disjointed, grass talk consisting of little bits and revelations (Leslie Fiedler had just been busted for possession of marijuana) and silly stoned jokes, like the one about the woman who traded in her menstrual cycle for a Yamaha. I thought of Pynchon as a Van der Graaf machine, one of those generators that keeps building static electricity until a lightning bolt zaps between the terminals. All of a sudden, he pulled out of his pocket a string of firecrackers and asked, 'Where can we set these off?' "

Smoking Dope with Thomas Pynchon: A Sixties Memoir

Sunday, September 08, 2002

"Which brings me to my nomination for the Patron Saint of Warchalkers: Thomas Pynchon. The prescient Mr. Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 described similar cryptic scribbles by members of a secret underground postal system, long before the rise of the net. (Published 3 years before the traditional 1969 birthday of the net.) Alas, I'm not sure if the trystero would work for wifiti, but it certainly would add an air mystery (and literary history) to the endeavor."

Warchalking: Collaboratively creating a hobo-language for free wireless networking.

[Note: url links to the Warchalking quote added by Pynchonoid.--Ed.]