Friday, July 09, 2004

What if?

...from "Might the Mayflower Not Have Sailed?" by Theodore K. Rabb, in What Ifs of American History: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been pp. 1-16:
....what if one of the circumstances had not fallen into place and she had not planted a 'godly' community at Plymouth? That question leads us to the crucial moment for the long-term success of the colony: the arrival from England in 1630 of John Winthrop, a Puritan lawyer, with a fleet of eleven ships carrying some seven hundred colonists. Would they have come if the Mayflower had not preceded them can be argued that they would not.... Without the beacon planted at Plymouth to reassure them, these staid, comfortable, and conservative creators of a 'Bible Commonwealth' would scarcely have risked their families and their possessions on so hazardous an enterprise. Again one must say that without the Mayflower, there could have been no Massachusetts Bay. " .... It was thus a combination of belief and circumstances that enabled the Puritans to inject into American culture an expectation of religious faith, a commitment to self-reliance and daily toil as morally worthy, and a stern regard for the virtuous life that have given their country a quite distinctive coloration among the modern nations of the West.... We may now take for granted the role of these traditions--the force of religion, the equation of work with virtue, the focus on the individual, and the insistent devoutness alongside the tolerance--in detrmining the course of American history. But there is little doubt that they might well have died in infancy if the Mayflower had not set sail...."

Tim Ware's fabulous
William Pynchon is Thomas' colonial descendant, born in Springfield, Essex, England on 11 October 1590. He married Anne Agnes Andrew about 1623. The family emigrated to New England on Winthrop's fleet of 1630, Anne dying soon after their arrival. A few years later, William married Frances Sanford of Dorchester. William was the founder of Springfield, Massachusetts and one of the Bay Colony's leaders until his publication of a book about justification and redemption, The Meritorious Price of our Redemption (1650).

Gravity's Rainbow, p. 556:
"Could he have been the fork in the road America never took, the singular point she jumped the wrong way from? Suppose the Slothropian heresy had had the time to consolidate and prosper. Might there have been fewer crimes in the name of Jesus, and more mercy in the name of Judas Iscariot?"
(Thanks to Dave Monroe, for posting a slightly different version of this at Pynchon-l).

Thursday, July 08, 2004

It's "V period"

In case you're in this Kentucky neighborhood:
The Second Monday Book Club will discuss V by Thomas Pynchon at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Madison County Public Library in Berea, 319 East Chestnut Street.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Tendrils alert

Daniel Albright, in Modernism and Music, quoting Arnold Whittal, Schoenberg Chamber Music:
When a hostile critic said of the young Schoenberg's sextet Verklarte Nacht (1899) that "it sounds as if somehone had smeared the score of Tristan while it was still wet," he provided a clever description for the Jugenstil (or art nouveau) way in which Schoenberg's melodies seem to curl themselves in continuous tendrils, instead of pausing on harmonically significant notes.

Thomas Pynchon, intro to Slow Learner:
I will spare everybody a detailed discussion of all the overwriting that occurs in these stories, except to mention how distressed I am at the number of tendrils that keep showing up. I still don't even know for sure what a tendril is. I think I took the word from T.S. Eliot. I have nothing against tendrils personally, but my overuse of the word is a good example of what can happen when you spend too much time and energy on words alone.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

"New York NY 10001"

One pynchon-l participant asked about the current address for Melanie Jackson's literary agency, and received the following reply (links added):
Curious, I tapped her up on, and see that she no longer lists a street address, just "New York NY 10001" That zip code is, of course, the main post office opposite Mad Sq Gdn. It is a gargantuan classical building by McKim Mead & White, and it sports the text frieze "Neither rain nor sleet nor snow stays these couriers" etc etc *and* ... wait for it ... the names Thurn und Taxis. Its a shame, but it seems we've driven Melanie, Tom and Jackson even further underground. Contact her through W.A.S.T.E.
Vineland, pp. 90-91:
If patterns of ones and zeros were "like" patterns of human lives and deaths, if everything about an individual could be represented in a computer record by a long string of ones and zeros, then what kind of creature would be represented by a long string of lives and deaths? It would have to be up one level at least - an angel, a minor god, something in a UFO. It would take eight human lives and deaths just to form one character in this being's name - its complete dossier might take up a considerable piece of the history of the world. We are digits in God's computer, she not so much thought as hummed to herself to a sort of standard gospel tune. And the only thing we're good for, to be dead or to be living, is the only thing He sees. What we cry, what we contend for, in our world of toil and blood, it all lies beneath the notice of the hacker we call God.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Nazis, Pynchon, and queers, oh my!

Nazis killed thousands of gay people in death camps and mistreated many more, but "Many of the leading European fascists of the past thirty years have been gay," reports self-described gay progressive activist Johann Hari in a recent article, The strange, unexplored overlap between homosexuality and fascism .

Gravity's Rainbow [665-666]:
They are 175s--homosexual prison-camp inmates. They have come north from the Dora camp at Nordhausen, north till the land ended, and have set up an all-male community between this marsh and the Oder estuary. Ordinarily, this would be Thanatz's notion of paradise, except that none of the men can bear to be out of Dora--Dora was home, and they are homesick. Their "liberation" was a banishment. So here in a new locationa they have made up a hypothetical SS chain of command--no longer restricted to what Destiny alloted then for jailers, they have now managed to come up with some really mean ass imaginary Nazi playmates

...from "Homoerotic Bonding as Escape from Heterosexual Responsibility in Pynchon's Slow Learner", by Mark Hawthorne:
In the stories collected in Slow Learner (1984) and in the uncollected "Morality and Mercy in Vienna" (1958), Thomas Pynchon deconstructs expectations of dominant male sex roles. He contrasts these expectations to fictional worlds where male protagonists consistently retreat from expected heterosexual responsibilities. Like Sal Paradise in Kerouac's On the Road (1957) and Gnossos Pappadopoulis in Richard Farina's Been Down So Long, It Looks Like Up to Me (1969), these protagonists retreat from women and social responsibilities by seeking the safety of intense male bonding. Though none of these authors directly suggests that the bonding may become genital (leaving that theme to Allan Ginsberg and William Burroughs), each constructs texts that call for decoding even while they insist that the subtextual eroticism is illusory. Balanced between desire and the desire to hide desire, the texts close in on themselves and create worlds of escape that deny their own foundations and thereby remain threatened by the rea l world that wants to collapse them.

Hawthorne's article, "Hi! My Name Is Arnold Snarb!': Homosexuality in The Crying of Lot 49", in Pynchon Notes 44-45, is also worth reading, but doesn't appear to be online.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

The Crying of Lot 444

A first edition of V. signed by the author sold at auction (link includes pix) for $10,200 last month. Regarding the inscription, Sotheby's notes:
"9/29/63 To my friend Bart, whether he reads it or not—Tom." Bart, the father of the present consignor, worked with Pynchon at Boeing in the early 1960s. Although thirty first editions of V., including advance reading copies, are recorded in American Book Prices Current, only one of those was signed by the notoriously reclusive Pynchon.

pynchonoid notes that Sotheby's characterization, "notoriously reclusive," is one with which Pynchon would likely disagree, based on his past public statement re the r-word. Thanks to a pynchon-l participant for the heads-up.

UPDATE: "it's all theatre"

Updating the earlier "it's all theatre" post, Robert Fisk reports on the U.S. effort to censor
Saddam's day in court.