Saturday, October 02, 2004

keep cool but care

Dave "DJ Flavor Dav" Monroe on Pynchon-l calls attention to this intriguing bit of intertextual and bibliographical play:

McClintic Sphere, in V., p.366:
Keep cool but care.
SHROUD, in V., p. 369:
Keep cool but care.
B.J. Liddell Hart, Deterrent or Defense: A Fresh Look at the West's Military Position , New York, Prager, 1960:
"Keep strong, if possible. In any case, keep cool. Have unlimited patience. Never corner an opponent, and always assist him to save his face. Put yourself in his shoes--so as to see things through his eyes. Avoid self-righteousness like the devil--nothing is so self-blinding." quoted in John F. Kennedy, "Review of B.H. Liddell Hart, Deterrent or Defense," Saturday Review, September 3, 1960, as cited in Averting "The Final Failure": John F. Kennedy and the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Meetings by Sheldon M. Stern, see p. 40, plus footnote No. 103.

In addition to the tantalizing possibility of a view into the origin of Pynchon's famous epigram, more evidence perhaps of Pynchon's concern with the threat of nuclear war and President Kennedy.

Gravity's Rainbow, p. 65:
Gone away upstream, bas-relief Dumpster lost in the gray light as now Slothrop is going past the sign of Will Stonybloke, of J. Peter PItt, of Jack Kennedy, the ambassador's son--say, where the heck is that Jack tonight, anyway? If anybody could've saved that harp, betcha jack could. Slothrop admires him from a distance--he's athletic, and kind, and one of the most well-liked fellows in Slothrop's class,. Sure is daffy about that history, though. Jack . . . might Jack have kept it from falling, violated gravity somehow? Here, in this passage to the Atlantic, odors of salt, weed, decay washing to him faintly like the sound of breakers, yes it seems Jack might have. For the sake of tunes to be played, millions of possible blues lines, notes to be bent from the official frequencies, bends Slothrop hasn't really the breath to do . . . not yet but someday . . . well at least if (when . . . ) he finds the instrument it'll be well soaked in, a lot easier to play. A hopeful thought to carry with you down the toilet.

the little man

...from James Wolcott's blog yesterday:
The allusion in Tweet Smell of Success to "Reichian" refers not to Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, but Wilhelm Reich, renegade psychotherapist and founder of the Orgone Institute, who in his 1948 book Listlen, Little Man! addressed the reader:

"You let the powerful demand power 'for the little man.' But you yourself are silent. You provide powerful men with more power or choose weak, malignant men to represent you. And you discover too late you are always the dupe."

Not a bad description of Bush's "base."

From Pynchon's essay, A Journey into the Mind of Watts":
A lot of kids these days are more apt to be calling him the little man -- meaning not so much any member of the power structure as just your average white L.A. taxpayer, registered voter, property owner, employed, stable, mortgaged and the rest. The little man bugs these kids more than The Man ever bugged their parents. It is the little man who is standing on their feet and in their way; he's all over the place, and there is not much they can do to change him or the way he feels about them.

writers who disappear, God-like, behind their works

From 'The Curse of the Appropriate Man': What Women Want by Claire Messud, review of The Curse of the Appropriate Man by Lynn Freed:
In cinema, as we all know, there are actors and there are stars. The actors -- protean, endlessly versatile -- are personified by Alec Guinness or, more recently, by women like Cate Blanchett. The stars are always, inexorably, grandly, themselves: John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, Jack Nicholson. This division is not commonly applied to literature, but it can readily serve: Anton Chekhov, Eudora Welty, Alice Munro are, as it were, actors, writers who disappear, God-like, behind their works; Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, unforgettable in their insistent stylistic consistency, are stars. An underlying gender bias seems to follow upon this distinction, and the female literary star can seem a rare breed. Lynn Freed is such a writer, one whose work is characterized by its separation from her peers' and its similarity to itself.

Friday, October 01, 2004

divine essences in their pores

....from Review: Baroque Cycle concludes with a gilt trip, by Tom Dodge, in today's Dallas Morning News
Although Mr. Stephenson is now a big gun in publishing's arsenal of serious novelists, his name is printed smaller on the cover than the title. This is due to his introverted personality, his apparent graphomania and his obvious disdain for celebrity. He may be weary of questions about his "similarity" to Thomas Pynchon. His books are, like Pynchon's, capable of overpowering the normal brain. But perhaps their weightiness is due to divine essences in their pores.
Be sure to experience Stephenson's disdain for celebrity up close and personal on his book signing tour this month.

new Pynchon papers

Pynchon Notes editor, Prof. John Krafft alerted Pynchon-l participants to several recent articles from Pynchon scholars. Titles include:
History and Fiction: the Narrative Voices of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow

The Comet and the Rocket: Intertextual Constellations about Technological Progress in Bruno Schulz's "Kometa" and Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow

A 'Patch of England, at a three-thousand-Mile Off-set?' Representing America in Mason & Dixon

Bouncy Little Tunes: Nostalgia, Sentimentality, and Narrative in Gravity's Rainbow
Complete bibliographic info here.

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.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

not-so komical kamikazes

Shigeyoshi Hamazono, 1945

....from They've Outlived the Stigma by Bruce Wallace:

These are the dusky days of old age that kamikaze pilots like Shigeyoshi Hamazono were not supposed to see. Three times during the final months of World War II, Japanese officers sent Hamazono off to die, ordering him to crash-dive a single-engine plane stuffed with bombs into an American warship. Bad weather aborted the first mission, an oil leak the second. On his final attempt in April 1945, he encountered three American pilots over the sea off Okinawa. In the ensuing dogfight, Hamazono was burned and took shrapnel in his shoulder, but his plane limped home. You could call him the luckiest man in Japan, though Hamazono didn't see it that way at the time. "I was, of course, ready to die," says Hamazono, who instead has aged into a bent but dignified 81-year-old. Fate allowed him to see his hair turn wispy and gray. And fate made him part of one of history's strangest and most exclusive brotherhoods: "kamikaze survivors."

Most were still waiting for orders to fly when Japan surrendered to the Allies in September 1945. A few others were spared because they did not reach their intended targets — a failure Hamazono found intolerable at the time. He was on standby to fly a fourth mission when Japan capitulated. Denied the opportunity to redeem his honor, he felt disgraced. "I wished I had died," he says. In the postwar years, a traumatized nation treated the kamikaze survivors like pariahs. But in the last decade, their reputation has recovered. Publishers clamor for memoirs. Scholars pick over their backgrounds in search of an explanation for their willingness to die for a lost cause. Japanese nationalists buff and shine their memory like medals. "Kamikaze" has ceased to be a slur in Japan. If the Japanese still can't agree on whether the pilots were victims or heroes, brainwashed conscripts or volunteers, they are at least prepared to honor their spirit of sacrifice. Only the modern menace of the suicide bomber has emerged to spoil this sentiment. The survivors bitterly resent the world's appropriation of the term "kamikaze" — meaning "divine wind" and originally coined to describe the unexpected typhoons that saved 13th century Japan from invading Mongol ships — as shorthand for suicide bombers of every stripe. There are the "Al Qaeda kamikazes" who flew passenger planes into office towers, "Palestinian kamikazes" who blow up pizza parlors filled with teenagers in Jerusalem, and "female Chechen kamikazes" willing to detonate explosive girdles in the middle of school gymnasiums crammed with children. Japan's originals are insulted to be mentioned in the same breath.

Gravity's Rainbow, p. 690:
Takeshi only had to go to Kamikaze School for two weeks, on Formosa. Ichizo had to go to Ohka school for six months, in Tokyo. There are as different as peanut butter and jelly, these two. No fair asking which is which. They are the only two Kamikazes out here at this air base, which is rather remote actually, on an island that nobody, well, really cares much about, any more.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Flag of the State Post Service (Reichs-Postamt), 1893-1921

From Pynchon-l participant, Mark Wright, this pointer to the German postal service flag from the Imperial period, with its Pynchonian-post-horn motif.