Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Chapter 5: Lew Basnight's Story

This chapter begins with the Chums of Chance ferrying Lew Basnight, the spotter for White City Investiagtions. But the chapter is another one of Pynchon’s diversions off the main plot line, in the case telling us Lew Basnight’s story. These stories are a frequent feature in his longer novels, particularly GR. In that work, the stories of Roger Mexico and Tchitcherine parallel the main storyline of Slothrop, giving the novel a structure symbolically resembling the musical leitmotif (

Baslight is guilty of some heinous crime, which causes hum to lose his wife, Troth, and leads him to a teacher of Country Dance, Drave, who sets him up in the Esthonia Hotel, where we meet Hershel the bellhop. Guilt and sin is one of Pynchon’s recurrent themes, and in the pasr he has made the Calvinist distinction between the damned, the elect, and the preterite, who try to act like the elect, though they don’t know their heavenly destination. Baslight seems to be one of Pynchon’s preteritr many (as opposed to the Chosen Few), and in the chapter identifies himself as a “Presbyterian” (41). Although hired by Nate Privett of White City Investigations to track “the labor unions, or as we like to call them, anarchistic scum” (43), Lew “was not in the detective business out of political belief” (37).

Nate also has a special talent (like Slothrop?): he is a sensitive; he can see better than other people. He notices details the average observer misses, a great talent in the detective business.


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