Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Rest of Chapter One

Either the remainder of the first chapter is less portentous, or else my mind is simply not making the connections I made yesterday. More characters have been added, including a fantastic animal reminiscent of Mason and Dixon. Pugnax, “a dog of no particular breed” (5). Actually, Canis Pugnax is the old Roman war dog, and the working dog, the Cane Corso is considered by some to be the descendent of this dog. The dog is “reading” Henry James (considering the inability of Darby Suckling to properly parse a simple English sentence, the choice of James, purveyor of some of the most beautifully complex sentences every composed is a hilarious choice). Actually, he appears to be reading; he is not (at least so far) a talking dog. But his nose is in James The Princess Casamassima, and when the dog is questioned, Darby interprets his barking, and guesses the subject of such a novel is “Some sort of…Italian romance, I’ll bet” (6). Noseworth, the literate Master-at-Arms/Executive Officer/Second-in-Command corrects Darby, and tells us that it actually a novel of “the inexorably rising tide of World Anarchism” (6).

Hmmmmm. Maybe more portentous than I FIRST THOUGHT. Roman war dog, a coming century of world wars, a century which Mary Any Caws, in her book on Manifestos (a book I used extensively in my dissertation analyzing the genre) describes as “A Century of Isms” ( Genres: we already know Pynchon is warping the adolescent adventure novel genre, and perhaps also will take a shot at the Italian romance and the political thriller. If the romances approach what we saw in GR, I’m sure it will be deviantly worthy of this period of interregnum.

Another character, Miles Blundell, clumsy but good-hearted handyman apprentice, destroyer of porcelain crockery (hmmmm—a bit of a metaphor for anarchism here. And the name—Miles, makes me think of Davis, purveyor of anarchistic jazz, and Blundell—well a bit of onomatopoeia here.

Some names mentioned in passing:

1. Dr. Heino Venderjuice, friend of The Chums of Chance, and inventor of the airships “ingenious turbine engine” (6) which is described “as no better than a perpetual motion machine” (6); yet another favorite subject of Pynchon. I wonder if Maxwell and his demon will make another appearance.
2. Chick Counterfly ( a name full of weight), the newest member of the crew: lower class, a bit angry.
3. President Porfiro Diaz of Mexico. A real character ( The boys had contracted with his Interior Ministry to gather intelligence at a pelota fronton( Political thriller meets adolescent adventure novel: The Chums of Chance in Old Mexico (7).
4. Richard “Dick” Counterfly, Chick’s father. Carpetbagger and con man. Chick came to the chums being chased by the KKK. Their sparks from their torches threatened the hydrogen of the airship as the COC rescued Chick.

An important conversation:
“ ‘Here it is an a nutshell,’ Randolph confided later. ‘Going up is like going north’ ” (9). And then Chick responds, “ ‘if you keep going far enough north, eventually you pass over the Pole and you’re heading south again” (9). A very postmodern comment which makes the commander uncomfortable. No one likes to be adrift, and uncertain of their direction.

I’m ready for Poggioli, and some Pynchonesque manifestos.

Woolf’s The Years is a much darker book, but is a book that also deals with “isms,” particularly the emergence of the fascism as a mental state. A very complex idea. If it fascinates you, read Andrew Hewitt’s Fascist Modernism: Aesthetics, Politics, and the Avante-Garde (


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