Friday, December 15, 2006

Chapter 13: Abandon all hope, all ye who enter here

Chapter 13 begins with the Chums heading south after the meeting with the Vormance expedition, Chick Counterfly commenting that “I cannot but wonder what is to become of those unfortunate devils” (149). We then begin to find the answer, as the leaders of the expedition sit before a Board of Inquiry investigating the events that led to the disaster.

“Your whole Expedition got hypnotized by a rock?” (149).

We begin to learn more. It is months later, and the city was burned, and mostly abandoned. The creature, “a Figure with supernatural powers” (151),…began “to burn its way out of its enclosure” (152). Maybe the city isn’t New York, but the expedition had arrived via “a narrow waterway from long ago that still ran up into the city” (151). The board is meeting in a building overlooking the city with a view from “turret windows” (150). The museum where the meeting is being held sounds like some kind of fortress.

This entire chapter seems to be built around the principle of clarification, as if the author is adjusting a lens similar to the lens of Iceland Spar the Chums adjust to receive their video message. A very subtle, and very interesting merging of form and content.

We learn that the “man-shaped light” from the previous chapter is a projection of light from “the Cathedral of the Prefiguration,” and is “not exactly of Christ, but with the same beard, robes, ability to emit light” (153). The narrator meditates that “the city became the material expression of a particular loss of innocence” (153).

Is the monster modernity itself? Is this the sudden transformation Woolf talks about?

The citizens build a “great portal inscribed I AM THE WAY INTO THE DOLEFUL CITY—DANTE” 154. Now the city seems to resemble Belona in Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren.

The chapter ends with Hunter Penhallow following another of Pynchon’s paths that become mazes, finally boarding another of his “trains,” in an attempt to escape the city. The penultimate sentence in the chapter seems to describe the train ride as a journey into modernity itself: “The longer they traveled, the more ‘futuristic’ would the scenery grow” (155). Is this his first reference to futurism?


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