Monday, December 18, 2006

Chapter 15: Oh What a Lucky Man He Was!

Chapter 15 returns to Basnight’s narrative. Lew is out “on the trail” (171), another one of Pryncon’s endless streets we remember from the beginning of V. He seems to be shadowed by a mysterious anarchist, one of his, or White City Investigation’s primary targets, The Kieselguhr Kid. The connection to The Kenosha Kid in GR is obvious. Just as the Kenosha Kid (the name probably refers to the Forbes Parkhill story in the 1931 pulp Western Rangers, in which the kid is a “Robinhood of straights and flushes”) seems to be a fantastic alter ego of Tyrone Slothrop, a character noteworthy for his seeming ability to defy the laws or probability (call him Lucky), so too the Kieselguhr Kid may simply be Lew’s growing sense of identification to the anarchist’s cause. In fact, in this chapter he seems to becoming addicted to cyclomite (another Pynchonian chemical, like Imipolex G in GR), which is some kind of psychotropic ingredient in dynamite, which Lew speculates “had been helping him build up an immunity to explosions” (184). Lew is another lucky one, escaping an assassination attempt when someone tosses an explosive his way. Just as Slothrop seems to be immune from rocket attacks, Lew may be immune from attacks by explosives.

Pynhcon’s deconstruction of the novel, building his own “Forbes Parkhill story” across the interstices that should separate ATG and GR as separate texts, seems to be a deconstruction of the very notion of genre itself. I continue to imagine these texts existing together in some set of notebooks (or computer files—not our Luddite!) from which the author cuts and pastes them into these works. Pastiche? Collage?

He is rescued from the assassination attempt by two English flaneurs, Neville and Nigel, who had followed Oscar Wilde on his American tour. By the end of the chapter Lew is on his way to England, his fateful decision to stow away with the (gay?) Englishmen as inanely casual as any decision made by Benny Profane in V., or Tyrone Slothrop in G.R. For Lew, the lucky guy, has just missed the famous Galveston hurricane of 1900 ( When told this puts Lew into a state of neuroaesthenisia.

If Lew is numb at learning he just missed an event that killed more than 6000 men, women, and children, is the author holding up a mirror to his own feelings about 9/11 and the New Orleans hurricane?

Lucky. Hmmm. When consulting Tarot Cards with the boys shortly after meeting the Brits, he draws the Hanged Man.


Post a Comment

<< Home