- Please keep these annotations SPOILER-FREE by not revealing information from later pages in the novel.
- 1 Page 26
- 2 Page 27
- 3 Page 28
- 4 Page 29
- 5 Page 30
- 6 Page 31
- 7 Page 32
- 8 Page 33
- 9 Page 34
- 10 Page 36
- 11 Page 37
- 12 Page 38
- 13 Page 39
- 14 Page 40
- 15 Page 41
- 16 Page 42
- 17 Page 43
- 18 Page 44
- 19 Page 45
- 20 Page 46
- 21 Page 47
- 22 Page 48
- 23 Page 49
- 24 Page 50
- 25 Page 51
- 26 Page 52
- 27 Page 53
- 28 Page 54
- 29 Page 55
- 30 Annotation Index
Some species of egrets were threatened with extinction in the 19th century because their plumes (also called aigrettes) were much used in millinery. Problem is, the egrets grew the showy feathers only in breeding season, so that's when they were killed, hence no little egrets (egretlets?).
was the stage name for two popular exotic dancers, Ashea Wabe who danced at the Seeley banquet at the 1893 World's Fair and Farida Mazar Spyropoulos, also performing under the stage name Fatima, appeared at the "Street in Cairo" exhibition on the Midway at the World's Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893. Wikipedia entry Also a 1961 song by the Coasters.
“I greatly admire the music of the region,” said Miles, “the ukulele in particular.”
The Hawaiian Islands and culture (particularly ukuleles) have a strong presence in Vineland and Gravity's Rainbow. More on Hawaiian references in Against the Day...
"Bacchanalia" describes not just the music but the dance too, in this context.
from here to Timbuctoo
Now known as Timbuktu, a standard figure of speech for the other end of Creation.
Maxim whirling machines...
This paragraph describes a number of real flying apparati: This article from October 1893 describes the Maxim whirling machine and others.
wing-flapping miracles of ornithurgy
"ornithurgy" appears to be a Pynchon neologism meaning "bird-works" (Greek: ornis, ornithos, "bird" + -ourgia work, working). This entire passage seems proleptic, prefiguring the appearance of the Sodality of Ǣtheronauts.
Merle's relationship with Dally is reminiscent of Ryan and Tatum O'Neal's characters in the 1973 Peter Bogdanovich film, "Paper Moon". Merle's family situation (single father, smart aleck daughter, mother who took off) is identical to that of Vineland's protagonist Zoyd Wheeler.
Italian for "bottled".
The Lolita motif is common in Pynchon's works. Other Lolitas include Bianca in [Gravity's Rainbow.
- Dahlia is four or five years old! She is not a Lolita motif here. Lolita was twelve and Humbert was sick.
- Too early in the novel to jump into such conclusions.
in Randolph's face a degree of stupefaction one regrets to term characteristic
Randolph "froze" previously, on page 12; evidently this is a trait already established in the Chums novels.
fulminate me if she ain't
What an odd turn of phrase: "set me off explosively." Actually, fulminate is derived from the Latin fulminat - "struck by lightning" - so it's more, May I be struck by lightning if she ain't.
this Trouvé-screw unit over here
Gustave Trouvé built advanced machinery from the 1860s to the 1890s; his work on airscrews was pivotal, and he also invented the outboard motor. Before Trouvé's design studies, propulsion in the air used sail-rotors like windmills or depended on slightly modified marine propellers.
The big central concourse of the White City. "Plaisance" is an alternative (or Frenchified) spelling of "pleasance," an esthetically appealing spot. According to this very good site on the Columbian Exposition, the Midway Plaisance lent its name to the midways of circuses ever after.
French, meaning braised. So, braised alligator meat. Braised food, for instance crawfish, is a culinary specialty of New Orleans.
In the New Orleans context, a recipe is pertinent because "braise" doesn't exactly tell the story of this Cajun preparation. The following is drastically abridged from, of all things, the obituary of Joe Daole ("Joe Dale") in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 21, 2007:
- Saute onion, green pepper, celery, parsley and garlic in a great deal of butter. Add peeled and chopped tomatoes and seasonings. Simmer, covered, 5-10 minutes. Make a dark brown roux with oil and flour; add to vegetables. Add seafood stock and bring to a boil. Add peeled shrimp or crawfish tail meat and cook just 2-3 minutes. Serve over rice.
Yale's physics lab built 1882. Cf page 33.
Josiah Williard Gibbs (1839-1903), American mathematical physicist. He was born in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1854 he went to Yale and won prizes for excellence in Latin and mathematics. He undertook research in engineering and received his Ph.D in 1863, the first doctorate in engineering to be conferred in the US. From 1866 to 1869 Gibbs studies in Europe - first in Paris, then in Berlin and finally in Heidelberg. He was professor at Yale from 1871 to 1903. He contributed substantially to the study of thermodynamics, and his most important work, On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances (1876 and 1878) and his "phase rule" established him as a founder of physical chemistry. Gibbs' work on vector analysis was also of major importance in pure mathematics. Gibbs was one of the greatest American scientists in the 19th century. (Gibbs.)
Lee De Forest (1873-1961), American inventor. He was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa and educated at Yale and Chicago. A pioneer of radio, he introduced the grid into the therm-ionic valve, and invented the audion (1907), feedback circuit (1912) and the four-electrode valve. He involved in first news by radio (1916). He also did much early work on sound reproduction and on television. He patented over 300 inventions in wireless telegraphy, radio, telephony, talking pictures, high-speed facsimile transmission, television, radiotherapy, radar, etc. He was called, sometimes, "the father of radio." (De Forest.)
He received his Ph.D degree in mathematics from Yale University in 1896. (Dissertation: Studies on General Spherical Functions.) He published a paper On the Nabla of Quaternions in The Annals of Mathermatics, Vol 10, No. 1/6 (1895-1896). In 1912, he published a paper called One-Waveness in Wireless Telegraphy; Pseudo-Impact Excitation in Physical Review of May 1912. (Nabla is an early name for the "del" operator, symbolized by the inverted Greek letter Δ.)
In Latin re ipso means "the thing itself." "To the thing itself" was the motto and rallying cry of the investigational method known as phenomenology Wikipedia entry developed by Edmund Husserl Wikipedia entry. As the phrase indicates, it is a plea against abstraction--a theme of GR--- and for reality 'itself'.
Derogatory nickname for Indianapolis.
down in New Orleans . . . that Khartoum business
Evidently two Chums of Chance books we didn't know about. Perhaps The Chums of Chance and the Voodoo Priest and The Chums of Chance and the Mussulman Hordes.
Khartoum... Mahdi's army
Khartoum is the capital of Sudan. The Mahdi army refered to here was an Islamic group in the 1880s that advocated a return to strict Islamic values and battled with the government of Khartoum and Egyptian armies.More on these convoluted events at the Wikipedia entry.
The concept of the Mahdi is far beyond this one historic event, however. In point of fact, the U.S. is fighting the Mahdi Army in Iraq right now.
contrary wind . . . Oltre Giubba, instead of down at Alex
From Khartoum you fly north by west to Alexandria. That wind was about as contrary as it could be: from Khartoum to Oltre Giuba is south by east. Now called Jubaland, Oltre Giuba (just one B, please, this isn't Pagliacci) is the southwesternmost part of Somalia, across the Juba River from the rest. Not to be confused with Juba province in southern Sudan.
- Oh, and the Oltre Giuba diversion must have taken place before Inconvenience was fitted with hydrogen steam power, else she could have flown against the wind.
High-quality pocket watch. [pix and info]
Scarsdale NY boasts that it's Westchester County's wealthiest community, so a 'Scarsdale vibe' implies 'stinking of money'. Vibe is another Pynchon baddie whose last name starts with "V", e.g., Brock Vond in Vineland.
The name of Vibe's private train derives from the Sanskrit Jagannātha, meaning "Lord of the Universe" one of the many names of Lord Krishna. "Krishna" itself means "black" or "dark" skinned. British colonial "urban" legend had it that Hindus sought to be crushed under the wheels of giant cars in Krishna's "chariot procession" at Puri as a way of gaining salvation. see the Wikipedia entry.
Capitalism has often been described as a juggernaut. One of numerous uses:
"Even as leaders of nation states compete for power and prestige, the juggernaut of capitalism diminishes borders, weakens governments and, eventually," ...
- A leading sociologist, Anthony Giddens, is also responsible for the phrase, "the juggernaut of modernity". See this incredibly relevant definition and analysis of this phrase: "The most defining property of modernity, according to Giddens, is that we are disembedded from time and space. In pre-modern societies, space was the area in which one moved, time was the experience one had while moving. In modern societies, however, the social space is no longer confined by the boundaries set by the space in which one moves. One can now imagine what other spaces look like, even if he has never been there. In this regard, Giddens talks about virtual space and virtual time. Another distinctive property of modernity lies in the field of knowledge. In pre-modern societies, it were the elders who possessed the knowledge: they were definable in time and space. In modern societies we must rely on expert systems. These are not present in time and space, but we must trust them. Even if we trust them, we know that something could go wrong: there's always a risk we have to take. Also the technologies which we use, and which transform constraints into means, hold risks. Consequently, there is always a heightened sense of uncertainty in contemporary societies. It is also in this regard that Giddens uses the image of a 'juggernaut': modernity is said to be like an unsteerable juggernaut traveling through space." Wikipedia []
in disguise . . . bodyguards and secretaries . . . ebony stick
Some great disguise!
"Foley walker" is a term used to indicate a sound-effects expert. Also known as a foley artist [cite]. One of the foley walker's main jobs is to add the sound of footsteps to movies where required, imitating the way the character would walk. So, a kind of 'stand-in'.
Forty-seventh and Ashland
[cite] [...] The spread of movie palaces in the automobile age presaged the spread of commercial buildings from the Loop to the neighborhoods and suburbs. By 1930, Marshall Field & Co. had created smaller versions of its downtown store in Evanston and Oak Park, while neighborhood retailers like Goldblatt's and Wieboldt's were moving downtown. Chicago developed regional shopping districts at 47th and Ashland, 63rd and Halsted, Irving Park and Pulaski, and many other locations. Certain areas catered to specialized industries, such as “Automobile Row” on South Michigan Avenue, or the Maxwell Street Market, an open-air European-style market that resisted every effort at modernization until its destruction in the 1990s. [...] [cite]
This exchange between Vibe and Ipsow refers specifically to 2 Corinthians 11:19 -- For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. [cite]
Ipsow's response to S. Vibe on lines 21-23( ...in these days need arises directly from criminal acts of the rich) can be seen as a direct paraphrase of Ch. 5 of the book of James: Now listen you rich.. you have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! the wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields cry out against you... you have lived in luxury and fattened yourself in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and killed innocent men ... James 5
"Old Zip Coon"
"Old Zip Coon" dates from as early as 1834 and is considered the original name for the 19th-century American folk song, 'Turkey in the Straw'. lyrics Wikipedia See also  and .
The word "coon" may originate in America as a derogatory name for a Negro, but it was current in England too (therefore not "for an African-American"). For other occurrences of the word, with show business associations in every case, see text and annotations: page 48, page 344, page 369 and page 424.
- In this contributor's boyhood, a brand of chewing tobacco heavily advertised on East Tennessee radio and television used the tune in its jingle, with lyrics close to:
If you like a spicy taste
Every morning, night and noon,When you chew Red Coon.
Then you're bound to like the taste
- The package at this time portrayed a raccoon, but it's possible a different image had come before.
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), American inventor. He was born in Croatia of Serbian parents. He studied at Graz (Austria), Prague and Paris. He discovered (1881) principle of rotating magnetic field, basis of practically all alternating-current (AC) machinery. Between 1882-1884 he was an engineer in Paris (1882-84) and constructed his first induction motor (1883). He emigrated to the United States (1884, naturalized in 1889). Worked for Thmoas Edison (1884-85) but left the Edison Works at Menlo Park (Edison opposed to AC idea) to concentrate on his own inventions, which include improved dynamos, transformers, electric bulbs, wireless communication (1897) and the high-frequency coil which bears his name. (Cf page 97 and Tesla.)
Notice what he doesn't say: the principles of the free market, the essence of the capitalist economic system. As if modern history has already been written and such research would somehow undermine it.
Completed in 1912, was the gift of Henry T. Sloane, BA 1866, and William D. Sloane, MA HON. 1889. Of Longmeadow stone, it is Collegiate Gothic in style. Charles C. Haight was the architect. (An underground addition was constructed in 1958 to house a Van de Graaff machine-now removed. The John A. Hartford Foundation, Inc., and the U.S. Public Health Service financed it. Sloane Lab was the first University constructed on the Hillhouse Estate (less the three acres adjoining Sachem’s Wood). The property was a gift in 1910 of Mrs. Russell Sage, and called Pierson Sage Square. The University had wanted to acquire the land to develop into a turn-of-the-century “science park”. The well-known landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmstead advised in the land’s development. [217 Prospect Street] [cite] and [photo].
Interestingly, Frederick Law Olmstead was also pivital in the development of the grounds for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. His famous "Wooded Isle" remains a centerpiece in Chicago's Jackson Park. [link] and [photo].
For a more detailed account of Olmstead's landscape architecture as it relates to the 1893 World's Fair, see Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City.
- These would be anachronistic, but as the note for p29 above mentions, a lab existed by 1882.
Dr. Tesla's idea of providing electrical power that anyone could tap in for free alludes the birth of wireless internet before being monopolized by b(p)ig companies and corporate greed.
the most terrible weapon the world has seen . . . rational systems of control
This statement defines the threat—as the plutocrats see it—of free power (anarchy) and their justification for bending government and every other compelling force to stamp it out.
out of the fish-market anarchy of all battling all
Vibe quotes Thomas Hobbes, who in Leviathan (1651) described the primitive state of the human race as bellum omnium contra omnes, the war of all against all, which was ended only by the creation of the State. Note the change of "war" to "anarchy."
John Pierpont Morgan I (April 17, 1837 – March 31, 1913) was an American financier and banker, who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation. [...] In 1900, Morgan financed inventor Nikola Tesla and his Wardenclyffe Tower with $150,000 for experiments in radio. Tesla was unsuccessful and, in 1904, Morgan pulled out. Later, Tesla created an AC generator [cite]
non-linear phenomena of scale
Linear scaling means, for example, store twice as much charge, get twice as much voltage. An instance of behavior becoming nonlinear is when air insulation breaks down (arcs, lightning); here adding charge may lead to a decrease in voltage.
Somble, Strool & Fleshway
Law firms in Pynchon have such charming names; compare Salitieri, Poore, Nash, de Brutus, and Short in Gravity's Rainbow or Warpe, Wistfull, Kubitschek and McMingus in The Crying of Lot 49. This one has more of a Dickensian sound. Somble could be a portmanteau of somber and tremble or some bull; Strool, perhaps, of strait (= narrow) and cruel, or stool and drool. "Fleshway" might suggest a reference to Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh, which was not published until 1903, but it seems more likely to go back to a biblical phrase associated with death.
Using the onomatapeia technique such as in the Gravity's Rainbow law firm, we start to get 'Some Bull, is ('t) Drool And.......Help needed! How about "some bull's strool and fleshway." Strool being the portmanteau of stool and drool, and fleshway being the meaty part of the flushway (g.i. tract, anus) -- you know, something like bullshit with the consitency of diarrhea.
Incidentally, Strool is an actual surname as well as the name of a town in South Dakota.
By the way, Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan (see "all against all" entry toward the top of this page) is also the source of Salitieri et al. ("solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short," describing the life of human beings in their primitive state).
Of, or relating to, clothing.
Fairgoers would see the ship overhead and yet not see it
Useful property for a surveillance platform.
"Bas" is French for "low", though "bas nuit" means nothing in French.
A detective named 'Lew' reminds us (who is "us"?) of Ross Macdonald's character Lew Archer which in turn recalls another detective, Miles Archer, partner of Sam Spade in San Francisco detective agency Spade & Archer. This may be a bad pun on 'lube-ass night' and also might refer to the incident causing Lew to be shunned by his peers."song" by Dr. Dre (featuring Snoop Dogg, Dat Nigga Daz, Kurupt, Jewel). And, hey, Lew meets Nicholas Nookshaft, Grand Cohen of T.W.I.T. (Nookie Shaft? Twat crossed w/clit? A-and isn't that tetractys an inverted beaver?), where he meets Yashmeen, a very sexual woman. And then there's that whole "Beavers of the Brain" cyclomite episode (p. 183) (Beavers, fercrissakes!). Perhaps something worth following up ... or not!
It is possible Basnight is an Americanization of the German "Fasnacht". "Fastnacht or Fasnacht is the pre-Lenten carnival in Alemannic folklore in Switzerland, southern Germany, Alsace and western Austria. It is also known in parts of Pennsylvania Dutch Country as Fauschnaut Day and is celebrated on the day before Ash Wednesday, or the last Tuesday before Lent." 
"A likely derivation is from PIE pwo- "purify" (cognate to pava-mana), or alternatively connected with Middle High German vaselen "prosper, bud" and interpreted as a fertility rite."
Fasnacht Day is known in English as Shrove Tuesday. "The word shrove is a past tense of the English verb "shrive," which means to obtain absolution for one's sins by confessing and doing penance."  All of this seems to tally well with the Basnight character.
Another pun theory: on page 38, Lew is described as being in an ignorance "black as night." This can be abbreviated to "Basnight." Lew is pronounced "loo," which of course is the British toilet. Lew Basnight then means, "toilet, black as night." Just a thought...
White City Investigations
Since the White City dates from 01 May 1893, this ought to be later.
The name recalls the White Visitation of Gravity's Rainbow. Any connection?
On this and the previous page, there is a question raised of whether the Chums are fictional. Or it could be saying that such fantastical sights as the airship are easy to miss at the fair.
It seems more likely that the comparison here is simply between that of the fair, a small, self-contained world of marvels (like all World's Fairs) and the "real world" outside its gates.
There is lots more going on (and it's lots more interesting). Consider these passages on pages 36-37:
- the . . . celebration possessed the exact degree of fictitiousness to permit the boys access and agency
- The harsh nonfictional world waited outside the White City's limits
- he (Lew) had not . . . heard of the Chums of Chance
- every boy knows the Chums of Chance
- you're not storybook characters. . . . Are you?
Too much back-and-forth about fiction to be just about the exposition and the real world. Some premises that are implicit here:
- The Chums know that they live in literature whether they have a "real" existence or not.
- They know their books are popular with an audience of boys. (Lindsay is surprised that Lew didn't read them earlier, not that he isn't reading them now.)
- Lew doesn't regard objective evidence (they are standing before him, he's ascended in their ship) as sufficient to rule out ambiguity (". . . Are you?").
- The lads are able to experience and act only in a quasi-fictitious environment. Off the fairgrounds (in the WCI office), Randolph gives nothing but answers scripted for him by National.
All this suggests that even the Chums aren't sure on what level they exist. They definitely have adventures, as recorded in their books, but they don't seem to have adventures not contained in the novels. What will happen if they come to the end of a Chums book while we are still reading AtD?
No more than Wyatt Earp or Nellie Bly
See the next two entries. Earp had a "real" life but people remember him chiefly because of stories written about him (and by him through ghostwriters, link 1, link 2). Bly entertained masses of people by having adventures and then writing about them. Each "lived" through a body of literature.
(1848–1929), was a teamster, sometime buffalo hunter, officer of the law in various Western frontier towns, gambler, and saloon-keeper in the Wild West and the U.S. mining frontier from California to Alaska. He is best known for his participation in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Wikipedia
(1864-1922) was an American journalist, author, industrialist, and charity worker. She is most famous for an undercover exposé in which she faked insanity to study a mental institution from within. She is also well-known for her record-breaking trip around the world. Wikipedia
Regarding Lew Basnight's malady...
Again, there seems to be a character with a neurological illness; in this case it is presented as amnesia, but seizures also result in "lost time". (See comments on Miles' "electricity coming on" on page 24.) Such maladies are more common than one supposes, and can offer a glimpse of other-worldliness akin to that of hallucinogenics, and epileptics have, at times, been considered to have access to past or future lives.
- OR it could be the case that Lew has fallen through a crack in time-space and entered a parallel universe; in the previous universe (which he simply remembers as the past), he had not done anything wrong, which explains his perplexity. The same might be the case with Miles, which would be why he did not expect baskets of crockery near his feet. Such moving among worlds is a thread in this work.
making a point of pronouncing his name disrespectfully
The only way it could be done is, apparently, by saying Lube Ass Night. Well, that or tone of voice.
the Upstate-Downstate Beast
Illinois is one of three states with an Upstate, though one of them doesn't use the term Downstate (South Carolina divides itself into Upstate and Lowcountry). The nickname points to a traveling man, perhaps. "Moral horror," "denounced," "revulsion" probably fit with many crimes, though most of those would have led to a prison sentence and we don't have any information of Lew's serving time.
"Although the longer a fellow's name has been in the magazines, the harder it is to tell fiction from non-fiction."
May express Pynchon's reaction to the press' treatment of him over the years. In 1964, when Pynchon heard that the New York Herald Tribune was writing an article about him, Pynchon wrote to his agent that he assumed the piece "will be riddled with the same lies, calumnies and all-around knavish disregard for my privacy" as previous articles. ("Pynchon's Letters Nudge His Mask," New York Times, 4 Mar 1998).
A type of cheese made in Yorkshire, England.
"You have destroyed your name."
Wensleydale using very strong language. He doesn't say "destroyed your reputation" or "discredited your name" but "destroyed your name." Does anyone else see this as suggesting Lew's name was not Lew Basnight before his sin?
to plead with him to come back
A strange response, that Troth should ask the Upstate-Downstate Beast to return to her. You would think she'd prefer him as far away as he could get.
one of your other wives
A direct reference to Lew's sin, or is Troth just pelting Lew with anything that's in reach?
This silly instrument appears in several Pynchon novels.
slow ritual movement
Maybe tai chi, or anachronistic Gurdjieffian dance?
A noun meaning, according to the OED, a "fishing expedition in which several men take part, each supplying a net and receiving a share of the profits made. Later, A haul (of fish); also, a shoal." There is also a Drave river in south central Europe, though there seems to be no textual evidence to support this association.
Potato chips were invented in Saratoga Springs, NY, and were often called Saratoga chips in the 19th century.
How the country Estonia was spelled in English during the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Atonia is a lack of normal muscle tension, but also, "A frightening form of paralysis that occurs when a person suddenly finds himself or herself unable to move for a few minutes, most often upon falling asleep or waking up. Commonly called sleep paralysis, the condition is due to an ill-timed disconnection between the brain and the body." Definition This could mean that the hotel in question is nothing more than an internal hallucination of Basnight's, further suggesting that his problem is one of neurological rather than simply moral or spiritual cause.
"liable for criminal penalties"
Law and the legal profession so far appear in AtD more than any other Pynchon novel (perhaps save The Crying of Lot 49), and so far, like here, in a negative or confusing light. Perhaps Pynchon sees law as part of the general establishment the novel seems to criticize/oppose.--("Seems to?" Is there some way in which, in the end, that this novel is SUPPORTING the "general establishment?" That would be an interesting hypothesis.)
lofty regions no high-iron pioneer had yet dared
In the early 1890s anything taller than about 10 stories would have qualified.
Similar to keisaku in Zen Buddhism, an attempt by a sensei to alert students to their mindlessness in zazen (sitting meditation), usually administered by a stick. An English translation is stick of compassion. [Wikipedia]
Lew's performance of commonplace and strange chores is also similar to the way Zen training can proceed for novitiates.
you keep bouncing free. Avoiding penance and thereby definition
It is hard to tie Drave down philosophically. No connection between sin and penance, penance as destiny, penance happens or doesn't, and now this idea that penance defines one's existence.
We've seen Lew pretty well through a year: summertime (p. 38) when Troth followed him to Chicago, autumn (p. 40) when he checked in at the Esthonia, winter (p. 41) as his bank account starved, now in the spring his moment of grace.
The cap of an early bicycling enthusiast. According to this site:
- "In […]1892 [… a] bicyclist to be considered genuine had to be dressed in bicycle clothes. A man had to wear bicycle pants which were baggy at the top and tight to the legs below. Then he had to have bicycle socks and shoes. The shoes were made of canvass. Then he had to have a loose fitting grey colored short which we would designate now as a sport shirt. Then on his head he had to wear a tight fitting cap with a long bill in front, the longer the better up to a certain ceiling length. With this outfit and a bicycle with drop handlebars he was ready to appear in public as a real cyclist. If he could make 20 miles an hour on a good track he was called a 'scorcher,' the idea being that he was going so fast that he would scorch at least the end of his nose if nothing else."
shirtwaists with huge shoulders
He understood that things were exactly what they were.
This sentence sums up the entire experience at the Esthonia hotel, which seems to be a Zen-like initiation. Here, Lew Basnight seems to have attained some form of enlightenment, and the description ("a condition...which he later came to think of as grace"), along with this sentence, are almost textbook examples of Zen enlightenment. No lights flash, no changes are seen; one merely understands that things are what they are. After this experience, he leaves the hotel, and no longer needs to be there. He then embarks on his new career, in part because of his extreme ability to notice minute details; something that he was not said to have had before.
- The sentence can also serve as a guide to readers of AtD. Even when it is tempting to speculate that "this paragraph is about Richard Nixon" or protest that "you can't see Sirius on a summer evening," it is worth the effort to let the text mean what it means.
In Lew's time of grace, he shows a changed face.
leisurely rips through the fabric of the day
He had learned to step to the side of the day.
Through the book there are juxtapositions of things with and against the day (the 'title motif'). Here, we are told that Lew has learned to step "to the side" of the day. Possibly he is able to enter another plane? This is possible considering the dream-like hotel sequence on previous pages.
- I think that the "other plane" interpretation is a bit of a stretch. The passage seems to imply that Lew has learned to will and maintain a degree of detachment from his surroundings, perhaps a relinquishment of his perceived control over events or his attempts to control them.
- -- I don't see it as a stretch if we accept that he now recognizes that there are alternate, parallel, universes.
it was apparently not as easy for anyone in "Chicago" to be that certain of his whereabouts
The quotes here may be to distinguish the fact that while technically living in Chicago, Lew sometimes exists or moves within a place or plane that others also living there don't see, or have access to.
- Yes, or universes rather than planes.
As Holy Roman Emperor, the Austro-Hungarian emperor bore a two-headed eagle (each head crowned) as part of his arms. The Tsar of Russia also used a two-headed eagle, but it was triply crowned (one crown between the heads). The Serbian two-headed eagle appeared on a shield with one crown above it, and the Montenegrin one had a single crown between the heads. Other details of the envelope would serve to disambiguate.
"Trabanten" (German for 'satellites') originally - during the Thirty Years' War - were lightly armed foot soldiers; later this term was used for servants and/or bodyguards of high-ranking persons.
"have a lawyer explain civil liability to you"
Perhaps a bit too early to use this term; the Dictionary of American Slang dates it as "by 1906".
a couple a thousand hunkies
"Hunkies" was a slur against Hungarians and other eastern Europeans. The word may have morphed into "honkies."
This is indeed the same Franz Ferdinand whose assassination in 1914 triggered World War I. At the time of his appearance in AtD, he would have been 30, and his two passions throughout young adulthood and his 20s were travel and hunting (it is estimated that he shot more than 5,000 deer in his lifetime). Wikipedia entry. He did indeed attend the Chicago Exposition. 
Click for The Habsburgs in Against the Day...
See the annotation about Austria-Hungary on the next page.
Someone proficient with a knife (shive=knife or razor).
to rewrite history
Hold on, rewrite? As Vibe did on page 33, Privett seems to reason that history has already been decided and some action would change it rather than generate a valid new history.
"staff," a mixture of plaster and hemp fibers
One source says it was jute, not hemp.
According to Building Stone magazine, the buildings were meant to be painted in bright colors, but the Chicago climate put the kibosh on that. Even keeping them white called for continuous repainting.
The Museum of Science and Industry is the only structure surviving from the exposition. Built as the Palace of Fine Arts, it started out faced in staff but was later rebuilt to the original exterior design in limestone and marble.
to counterfeit some deathless white stone
Given the many references throughout AtD to "white" and "stones" to counterfeit a deathless white stone seems portentous.
"In Austria," the Archduke was explaining, ". . . the Chicago Stockyards might possibly be rented out . . . for a weekend's amusement"
Pynchon continues his linking of the Stockyard killing-floor with the genocidal horrors of the 20th Century, it seems. See above. Heidegger (sic) made this connection somewhere and J.M Coetze's novel Elizabeth Costello uses it in a key chapter that was published separately.
beaters who drive the animals toward the hunters . . . waiting to shoot them
Skillful use of ambiguity: waiting to shoot the animals or the beaters?
"Hungarians occupy the lowest level of brute existence"
Even if the quote might be fictive, the Archduke's characterization is close to the point. Franz Ferdinand, a dour reactionary with aggressive ideas in foreign policy, had the reputation of an avowed Hungarophobe. The Compromise of 1867 created a dualistic Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, which the Archduke sought to transform in a "trialistic" way, giving an enivsioned southern Slav union of Croatia (which was united in a sub-confederation with Hungary), Bosnia and Dalmatia a status similar to that of the Kingdom of Hungary. Note how the Czechs, a population about twice as large as southwestern Slavs, were omitted from this scheme. The idea was evidently to weaken the Hungarian establishment, and recentralize power in Vienna.
A double-barreled rifle designed by Ferdinand Ritter von Mannlicher. It is reported that Archduke Franz Ferdinand had several of these made special for him.
Interestingly enough, the rifle is also mentioned in Green Hills of Africa and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway, who used it extensively on hunting.
Franz was eventually assassinated in Sarajevo. Coincidentally (?), fellow assassinee JFK was initially claimed to have been a victim of Lee Harvey Oswald's Mannlicher rifle.
K&K Special Security
"K&K" stands for "Kaiserlich und Königlich," German for "imperial and royal (kingly)," to indicate the Austrian two titles of the ruler of the Dual Monarchy: King of Hungary and Emperor of Austria. Wikipedia entry.
This is not a German word as far as I know and most likely not even a degenerate Habsburg or one of his officers would have used it (but then I haven't read Franz Ferdinand's account of his travels...). Sounds more like some Babelfish machine translation of "pastry-depravity" to me. I wonder what the German translator will make of this. My guess is, s/he will not make a "typical German" combined noun out of it, but turn the phrase to be able to use an adverb like "mehlspeisennarrisch" instead (what with in Austria and Bavaria there is a word for (mostly sweet) pastry: "Mehlspeise" (literally "flour-meal), and "narrisch" is Austrian/Viennese for being (slightly) mad). But then, of course, there might be a pun intended I as a bad english-speaker just dont get. Maybe via the pronounciation? Check out this dictionary, head for "continue searching" and press "voice output" - voila, thats what "Kuchenteigs-Verderbtheit" sounds like.
The term probably is made up, but the meaning is more like "shameful addiction to cookie dough." In the context of detectives, what may be happening here is this: The Austrians have heard the canard that American policemen are addicted to doughnuts, but they misunderstand both doughnut and addicted.
Another possibility: Austrians have read that American detectives will do anything for dough.
Boll Weevil Lounge
The boll weevil, a destructive cotton pest, first arrived in America (via Mexico) in 1892, only one year before the opening section of ATD. It is a fitting name for a "Negro Bar" as the boll weevil is the subject of dozens of blues songs. [Wikipedia]
1893 is too soon for the songs and probably for the lounge too. Cotton was still king in the South; the big Atlanta exposition was two years in the future, and the economic dislocation had not properly begun. The boll weevil songs date from the teens-20s and later.
...the only place in Chicago a man could find a decent orange phosphate...
A reference to the modern stereotype that black people like orange soda, here called a phosphate.
Watermelon; another black stereotype...
The lead cars in cable-car systems. [Wikipedia]
deine Mutti, as you would say
Franz Ferdinand is attempting to engage the patrons of the Boll Weevil Lounge in a game of "the dozens", an insult contest in which opponents make fun of each other's mothers. "The dozens" has its origins in the New Orleans slave trade. As with the boll weevil, "the dozens" is closely associated with blues music. [Wikipedia]
the World's Fair, not the World's Ugly
A fairly sophisticated pun, if F.F.'s English is so rudimentary.
...'st los, Hund?
German for "'s up, dog?"
All Pimps Look Alike to Me
An early rag by Ernest Hogan was entitled All Coons Look Alike to Me; "Hogan was evidently not the originator of the song's lyrics, having appropriated them after hearing a pianist in a Chicago salon playing a song titled "All Pimps Look Alike to Me"". See this article.
For more "coon" references see text and annotations: page 33, page 344, page 369 and especially page 424.
And when Franz Ferdinand pays, everybody pays!
A famous steakhouse at 105-107 Adams St. in downtown Chicago. The building was erected in 1885.
At first Lew took it for a church
This could be an allusion to the film, On The Waterfront, and a similar scene when Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) is sent by Johnny Friendly and Co. to eavesdrop on a meeting being held in a church by local priest Father Barry (Karl Malden) along with workers from the docks who are fed up with Friendly and the Mob, especially in light of a recent death. Social themes of film seem apt as well. .
Karl Malden (Mladen Sekulovich)incidentally was a product of this milieu, born in Chicago in 1912 to a Serb steelworker father and Czech seamstress mother. The Sekulovich family hails from Herzegovina.
One of the most important advances in the history of lighting, the Welsbach mantle (for a period so ubiquitous it became more commonly known simply as 'gas mantle') was first sold commercially in 1892 and quickly spread throughout Europe. It remained an important part of street lighting until the widespread introduction of electric lighting in the early 1900s. Wikipedia entry.
Reverend Moss Gatlin
A fictional character. Is he connected to Rev. Cherrycoke? They are both Reverends with strong political opinions and you can hear Pynchon's voice here very strong.
Possible allusion to Reverend Fr. John M. Corridan, the real-life counterpart of Father Barry in On The Waterfront. Wikipedia
Some real, or anyway nonfictional, anarchist preachers:
- Thomas Olney, 17th-century Baptist anarchist who was influential in Rhode Island
- Rudolf Rocker (1873-1958), nicknamed the "anarchist rabbi"
- Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, Dutch minister who came to anarchism in 1897
- Albert Dahlquist and Joseph A. Wildman, caught up in persecutions after the McKinley assassination (Dahlquist was nearly lynched; Wildman was tarred and feathered)
- Father Frank Morales, participant in Portland anti-globalization demonstrations
- Hugh O. Pentecost, who in 1889 was slated to address a meeting in commemoration of the Haymarket; Philadelphia authorities suppressed the gathering
Hair adornments. [pix]
bearing the insults of the day
See notes on pages 43 and 44 above.
The original lines From William Blake's poem are:
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.
Fierce as the winter's tempest . . . Death's for the bought and sold!
This lyric does not come up in a Google search. It doesn't flow like any other lyric in Pynchon but reads like a rather good hymn text. No variations in the meter, no words broken for the sake of rhyme, no punctuation to show lengthened or chopped syllables. And yet thematically it is a seamless fit with the text around it. Are the lines original in AtD, or can their source be identified?
The use of a major chord at the end of a musical section in a minor key. Wikipedia entry
Low points where refuse collects? Cf. Pynchon's story, Low-Lands?[def]
prophesiers who had seen America as it might be in visions America's wardens could not tolerate
Coupled with the cover blurb Pynchon wrote: "If it is not the world, it is what the world might be with a minor adjustment or two. According to some, this is one of the main purposes of fiction." Could Against the Day be Pynchon's prophecy of a future America?
Reference to Pinkerton's competing PI agency. Pinkerton's National Detective Agency had a logo with an eye in the center, and below it read, "We Never Sleep." See also page 13.
A type of cologne or after-shave. Wikipedia article
Lew Basnight's temporary presence on the airship may be the first clue as to why it's called Inconvenience. Perhaps his growing sympathy for the anarchists will lead to greater involvement by him, the Chums, or at least the book in portraying the anarchist movement, which is viewed as an inconvenience to the ruling classes. Pynchon may consider his novel's message, similarly, as an inconvenient truth about America's past, present or both.
- I thought it was just a polysyllable that sounds stately but means the opposite.--Robot 13:18, 5 December 2006 (PST)
In Mason & Dixon, the willful reality of other people are referred to as inconveniences more than once.
the whiteness of the place nearly unbearable
Causing an effect something like snow blindness.
some weeks till the fair closes
30 October 1893.
our future's all a blank
Whoever the Chums get their orders from, they have not received any new ones yet. They look ahead and see a blank page.
Frederick Jackson Turner (1861 - 1932) was, with Charles A. Beard, the most influential American historian of the early 20th century. He is best known for The Significance of the Frontier in American History, an essay which describes his views on how the idea of the frontier shaped the American character, and how the frontier drove American history and America's westward expansion. Excerpt: "In this advance, the frontier is the outer edge of the wave the meeting point between savagery and civilization." eText here...; Wikipedia
Here's where the Trail comes to an end at last
With the advent of the railroad, the West changed dramatically. Chicago became the stockyards and slaughterhouse of America, and cowboys only funneled their cattle in that direction, no longer simply following them on the range or leading them to more local places of slaughter. The cowboy had become a cog in the wheel of a mechanism of death.
Blitz Instruments and Wackett Punches
Mentioned in 1911 Britannica article 'Slaughter-house' [etext]
An open-topped bus for tourists.
"The frontier ends and disconnection begins"
Here, the free cowboy myth of Buffalo Bill's show is replaced by the grim reality of the stockyard worker.
Cause and effect
A major theme in Gravity's Rainbow.
How the dickens do I know?
A possible reference to the novels of Charles Dickens, who critiques in such works as Hard Times (1854) the onset of urban decay, and the choked living and working conditions of the proletariat as the Industrial Revolution steams onward.
Or it may just be a standard euphemism; polite speakers were enjoined not to name the Devil.
Hell-raising years; his early years. Definition of "hob".
where you knew you could stand and piss would flow two ways at once.
The Professor is talking about growing up in Colorado, where the Continental Divide passes. It would be logical to suggest that, at the precise location of this divide, piss would indeed flow both east and west.
- For Easterners at least, it's a well-known tourist ritual to pee right on the line.
The best place to do this, for tourists, is at Cache La Poudre Lake, headwaters of the Colorado River on Trail Ridge Road (US 34) in Rocky Mountain National Park—it is exactly on the Divide, and water exits to East and West, Atlantic and Pacific.
into the control of potent operatives who did not wish him well
Describing Lew's movement now, but a few pages previously that of the stock at the slaughterhouse.
Cheerfulness . . . a precarious commodity
The original narrator of the Chums passages has definitely been pushed aside now. They seem to be in a totally different book.
. . . they continued in a fragmented reverie which, . . . often announced some change in the works
Good to notice when the Chums get like this again: i.e. unfocused, depressed, without direction, it may lead to patterns in the plot.
- No Fair, no orders, no adventures: The Chums are between books!
Speculation began to fill the day.
See note on pages 43 and 44 above.
the ill-famed Hawk
In deepening autumn it is rehearsing "swift descent, merciless assault, rapture of souls"; at the end of the passage "the temperature head[s] down." The Hawk appears to be a metaphor for winter or its storms.
- That is pretty conclusive. Hawk an established and documented metaphor for the winter wind.
The Hawk is also one of the ubiquitous birds of prey in ATD. The words showing its lethal effect and the drop in temperature are Pynchon themes for evil. Evil comes from the lands of low temperatures. See GR.
In addition to these meanings, TRP also demonstrates local knowledge here, as the Hawk is the name of a specific wind in Chicago. The Hawk is the name of a northeast wind, one that comes off Lake Michigan usually in the spring. A meteorologist will tell you that a northeast wind is somewhat unusual, contrary to (or against) the prevailing winds that generally come from the west. The effects of the Hawk can be seen at Wrigley Field in Chicago, where centerfield is on the northeast corner of Sheffield and Waveland. When the Hawk is blowing hits that, given a usual southwest wind, have a chance at being home runs will die in the outfield and are easily caught. The Hawk is a reminder that, though winter has left town, it will be back. The wind has a very particular resonance for a Chicagoan, and it's very impressive that Pynchon, not a native, should make use of it, especially in such an offhand manner.
The Light Over the Ranges
Against the Day
Rue du Départ