ATD 374-396

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Please keep these annotations SPOILER-FREE by not revealing information from later pages in the novel.

Page 374

a dime novel . . . suffering in its name
The novel is, presumably, The Chums of Chance in Old Mexico, as described on p. 7.

Cf. also the following excerpt from Cormac McCarthy's novel (albeit not a dime one!) Blood Meridian (1985), where the captain of a "gringo evildoers" gang speaks:

There is no government in Mexico. Hell, there's no God in Mexico. Never will be. We are dealing with a people manifestly incapable of governing themselves. And do you know what happens with people who cannot govern themselves? That's right. Others come in to govern for them. [...] We are to be the instruments of liberation in a dark and troubled land. (Modern Library Edition 2001, p. 34) (See here for more on AtD and Blood Meridian)

Ewball Oust
Oust is a odor eliminator the container of which has a quite phallic shape. And there's that phallic "U" again (See p.130), conjoined with "ball" which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as "5. Any rounded protuberant part of the body." It is thought that "ball" is derived from the Indo-European word bhel, meaning to blow, swell; with derivatives referring to various round objects and to the notion of tumescent masculinity. Derivatives include boulevard, boulder, phallus, balloon, ballot, and fool. [1] So Ewball Oust plays into The Sexual Angle in AtD, where sexual names proliferate.

Interestingly, there's a game called U-Ball (aka Ubuntu Ball) that pits two ball-throwing teams, separated by a center line, against each other. The object of the game is to get all of your opponents “out” of the game by either 1) Hitting them with a ball you throw, or 2) Catching a ball they throw at you while trying to get you out.
When someone is “out” of the game [o-or ousted!], they leave the main playing area and join other “out” teammates on the other side of their opponent’s team, also separated by a line (like the end line on a volleyball court). While “out,” players act as a backstop to catch balls thrown by their teammates that go through their opponents’ side. “Out” people also can throw at their opponents to get their opponents “out.” Once you are “out” you stay out, so you can’t come back in when you hit someone from your “out” position.
The game ends when the last person on one side is hit or throws a ball that is caught. [2]

The game is also known as dodgeball.

Ubuntu is a traditional sub-Saharan African concept, which roughly translated means “I am because we are”.

...and he may just turn out to be a bit of a [scr]ewball. Thew 19:28, 21 June 2007 (PDT)

Ewball sounds like "übel" (german for noxious, nauseous).

Spanish: Mexican cowboy.

Veta Madre
It is not a mine, but rather the original saying Mother Lode. Many silver mines in Guanajuato city are on the Veta Madre. See Veta Madre.

Toplady Oust
Toplady Oust was conceived "in a choir loft during a rendition of 'Rock of Ages'" written by Reverend Toplady, and thus named! And what would be so, er, stimulating about "Rock of Ages," (cleft for me...)...?

Rev'd Toplady, in A Short Essay on Original Sin, likened the soul at death to a bird leaving a cage:

Conformably to this view of things, Plato chose to derive soma the Greek word for body; from sayma which signifies a tomb or sepulchre: on supposition that the body is that to a soul which a grave is to the body; and that souls emerge from the body by death as a bird flies from a broken cage, or as a captive escapes from a place of painful and dishonourable confinement. [3]

'Rock of Ages'
'Rock of Ages' is one of the world's best-loved Christian hymns with the original lyrics by Reverend Augustus Montague Toplady and music by Thomas Hastings. The lyrics were first published in The Gospel Magazine in 1775 with the music added in around 1830. Of course, there are now several modernised vresions. For the lyrics and more information see Rock of Ages and RofA.

Patio method
The Spaniards in Mexico used the "patio" method to extract silver from its ore. The process takes its name from shallow circular pits, 15 yards across, in which the ore was worked. Silver ore was ground up with water to make mud, and this mud was spread 10 inches deep over the patio. Miners then added salt and mercury and mixed everything by having mules pull stone blocks over it repeatedly. This process forced the silver to combine chemically with the mercury. The mud was rinsed away, and the silver-mercury compound was heated to force off the mercury. Miners in Tegucigalpa imported large amounts of salt from the southern coast and mercury, from Seville to produce their silver. From HondurasThisWeek website

Page 375

Washoe process
The Washoe Process In the Washoe Process (named for Indians that inhabited the area around Lake Tahoe, and thus the name for the area around Virginia City, the name now preserved in the name of the neighboring county, Washoe County), the improvement to the process of heating the ore during extraction in an iron pan increased the recovery and decreased the processing time. The iron from the pan acted as the reducing agent for the silver:

2AgCl + Fe = 2Ag + FeCl2

The drive for this reaction is nearly 0.6 volts greater than the drive for the reaction for reducing silver using copper (at standard conditions as above), so this reaction is highly favored.

In addition, heating the reaction mixture helped the formation of the amalgam of silver with mercury. In this reaction, the mercury was not changed into mercurous chloride (calomel), so mercury was not used up in the process. The iron pans and iron mixers (mullers) would be consumed in the process, but these could be replaced readily. [1]

The capital city, northwest of Mexico City, of the state of the same name in Mexico's central highland. It is located at an elevation of 6,550 ft and in one of the richest silver mining area of Mexico.

Guanajuato is also mentioned as an important secondary source of Iceland spar.

ores tend to be free-milling
The fragments remain separate (thus accessible to the leaching process) rather than reagglomerating.

Spanish: Spar. Iceland Spar is 'espato de Islandia'.

Spanish: something strange, ugly or shocking. Also a haunt or ghost.

Spanish: Horrible or shocking

'La Cucaracha'
'The Cockroach', a popular folk song during the Mexican revolution. There were many versions of different lyrics. One of them was said to mock General Huerta. Wikipedia.



Page 376

General Huerta
Gen. Victoriano Huerta (1854-1916) was on the make in the period of the action. He was an Army general, but also a villain, a drunkard, a drug addict and, for a brief time, the President of Mexico between October 1913 and July 1914. Here is a précis of his career.

Bajío is a region in Mexico in the central highland state of Guanajuato.

the eve of a turn in history
Pynchon's own spoiler. The Mexican Revolution is brewing.

Torreón... Zacatecas... León... Silao
Torreón is a desert city to the north, in Coahuila. Zacatecas is both a state and city in Central Mexico, situated between Torreón and León. León and Silao are cities in Guanajuato. León is the fifth largest city in Mexico (by population).

Zacatecas was the site of a major revolt against Porfirio Díaz's government during the Mexican Revolution of 1910, in which Pancho Villa attempted to capture the city of Zacatecas and the state's lucrative silver mines. see here.

A leguminous plant of the Prosopis genus found in Northern Mexico and Southwestern U.S. Mesquite trees are also found in the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico.

ore tailing
residue separated in the preparation of ore.

The workers who make pulque - a traditional navtive beverage of Mesoamerica.

maguey juice
Juice from the maguey, an agave, (maguey), or century plant, from which pulque is made.

A simple farmer or farmworker is referred to as a campesino in Spanish.

Vera Cruz puros
Spanish: Vera Cruz cigars.

It is a moderately reactive bluish-white metal that tarnishes in moist air and burns in air with a bright greenish flame. Zinc is the fourth most common metal in use, trailing only iron, aluminium and copper in annual production.

Empresas Oustianas, S.A.
Oustian Enterprises, Anonymous Society (S.A. just points to a form of incorporation, nothing sinister).

Page 377

A Mexican alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of various agaves. pulque.

Spanish: callejon: narrow street, alley.

Spanish: subida: a street going uphill.

Semana Santa
Spanish: Holy Week (week before Easter).

Judas Iscariot
According to the New Testament, Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve original apostles of Jesus and the one who betrayed him. He was paid thirty pieces of silver for his betrayal.

Mexican Rural Guard, a force of mounted police or gendarmerie that became famous during the period of President Porfirio Diaz (1876-1911). For further information see rurales.

Page 378

Spanish: court, likely orgin of hoosegow.

Calle Juarez
Spanish: Juarez Street.

Spanish: bribe.

Cf German self-loader.

The word pistoles does not exist in Spanish, although pistolas would mean guns, specifically, handguns, pistols. Probably the -E in pistoles was a phonetical adaptation to ease pronunciation for non-Spanish speakers in the U.S.

Spanish: Handcuffs. (Interestingly, esposa is also "wife" in spanish.

Spanish: cemetery.

Cerro del trozado
A hill in Guanajuato, where the cemetery of St. Paula is located. The place where the famous 'Momias de Guanajuato' (Mummies of Guanajuato, momias) were found (cf p.383).

¿Donde estamos?
Spanish: Where are we? (?)

El Palacio de Cristal
Spanish (ironic): the Crystal Palace.

The real Crystal Palace is known from Gravity's Rainbow, of course. "One of the glories of the Victorian era. It was designed entirely of glass and iron by Joseph Paxton, a former head gardener at Chatsworth, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851, or to give it its full name, the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. It was originally erected in Hyde Park but moved to Sydenham in 1854 with some alterations, including the addition of two towers, and used as an exhibition, entertainment, and recreational centre. It became national property in 1911 and was destroyed by fire in 1936." From the GR wiki.

There is one Palacio de Cristal, in Madrid's Parque del Retiro. Pictures and text.

La politica
Spanish: politics, the political.

Spanish: Congratulations.

Page 379

Porfirio Díaz
Mexican President from 1876 to 1880 (with exception of months) and from 1884 to 1911. Cf p.7 and also see Díaz.

Spanish: Bedbugs

Dwayne Provecho
In Mexico, and other Latin American cultures, "Buen Provecho" is a phrase spoken to one's companions before a meal. Used like the French "Bon appétit", it means "Enjoy your meal." This makes Dwayne's comment on page 381 that much more humorous: "You boys sure eat good," "Buen provecho" is also said before drinking (Dwayne is drunk) and sometimes ironically when somebody belchs. But also "Provecho" is "profit", meaning that fits with Dwayne's actions.

City of Nogales, AZ. Just across the border: Nogales, Mexico.

Spanish: border.

As time passed
It could be a considerable time; folklore characters who get penned up underground can't tell if a night and a day, seven years or even a century has passed up above.

No say prayo-coopy, compadre
"No se preoccupe". Don't worry, buddy.

Page 380

Spanish: scientists.

??? A feminine Spanish name, means "protection, shelter."

A member of the lower nobility of Spain. (Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary)
Here it's referencing the money Ewball is throwing around. (which is one of the things people would expect un hidalgo to do ...) Similar slang to calling US currency "George Washingtons" and "Ben Franklins".

Page 381

Spanish: Flatterers

"They say it was something one of you did a long time ago, back on the Other Side."
Cf. Page 37, Lew Basnight's unknowable transgression: " way of a sin he was supposed to have once committed." Also interesting to note the capitalization of Other Side, which sounds the other-dimension motif.

a dream of voyaging by air
Dreaming of the Chums of Chance perhaps?

Mexican rolls.

El Chinganáriz
The nosefucker (approximately). The salsa described here would be so potent it would cause your nose to turn red, get runny, irritated and perhaps even bleed.

in the shadow of the paredón
Delicate reference to his being stood against the big wall (paredón) and shot.

Partido Liberal Mexicano, Mexican Liberal Party, reformist organization prominent in the 1910 Revolution.

Flores Magón brothers
Ricardo Flores Magón, founder of P.L.M., and his brothers Jesús and Enrique. Considered heroes of the Mexican Revolution. Wikipedia entry

Isn't it? Right?

Camilo Arriaga
Mexican journalist, politician and writer from San Luis Potosí. Founder, along with the Flores Magon brothers, of the P.L.M.

i.e. person from San Luis Potosi, San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

Page 382

Spanish: Doll. Often used as a term of endearment or compliment.

caldereros y sus macheteros
Tequila and beer, and calderero derived from caldera = boiler. So: boilermakers and their helpers.
A reference to the makers of barbacoa has been suggested. It has a very strong odor, traditionally associated also with its makers. But the context supports the first definition instead.

Page 383

"Nobody ever looks like their 'mug,'..."
And when Pynchon says that, you better believe it!

"Brother Disco"
Since Ellmore Disco sounds exactly as El Mordisco ("The Bite") and Dwayne Provecho as Buen Provecho ("Good Appetite"), it doesn't sound so weird that they know each other and that they are on the same "brotherhood."

Also, there's a song by The Who called "Sister Disco" on their 1978 album "Who Are You". It is a critique of disco.

'"everybody here thinks you're the Kierselguhr Kid"'
The 'Kieselguhr Kid' has become a myth, a construct. There has to be one. All sorts of things are expected of 'him' from both his enemies and his friends. A little like Bin Laden?

Cf. the "legend" of the Kieselguhr Kid, p. 172 and annotations. There has to be one.

Spanish: knife.

Spanish: mummies. More about Guanajuato's famous Mummies at Wikipedia. Also cf p.378.

Page 384

Spanish: Ivory.

Spanish: Pal, buddy, (chum?)

Spanish: cowboy.

Ay, Jalisco
Ay, Jalisco! No te rajes, is a common Mexican idiom. It means that you shouldn't back out of any situation, even when the odds are against you. Jalisco itselft is a state in West-central Mexico whose capital city is Guadalajara.

El Ñato
Also a character in Gravity's Rainbow, where he was the leader of the Argentinians trying to emigrate to Germany. Literaly, somebody with a snub nose. Is a very common nickname in rural Argentina.

Page 385

a very large tropical parrot
Cf. the "parrot with a disdainful smile," p. 129.

Spanish: my son. Apocopation of 'mi hijo'. Used as a term of endearment, not necessarily indicating blood relation.

Spanish: A pubic hair. Usually, used in Mexico as an obscenity that roughly translates to "dick" or "asshole" depending on context. In Argentina it also translates as "kid", but in a derogatory way.

sin embargo
Spanish: Nevertheless

Spanish: Lets go!

Spanish: guerilla fighters.

el Famoso Chavalito del Quiselgur
Mexican Spanish: The famous Kieselguhr Kid.

Although with "chaval" or "chavo" would have been more accurate, since "chavalito" is a diminutive ("little kid").

Page 386

Spanish: A glass (of a spirited drink).

Spanish: Well

a partial vacuum in the passage of time
Cf. p. 373, "a place promised them, not by God, which'd be asking too much of the average Anarchist, but by certain hidden geometries of History, which must include, somewhere, at least at a single point, a safe conjugate to all the spill of accursed meridians, passing daily, desolate, one upon the next."

Maxim gun
The Maxim gun was the first self-powered machine gun, invented by the American-born Briton Sir Hiram Maxim in 1884. wikipedia entry

Que guapa, que tetas fantasticas, verdad?
Spanish: "How beautiful, what fantastic tits, eh?" (right?)

Page 387

Cuban claro
A kind of Cuban cigar or habanos made with a light-colored (claro) wrapper.

Partidos wrapper
A region of Cuba, where some of the finest habanos are made.

Spanish: A group of soldiers, a troop

Parrot Joaquin
Jose Joaquin Fernandez de Lizardi was the first novelist in Latin America. His most famous work is El periquillo sarniento, translated to English as The Mangy Parrot. Wikipedia entry

Spanish (slang): idiot, stupid.

A Mexican obscenity, meaning literally 'to have big testicles'; roughly translates as 'lazy'.

'Double refraction'
Once again the theme of dual natures.


Spanish: Damn!

Palacio del Gobierno
Spanish: Government Palace.

Spanish: Crazy.

One of the writers of the gospels; a common name in Mexico. Used as an euphemism for 'crazy'.

Page 388

Jackass, burro.

Monte el Refugio
Mount Refuge.


Huerta's troops.

A small town in Zacatecas.

Indigenous people of northern Mexico, renowned for their long-distance running ability. Article + pics Wikipedia Entry.

First mentioned as among the "exhibits" at the White City on P.23.

Page 389

Central American Indian tribe that inhabit the Mexican state of Sonora. Wikipedia entry.

The Mayos are an Indian tribe that inhabit the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa. For an Anglo it might be a natural mistake to say "Maya," but the context points to "Mayo" because in history, geography and language the Mayo and the Yaqui have a close association. Maya peoples live far to the south.

Someone holding a Mauser bolt action rifle, commonly known as palotruenos during the Mexican Revolution. Wikipedia entry on Mauser

fandango saloon
Saloon featuring a style of flamenco music and dance. These are especially popular in the southwest United States.Wikipedia entry.

Es mi destino, Pancho.
That is my destiny, Pancho. "Pancho" is a common short name for Francisco, as "Frank" is in English.

Page 390

vaya con Dios
Spanish: go with God.

Hasta lueguito
Spanish: See you a little later. Hasta luego: See you later

Spanish: anarchists.

El Espinero
Spanish: The thorn-man

This is a Tarahumare word meaning "bearded one" and is most often used to refer, with derision, to Mexicans. Among the Tarahumare men, beards are rare. Carl Lumholtz' Unknown Mexico Ebook

Spanish: sorcerer, shaman.

Que toza tienes alla
"What a log you've got there." Frank should be flattered. A toza is pretty much an entire tree trunk. See toza picture [4].

Page 391

Prickly pear cacti.

Nicol prism
optical device that produces plane-polarized light.

scalenohedral habit
Habit means the characteristic crystalline form of a mineral. Scalenohedral means the form is of a scalenohedron, a solid body the faces of which are all scalene triangles. Therefore, the calcit crystal Frank was looking at had the characteristic crystalline form of a scalenohedron.

Page 392

a sun-bleached stick with an elegant warp
Carl Lumholtz, in Unknown Mexico (text available in Project Gutenberg), Vol. 1, Chap. IV, reports: "[A]n interesting find [in an ancient pueblo dwelling] was a 'boomerang' similar to that used to this day by the Moqui Indians for killing rabbits."

Peyote. This scene, with the brujo giving Frank peyote, followed by him barfing and then flying, is highly reminiscent of Carlos Castaneda's works, esp. Tales of Power.

while it was alive
(Most vegetables?)

Page 393

"The idea was that water should be everywhere, free to everybody. It was life. Then a few got greedy."
The idea of dual natures, or dual forces has come up repeatedly (cf. Renfrew p. 226). Here we have a variation that is a bit like the concept of Original Sin. There is a single location near the desert where all the rain that would have fallen in the desert falls. This is a punishment for the greed of some people. Alternatively, it could be seen -- and in fact is described in the passage -- as a balance. The greed of 'some people' distorts the intended even distribution of water. To balance this, a concentration occurs somewhere else. Notice that with the idea of balance, the old Original Sin concept is altered. 'Intent' in the sense of divine intent or punishment, is much less clear. Instead there is a notion of consequences. One imbalance leads to a counter balance.
This is also, perhaps, a statement about non-violent anarchism, enough for all in nature, if no one 'gets greedy".

Page 394

Tears of Job
An annual grass (Coix lacryma-jobi) native to Asia and naturalised in North America.

Page 395

out-of-scale plain...mineral condition
recalls Genesis 19:25,26, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah: "He overthrew those cities and destroyed all the Plain, with everyone living there and everything growing in the ground. But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she turned into a pillar of salt".

See also p.391: (talking about a piece of spar) "as if there were a soul harbored within". And so the end of GR: "and a Soul in ev'ry stone..."

Bolsón de Mapimí
Spanish: Mapimi Basin - An enclosed depression in northern Mexico, that comprises parts of the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango. Situated in the arid northern plateau region and averaging 3,000 ft (900 m) in elevation, it is structurally similar to the Basin and Range region of Arizona and New Mexico, in the United States. One very interesting thing about the Mapimi Basin is the "Zone of Silence"...

Budweiser Little Big Horn panorama
Custer's Last Fight

The painting "Custer's Last Fight" by Cassily Adams, widely reproduced by Anheuser-Busch for advertising.

blood . . . Fin
Cinematic imagery.

¿Y el otro?
Spanish: And the other one?

El se fue
Spanish: He left.

Spanish: A small jug, usually made of clay.

¿Y cuándo vuelva?
Spanish: And when does he come back?

Nunca me dijo nada, mi jefe.
Spanish: He never told me anything, boss.

Page 396

Si el caballero quisiera algún recuerdo ...
Spanish: If the gentleman would like any souvenir...

Spanish: gunslingers


  1. Dennis, W.H., A Hundred Years of Metallurgy, Gerals Duckworth & Co., Ltd., London, 1963, p. 282-287

Annotation Index

Part One:
The Light Over the Ranges

1-25, 26-56, 57-80, 81-96, 97-118

Part Two:
Iceland Spar

119-148, 149-170, 171-198, 199-218, 219-242, 243-272, 273-295, 296-317, 318-335, 336-357, 358-373, 374-396, 397-428

Part Three:

429-459, 460-488, 489-524, 525-556, 557-587, 588-614, 615-643, 644-677, 678-694

Part Four:
Against the Day

695-723, 724-747, 748-767, 768-791, 792-820, 821-848, 849-863, 864-891, 892-918, 919-945, 946-975, 976-999, 1000-1017, 1018-1039, 1040-1062

Part Five:
Rue du Départ


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