ATD 81-96

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

Page 81

July Fourth started hot and grew hotter,...

Guardan Review
On Saturday, 18 November 2006, the UK's Guardian newspaper, in a Review section which featured a drawing of what Pynchon might now look like on its cover, published a full-page excerpt from Against the Day. This comprised pages 81 to 85 (up to "he wondered sometimes if he would've ever signed on."), with the addition of the final paragraph from page 96, ending with "Happy Fourth of July, Webb." This was a much more substantial excerpt than the one which appeared in the Penguin Press catalogue, and was arguably a more alluring one in terms of attracting the general reader. These were the only official excerpts published before ATD itself, on 21 November 2006.

The Guardian excerpt is now online: [1]

The timing of this chapter, opening on a summer morning, parallels that of the novel's very first chapter.

Makes reference to that July Fourth feeling in YR 2000 New York when the internet / new economy / electronic revolution was getting hot while reaching its maximum peak.

nitro beginning to ooze out of dynamite sticks
The important point about dynamite is when it doesn't blow up. Alfred Nobel discovered that he could stabilize nitroglycerine by soaking it into a powdered clay; the product was not sensitive to shock or heat. That is, until it separated in hot weather, with greasy-feeling free nitro collecting on the outside of the sticks. (A minor plot point in the TV series Lost, isn't it?)

Feast of St. Barbara
According to legend, Saint Barbara was the extremely beautiful daughter of a wealthy heathen named Dioscorus, who lived near Nicomedia in Asia Minor, in the 4th Century AD. Because of her singular beauty and fearful that she be demanded in marriage and taken away from him, he jealously shut her up in a tower to protect her from the outside world. When Barbara converted to Christianity, her enraged father killed her and was subsequently struck down by lightening. St. Barbara was venerated as early as the seventh century. The legend of the lightning bolt which struck down her father caused her to be regarded as the patron saint in time of danger from thunderstorms, fires and sudden death. When gunpowder made its appearance in the Western world, Saint Barbara was invoked for aid against accidents resulting from explosions — since some of the earlier artillery pieces often blew up instead of firing their projectile, Saint Barbara became the patroness of the artillerymen. [2]

Propaganda of the Deed
Anarchist terrorism. [Wikipedia]

Webb's horse is named for a Spanish genre of musical theater. [Wikipedia]

Cicadas in Colorado are annual, not 17- or 13-year periodical species, so they don't help pin down the year of the action.

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Commonly, a skinner is a person who skins sections of animals or whole animals, such as cattle, sheep, and pigs, to prepare them for cooking. Historically the term referred to those engaged in the trade of skins and furs. (profession) Wikipedia However, in this context, "skinner" refers to a more obscure definition: a worker who drives mules. Long teams of mules, up to ten pairs of mules on one wagon — were used to haul borax from the mines to the railroads. A skinner could "skin" or outsmart a mule. ("skin" is old criminal slang for "defraud" or "cheat.")

"Rocky Mountain canaries"
This was the nickname the miners gave to burros, because of their braying.

There was a large number of Chinese who worked on the railroads in the Rocky Mountains, especially as dynamiters, in the late 18th and early 20th centuries.

Eclipse Union mine
The Eclipse mine was one of many in the Cripple Creek District, Lake County, Colorado, in the late 19th century. From this website:

The Ajax vein had been staked over its length by five adjoining claims located in 1878 — the Ajax, Bobtail, Nero, Park View, and Union Flag. All were patented in 1883 by the Eclipse Mining Company, which had been incorporated a year earlier with capital stock of $50,000. A year later the mine was developed via three adits (40, 100, and 400 feet long) and three shafts (each 30 feet deep). Immediately adjacent to the claims along the vein the company owned four patented mill sites of 5 acres each (Corregan and Lingane 1883).

Doubtful that the "Union" — capital "U" — infers that the mine was unionized, rather the Eclipse Union mine is likely a fictional entity, based on the actual existence of the Eclipse and Union mines, both active in the late 19th century in Lake County, Colorado [3], with a double-entendre that references the mine owners' drive to eclipse the unions, i.e., wipe them out. Or perhaps Pynchon simply came across such a named mine in his research...

Michelangelo's "Moses"
flames issuing out of his head

This hallucination likely refers to Veikko's "insane fanaticism" "even on his calmest days," his eyes "illuminated from within" p.83. There's also the allusion to Moses coming from the mountain with fire from his head; this is the source for Michelangelo's "horns" on his statue, as well as other 17th century depictions of Moses. Veikko carries the word, but won't be allowed into the new "Promised Land." Like Moses, Veikko is fanatical about freeing his people from enslavement, in ATD from the mine owners and bosses. This is the first we meet Veikko which sounds close to Giambattista Vico, a possible source of Pynchonian elements.

dynamite headache
In the early 20th century, the nitroglycerin in dynamite was discovered to cause severe headaches. Dynamite (DNT) is highly skin-penetrating and such headaches, dubbed "dynamite headaches," were often suffered by workers in plants manufacturing explosives. Dynamite headaches were also common among miners, who were often exposed to vaporized nitroglycerin when detonating dynamite.

Cour d'Alene bullpens
Spelled Coeur, actually. During the July 1892 strikes, the violence provided the mine owners and the governor with an excuse to bring in six companies of the Idaho National Guard to "suppress insurrection and violence." Federal troops also arrived, and they confined six hundred miners in bullpens without any hearings or formal charges. Some were later "sent up" for violating injunctions, others for obstructing the United States mail. Wikipedia entry

Cripple Creek
Cripple Creek was the location of a miner's strike in 1894. It was a significant labor event and it was the first time that a state Militia was called out in support of the miners. Wikipedia entry

side-door pullman

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They thought it was funny
Many authorities report that Indians think almost everything whites do is funny. In particular:

Colorado . . . created as a reservation for whites
Drawing straight lines on the ground and calling them limits. Most of the reservations in the West and on the Plains are bounded by such lines rather than "natural" boundaries like crestlines. So is Colorado: "four straight lines on paper" -- a Cartesian state of geography.

General Bobrikoff
Or Bobrikov, N.I. (1839-1904), given dictatorial powers in Finland, viewed there as oppressor, assassinated on June 16, 1904, the day of the action in Joyce's Ulysses.

mean and cold, same wealth without conscience, same poor people in misery, army and police free as wolves to commit cruelties on behalf of the bosses, bosses ready to do anything to protect what they had stolen
So simple and yet so truthful. History keeps repeating itself... One endless vicious cycle of the same lame old... One reason for James Joyce spend years writing thousand pages of sophisticated {Finnegan/Ulyssean} gibberish in defense of such unvarnished genuine statement. John Zorn once said... "governments have been thinking for thousands of years on how to fuck us up." And its the artist role to break away from that and say... now look...

Neurasthenia (Fatigue syndrome) is a neurotic disorder. Definition/Symptoms

This word appears again on page 188. It may be a reference to Proust, who was neurasthenic. It may also simply be a fancy word for disinterested in this context.

The diagnosis was frequently used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially for men (women were "hysterics"). In World War I, soldiers suffering what we would call post-traumatic stress disorder were diagnosed as neurasthenic -- if they weren't refused medical aid and/ or executed as deserters. See Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980 (NY: Pantheon, 1985)

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So the current Fourth of July must be 1901 or later (not 1899).
And not 1904: Gen. Bobrikoff (preceding page) was assassinated in June of that year, so Veikko's toast goes stale. Therefore 1901, '02 or '03.

On August 14, 1900, American, British, Russian and American troops entered Beijing to quell the Boxer Rebellion.

Modern Swedish word for computer memory cards. Swedish is a minority language in Finland. (TRP likely saw it on a Nokia phone.)

Fink trusses
This perfectly delightful site for bridge spotters identifies the Fink truss as a design by Albert Fink dating from the 1860s. It's illustrated way down toward the bottom of the page. All the compression and tension members lie below the plane of the deck where the tracks are laid. bein a three-day holiday
Indicates that this passage takes place in 1902, as the Fourth of July fell on a Friday. (Source)

Page 85

Boys who assist a costermonger, carter, etc. Later (more generally): the most junior members of a group of workmen, esp. one employed in menial tasks. (def.4a. The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989.)

Workmen who clear a road for lumberers in a ‘swamp’ or forest. Though the OED doesn't specify mining work in it definition, it is probable that swampers also clear the roads and paths for miners. (def.1a. The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989.)

Innocent Victims . . . Monsters That Did the Deed
Use of capitals seems to emphasize the fact that these persons are simply convenient stock characters in the forwarding of the owners'/government's agenda.

"some of these explosions, the more deadly of them, in fact, were really set off to begin with not by Anarchists but by the owners themselves."
Is this an allusion to the Controlled demolition hypothesis for the collapse of the WTC?

NO! In labor history, many 'accidents' and some planned deeds by owners were blamed on radicals, anarchists, etc. It was common in the early days of the labor movement for owners to conspire to make the unions look bad in this manner. One such example is cited here in 1910, and it is certainly far from the only one.

See, however, a much more straightforward allusion in page 175.

While it's true that many "anarchist" explosions were planned by the owners of industry, to suggest that this is NOT! an allusion to the possibility of US Government involvement in the 9-11 attacks seems rather limiting. Pynchon hinted strongly that this novel is an allegory for our own time in the jacket blurb, and much of what makes this chapter interesting is the way it creates a disturbing analogy between the terrorism carried out by Webb, a highly sympathetic figure, and that carried out by the 9-11 hijackers, whom we so love to hate.

Which left precious few targets except for the railroad.
Frank Norris's 1901 novel The Octopus is summed up in one short paragraph. Wikipedia entry.

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Shorty's Billiard Saloon
This is based on real accounts of billiard balls sparking and exploding in saloons. The balls in question used a then-new thermoplastic compound of cellulose nitrate and camphor developed and patented under the trademark "celluloid" by John Wesley Hyatt as a substitute for ivory. See Celluloid for Wikipedia links to Hyatt and Celluloid.

without being hit once
Similar to a pivotal scene in the film, Pulp Fiction.

a state of heightened receptivity
People who talk about enlightenment and unsubstantiated alternative "therapies" use this phrase a lot—example—but in simplest terms it just means hypnosis.

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those French Anarchists . . . Emile Henry . . . Vaillant
Emile Henry (1872 - May 21, 1894) was a French anarchist who on February 12, 1894 detonated a bomb at the Café Terminus in the Parisian Gare Saint-Lazare killing one person and wounding twenty. Henry was angered over the execution of another Anarchist, Auguste Vaillant, for the destruction of a government building that hurt no one, and took it upon himself to strike back to avenge his fellow revolutionary's death. He saw the Cafe as a representation of the bourgeois itself and his intent was to kill as many people as possible in the bombing. Wikipedia entry.

how can anyone set off a bomb that will take innocent lives?
Rev. Moss Gatlin's rhetorical question and its wisecrack response, "Long fuse" seems a calculated echo of Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. ("How you shoot women and children?" "Easy -- don't lead 'em so much.") Discussion here also recalls the Weathermen, a violent off-shoot of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) during the Vietnam Era.

listening . . . to the sermon . . . those absolute terms
While there is a movement or school called Christian anarchism (use the Wikipedia article with caution), Gatlin's ideas do not harmonize with it. As his sermon on pages 86-87 makes plain, he follows quite a different line.

Mason-Dixon line
We learn that the Traverse family had been "an old ridegerunning clan from southern Pennsylvania, close to the Mason-Dixon." No Traverses appear, however, in Pynchon's Mason & Dixon (except in the sense that the whole M-D survey was conducted by the traverse method), but one can speculate that had they been, the Traverse ancestors may have been victims of the Line's bad Feng Shui. From this, one could infer a connection between the Line and Colorado Anarchism.

Civil War
This is the first instance of the term, for a war so far in the novel being referred to as "The Rebellion".

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westward drift
Webb Traverse's wanderings are referred to as "this westward drift". The phrase is probably not accidental: in scientific circles "westward drift" is used for either of two geophysical phenomena: the gradual westward movement of the magnetic north pole and the westward rotation of the outer layers of the Earth (the lithosphere) relative to the inner layers.

twelve-cylinder Confederate Colt
A hard weapon to identify. Some Colt revolvers were sold to the Southern forces in the first few days after Fort Sumter, but it's far more likely that this is a knockoff of Colt's 1851 design made, for example, at Augusta, Georgia. Plenty of these got into service. Caliber is probably .36 or .44, but there are other possibilities. "Twelve-cylinder" is nonsense; there is a rare version of the Colt cylinder with twelve cylinder stops, but it holds six percussion rounds (ball and cap system). The cylinder stops are depressions on the outer surface of the cylinder forming part of the mechanism that aligns the chamber with the barrel for firing. Photos of sidearms online are ephemeral (many vanish once the auction concludes), so no link here, even if any of the available images did show the variant. To see today's selection, trying googling "Confederate revolver"...

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silver-boom babies
Assuming the silver boom of 1890-1892 is meant, Webb's kids were aged about 9 to 16. Timeline with spoilers

Ace of spades...death card
The ace of spades seems to have been considered the "death card" in the Vietnam War. Article

Oh, long before that. Schoolchildren in the 1950s (who would pretty reliably believe anything) believed in the association, and aren't there about a shelf's worth of spy and mystery novels where the Ace of Spades portends death?

Going back farther,

In Robert Louis Stevenson's story "The Suicide Club" (1878), the Ace of Spades functions as the "sign of death" within a secret society whose members commit "suicide" by submitting to be killed, if they draw the Ace of Spades from a pack of 52 cards during a club meeting, by another member drawing the Ace of Clubs.

Also, as the highest card in the deck, it commonly defeats everything else, as does death.
Why Mayva should be likened to the Ace of Spades is still to be explained.

fancy briar pipe . . . beat-up old corncob
Briar pipes appeared in Europe from the 1850s on. The Missouri Meerschaum brand of corncob pipe dates from 1869. Until close to 1900, clay pipes were probably more common than either.

Bob Ford's Funeral
June 1892 [Wikipedia]

Central Colorado mining town, now a ski resort.

Far southwestern Colorado mining town, now a ski and mountain resort, with an annual film festival. Named for the telluride ores typical of the vicinity, but the name has more possible significance in AtD.

Used as an adjective, Telluric: Of or belonging to the earth; terrestrial; pertaining to the earth as a planet; also, arising from the earth or soil (OED). In turn the origin of Tellurism: Magnetic influence or principle supposed by some to pervade all nature, and to produce the phenomenon of Animal Magnetism; also the theory of Animal Magnetism based on this, propounded in 1822 by Keiser in Germany (OED). "Animal Magnetism" is referred to in English as Mesmerism [4].

extreme and unmerciful whiteness
It doesn't seem to be accidental that "white" and "whiteness" are hard to endure in AtD. Consider "the whiteness of the place nearly unbearable"; the White City and White City Investigations; and other uses.

repeal of the Silver Act
Prior to 1892, both Silver and Gold were used as a metallic standard for currency in the United States. The Sherman Act authorized the treasury to purchase 4.5 million ounces of silver per month. This inflated the price of silver, causing eastern investors to start hoarding gold as a hedge. The unrest this caused in the Colorado mines resulted in the repeal of the Act. When this happened, the mining of silver began to rapidly decline, causing further destabilization in the silver mining industry.

tiresome moral exercise
May be a preterite association with President Clinton's impeachment and Senate trial over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

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before he got shot
1899. [cite]

the Cornish wives in Jacktown
Many Western miners came from Cornwall. The stock nickname for any Cornishman was "Cousin Jack." So Jacktown is the area where the Cornish families live.

'Lake Traverse' is a real lake between Minnesota and South Dakota. Wikipedia

dynamited carny jump up out of that blast good as new
This passage recalls Daffy Duck cartoons.

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theory and practice of resistance to power
Mao Tse-tung (or Mao Zedong) said, "The guerrilla must move among the people as a fish swims in the sea." Gatlin anticipates the principle, with a kicker that's especially pertinent to AtD: to succeed at invisibility, you must first succeed at visibility.

"Sleep? is when you sleep"
Not likely this is a typo. We often include a question in our answer, in this case summarising the question with "sleep?" then immediately answering. And just as it does falling at the end of a sentence, the "?" reflects a change of vocal pitch/stress. As for the sentence fragment, Webb is a man of few words, and "The reservation I have about what you say is" are not some of them.

Alludes Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki's teachings on Zen... "shower is when you shower." First pages of William Burroughs' The Ticket That Exploded comes to mind ~ the notion about sleep, heartbeat and mind/spiritual/innerSelf survivalism... that fearful feeling of falling asleep and never waking up again to fulfill your true revolutionary objectives.

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$3-blessed-50 a day
This might be an over-estimate; in 2006 dollars, that comes to over $86 a day, not a bad wage indeed. Calculator

$86 dollars a day not a bad wage?? Assuming an 8-12 hour day, that comes out to about today's minimum wage -- which is hardly a living wage. This seems about right. Just enough to keep body, soul and family together. Maybe. The text implies that $3.50/day was just barely a "living wage."

Compare $3.50 in context on p. 378...

Western Federation of Miners
A radical labor union created in 1893. Wikipedia Their history was very violent.

. . . a mule dropping on the edge of life's mountain trail, ready to be either squashed flat or kicked into the void.
Brings directly to mind a scene from Cormac McCarthy's 1985 highly praised novel Blood Meridian or The Evening Redness In The West:

"The following evening as they rode up onto the western rim they lost one of the mules. It went skittering off down the canyon wall with the contents of the panniers exploding soundlessly in the hot dry air and it fell through sunlight and through shade, turning in that lonely void until it fell from sight into a sink of cold blue space that absolved it forever of memory in the mind of any living thing that was." (Modern Library Edition 2001, p. 147).

The novel is considered as one of the 20th century American masterpieces (Wikipedia entry). It is set about 45 years before the beginning of AtD (1849-50) at the Mexico - Texas borderlands. In fact, partly due to Pynchon's frequent references to red light, west and sunset (see here for a growing list), I suspect a kind of deeper relation between the two novels, but more evidence is required.

I hate to mention this, because the McCarthy connection is so cogent, but doesn't that phrase in AtD refer to a "mule dropping" rather than a mule that drops? Or rather: doesn't that phrase refract (or bi-refract) the passage from Blood Meridian, bringing the mule's flight to mind while overtly talking about a turd? (A mule doesn't have the option of being squashed flat, but a dropping does.)
This entry spurred me to read Blood Meridian, and while AtD is completely independent of that work, yes, the two novels do reflect a ruddy western light on each other. A really voracious reader will find, I suspect, that AtD is subtly linked to many other late-20th/early-21st century fictions. Contributors to this wiki have noted some such parallels; one that I found by chance is described in the annotations to p. 142 ("scentless snow walls"). These relationships suggest yet another interpretation of the title, if we needed another: The book is to be read as object against ground, against the literature of the day.Volver
I agree, apart from the 'late-20th/early-21st century' point - I think that the link you suggest does exist but extends much beyond. See for example this extremely interesting entry in the AtD Weblog. Ctsats 01:45, 2 May 2007 (PDT)

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Plutocrats: members of the wealthy class controlling a government

Labor produces all wealth. Wealth belongs to the producer thereof.
Reviewers of ATD have quoted this line, [5] but Pynchon did not make it up. It comes from authentic miner's union literature of the time. [6]

With 'Republicans' below, a possible reference to 'compassionate conservatism' of the Bush administration. "...starving, homeless, and dead..." is what the Republicans mean by compassion, demonstrating the need for the "foreign phrase book". Has always been thus,historically and now?

William McKinley was elected in 1896 on the Republican ticket, defeating Democrat William Jennings Bryan, ushering in a chain of Republican Presidents until Woodrow Wilson was elected in 1912. Obviously, could also be interpreted as a jab at the current Republican Party.

Page 94

Long coat. Wikipedia entry

the people's work, if not God's, the two forces according to Reverend Gatlin having the same voice
Gatlin has in mind the proverb Vox populi vox Dei, "the voice of the people is the voice of God." There's a twist, though; see Wikipedia.

"Don't beg, you hear me? Don't any of you ever, fucking, beg, me or nobody, for nothin."
Could have easily been TRP's response to interview requests!!!

I think it's about honor, not annoyance.

There's a master list in Washington, D.C...maintained by the U.S. Secret Service.
The Secret Service, founded in 1865 as a treasury force, was not a presidential protection force until 1902. Prior to this, it functioned more or less like the FBI today. This passage suggests that we are after McKinley's assassination (1901) and the period when the Secret Service began protecting the president, though page 97 suggests that this occurred in 1899.

Say, open up em peepers 'fore you walk over a cliff someplace
Card 0 of the Rider-Waite Tarot depicts The Fool walking in bright sunlight, his eyes shut, about to fall over a precipice if he doesn't heed the little dog who's trying to warn him of the peril. It isn't out of the question that Webb has encountered the Tarot, but if he has not, his use of the image speaks strongly for its archetypal nature.

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dynamite rounders
Rounders was a precursor to baseball. [Wikipedia]

Consider the alternative, that the "rounders" are the kids; "every sheriff has at least a dozen in his county" can refer to the game of rounders only by a stretch of meaning. Rounders: rascals, mischief-makers, in this case making mischief with dynamite.

waiting for the rest of the joke
Cf Dally and Lindsay, p27.

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"We ready?"
The destruction of the railroad bridge is reminiscent of scenes in Edward Abbey's anarchistic 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang. Wikipedia entry.

Sufficient unto the day
From The Gospel According to Saint Matthew: 6:34. "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." (The New Testament of the King James Bible) Very title thematic?

"No one knows exactly when the hit will come---every morning, before the markets open, out before the milkmen, They make Their new update and decide on what's going to be sufficient unto the day."--Gravity's Rainbow, page 544.

Happy Fourth of July, Webb

Endearing? Veikko is eight years older than Webb.

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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