Chums of Chance

Young mens' organization. The Charter of the Chums of Chance includes a paraphrase of Star Trek's "Prime Directive" not to violate the rules of a local culture. The initial appearance of the Chums in ATD, in the sky aboard a hydrogen balloon, may recall the appearance of the three Knaben in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte.

To be chummy with chance might mean lucky, fond of gambling, fond of chaos, irrational, or anarchist. Or maybe they became chums by accident. The "chance" may also be that of the winds that carry them in directions not always intended.

The American philospher Charles Sanders Peirce, who set down his most important ideas in the late 1800's, argued that 'Chance' was a feature of the universe that can refute all determinisms.

A-and from an article on the Ancient Greek philosopher perhaps most associated with the concept of Chance, Democritus: "it[chance] seems to be an attempt to show how an apparently ordered arrangement can arise automatically, as a byproduct of the random collisions of bodies in motion. No attractive forces or purposes need be introduced to explain the sorting by the tide or in the sieve: it is probable that this is an attempt to show how apparently orderly effects can be produced without goal-directioned forces or purpose." Democritus
Akin to Pynchon's positive vision of 'anarchism', surely?

A-and, we know from Slow Learner that Pynchon was taken with the Surrealists early, while his vision was firming. The Surrealists had a slogan: "the certainty of chance".

Cameraderie and isolation are two recurring topics in Pynchon's works. The Chums are a band of heroes like those commonly featured in the 19th century boys' fiction that Pynchon evokes, but also recall Pynchon's high school fictions, Voice of the Hamster and The Boys, in which the teenage Pynchon lovingly portrayed his group of high school chums, known as, simply, "The Boys."

Dart-explorigator.jpg
The Chums are reminiscent of two comics of the early 20th century, Little Nemo in Slumberland, by Windsor McCay, and The Explorigator, by Harry Grant Dart. "The Explorigator" was the name of a fantastic airship that traversed the universe. It was manned by Admiral Fudge, a youthful adventurer and inventor, accompanied by a group of friends, also children his age (around nine or ten): Detective Rubbersole, Maurice Mizzentop, Nicholas Nohooks, Grenadier Shift, Teddy Typewriter, and Ah Fergetitt. The Explorigator ran for 14 weeks in 1908 and made an impression for its imaginative and visual creativity. More on The Explorigator [1]

The names of the Chums may also be derived from famous Jazz musicians: Miles (Davis), Chick (Corea), Darby (Hicks), (Boots) Randolph, and (Vachel) Lindsay (a stretch here?), notes the Chumps of Choice blog. Darby may also ref Darby Crash, given his punk attitude.

The creativity of Pynchon's naming of the Chums, as other characters, shows yet again his Dickensian influence.

Note that there's five Chums, the number of chapters of the book (a-and the number of letters in "Chums"!).

  • The Chums of Chance -- "a five-lad crew" (3) consisting of:

As the Inconvenience stands for the book itself (the airship launches at the opening of AtD, it grows larger as the book progresses, it travels all over the map, u.s.w.), so those who fly the ship represent aspects of Pynchon's authorial voice, to wit:

  • St. Cosmo is the good-natured avuncular voice watching over the whole
  • Darby is the anarchic punk joker, always ready to use blue language and twist the rules in his favor.
  • Lindsay is the uptight grammarian voice that keeps the sentences in line and the details correct.
  • Miles is the mystic.
  • Chick is the scientific and mathematical voice in the book.
  • Pugnax is the difficult to understand voice who's read classic literature.


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Formanex2 13:45, 14 July 2009 (PDT)The Outdoor Chums is a series of books published 1911-1916. Allegedly written by "Captain Quincy Allen", they were an early 20th C series of books for youth, produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, who also produced the Darewell Chums series (1908-1911)by "Allen Chapman", advertised in the back of O.C. books, and the Tom Swift series, among others. I stumbled on _The Chums of Chance on the Gulf, or Rescuing the Lost Balloonists,_ at a Bed & Breakfast in Castleton VT. The Chums of Chance parodies the Outdoor Chums, who are Bluff Masters, Will Milton, Jerry Wallington, and Frank Langdon. They rescue the balloonist from a hotel fire in the beginning of the book. The Darewell Chums are Bart Keene, Ned Wilding, Frank Roscoe, and Fenn "Stumpy" Masterson. Authors Allen and Chapman are pseudonyms for ghostwriters. Julia, in _1984,_ has a job producing like texts via a mechanical contrivance.


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