Most of Pynchon's novels contain dedications-- Mason & Dixon ("For Melanie, and for Jackson") , Vineland ("For my mother and father"), and Gravity's Rainbow ("For Richard Farina")-- but not so Against the Day, as published. Advance reading copies of the book did contain the words "Dedication TK" in italics, but this is simply publisher-speak for "dedication to come." It is unknown whether Pynchon ever considered inclusion of a dedication or whether the publisher simply left the page open just in case, but the ultimate lack of a dedication may suggest that Pynchon feels he's thanked everyone he needs to thank.
"It's always night, or we wouldn't need light."
Epigraph by Thelonious Monk. Jazz and particularly bebop seem to be a lifelong interest of Pynchon’s, appearing in some form in all his works and what biographical snippets exist. As a college student, Pynchon “spent a lot of time in jazz clubs, nursing the two-beer minimum,” by his own admission (Slow Learner, Introduction).
"Now single up all lines!"
Pynchon was in the Navy for a spell and "single up all lines" is a common enough nautical term. But the opening line has many possible connotations. The Modern Word's Quail writes that "it is simultaneously a self-directive and a call to the reader; suggesting that Against the Day is a culmination of his previous work, and also charging the reader to find meaning within its twisting labyrinth. It may also be a sly, preemptive joke on the book’s initial critics, as the novel begins with the launch of a bloated gasbag bearing a somewhat provocative name." For more on lines, see page 146. One may also want to pay attention to sections on 'vectors' (represented by arrows). "Single up all lines" is used in its normal nautical context in V., 11; COL49, 31; Gravity's Rainbow, 489; and Mason & Dixon, 258, 260. Perhaps we can understand this "line" as a text-string linking Pynchon's novels together (all but Vineland?)--in preparation for a voyage to . . . .?
"Cheerly now...handsomely...very well!!"
Just as 'single up all lines' is used in nautical context in V., so 'cheerly now' appears on page 54 of Mason & Dixon ("Cheerly. Cheerly, then, Lads...").
The Chums 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."
World's Columbian Exposition
also called The Chicago World's Fair, was held in Chicago in 1893, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of the New World. Chicago bested New York City, Washington, D.C. and St. Louis, Missouri, for the honor of hosting the fair. The fair had a profound effect on architecture, the arts, Chicago's self image and American industrial optimism. Wikipedia entry.
The name meaning, in Latin, "likes to fight." Pugnax's fantastic intelligence recalls another intelligent dog, the Learned English Dog in Mason & Dixon. Pugnax's manner of speech is also reminiscent of the mystery-solving cartoon dog "Scooby-Doo."
"...during a confidential assignment in Our Nation's Capitol (see The Chums of Chance and the Evil Halfwit)..."
This could be seen as a criticism of American Presidents present or past, or perhaps the Vietnam War, which Pynchon himself opposed.
May also refer to President Bush, considering the Pynchon-authored Amazon.com book description which included “With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places. No reference to the present day is intended or should be inferred.”
"...anemometer of the Robinson's type"
Cup anemometer invented in 1846 by Dr. John Thomas Romney Robinson. Cup anemometers are still commonly used to measure wind speed because of their simplicity and reliability in a variety of environmental conditions.
"'Dick' Counterfly had absquatulated...."
Means to move away quickly, usually to avoid capture. Apparently a mock-Latinate formation, "to go off and squat somewhere else." Great verb!
"which directs us never to interfere with legal customs of any locality down at which we may happen to have touched"
Like the Prime Directive in Star Trek.
"Do not imagine, that in coming aboard Inconvenience you have escaped into any realm of the counterfactual..."
This may be Pynchon directly addressing the reader. Given that his introductory blurb proclaims the world of AtD as what the world might be with a minor adjustment or two, this paragraph seems to indicate that Pynchon, like all great fantasy or sci-fi writers, does not intend to create a world where anything goes. Rather, he will create a world that differs from ours but then obey the rules and constraints he's already established.
"Going up is like going north."
Anyone understand this statement by Randolph?? This simply seems to use the notion that most maps put north at the top, so moving north is moving 'up' the page. Once you pass the pole, you are going south, or back 'down' the map.
- This may be an allusion to the change in climate from warm southern climates to cold northern climates. The contrast from southern california to northern california is apt, sunny beaches south...rainy foggy beaches north. Population thins out similar to the oxygen the further North you get. Alaska being the ideal extreme. One can see this as another of the many echoes to themes from "Gravity's Rainbow" in the "Light Over the Ranges" section. Ascending (in an airship or rocket) is like moving Northward to colder and less habitable environments, until one crosses the Pole (literally going 'Beyond the Zero.')
- Also, it may further drive home the point, to Chick, that up does not lead to "any realm of the counterfactual": the comparison with going north should remind him that up is just another direction, strange and uncomfortable as it may be for him.
- Are we reading too deeply into this statement? Perhaps it only means that the air gets cooler as the ship ascends into higher altitudes, and therefore is like travelling northward.
- Importantly, going up (in altitude) is an expedited means of going to a place that is “like” the North (in latitude). For example, say you are at the foot of the Rocky Mountains on a summer day in Colorado. While the snowline on the mountains may only be a few miles up, the snowline on land of the same or similar elevation to the land you stand on is likely a 1000+ miles north. The sudden increase in altitude accompanying a flight aboard the Inconvenience does not allow one to acclimatize gradually to the northern feel -- thus Chick’s need for a “transitional” “foul-weather cloak”. Interestingly, in terms of gravity, going up is like going south: gravity is relatively stronger at points of low altitude and high latitude.
- I think the more interesting part is the comment that there is a secret that we must not talk about where going further upwards creates an experience much like gover OVER the pole- i.e. warmer and marmer. This is the real question.
A head butt.
Riemann, Georg Friedrich Bernhard (1826-1866) (pronounced REE mahn or in IPA: ['ri:man]) was a German mathematician who made important contributions to analysis and differential geometry, some of them paving the way for the later development of general relativity. Wikipedia entry.
"...quite as if were some giant eyeball, perhaps that of Society itself, ever scrutinizing from above, in a spirit of constructive censure."
This is strikingly reminiscent of Odilon Redon's 1882 Lithograph L'Oeil, comme un ballon bizarre se dirige vers l'infini (The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity). At MoMa's Online Collection
Reference also to ATD Pg. 51 and "The Unsleeping Eye", an apparent reference to Pinkerton's competing PI agency.
Used here as "a marine ladder of rope or chain with wooden or iron rungs" (Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged) but is suggestive of Jacob's ladder in Genesis:
Genesis 28:12 And he [jacob] dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. (King James version)
Ukeleles also appear in Gravity's Rainbow. According to Jules Siegel's article, "Who is Thomas Pynchon, and why did he take off with my wife?", Pynchon himself played the ukelele in college.
The name for the berry and for the oil obtained from the unripe berry of the East Indian climbing shrub P. cubeba. The dried fruits are sometimes used as a condiment or are ground and smoked in cigarette form as a catarrh remedy. The oil is used medicinally and also in soap manufacture. The masticated roots of kava, P. methysticum, widely grown in its native Pacific islands, are made into a beverage called kavakava, which contains soporific alkaloids. It is an integral part of religious and social life there. A preparation of kava for commerce, also called kavakava, is sold widely as an herbal remedy for anxiety and insomnia. -- From The Free Dictionary
Also appears in Gravity's Rainbow, page 118.
"...goldurn Keeley Cure"
A treatment for alcohol, nicotine and narcotic addiction involving injections of "bichloride" or "double chloride" of gold, and also known as the "gold cure". Named for Dr. Leslie E. Keeley, who opened the first of many Keeley Institutes in 1879.
A Methodist youth organization founded around 1899.
The Haymarket Riot on May 4, 1886, in Chicago may be the origin of international May Day observances and in popular literature inspired the caricature of "a bomb-throwing anarchist." The causes of the incident are still controversial, although deeply polarized attitudes separating the business class and the working class in late 19th century Chicago are generally acknowledged as having precipitated the tragedy and its aftermath. Wikipedia entry.
Meaning "an easy task," but also the name of a Marx Bros. movie. Perhaps relevant, given the cameo by Groucho promised on the book sleeve.