- Please keep these annotations SPOILER-FREE by not revealing information from later pages in the novel.
- 1 Page 121
- 2 Page 122
- 3 Page 123
- 4 Page 124
- 5 Page 125
- 6 Page 126
- 7 Page 127
- 8 Page 128
- 9 Page 129
- 10 Page 130
- 11 Page 131
- 12 Page 132
- 13 Page 133
- 14 Page 134
- 15 Page 135
- 16 Page 136
- 17 Page 138
- 18 Page 139
- 19 Page 140
- 20 Page 141
- 21 Page 142
- 22 Page 143
- 23 Page 144
- 24 Page 145
- 25 Page 146
- 26 Page 147
- 27 Page 148
- 28 Annotation Index
On an ordinary aquatic ship, the flying bridge is an open deck atop the pilothouse for navigating in good weather. [Wikipedia]
to measure and map . . . that mysterious mathematical lattice-work
A big research area in satellite and earth sciences. For example, if you know to utmost accuracy how gravity varies in near-Earth space, you can predict the orbits of satellites used for navigation and positioning (i.e., GPS). AtD is interested in Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry throughout, as well as in electromagnetic fields, topology and mapping. How does one world, one reality "map" onto another? Do they "double"? In what ways do they intersect?
Cf contemporary telecom bandwidth auctions. "Ray-rush" as "Gold-rush"
here at the high edge of the atmosphere
Odd phrasing that may mark an allusion to the space race a few decades later.
obscure feelings of dread
Strange lights in the sky, not accompanied by thunder, are a portent—seldom of anything good on the way.
Not just continuous change, but specifically changes in the observer's face as the colors and intensities shift.
Lightening of the underside of clouds over ice. A related phenomenon is "water sky," darkening of clouds over water. Photos of both.
souls bound to the planetary lines of force, swept pole to pole
In V, Mondaugen was stationed in South Africa to record "sferics" or "whistlers," a form of radio interference due to charged particles traveling along Earth's lines of magnetic force. Here, the planet being hollow, the field may be continuous, north-south on the outside and then south-north on the inside, and the lines may represent some other, nonmagnetic field. Note the link here to the mysterious lattice-work on p. 121 above.
British spelling; U.S. maneuvering.
A camouflage painting technique used on WWI ships..
intelligence centers on the surface such as the Inter-Group Laboratory for Opticomagnetic Observation (I.G.L.O.O.), a radiational clearing-house in Northern Alaska
Perhaps a reference to the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) site in Gakonka, AK, which is ostensibly engaged in ionospheric research (Wikipedia entry). Also suggestive of the ECHELON network (Wikipedia entry), comprising a number of signals intelligence sites, which are capable of intercepting a wide variety of communications signals throughout the world. Also, Pynchon often creates humorous or fanciful acronyms: W.A.S.T.E. (The Crying of Lot 49), A.C.H.T.U.N.G. (Gravity's Rainbow), etc.
Lloyd's of the high spectrum [...] the next fateful Lutine announcement.
The HMS Lutine (Lutine translates as "the tease") was a ship commissioned in the French Royal Navy which was later given to the English Royal Navy during the Revolution. In 1799 she sank in the North Sea while blockading Holland; her hold was full of gold. Lloyd's of London, an independent insurance market still known for being willing to assume large insurance risks for the right price, had insured the gold, and paid the claim in full, acquiring nominal ownership of the still-unsalvaged cargo. The ship's bell was recovered in the mid-19th century and hangs to this day in the Underwriting Room at Lloyd's. For many years the Lutine Bell was struck to announce news of an overdue ship: once if lost, twice if reported safe. [Wikipedia]
Possibly Pike's Peak, 1878? (partial table)
there's a memorable discussion of the meaning of this term in Gravity's Rainbow (p. 683).
Instead of attaching Pugnax's tail directly to a hammer that hits the gong, the gong is struck remotely via a telegraph line.
The whole passage that introduces the rival airship captain is a play on Tetris. Igor's surname is similar to that of the creator of Tetris, Alexey Pazhitnov. Also, the captain himself serves "a program of mischief", flies a ship called "The Great Game" and drops "bricks and masonry, always in the four-block fragments which had become his "signature," to fall on and damage targets designated by his superiors." (As an aside: the Nintendo Tetris theme, the Russian folk song "Korobushka" or "Korobeiniki," appears in Bleeding Edge, p. 43.)
The term 'Great Game' also refers to the intense geopolitical rivalry between the English and Russian empires over control of Central Asia during the whole of the 19th century Wikipedia. The period of this Great Game is thought to have ended in 1907, about the time of the book, though many still use the term to refer to geopolitics and contests for access to natural resources in Central Asia today. The constant appearance of the Russians wherever the Chums go would appear to play on both this and on the coming Cold War conflict. The equation of all of these with Tetris suggests a common theme in all three 'non-violent' conflicts.
Additionally, the name Padzhitnoff sounds like ‘pads hitting off’ which in cricketing parlance describes a batsman being dismissed ‘Leg Before Wicket’ (or LBW). The rules for being given out LBW require the umpire to make a subjective decision about whether the ball would have travelled onto the stumps after hitting the batsman. Due to this inherent element of uncertainty LBW dismissals are a constant source of disagreement between players, umpires, and fans.
This turn of phrase echoes the spoof movie of camraderie and dangerous "space herpes" that was released in 1984. There's no textual evidence that Pynchon means to refer to the movie, but the satirical humor and outlandish situations presented in the film might be attractive to someone with his sensibilities.
Tovarishchi translates as comrades; the literal translation of "Slutchainyi" is "accidental", leading to one possible reading of the phrase being: Chums of Chance.
The phrase "Tovarishchi Slutchainyi" could also mean someone who is friends, but not intentionally, ie: perhaps people who are conscripted into a situation where they are forced to be communal. (Thanks to Anna Zaytseva for the idiomatic help!)
A third reading is introduced when the homophonic correspondence between the final two syllables of Slutchainyi and Vice-President Cheney's name is noted. (Erhm, this doesn't work: the Russian word is sloo-CHIE-nee.)
- If the name were Tovarishchi Sluchainogo instead of as in the text, it would mean "Comrades of the Random," an exact parallel to the Chums.
trespassing upon their "sky-space" again
A Soviet and Russian preoccupation, encroachment on their airspace by military or civilian flights.
'Nose out of joint' = offended, feelings hurt.
Getting jump on me
To put on a comic Russian accent, first thing you do is delete all the articles: a, an, the. Russian has no articles, and some Russian speakers can't get the frightfully complicated rules for using ours.
Na sobrat' ya po nebo!
Randolph says "На собратья по небо." What I believe he means to say is "Наши собратья по небу" or Nashi sobrat'ya po nebu, meaning "Our brothers/comrades of the sky"—perhaps a ritual greeting between the two groups.
If aeronauts are like pilots, and they are--see ATD early---they feel and state a solidarity with others who fly.
It is unlikely that Pynchon would make a mistake (the Russian in GR is correct) but Randolph might err.
- Much of the Russian in GR is OK, not all, and somebody erred on page 123 when they made sluchainyi (singular) modify tovarishchi (plural).
all animals . . . had names—bears, wolves, Siberian tigers
Linguists cite Padzhitnoff's error as their favorite example of a taboo. Some time in the remote past, the name of the bear—derived from an Indo-European word like arktos or rktos—became unspeakable and was replaced, in Russian, by the euphemism "honey-eater": medved'. It happened so long ago that speakers of the language think this is the native word. Same in English; ours comes from an old word for "brown."
That creature, we did not have name for
Well then, how the hell are we supposed to look it up and post it to the wiki?
a roman-feuilleton by M. Eugène Sue
A roman-feuilleton or serial novel. Eugène Sue (the "M." is for Monsieur = Mr.) was a French novelist roughly contemporary to Dumas père, with whom he has been compared. Wikipedia entry on Eugène Sue Sue's most famous, which used to be a Modern Library title, is The Wandering Jew.
His largest work, Les Mystères de Paris, is noted for its eventful plots and unique characters. Sue could have been called an early-19th-century Pynchon. Sue explored the underworld, and his work was quite sensational. Link to his works at Gutenberg
into the Zone of Emergency
Both the text and the theme are reminiscent of Slothrop's passage "into the Zone" in GR.
Reading TRP has trained me to look for meaningful acronyms whether they are there or not. Here ZoE, zoë, "animal life" -- and the emergence thereof. Spinning this album backword, we hear "the emergence of the animal" which like all good backward masking, refers to something in the Book of Revelation. This section, so titled, seems relevant (revelant):
- 11:7-10 - Then...the animal will come up out of the pit and go to war with them. It will conquer and kill them, and their bodies will lie in the street of the great city...."
red as a cursed ruby representing a third eye in the brow of some idol of the incomprehensible
Seems too random to not be a reference to something...Very possibly; under the name T.Lopsang Rampa an Englishman published a thoroughly discredited spiritual autobiography called The Third Eye. The Third Eye, by Englishman Cyril Hoskin, a fantastic (and popular) tale of Tibetan spirit possession published in 1956; included telepathy and more.
In the 1940 version of "The Thief of Bagdad" the boy thief Abu (played by Sabu) must steal a magical "all-seeing eye" (ruby?) from the brow of a massive golden idol in a remote temple, in order to see - as in a crystal ball - the location of the Princess held in thrall by the evil vizier Jaffar.
- The stolen idol's eye as a literary device goes back at least to 1868, when Wilkie Collins invented the modern detective novel in The Moonstone. In 1891, London's Savoy Theatre presented a post-Gilbert and Sullivan operetta called The Nautch Girl using the same gimmick. And a rather maudlin poem by J. Milton Hayes, "The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God" (written before 1911), gives it a Kiplingesque treatment.
- And the theft of the idol's eye results in blindness, blindness at the heart of the diamond, and so another Moonstone resonance.
The Hindu god of destruction and transformation, Shiva, "is often depicted with a third eye with which he burned Desire (Kāma) to ashes". wiki
Town in the Westfjords of Iceland. Often spelled as Isafjörður, Wikipedia
The "extra man" of Arctic myth
In his footnotes to "The Waste Land", T.S. Eliot glosses the lines:
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
"The following lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton's): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted." 
See also NOVA Online: Shackleton's Antarctic Odyssey "Shackleton, for his part, attributed their astonishing success to something else: 'I know that during that long and racking march of 36 hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia, it seemed to me often that we were four, not three.' Worsley and Crean, uncannily, felt the same. When T. S. Eliot read Shackleton's account, he was inspired to write the passage at the head of this dispatch."
the true face
Possible variant on Taoism's "The Tao that can be spoken of is not the true Tao" [cf]
Or -- the Zen koan regarding one's Original Face: "What did your face look like before your parents were born?"
Ivory substitute made from celluloid, used for billiard balls. [cite]
An inukshuk is a stone landmark used as a milestone or directional marker by the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic. The Arctic Circle, dominated by permafrost, has few natural landmarks and thus the inuksuk was central to navigation across the barren tundra. Wikipedia entry on Inukshuk
a truth beyond the secular
Pynchon's use of the word "secular" is unusual. He previously had the Chums striving "to minimize contamination of the secular" on page 113, and here the Chums try to glimpse "some expression of a truth beyond the secular." Neither of these statements makes much sense with the normal definitions in use today for "secular"-- what could this mean?
- I think it is likely that secular means quotidian, "of the day", visible, as opposed to the invisible and mysterious which pervades ATD.
- Yes, that is a good extension of the original meaning: of the ages, of an age—as opposed to "eternal."
See page 114.
The Étienne-Louis Malus
The level of detail in the description suggests Pynchon wrote it while looking at a photo.
In Paris; now the seat of the French Senate.
376 feet, 6 inches
The same length as the WWII-era Fletcher Class Destroyer.
to the coasts of "Iceland," to the inhabited cliffs of ice
The quotation marks suggest a place with this nickname, not Iceland. And sure enough, the Icelanders live in unglaciated lowlands, not cliffs in the ice.
They passed around rumors--the Captain was insane again, ice-pirates were hunting the Malus like whalers...
This phrase seems evocative of Moby Dick, not only in the intimation that the Captain might be insane and the rumors that might result, but also with the explicit references to "whalers" in the subsequent clause, "the subtle insanity of Ahab." Moby Dick of course contains many scenes when two whaling ships come together to exchange messages. Chapter 131, "The Pequod Meets the Delight," features particularly sinister omens. It is safe to say, however, that none of the captains who meets Ahab quite resembles Padzhitnoff or has a "signature" resembling the game of Tetris! Pynchon once again lightly tweaks the "line" linking his body of work to Melville's. (page 73)
Hallow: to set apart as holy, to honor greatly. Her name then pairs the virtue of constancy with honoring the pen. Note also that her grandson, mentioned a few lines below, is named Hunter and is an artist--In the hunt for the consecrated pen.
Alternatively, the prefix pen- is Gaelic for head, principal, or chief, in which case the name would mean "Holiest." It is also Latin for nearly, almost (as in "penultimate" or "peninsula"), rendering the name "nearly holy." Given the Nordic origin of the Penhallow family, and the Germanic etymology of "hallow," the Gaelic prefix may be more likely. On the other hand, the Latinate prefix suggests the state of preterition -- not quite holy and perhaps not saved...
I don't see "Nordic" (although their fortune is derived from Nordic commerce). The prefix Pen- in a surname marks the family as Cornish in origin.
Cornish, for sure. Given the following sentence from a report regarding the Cornwall Industrial Settlements Initiative, Newlyn East (St. Agnes Area), CP may well have been named for the sites of two different Cornish mines:
- Prospecting took place in the vicinity of East Wheal Rose with adventurers hoping to discover equally rich lodes, but the surrounding mines at Wheal Constance, Penhallow Moor and Cargoll failed to match its success. (8/13)
another remembered country
The description of the scene suggests England or more specifically Cornwall, but who is remembering it? Constance lives in an "ancestral" home and Hunter apparently has not been away from there. It's an iconic background Hunter has painted into the scene; see the next entry.
In the Christian iconographic traditions of the Medieval and Renaissance periods, a walled garden, or hortus conclusus signified both/either the Garden of Eden and/or Mary's virginity.
Harald the Ruthless
Harald III Sigurdsson (1015 – September 25, 1066), later surnamed Harald Hardråde (meaning ruthless) was the king of Norway from 1047 until 1066. Harald was the last great Viking king of Norway and his invasion of England and death at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 proved a true watershed moment. It marked the end of the Viking age. In Norway, Harald's death also marked the beginning of the Christian era. Wikipedia entry on Harald the Ruthless
In Norse mythology, Ginnungagap ("seeming emptiness" or "gaping gap") was a vast chasm that existed before the ordering of the world. To the north of Ginnungagap lay the intense cold of Niflheim, to the south the insufferable heat of Muspelheim. At the beginning of time, the two met in the Ginnungagap; and where the heat met the frost, the frost drops melted and formed the substance eitr, which quickened into life in the form of the giant Ymir, the father of all Frost giants. Wikipedia entry on Ginnungagap
Ginnungagap seems a Norse counterpart to the Indian Akasa.
Eitr has no linguistic tie to aether -- but the two words have phonetic resonance. Eitr means "poison" or specifically "snake poison."
inexplicable desire . . . about desire, and the forsaking of desire
When Pynchon uses the word "desire" it always has some special urgency. Harald feels driven to enter Ginnungagap but draws back without fulfilling his desire.
So relates Adam of Bremen in the Historia Hammaburgensis Ecclesiæ
The references to Adam of Bremen and Harald the Ruthless may be "softer" than many appropriations of history in AtD. Or another way to characterize them may be "bolder." Adam (d. ca. 1085) was a learned churchman who wrote a history called Gesta hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum (Acts of the Archbishops of the Hamburg Church) or Historia ecclesiastica (Church History). In the fourth book, Descriptio insularum aquilonum (Description of the Islands of the North), Adam writes about the expedition mentioned in the text and another voyage to the northern seas.
The indented paragraphs below are based on History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, translated by F.J. Tschan from the Historia and published in 1959 by Columbia University Press. Extracts are paraphrased except where identified by quotation marks.
- From Book IV, chapter xxxix (pp. 219-220 in Tschan): Past [i.e., north of?] Vinland there is no habitable land in the ocean, only impassable ice and darkness. Frozen sea is encountered one day's sail to the north. The Norwegian prince Harald took several ships to explore the northern realm. Finally they saw the murky boundaries of "a failing world." Harald turned around and did not fall into the bottomless pit.
- From the next chapters, IV, xl-xli (220-221 in Tschan): A number of ships sailed from the coast of Frisia, landing in Iceland and then proceeding northward. Reaching the limits of the known islands, they commended their fate to God and St. Willehad and continued into an all-obscuring mist. They were picked up by a current of the "fluctuating" ocean and whirled around a great chasm that sucks in the sea and then vomits it forth again. Some ships were lost but others saved themselves by rowing against the flow. The voyagers came to an island encircled by high cliffs where men lived in underground caves. They collected great treasure of gold and silver that lay in front of the caves, then were chased from the island by giants with enormous hounds. A safe return to Bremen ended the exploration.
What the mariners reported is some medium-scale phenomenon, big enough to seize a ship. It might be a tidal or current vortex. In a footnote to chapter xl, the translator says there is a big whirlpool (the Eis) off the east coast of Greenland. The original Maelstrom (look further down this page) is a zone of current shears and eddies off the west coast of Norway. We might also suspect a violent tidal rush, as in the Bay of Fundy. There are enough candidates out there to promote Adam's version from fabulous to plausible, at any rate.
The key point, however, is that Ginnungagap and Harald's epiphany about desire are not related by Adam but read/written into his account.
Darkening of the underside of clouds over water; photos of water-sky and iceblink.
drawn into another, toroidal dispensation
"Dispensation" refers to a scheme under which God carries out his purposes toward men, or to a providential event affecting men and involving either mercy or judgment. Slightly fuller definition. "Toroidal" means donut-shaped.
A toroidal dispensation then is a scheme of universal management involving a donut shape. A huge whirlpool, in short: a maelstrom.
The Maelstrom is a complicated system of currents and eddies off the coast of Norway, a frightful hazard to navigators that has become an icon for the vortex or whirlpool.
A couple of connections here: a Tesla Coil is a toroid, I think; and the 'creature' that is found in the ice, and taken back to America by the Vormance expedition, is (sometimes) described as serpent-like, another coil. The creature's escape, and the disastrous aftermath, have many September 11th resonances, and there's an obvious analogy between that and our world, post-911, being sucked into another, more perilous phase, subject to a new, 'toroidal' dispensation.
Bay of Röerford
Does not seem to exist, at least with this spelling.
A Google hit seems to confirm that the scientist Rasmus or Erasmus Bartholin studied calcite from the Bay of Roerford or Röerford, possibly in Denmark, but the link leads only to a summary, not full text.
The spelling Roerfjord is an old Danish or Norwegian variant of the Icelandic Reydarfjord. On the shores of Reydarfjord Bay lies Helgustadir, the site of the Iceland spar mine for centuries - in Bartholin's day thought to be the only source of Iceland spar.
southward to that region of sailors' yarns and oddities unconfirmed
Clever inversion. To these people of the north, it's our familiar temperate seas that contain the marvels: porpoises, sargasso weed, year-round harbors.
See above, Constance Penhallow.
By the way, Penhallow is pronounced in a way that's very close to the italian "pennello" which means "paintbrush": quite appropriate for a painter!
Latitudes from 80N to 85N (mainly Ellesmere Island). [map]
You would think that, but the text refers to people with "lower-eighties accents," and virtually no scientist comes from these latitudes (to say nothing of alienists). Could it have to do with 80th to 85th Streets? The expedition does appear to sail from New York.
The word is rare in Pynchon's work. Here it is linked to separation, the human theme of the novel.
- As a lesson on the dangers of over-interpretation: I asked a Norwegian friend whether this is truly a Norwegian dish, to which he replied "no," making me feel stupid. Bleakhaus
- It is however the case that a popular Norwegian (and Norwegian-American) dish is lutefisk, an awful concoction unimaginable to those of us who enjoy fresh seafood, which is a sort of "fish loaf." For a funny description of an American attempt to eat it, see .
¡Cuidado Cabrón! Salsa Explosiva La Original
Cabrón is an offensive word in Spanish meaning a guy who is an asshole/dick/cuckold, but friends can also call each other Cabrón in a joking manner. So, Watch-Out, Fucker! The Original Explosive Sauce.
- There appears, in "Explosiva La Original," to be a suggestion of an originary explosion, i.e. the Big Bang.
separated . . . by only the thinnest of membranes
An excellent book, The Mind in the Cave, by David Lewis-Williams, explores the idea that the partition between worlds is thick most everywhere but thin in special places, allowing the spiritual journeyer (e.g., the shaman) to make an easy crossing. Superstitions about veils, including human cauls, make similar claims about what separates the natural and supernatural worlds. Shifts from one world to another figure at several places in AtD; see for example the dialog on p. 9, "Another 'surface,' but an earthly one."
This colorful and sinister tropical bird, so out of place in these arctic climes, heralding a passage between worlds or maybe states of being, is reminiscent of the rainbow-hued spider monkey from Vheissu, found frozen beneath the icy surface of the Antarctic in the climactic reveal (V, p. 205) in the chapter "She Hangs on the Western Wall."
until the phrase no longer had meaning
This contributor took part in creating a work of radio conceptual art called Knob. A reader spoke the word "knob" onto a tape, which was then looped so that it repeated every 3-4 seconds. After a few dozen repetitions, the listener could not associate any meaning with the word; after the full half-hour, few could stand without assistance.
the force of a Tibetan prayer wheel
Pynchon is slightly confused here. When spinning a Tibetan prayer wheel, you don't recite any prayers or mantras. The prayer wheel contains rolls of paper imprinted with the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra, but it is believed that the spinning of the wheel has the same effect as reciting that mantra; the more one recites the mantra, the closer one can get to enlightenment. So here, it would be more correct to say something along the lines of "the force of a mantra" rather than a Tibetan prayer wheel, since the characters are reciting the name of the salsa. More on Tibetan prayer wheels
The Yarlung Tsangpo/Brahmaputra river drains a large portion of the eastern Himalaya and southern Tibetan plateau as well as the eastern Himalayan syntaxis, one of the most tectonically active areas of the globe.
A fictional institute, created in the tradition of Lovecraft's Miskatonic University.
Pynchon consistently calls it Candlebrow U. instead of simply Candlebrow or Candlebrow University because the letter's shape, like the inverted-vagina shape of the Tetractys, echoes its phallic connotation. Pynchon similarly emphasizes the phallic by using "Dick" Counterfly (with the quotes) instead of simply Dick. Hmmm, Ewball / U-ball?
Or, heck, maybe it's just Pynchon's oblique way of saying "fuck you"...
And, of course, this is all connected with how that Randy St. Cosmo got his name...
Candlebrow, and its associations with candlepower, luminescence, illumination, learning, and consciousness (not to mention the high-brow/low-brow brand of dividing that determines what may and may not be taught at any U), may also be a return to yogic thinking and to the Sixth Chakra, the Brow Chakra (and not only because nummer six is an æther chakra). The distinction between luminescence, light that usually occurs at low temperatures, and incandescence, light that usually occurs at high temperatures, may be in play, as well.
In mathematics, quaternions are a non-commutative extension of complex numbers. They were first described by the Irish mathematician Sir William Rowan Hamilton in 1843 and applied to mechanics in three-dimensional space. At first, quaternions were regarded as pathological, because they disobeyed the commutative law ab = ba. Although they have been superseded in most applications by vectors, they still find uses in both theoretical and applied mathematics, in particular for calculations involving three-dimensional rotations. Wikipedia entry.
Dr. V Ganesh Rao
Ganesha is a Hindu god. From Wikipedia:
"It is widely believed that "Wherever there is Ganesha, there is Success and Prosperity" and "Wherever there is Success and Prosperity there is Ganesha". He is the Lord of Obstacles both of a material and spiritual order. He is capable of placing obstacles in the path of those who need to be checked, and can remove blockages just as easily. By calling on him people believe that he will come to their aid and grant them success in their endeavour. He also is considered the master of intellect and wisdom."
Fleetwood, like Scarsdale, is a wealthy suburb of New York City. Both communities are located in Westchester County, north of New York City.
Business designed to cheat people. [Wikipedia]
Flannelette is a little washcloth.
Flannelette is a soft fabric popular (in the UK at least) for pyjamas of a cosy but unsexy kind --Gobbag 10:40, 11 February 2007 (PST) We have already seen one character with a name similar to an American car: Chevrolette. Two actually: The Cadillac Fleetwood.
The Transnoctial Discussion Group
Note that "transnoctial" doesn't mean through the night, it means across the night.
Trans- \Trans-\ [L. trans across, over.] A prefix, signifying over, beyond, through and through, on the other side, as in transalpine, beyond the Alps; transform, to form through and through, that is, anew, transfigure.[1913 Webster]
See annotations to the next page for discussion of the members' names.
Noctial: from a Dungeons and Dragons bulletin board:
- When a star is born, it violently tears apart the void that was there before its creation, ripping the nihility into hundreds of pieces and sending them hurtling through space. Occasionally, one finds its way to a planet, where it stays, consuming creatures to fill the unending emptiness inside it. These are noctials, rare but dangerous creatures that usually dwell in the wilderness.
- Noctials prefer open environments at night, making use of their Made of Sky ability to blend in with the night sky and drop down on unsuspecting prey. They are reclusive during the day, hiding in caves and other dark places. If it is clear that a noctial will lose a battle, a noctial will, rather than show a sense of self-preservation and flee, instead move to a position where its death throes will hurt its attackers as much as possible.
- Made of Sky (Ex): Noctials are made of the blackness between the stars, and so blend in perfectly. If the sun has set and a creature looking at a noctial sees nothing behind it except the sky, the noctial can hold perfectly still and automatically succeed on a Hide check, effectively being invisible to that creature as long as it remains immobile. True Seeing and the like have no effect on this ability.
- Death Throes (Su): When a noctial dies, it explodes in a manner not unlike that of a dying star. Transforming into a raging inferno of white fire, it deals 4d6 damage to all creatures within 10 feet and 1d6 to all creatures within 20 feet. This will also ignite most flammable material within 20 feet.
- Ooze traits: Noctials are immune to all mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep effects, paralysis, polymorph, stunning, critical hits, flanking, and all effects relying on sight.
- Incorporeal subtype: All nonmagical weapons miss noctials. All magical attacks have a 50% miss chance, unless they are based on positive energy, negative energy, or force or have Ghost touch. Noctials can partially enter objects, but must always be within 5 feet of the object's exterior. A noctial's attacks pass through natural armor, armor, and shields unless they are force-based (Mage Armor) or have a deflection bonus. They also can't manipulate objects, be grappled, or really interact with matter at all.
"with oceangoing ships we left flat surfaces and went into Riemann space"
One of Riemann's major contributions was the mathematics of manifolds, geometrical constructs that on a local scale are indistinguishable from flat space, and yet on a global scale may be very different. A standard example is the surface of the earth or of a torus, which appear to be flat locally but which cannot be globally deformed to a flat plane. Riemann's differential geometry quantifies the distortion produced by the curve of the surface and was instrumental in the mathematical formulation of Einstein's general theory of relativity.
first few wingbeats...invasion routes"
An extraordinary paragraph. wingbeats: in context has a demonic overtone of bats and Rebel Angels. Vormance and Vibe his sponsor here seem more intent on storming Heaven than exploring the artic -- shades of the Book of Revelation and Milton's Paradise Lost.
or Western Isles comprise an island chain off the west coast of Scotland. The population today is only 26,370, and there is no University.
it described the present journey as being taken "at right angles to the flow of time"
Fittingly, as the discussion immediately following makes clear, this means into an imaginary time.
Interestingly enough, in quantum field theory one often treats time as a complex number, see Wick rotation.
Vormance . . . Otto Ghloix . . . a heckler
Members of the Transnoctial Discussion Group are Alden Vormance, V. Ganesh Rao, Dodge Flannelette, Fleetwood Vibe, Templeton Blope, Hastings Throyle, Otto Ghloix, and an extra man (heckler).
Without trying to read too much into the names, consider two parallel discussion groups in stories by the science fiction writer R.A. Lafferty, both collected in Nine Hundred Grandmothers (1970). "Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne" features Gregory Smirnov, Valery Mok, her husband Charles Cogsworth, a person called Glasser, Aloysius Shiplap, Willy McGilly, Audifax O'Hanlon and Diogenes Pontifex. The brilliant "Narrow Valley" brings in "the eminent scientists, Dr. Velikof Vonk, Arpad Arkabaranan and Willy McGilly. That bunch turns up every time you get on a good one." Vonk, Arkabaranan and McGilly are a stable group with many other credits in Lafferty's fiction. These groups share more than just capricious names with the T.D.G.; the members have a hypothesis ready for any observation, and the hypotheses never agree.
an additional axis whose unit is (-1)¹/²
The usual form of representing a complex number z = b + ai, (see below for explanation) graphically is by presenting its real part, b, along the horizontal real axis and its imaginary part, a, on the vertical imaginary (additional) axis of a Cartesian coordinate system. For a graph illustion of z = 1 + 2i.
The complex number is of the form b + ai, where a and b are real numbers and i is defined as the square root of -1, i.e. i = (-1)¹/². According to the definition, Cf page 133 Imaginary Number, ai is an imaginary number. Therefore, a complex number is a sum of real and imaginary numbers. Commonly, one use z to denote the whole expression b + ai, i.e. z = b + ai. And now z is called a complex number. Besides z, the letter w is often used to denote complex numbers.
In mathematics, a 'variable' is a symbolic representation, usually a letter of the English (such as x and y), Greek or Roman alphabet, denoting an 'unkown' quantity which may vary during the course of calculation or investigation. For example, the speed of a jetliner,v, flying from Los Angeles to New York varies during the course of its flight. So,v here is a variable. While 'c', the speed of light, unvaried, is a constant. In the algebraic equation y = ax² + bx + c where a, b and c are constants, x and y are variables. When x and y involve complex numbers, then they are called complex variables.
w = exp z
Here w is a complex-valued function of a complex variable; exp z—written ez in the text—is a generalization of the exponential function to the base e. The expression w = exp z gives the relationship of the independent (complex) variable z to the dependent (complex) variable w, i.e., mapping z onto w. This relationship may not be one-to-one.
- Mathematicians, please check this: In general, w = ez maps a line in the z plane to a spiral, not a circle, in the w plane. In the special case of a line parallel to the real axis, the map is either a line or a ray. In the special case of a line parallel to the imaginary axis, the map is indeed a circle. If this assertion is correct, it plays hob with Prof. Rao's metaphor.
- I don't think so. First Blope argues that only forward and backward motion in time is consistent with Quaternionism, in which the time axis is real. A new complex time axis, pure imaginary for 90 degree motion, would be required for any other motions. This to him is heresy. Rao is presumably Hindu and believes in eternal recurrence, so he argues for a complex time axis because it can accomodate eternal recurrence, his view of time. Rao says: "mappings in which a linear axis becomes curvilinear ... functions such as w = exp(z)"(my italics). All Rao needs is a mapping that takes the time axis to a circle, not an arbitrary line to a circle. So if you choose the imaginary axis to be the time axis (which Quaternionists do not) and apply exp then, as you point out, time is mapped to a circle.
The number e is the base of the natural logarithm, approximately equals to 2.71828. After Pi, e is the most important constant in mathematics. See the popular article about the history, definition and 10,000-place value of e.
as Fitzgerald maintained, a shrinkage of dimension
Irish physicist George FitzGerald proposed a contraction of length parallel to the direction of motion, to explain the negative result of the Michelson-Morley experiment. Quantitavely, the contraction is identical with the one predicted later by Einstein's special theory of relativity.
Here is a concise and satisfying discussion of the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction in the context of late 19th and early 20th-century physics.
a heckler . . . whom nobody . . . seemed quite able to locate
The Extra Man has followed the team indoors.
Or maybe it is the Voice of God heckling those who just heckeled him!
See also Ynglinga Saga, or the story of the ancient Norse kings. Wikipedia entry
The Book of Iceland Spar, commonly described as "like the Ynglingasaga only different"
" 'Thanatoid' means 'like death, only different.' " (Vineland, p. 170)
... even of days not yet transpired.
Reminiscent of the Borges short story "The Library of Babel" about an "infinite library" which contains every possible book. Wikipedia entry.
Imaginary number is of the form ai, where a is a real number, and i is defined such that i² = -1,
i.e. i = (-1)¹/² (sqare root of minus 1). For example, -16¹/², (square root of minus 16) is an imaginary number since it can be expressed as 4i by definition. In the novel The Da Vinci Code (2003), the character Robert Langdon jokes that character Sophie Neveu "believes in the imaginary number i because it helps her break code". In Issac Asimov's short story The Imaginary (1942), eccentric psychologist Tan Porus explains the behavior of a mysterious species of squid by using imaginary numbers in the equations which describe its psychology.
Probably the literary appearance of imaginary numbers most relevent to ATD is in the 1906 novel The Confusions of Young Törless (book, movie) by Robert Musil. It mixes philosophical speculation about imaginary numbers with a story of homo-sadistic relations between students at a military school, and is viewed by many as prophetic about World War I and fascism.
that all-important ninety-degree twist to their light, so they can exist alongside our own world but not be seen
Seems to echo Merle Rideout's theory on the "double refraction" of Blinky Morgan and Ed Morley from p.62.
It's also a reference to the discussion of complex numbers in the previous pages, the implication being that the double refraction due to the Iceland Spar ("ninety-degree twist") puts the "Hidden People" into an imaginary space analogous to the imaginary axis of the space of complex numbers--Gobbag 12:55, 11 February 2007 (PST) It could also be the angle at which light is polarized.
Also, this technique of bending light is similar to the technology The Predator has for a cloaking device. Wikipedia
visitors from elsewhere, of non-human aspect
Extraterrestrials, perhaps? "Visitors", in popular culture, is a term sometimes used to describe ETs. The alien race from the television miniseries V was named The Visitors. In the fictional world of South Park, aliens are referred to as "visitors".
- I'd opt for visitors from another dimension, a spiritual or an imaginary dimension, such as the dimension or axis upon which imaginary numbers reside (see above).
In his 1919 book, The Book of the Damned, Charles Fort uses the term to describe extra-terrestrials.
Cf p58. Reference to epsilon neighbourhoods, an essential tool in mathematical proofs.
Uneven ice formed by pressure, currents and wind in the dynamic Arctic environment
a device immediately recognizable yet unnamable
"Device" here means an emblem. Irrelevantly, the rising sun on the Japanese flag is a device in this sense.
Photography term. A neutral-density filter is designed to reduce the amount of light entering the lens without introducing a colour cast.
the sea-green, the ice-green, glass-green sea.
In Ulysses, James Joyce repeatedly describes the "snotgreen sea" (cf. Gabler edition, p. 4), itself an allusion to Homer's evocation of the "wine-dark sea". Cf., also, ATD, p.127: " . . . a green headland, sheer green walls of ice, the greenness nearest the water . . . . " and GR, V131: "the sea, which at sunset tonight shone green and smooth as iron-rich glass". In previous novels, Pynchon's use of color is almost always advised, as N.K. Hayles and M.B. Eiser note in their essay, "Coloring Gravity's Rainbow," in which green is frequently associated with the natural world, uncontaminated by humanity.
Also, the repetition itself has a Joyceian feel.--Gobbag 13:52, 11 February 2007 (PST) and possibly a feel of Dylan Thomas' Milk Wood "sloe black, slow, black, crow black fishing boat-bobbing sea"
- Who but an artist like Hunter would catalog greens this way?
is a town in Norway, above the Arctic Circle. Narvik was also the site of the first allied victory against Germany during WWII.
in the offing
Extended meaning: imminent. Originally a ship was said to be in the offing when she was visible from land but not yet (or no longer) in the area of safe anchorage.
Takeaway (takeout fast food) for dogsledders.
Rubus chamaemorus, edible fruit, yellow when ripe, related to raspberries, found growing wild in northern parts. Indigenous peoples may indeed eat them with blubber, but nowadays they also go into preserves and liqueurs.
skua eggs any style
The skua is a predatory seabird, Catharacta skua.
For those not familiar with American diner lingo, "any style" means they will be served fried, scrambled, poached or boiled, as you request.
If Narvik's three jokes are Arctic humor, give me the temperate kind any time.
Venice of the Arctic
Many cities have been compared with Venice in Italy, usually due to a high density of waterways (especially inner city canals) and/or maritime trade connections. Wikipedia entry on Venice of the X comparisons
The Venice passage contains three themes that have appeared often in Against the Day so far: that of doubles (such as Foley Walker and Scarsdale Vibe, Randolph and his Russian counterpart, etc) and that of chance or randomness (the Chums, the meeting of Vibe and Walker, etc).
Also the double versions of the map of Asia, double versions of elements that can be seen when they are viewed with Iceland Spar.
Finally, the thinnest of veils between two locations allowing for bi-location. The first is the salsa label which when looked at the right way will transport you to the sunny clime immediately; the second is here on the ice, for when the cracks perfectly match the map of Venice, you can step through it and be translated directly to Italy.
A-and, since the ice in Iceland sometimes arranges itself into a map of Venice, and it's said that you can pass directly from Iceland to Venice, it's highly appropriate that you can do something similar with the very names of the places themselves: venICE to ICEland. A typicaly wonderful piece of Pynchonalia.
And Pynchon seems to love Venice, a very positive place in one short story
Mathematical expression. In the crassest terms, Venice is multiply connected because some paths from one dry place to another pass through water. Without much risk of a spoiler, see the definition on p. 618.
Famous hotel in Venice.
A set of pilings used to move a ship by hauling on its mooring or anchoring lines.
In the period of ATD, museums around the world sought spectacular meteorites, e.g. the Cape York meteorite recovered by Arctic explorer Robert Peary. 
From the Journals...
This passage marks the first break in the narration to a first-person style. Pynchon thus briefly adopts the form of an epistolary novel, a style popular during the period with which ATD is concerned--see for instance Dracula.
Rapture of the North
Coined phrase, after "Rapture of the Deep," a nitrogen narcosis experienced by deep-sea divers.
From The Penguin Book of Food and Drink, ed. Paul Levy:
"An iced pudding flavoured with chestnuts and dried fruit was invented by Monsieur Mony, chef for many years to the Russian diplomat, Count Nesselrode, in Paris [...] Glacé fruit and peel were a further embellishment to the Nesselrode by the time Proust was old enough to notice such things.
scarcely enough of us to handle the lines
Compare Darby's singlehanded feat, annotations to p. 14.
Note that the increase in the size of the semi-fictional Inconvenience appears to be consistant with that of the larger fiction.
Dr. Counterfly... bearded
Last seen as a boy with low rank. Six years have elapsed, 1893-1899.
lenses proved to be...Nicol prisms
A Nicol Prism is a device to produce polarized light. It is made from a crystal of calcite (Iceland spar), which is cut along a precisely determined plane and then cemented back together with Canada balsam. A picture can be found here, detailed diagrams of Nicol and other polarizing prisms are availabe here.
- Glasses like the ones described here are used for viewing 3-D movies.
A nunatak (plural: nunataks) is a mountain top that is not covered by land ice (see glaciation and ice age), and protrudes out of a surrounding glacier. The wildlife on a nunatak can be isolated by the glacier, just like an island is in the ocean. Nunataks are generally angular and jagged because of freeze-thaw weathering, and can be seen to contrast strongly with the softer contours of the glacially eroded land below if the glacier retreats. [Wikipedia]
Pynchon's translation, "land connected" would seem to be at 180 degrees to Wikipedia's "lonely peak" (which is supported by Bates & Jackson, Glossary of Geology, 2nd ed.). Which is correct?
Perhaps "land connected" because it is a connection to the land beneath the glacier? --Kirkm 13:09, 19 February 2007 (PST)
Perhaps both are correct? Connected and isolated: a classic Pynchon duality.
an ark . . . and life resume its dominion
Ecologists use the word refugium (plural refugia) for an area protected from drastic changes in the surrounding region and preserving species and communities in just the way described in the text.
overhead . . . bulkheads
And on p. 144 purchase . . . hawser . . . strand . . . starboard quarter
Fleetwood either has a nautical background or is using these terms (for ceiling; walls; strong point of attachment; very heavy rope product; unravel; and behind and on the right side) in order to sound like an old salt.
The term has a specific technical meaning: External link
And, qv Gravity's Rainbow - Snoxalls, mediums, Milton Gloaming, etc.
a large brass speaking-trumpet
Somewhat reminiscent of the ubiquitous W.A.S.T.E. symbolism in The Crying of Lot 49.
A distinctive fine watch of French design, usually with open circles ('moons') near the ends of the hands. Wikipedia entry
Invented in 1898, the first magnetic recording machine was patented by Valdemar Poulsen. The theory behind this machine was worked out theoretically by Oberlin Smith of the UK in 1888. Poulsen's machine recorded by passing a thin wire across an electromagnet. Each minute section of the wire would retain its electromagnetic charge, thus recording the sound. Sound could be both recorded and played back. Unfortunately, because the machine's output wasn't very loud and there was no way to amplify the signal, the Telegraphone was not much of a success. External link
a human caul
caul (Latin: Caput galeatum, literally, "head helmet") is a thin, filmy membrane, the remnants of the amniotic sac, that covers or partly covers the newborn mammal immediately after birth. It is also the membrane enclosing the paunch of mammals, particularly as in pork and mutton butchery. In butchery, the caul is used as offal. A third meaning refers to a type of women's headdress.
To be "born with a caul" is meant to indicate a great future. The superstition attached to birth cauls has figured into numerous works of fiction, including David Copperfield, Stephen King's The Shining (wherein the child Danny Torrance, born with a caul, is possessed with the eponymous supernatural power), and Alan Moore's short graphic novel, The Birth Caul.
Caul births are rare. Two superstitions linked to them are (1) that possession of a human caul (preferably one's own, but not necessarily) protects one against drowning and, by extension, protects one's ship against being wrecked; (2) that the child born in a caul will have second sight, the thinness of the membrane signifying the closeness of the natural and supernatural worlds. Midwives sometimes abstracted and sold cauls.
A drawing aid sometimes used with an optical instrument; it is worthwhile to read the Wikipedia entry in order to understand what's going on here.
misfortunes of certain Egyptologists
Possibly a reference to the curse supposed to be attendant on the tomb of Tutankhamen, and upon which the death of George Herbert, who financed the expedition, was blamed. The tomb was breached in Feb 1923, though, and that seems later than this episode, so it may just be a reference to general myth or just one more anachronism. [history]
odalisque of the snows
An odalisque was a virgin female slave who tended to the harem of the Turkish sultan. Numerous paintings of the 19th century portrayed them as reclining beauties. The most famous of these is Ingres' La grande odalisque (1814):
Perhaps a reference to images of the Buddha, in which he is often seen reclining?
Lord Vishnu is often depicted lying or sleeping like an odalisque upon the serpent (naga) Lord Sesha who represents widom, power, energy. Vishnu is the Preserver in the Trimurti of Brahma/Vishnu/Siva. Some legends associate him with the primeval waters that pervaded the world before creation and as the mover of waters. Vishnu is also the restorer of dharma and has ten avatars that have/will come to re-establish righteousness over chaos, one of which is Lord Krishna. In many depictions, a lotus or the four-faced Brahma rises from the navel of the reclining god. It is said that when Vishnu is depicted in this manner good and evil are in proper balance throughout the cosmos.
That this faux nunatak has mongoloid or serpent eyes brings to mind the passage in the Book of Revelation where Archangel Michael defeats Satan/the dragon:
- 12:7-9 - The war broke out in Heaven. Michael and his angels battled with the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they did not prevail and they were expelled from Heaven. So the huge dragon, the serpent of ancient times, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world, was hurled down upon the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him.
That this serpent is encased in ice at the North Pole is suggestive of Satan at the bottom of hell, in Dante's Ninth Circle, also encased in ice.
It would appear that the Vormance expedition, in search of profits, is about to undo the work of Heaven and unleash Satan upon the world.
While Dante and Virgil escape the center of hell at the bottom of the world (a zone of emergency if ever there was one) by passing through the center of the earth, Chick and the Chums "fly counter" to this -- through the center of the earth -- to get to the zone of emergency, the lake of ice, at the top of the world to witness the liberation of Destruction. A cosmic reversal.
From FleetwoodVibe's journal of the Vormance expedition where his crew and the ChumsOfChance are assembled in the Inconvenience, observing the "nunatak" through some strange instrument (p141):
"...we were bound in a common terror of that moment at which it might become aware of our interest and smoothly pivot its awful head to stare us full in the face"
Startlingly, this is highly reminiscent of more than one passage in Lord of the Rings where transfixed good guys observe Sauron or his lair through a crystal ball, in terror of attracting his attention
- Reminiscent, yes, but not concrete enough to be interpreted as intentional, IMO. Bleakhaus
Refers to the Old Norse Poetic Edda and Prose Edda, both of which were written down in Iceland during the 13th century, although some of the poems included in them may be centuries older.
which of us . . . had not performed
Using the subjunctive mood, not the past perfect tense. A writer of today might say, "which of us . . . would not have performed."
we intrepid innocents . . . destiny.
This Vormance expedition calls to mind the 2004 film AVP: Alien Vs. Predator, in which an exploratory expedition funded by nefarious corporate elements discovers an ancient polar pyramid which they descend into, getting more than they bargain for in the process. Good stupid camp. See p. 134 in regards to Predator's cloaking device.
The idea of a scientific expedition awakening a destructive monster is a scifi-adventure cliche (archetype?). Think King Kong, Forbidden Planet, The Thing, Alien, Babylon 5, several H.P. Lovecraft stories, etc.
scentless snow walls
An interesting literary parallel: Richard Powers' novel Gain (1998) tells of a botanist who sails with the first U.S. Antarctic expedition:
A scent wafted upon him, a redolence for all the world like the smell of a forgotten existence. . . . the thing he smelled, out on the ice, was the sachet of scentlessness: air before the employment of lungs.
Congress, it's revealed, has funded the journey in hopes of discovering Symmes' Hole in the southern continent. The scientist belongs to a candle- and soap-manufacturing family that makes a fortune, establishes a conglomerate, invents a cooking fat substitute, exhibits at the 1893 Columbian World's Exposition in Chicago, endows a college, and extends the benefits of industrial society (cleanliness, Americanism and cancer clusters) throughout the world.
The name of the family and the company is Clare, but plainly there are several parallels to the Candlebrow saga. Scroll back to the annotations on p. 130, or (risking spoilers) jump ahead to the annotations on p. 405 and succeeding pages.
Old name for the Siberian language Evenki; see Wikipedia.
Doubtless to be an important concept in the novel, judging by the title of Part Three. Latin bis, twice, and locatio, place. Bilocation is as Pynchon explains, the ostensibly supernatural act of appearing or being in two or more locations simultaneously. Bilocation is claimed to have been experienced, and even practiced at will, by mystics, ecstatics, saints, monks, and magical adepts. Notably, Icelandic sagas also speak of warriors who were able to fall into a trance and appear thousands of miles away in battle. Wikipedia on bilocation Is also obviously related to the physical properties of Iceland Spar.
Arctic hysteria . . . Northern melancholia
We have three "scientifically" named psychological disorders: Rapture of the North (scroll back to annotations on p. 138), Arctic hysteria and Northern melancholia. Whatever happens, Ghloix will claim he predicted it.
If it's psychological disorders we are talking about, why not include Narvik's "Arctic humor" (p. 135)?
That is, linear time, a concept first introduced by St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), in his autobiographical Confessions. Augustine argued that the inevitability and singularity of Christ's return demanded that all history must be viewed as a linear progression toward the apocalypse and the ascendancy of Christ on Earth, after which time would effectively stop, an event described as the "End of Days." From this decidedly deterministic view of time, Augustine derived his doctrine of predestination, that is, of a world in which each soul, even as it is born, is already pre-defined as saved or unsaved. While the Catholic Church would eventually reject this doctrine, the protestant reformer and theologian John Calvin resurrected it, and it became an important part of Calvinist theology, notably as practiced by the Puritans.
Their notion of time is spread out not in a single dimension but over many, which all exist in a single, timeless instant.
Recalls the Tralfamadorian notion of time in both The Sirens of Titan and Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut. Might also be worth mentioning that W.N. Rumfoord, of the first novel, is also capable of bilocation, as he has been transformed by the chrono-synclastic infundibula into a wave phenomenon originating in the Sun and terminating in Betelgeuse.
"we measured, and remeasured, and each time the dimensions kept coming out different - not just slightly so but drastically."
Cf. Mark Danielewski's debut novel House Of Leaves (2000), where a house interior dimensions keep changing, while the exterior remains unaltered. Wikipedia entry
Compare Mason & Dixon wherein the interiors of a coach (and one house, at least?) is more spacious than the measured dimensions.
While TRP writes only of the dimensions of the thing and not its actual shape, there is the sense of something protean, of Proteus in the hold. In reading the wiki entry one learns that Proteus is associated in alchemy with Philosophical Mercury, "the light of nature," the anima mundi (spirit of the world), and much later Carl Jung associated it with the unconscious. Homer, Milton, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Joyce, Vonnegut among others make use of this "Old Man of the Sea" god.
"its gaze had remained directed solely, personally, to each of us, no matter where we stood or moved."
Supposedly a standard feature of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church portrait-icons.
Also brings to mind Mona Lisa
- Here is a scientific account (though less coherent than we might like) of how the artist makes the subject of a painting seem to be looking at the viewer. It's very simple: paint the eyes looking along a line perpendicular to the canvas. But what's described in the text here is a little different and may be related to a phenomenon in public speaking: If the speaker makes eye contact with a few people in the audience, even skipping randomly around the house, many will report "He was looking directly at me!"
The moon simile is not far-fetched; Inconvenience viewed head-on must have looked quite moonlike.
something, down there, below our feet... where it lay patient and thawing, was terribly, and soon to be more terribly, amiss.
This is all extremely Lovecraftian, and especially brings to mind Lovecraft's story, "At The Mountains Of Madness". Wikipedia Although what happens once at harbor is more like Lovecraft's "Nyarlathotep."
Returned to harbor at last
Not in Iceland but in the city from where the expedition first sailed.
impersonal momenta of the Commercial
Momentum (plural momenta) must be a metaphor for the constant buzz of commerce; in physics, of course, the word means a well-defined quantity of motion, but that does not seem to fit here.
upstate security of Matteawan
I.e., committed to the Matteawan Asylum at Fishkill, N.Y. Does this leave any doubt as to the name of the great city?
Reminiscent of the famous Japanese anime Neon Genesis Evangelion (1994-95), in which mankind unearths a mysterious creature from the Arctic ice that appears as a man-shaped giant of light, gets out of man's control and triggers an apocalypse. Probably not an intentional reference, but if Pynchon plays Tetris, who knows?
- -sinister variant of GR's Kirghiz Light? Those who see the Light find their words dismissed "as the meaningless sounds of a baby" (GR 358) just as witnesses to ATD's light are sent to the sanitorium. Note also the line's similarity to the Aqyn's warning from GR: "And the Light will never find you." (359)
The "man of light" is also a term from ancient Iranian gnosticism, representing the higher self, the heavenly twin, the guide of light of every individual. "The quest for the dawning of light in the cosmic North symbolizes the mystic's search for realization. In this spiritual journey, the light arising in man's inner darkness- the Northern Light or Midnight Sun- represents the impartial but brilliant light of Truth, that which sets us free from egotism and from slavery to material existence." Please see Henry Corbin's wonderful book The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism though be advised that it is written for the specialist.
A simpler explanation is that the monster is saying the Christian God, personified as a luminous Christ, shall not deliver you, and that the flames of Hell are your destiny.
c.f. the man-shaped light on 153
those starfish corridors where they suffer…
“they” are the witnesses who heard the Figure speak. Pynchon here refers to the radial structure of Jeremy Bentham’s designs for his panopticon, a penal/containment facility wherein many individuals can be observed from a central unit, giving the illusion of constant surveillance. The witnesses in “the upstate security of Matteawan” appear to be detained in just such a facility.
- That unfortunately doesn't hold up. The panopticon doesn't have radiating corridors, as the floor plan in the Wikipedia article (link above) shows. And Matteawan was not built to the panopticon design anyway; it was an accretion of fairly conventional rectangular structures. Here is an aerial view of Matteawan at a time later than the action; this web page has exterior and interior views; the asylum was even pictured on colored postcards. The direct reference of "starfish" is probably to long wings running in scattered directions.
Through the use of the word “starfish” the narrator further invokes H. P. Lovecraft’s novel At The Mountains of Madness, wherein starfish- and star-shaped patterns abound in the culture and physiology of the Elder Ones.
The description of the single-file line at the train station basically describes current security conditions at American airports. A single line (i.e. linear thinking) does not seem to be a 'positive' in the Pynchon world. (See too the slaughterhouse on page 10.)
Apparently in South Africa (the famous NYC one wasn't founded until 1904).
- In Washington, D.C. ("the District"), though this doesn't help with the timing since the D.C. chapter wasn't formed till 1924. But "in Africa," "out there" and the word "British" in referring to the poet laureate—these all rule out Africa as the site.
Dr. Jim's little adventure
A reference to the so-called "Jameson Raid" spearheaded by Dr. L. S. Jameson. The raid was intended to trigger an uprising among the British expatriate workers (the Uitlanders) in the Transvaal, but failed, and instead served to further destabilize the region and catalyze the Second Boer War. Wikipedia entry (From Wikipedia: “The Jameson Raid (December 29, 1895 - January 2, 1896) was a raid on Paul Kruger's Transvaal Republic carried out by Leander Starr Jameson and his Rhodesian and Bechuanaland policemen over the New Year weekend of 1895-96. It was intended to trigger an uprising by the primarily British expatriate workers (known as Uitlanders) in the Transvaal but failed to do so. The raid was ineffective and no uprising took place, but it did much to bring about the Second Boer War and the Second Matabele War.”)
"War any moment"
The Second Boer War started in October 1899. [Wikipedia]
Not the currency, but rather the gold fields near Johannesburg. The following page confirms this: "In the Rand, some of the shafts go down four thousand feet."
the British poet-laureate’s commemorative verse
Reference to Alfred Austin. From Wikipedia: “As poet-laureate, his topical verses did not escape negative criticism; a hasty poem written in praise of the Jameson Raid in 1896 being a notable instance.” Wikipedia entry
The questionable rhyme referred to is from that “hasty poem” --
- They went across the veldt,
- As hard as they could pelt.
Fridtjof Wedel-Jarlsberg Nansen (1861-1930) was a Norwegian explorer, scientist and diplomat. Nansen was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for his work as a League of Nations High Commissioner. In 1893, he sailed to the Arctic in a ship which was deliberately allowed to drift north through the sea ice, a journey that took more than three years. During this first crossing of the Arctic Ocean the expedition became the first to discover the existence of a deep polar basin. When, after more than one year in the ice it became apparent that the ship would not reach the North Pole, Nansen continued north on foot and, in April 1895, reached 86° 14´ N, the highest latitude then attained. The two men were forced to spend the winter, surviving on walrus blubber and polar bear meat. Wikipedia entry on Nansen Cf. p. 138.
Suppose it were to happen to us . . . an innocence they knew how to circumvent
"Art" is supposed, among other things, to help us interpret our world. This passage is Art as brilliant and hardnosed as anything Goya or Picasso or Shostakovich ever created. Just one man's opinion. --Volver 15:19, 5 February 2007 (PST)
This passage, "use humans for similar purposes", ie, for food, recalls the classic Twilight Zone episode, To Serve Man, as well as the movie Soylent Green.
"Evolution. Ape evolves to man, well, what's the next step - human to what? Some compound organism, the American Corporation, for instance"
Cf. the following excerpt from William Gibson's 1981 short story "New Rose Hotel":
- Imagine an alien, Fox once said, who's come here to identify the planet's dominant form of intelligence. The alien has a look, then chooses. What do you think he picks? I probably shrugged.
- The zaibatsus, Fox said, the multinationals. The blood of a zaibatsu is information, not people. The structure is independent of the individual lives that comprise it. Corporation as life form.
the American Corporation, for instance, in which even the Supreme Court has recognized legal personhood
Refers to Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (1886), during which Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite announced: "The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does." Wikipedia entry Corporations are routinely recognized as "persons" in the law nowadays. For more on the recognition of corporation as legal persons, see Wikipedia entry on corporate personhood. A recent documentary film, The Corporation (2003), tried to make the case that if a corporation is a "person," it has the personality of a psychopath.
The Light Over the Ranges
Against the Day
Rue du Départ