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xml:lang="en" lang="en" dir="ltr"> ATD 199-218 - Thomas Pynchon Wiki | Against the Day

ATD 199-218

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


Page 199

headed for Nevada
From Denver or Golden the boys travel westward. Do they reach Nevada or just point in that direction? The scenic description may fit parts of Utah (between Colorado and Nevada) or Nevada proper. It's some 250 miles from Denver to the Utah-Nevada line; we learn that Jeshimon is a day's ride (say 100 miles?) from Nochecita, and also that you go south from Jeshimon to get to Telluride. And there's more: In Nochecita some visitors are identified as "Utahans," which suggests the town is not in Utah.
The geography seems to work only if Nochecita is in western Colorado, not Nevada.

Page 200

Nochecita
Spanish: little night. We saw earlier (see annotations to p. 22) that bright light is not a source of comfort while darkness can be; Nochecita should be a place of shelter.
The online dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy defines nochecita as "Crepúsculo vespertino", i.e. evening twilight.

Estrella
Spanish: star. In Spanish the middle syllable is pronounced just about like "Stray." She is a star in the "little night." The name of a character in Dickens' Great Expectations.

Page 201

natatorium
(originally and chiefly North American)
A swimming pool, esp. an indoor one; a complex containing one or more such pools. Occasionally also: an area of a sea, lake, etc., suitable for swimming.[1]

stand literally in a circle around the couple as if enforcing the choice and allowing them no other
Weddings in many places and times feature circles (circular ring, guests dancing in a circle, ribbon encircling the couple). A confining circle of guests does not seem to be a custom anywhere. Are these newly made "friends" pursuing some end we can't recognize—for example seeking to ensure a lineage?

Family idiot... some emergency drooling done
Frank the self-professed Frankenstein of the Traverse family.
Frank will not be the last AtD character to hold himself out as an idiot.

The original Frankenstein, in Shelley's novel, however, is anything but an idiot, as he reads Milton and can express himself eloquently. The depictions of Frankenstein as an "idiot" didn't come until at least 1910 [1] and surely Pynchon knows this.

Page 202

Cooper
In the spirit of Icelandic Spar doubling, is it possible that the description of 'young gent Cooper' is Pynchon writing himself into ATD? Pynchon is reportedly shy and one of the supposed reasons given for why he never wanted his picture taken was that his upper teeth protruded and he did not like his portrait. Cooper sits astride a black and gold V-twin (!), produces a "Cornell" model Acme guitar, 'which now and then found strange notes added into the guitar chords, as though Cooper had hit between the wrong frets, only somehow it sounded right,' a pretty good analogy of Pynchon's bizarre but powerful prose style. Cf. Pynchon and his music connections and the trope (from Homer on) of musicians as the archetypal artists. Pynchon reportedly played the ukulele, so perhaps he also plays guitar. Perhaps this Cooper is an amalgam of himself and his great deceased school friend, Richard Farina?

Scaled down just a bit, striking blue eyes, blond hair, "motor-wheelman," "injury . . . in his past." Everything but the name comes out Steve McQueen (1930-80). Not an identification but a distant resonance.
Yeah, too much of a stretch to think it's Pynchon writing himself in. There was speculation that the character Osbie Feel in Gravity's Rainbow was just such an instance, and this one a bit more plausible. Check it out...
Mesa V-Twin Preamp & Stompbox
Also, could be a nod to Chris Cornell, singer, guitarist & songwriter for Soundgarden and Audioslave. He's got that blond(ish) hair, that lip, was in a motorcycle accident, collaborated with Alice Cooper (on The Last Temptation, a 1994 "concept" album), &c &c. And here's the kicker: Chris often uses the Mesa Boogie V-Twin Preamp which, by the way, has rubber tires, er, I mean, feet. So, in this context, I think Cornell's a good bet. And check the V-Twin logo which riffs off the Harley-Davidson logo. And, hey, this Cooper sings, writes songs and plays the guitar!

V-twin with white rubber tires
A V-twin is a two cylinder internal combustion engine where the cylinders are arranged in a V configuration, most often seen in motorcycles. The first motorcycles available for purchase were made in 1894 by Hildebrand & Wolfmüller, but the V-twin layout did not come to market until ca. 1902 (Zedel, Switzerland). The first U.S. V-twin was apparently made by Indian (1903). Harley-Davidson got a V-twin motor into production in 1910 or 1911 (prototype 1907).

More to the point, it's also a rocking preamp and stompbox, as noted above. A great example of Pynchon's setting up multiple resonances with names, here having "V-Twin" do multiple-duty as a guitar preamp, a motorcyle, twinning/doubling, and his ubiquitous V's.

notes... rang like schoolbells
Recalls the lyrics from the famous 1958 Chuck Berry song, "Johnny B. Goode": "But he could play the guitar just like a-ringin' a bell."

didt'n
According to Google Books, this spelling occurs twice in Against the Day, and 12 times in Vineland. It also occurs at least once in Inherent Vice.

"the music, which now and then found strange notes added into the guitar chords, as though Cooper had hit between the wrong frets, only somehow it sounded right."
In Pynchon's first novel, V., saxophonist McClintic Sphere played "all the notes Bird missed" which itself was a nod to jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman whose raw, highly vocalized sound and penchant for playing "in the cracks" of the scale led many Los Angeles jazz musicians to regard his playing as out-of-tune." [2]

Page 203

Cooper, cont'd

If Cooper is meant as some kind of parallel of Pynchon, note that Cooper waits "for faces there, or a particular face, to be drawn by the music," and one is-- Sage, who exits the house wearing gray and puts her arm up Cooper's sleeve. Could this be Pynchon's loving memory of meeting his wife?

This is all far too tenous and speculative, surely?

Page 204

Linnet Dawes
The linnet is Carpodacus mexicanus, most often called house finch. The species originated in the western U.S. but got spread through the east as a result of releases by bird smugglers. Also a European finch. Wikipedia

So far we have women as a wren and as a finch.

She is named for two birds. The daw or jackdaw is an Old World bird somewhat resembling the crow in appearance and the grackle in behavior.

Jackdaw in Czech is "Kafka" --jackmw 18:28, 04 April 2007 (PST)

plagal cadences
A cadence -- the end of a musical phrase -- in which the subdominant chord resolves to the tonic, as opposed to the more common harmonic progression where the dominant resolves to the tonic. The "Amen" at the end of church music is typically a plagal cadence. [2]

reading the Police Gazette or, actually, looking at the pictures
The National Police Gazette (published 1848-1980s) was the biggest men's magazine in the U.S. at the turn of the century, selling some 150,000 copies. Printed on pink paper, it contained sports reporting as well as crime stories, often with drawings of rumpled female victims. Photos of burlesque performers were a regular feature by the time of the action.

Page 205

against the daylight
A direct example of against the day as against the light. Significantly, Frank's attempt to discern Stray's true facial expression is thwarted by the daylight behind her. An object positioned against the daylight, or, in general, between an observer and a light source, is shadowed or silhouetted -- in Pynchon's words of the same sentence, "veiled by its own penumbra". This is suggestive of the idea that light does not always illuminate.

This is also an echo of the 'dorsal finality' framing of Constance Penhallow in Hunter's portrait back in Iceland.

"faro boxes"
Card game with anti-cheating mechanism that can be fixed. Wikipedia. In fact, faro was a big moneymaker—for the house—because rigging the shoe or box was so common.

ol' Buck-the-Tiger
"Bucking the tiger" is an old euphemism for playing faro. bcvc.net

Page 206

soul-to-soul and down Mexico way
Possible allusions to blues-rock guitarists Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, respectively. The first phrase was the title of a Vaughan album and the second is a phrase used in the song "Hey Joe," most famously recorded by Hendrix.

Pynchon must be laughing his tits off at some of this stuff. "Soul to soul" and "down Mexico way" are just expressions - that's how they found their way into songs. TRP is a bright guy and if he'd wanted for some reason to allude to Stevie Ray and Jimi at this particular point (why, for god's sake?) he'd have found a more satisfying way of doing it.

everything . . . proceeded down Mexico way
A triple metaphor: (3) to proceed to Mexico from Colorado, you go south. (2) "Go south" evokes "Go west." (1) To go west is an expression from the World War meaning to die.
The vast system of trenches in the war ran mainly north and south, with the Allies on the west. Going west meant getting finally withdrawn from the never-ending trench war. Soldiers would later say "go home in a bag." Gone west for "dead" apparently predates gone south by a little.
Gone south for "deteriorated" is influenced by the preceding but also relies on customary map orientation: south = down.
So everything proceeded down Mexico way means it all came undone, turned to disaster.

both sounders and inkers
Two types of telegraph machine. Inkers turn telegraph signals into marks along long ribbons of paper, while sounders only made sounds through a speaker, requiring a human to write down the message.

one day it rang while Reef happened to be right next to it
Someone who knew Pynchon in the 60s described their final meeting in the article, Thomas Pynchon and the South Bay: "I was walking down the street and he was walking toward me. Our paths crossed right in front of a pay phone, our eyes met and we recognized each other. I asked how he was and at that moment the telephone rang. He looked at me and looked at the phone, then turned around and ran down the street, and I never saw him again."

At the 70s pot-commune 'The Farm' in Tennessee, their first phone system (called 'Beatnik Bell') was legendary for working this way (by ESP). more

a turbulent bath of noise that could have been fragments of speech or music surged along the lines
A possible imagistic allusion to the work of Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver, specifically their 1948 book A Mathematical Theory of Communication. Shannon and Weaver were engineers working for Bell Systems who posited that information traffic through telephone systems could best be described in mathematical terms normally reserved for the flow of turbulent fluids. Their work, along with that of Norbert Wiener, founds the basis of the American branch of information theory. Wikipedia citations for Shannon and Weaver, and for information theory.

We know from the introduction to Slow Learner that Pynchon read (some--two books mentioned) Norbert Wiener while still in college.

Page 207

"Bob Meldrum"
1900s outlaw. cite (link broken or page inoperative - new_link)

Jeshimon
Jeshimon is typically rendered from Hebrew as desert or wasteland. It appears in the Bible, 1 Samuel 26:1, "And the Ziphites came unto Saul to Gibeah, saying, Doth not David hide himself in the hill of Hachilah, which is before Jeshimon?"

Apparently not the name of a real town. Utahans are known to name towns with words from scripture, though. In the Mormon book of 1 Nephi, the patriarch Lehi is reported to have migrated with his family through a wilderness. D. Kelly Ogden ("Answering the Lord's Call," Studies in Scripture, vol. 7, Salt Lake, Deseret Book, 1987) notes that the remotest kind of wilderness would have been called jeshimon. In God and the American Writer, Alfred Kazin quotes the Puritan preacher Increase Mather (in "The Mystery of Israel's Salvation") as saying, "God hath led us into a wilderness, and surely it was not because the Lord hated us but because he loved us that he brought us hither into this Jeshimon." He may, however, have been referring to Massachusetts.

There seem to be differences between commentators as to whether Jeshimon refers to a specific place or not (although the broad consensus is that it doesn't, but see for instance NetBible). So Jeshimon may or may not be an actual place but is certainly not pleasant to be in, befitting the mysterious, anarchic town of death in AtD

Page 208

Mortalidad
Spanish for mortality.

Page 209

"every telegraph pole had a corpse hanging from it"
very reminiscent of the heads on poles in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, an important text for GR.... "worst town Reef ever rode into". And the Belgian Congo, the setting for most of Conrad's novella, is mentioned in "AtD" in terms of the cruelty and exploitation of colonialism. The image of the corpses on telegraph-poles reminds me of a similar image in Stephen King's "The Stand". Not to mention Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus.

Towers of Silence
The Towers of Silence (also dakhma or dokhma or doongerwadi) are circular raised structures used by Zoroastrians for exposure of the dead. Wikipedia

Page 210

leave it to hang there by its one foot
The Governor shoots malefactors, then exposes them in this way, which calls to mind the Hanged Man in the Tarot deck.

Second Lutheran (Missouri Synod) Church
A small town with two LCMS congregations really is covered up with churches. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is a traditionalist body with no bishops. Its heritage is strongly German, and half its members today live in the Upper Midwest.

more churches here than saloons
A comment on the utility of organized religion in maintaining civilization.

All those churches don't seem to have much effect on civilization...

blue laws
Laws created during the American colonial period to enforce strict "morality." Some of these remain to this day; for example, in Indiana, you cannot purchase alcohol on Sundays. Wiki

accommodations
Decent burial.

subornation
The act of inducing (a person) to commit an unlawful or evil act.

Reef learns that for a price even the "laws" here can be bent.

Page 211

arnophilia
A word invented by Pynchon. According to this website the greek word arnos generally refers to a lamb or sheep, but occasionally to a goat, too. Suffixes with the common part -phil- (-phile, -philia, -philic) are used to specify some kind of attraction or affinity to something, in particular the love or obsession with something. Wikipedia

Given Pynchon's penchant for low humor, this is also likely to be a reference to a very old joke: Salesman blows into remote Western town, asks bartender, "What do you do for, um, amusement hereabouts?" Bartender says "We fuck sheep". Salesman after a few days finds a sheepfold and soon finds himself surrounded by (in different versions) (1) laughing locals, who say "You picked an ugly one"; (2) deputies, who arrest him saying "That's the Sheriff's girl." This joke was ancient when I heard it in the late 1950s.

Also recalls the episode with Gene Wilder as Dr Ross who falls in love with a sheep in Woody Allen's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask).

ovine
Resembling or reminiscent of (a) sheep in appearance, behavior, etc., sheeplike; sheepish; esp. lacking in initiative, thoughtlessly following the leader. [3]

This word is textually nearby the word arnophilia. As such, the first part of its definition gives credence to the supposed definition of arnophilia. Additionally, the second part of the definition is appropriate to the behavior of the denizens of Jeshimon.

Lourdes
city in France of Blessed Virgin appearances in the late 1800s to a youth and supposed miraculous cures since. Wikipedia entry

a kind of winged God
in various depictions, Satan appears as an angel/godlike-creature with huge wings. One of the most famous examples would be Milton's "Paradise Lost", especially Books 1 and 2.

Also, Satan is depicted as winged in the Rider-Waite Tarot

Page 212

The upside down star
The upside down star, also known as the inverted pentagram, (with "two horns exalted"), is an emblem of the Devil.

In Mason and Dixon, the upside-down star is a symbol of two things that are connected: 1) when M&D are trying to find true north, they look at stars in their telescope to measure when they reach the peak of their arc arcoss the sky. In the telescope the star is upside down. Thus, upside down stars symbolize points which cut through distortion. 2) The star is seen again and again on rifles of both Dutch and American design. They pop up around slavery, a massacre, and an Iron refinery used for making impliments of slavery and war. The rifle is much like a telescope, but differs in that it shoots lead rather then huge sweaping cuts across the landscape. But they are both acts that are branded by evil.

apelike trudge
If you suspect someone is the devil, you watch their gait. Cloven hooves inside his boots?

Plus, surely it can't remain unmentioned, this a spot-on piss-take of George 'Dubya' Bush, leader of the Free World (versus the 'Evildoers'), and a former execution-loving Governor.

Flagg
In several Stephen King novels, including The Stand, Randall Flagg is an evil antichrist-like character.

Also, in The Stand, the character Flagg sometimes manifests himself as a weasel.

It is probably a stretch, but if going with the Bush interpretation, we can't help but read Rove into the Gov's "cringing weasel" of a clemency secretary.

Page 213

Quieres un cloque
Spanish: You want a grapple.

dusk's reassembly of the broken day
Broken by heat, reassembled as it cools. Or, dusk bringing darkness, night--"it's always night"--after another broken day...another 'against the day' allusion?

Page 214

stole a horse
Reef probably he left in such a hurry, rapelling down "the blood-red wall", that he did not try to find his own horse or felt the Marshall might have gotten to it. Possibly, but unlikely, that TRP 'forgot' about the horse Reef came in on.
He traveled to Mortalidad by train and must have rented a horse to get to Jeshimon.

the McElmo
Watershed territory in Utah and Colorado.

gravid
Pregnant, heavy with young. Also figuratively. [4]

an ancient people whose name no one knew
No one knows what the Anasazi or ancient pueblo people called themselves. The name Anasazi is Navaho, anaasázi: enemy ancestors, but most Anglos think it means something like "ancient ones."

shouldn't somebody ought to carry on the family business—you might say, become the Kid?
The comic strip The Phantom stars something like the 22nd inheritor of his family business. The Queen of England is another parallel.
Also Cf. The Kids in the Hall sketch about the Cincinnati Kid and the Toronto Kid. YouTube

"Each explosion was like the text of another sermon"
Cf. "That gun will replace your tongue, and your poetry will be now written with blood" - Nobody towards William Blake, from 1995 movie Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch (IMDb, Wikipedia)

voice of the thunder
Twelfth Song of the Thunder

The voice that beautifies the land! The voice above, The voice of the thunder Within the dark cloud Again and again it sounds, The voice that beautifies the land.

The voice that beautifies the land! The voice below, The voice of the grasshopper Among the plants Again and again it sounds, The voice that beautifies the land.

[From Washington Matthews, The Mountain Chant: A Navajo Ceremony, 1887]

Voice of the Thunder is also the title of a book by Laurens Van der Post championing the life of the Australian Aborigines.

And the fifth and final section of T S Eliot's poem 'The Waste Land' is entitled "What the Thunder Said".

The Chums of Chance at the Ends of the Earth
Not to be confused with The Chums of Chance in the Bowels of the Earth, mentioned at the end of Part 1 (page 117). The cover illustration suggests that the events in Ends of the Earth follow Bowels directly.

[the book], already dog-eared"
A contributor has mentioned a possible connection to Pugnax, but Pugnax was a neat reader, unlike Reef. The book was "dog-eared" when Reef got it and I think the connection is to the word and the meaning of reading dogs like Pugnax and the one in Mason & Dixon.

Or, simply, that the book was dog-eared. (One doesn't always need to create connections where they may not exist.) --Kirkm 02:27, 24 February 2007 (PST)

Page 215

Bridal Veil Falls
(c) ColoradoGuy.com

"running a game of chance without a license"
The use of the word 'chance' here is probably no accident. Perhaps this implies that only the Chums of Chance can run a game of chance? Only the author of the Chums books has "[poetic] license? Cf. 'Great Game'and chance.

Or it is simply a game of chance (ie, gambling).

It seems to be simply tapping on the irony that Reef's being busted for running an unlicensed game of chance is what leads him to discovering a book about the Chums of Chance. Does he just discover the book on the floor of the cell? Ha. Greenlantern 17:21, 28 February 2007 (PST)

North Cape and Franz Josef Land
North Cape, Norway, is one of the northernmost points of Europe. Franz Josef Land is an archipelago in the Arctic Circle that was discovered in 1873 by Austrian polar explorers and named in honour of the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I. Today it belongs to Russia.

While reading, "he enjoyed a sort of dual existence"
Spar and splitting theme? Pynchon on fiction and readers of? The magic of reading fiction and how it can transport you to other worlds?

Much like the boy Bastian in mid-80's children's fantasy film The Neverending Story IMdb entry

he thought he saw something familiar
Sensitized by the (cleverly planted?) book, he sees Inconvenience conducting surveillance.

Sleeping Ute
Ute or Sleeping Ute Mountain is near Cortez.

Bridal Veil Falls
Waterfall near Telluride, Colorado. At 431 feet, Bridal Veil Falls is Colorado's tallest. The historic structure between the two falls is the former Smuggler-Union hydroelectric plant, which provided Telluride's electricity from 1904 until 1954. source

Page 216

"Just greasy ashes by the trailside."
Cf. p. 10, "tall smokestacks unceasingly vomiting black grease-smoke."

disrespect
Corruption setting in?

Joe Hill
1879-1915, immigrant from Sweden, labor organizer and Wobbly ideologue, executed (after being framed) in Utah. See the Wikipedia article.


Note that this is probably an anachronism. Franklin Rosemont's book on Joe Hill quotes a friend of Hill's, Alexander MacKay, stating he was "pretty damn positive" Joe Hill joined the IWW in 1910. [p. 46 of "Joe Hill - The IWW and the Making of a Revolutionary Working Class Counterculture".] The IWW wasn't even formed until 1905.

Page 217

in country you don't know how to get back in from
A recurring idea, that you can go somewhere and not be able to get back.

Confederate Colt
Webb's Uncle Fletcher's revolver; see annotations to page 88, where it is first mentioned.

Page 218

God . . . laying on tells
"Tell" is poker slang for any signal a player gives that other players can exploit.

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:
Bilocations

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

1063-1085

  1. (The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989)
  2. Def.2. The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989
  3. Def.A1. The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989
  4. The Oxford English Dictionary. 2nd ed. 1989
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