An astonishingly inside joke: On April 18, 2000, in what was an otherwise positive Amazon review of Gravity's Rainbow, Peter Marcus of London, England observes that Pynchon commits "a grating slip" when he uses the term downtown to refer to a town in England, the term being patently an Americanism. This obscure allusion seems to suggest that we may understand 'The Chums of Chance in the Bowels of the Earth as being a stand-in for Gravity's Rainbow, which Pynchon might very well describe as "my harmless little intraterrestrial scherzo." Understood this way, the War occurring in the Telluric interior is in fact WWII, and the Chums are currently half a century in the future, which explains the shortness of the inhabitants of the interior, as they can be associated to a degree with infantilism. The Directive can now also be seen as an injunction against acting in times not apparently their own.
- This is an astonishing *whopper* of a stretch! Pynchon invokes a fictional critic with the name, "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells," which as the link and entry above indicate is a well-understood reference to a conservative English critic of modernity. To suggest that Pynchon also invokes the term to allude to a SINGLE English reviewer of Gravity's Rainbow on Amazon.com is practically a quantum leap. There is no textual evidence, at least here, that the subterranean journey or "CoC in the Bowels of the Earth" in any way allude to Gravity's Rainbow. Bleakhaus 04:00, 17 January 2007 (PST)
- Howdy Bleakhouse--
- So, I agree wholly that the Tunbridge Wells allusion is likely meant to call to mind "Disgusted," but there's certainly textual evidence in favor of my reading, too. Bear with me a sec: back on p. 112, Miles bids
- the company consider, in tones of urgency they seldom heard from him, the nature of the skyrocket's ascent, in particular that unseen extension of the visible trail, after the propellant charge burns out, yet before the slow-match has ignited the display--that implied moment of ongoing passage upward, in the dark sky, a linear continuum of points invisible yet present, just before lights by the hundreds appear
- a description, he tells them, that is suggestive "of the trajectories of [the Chums'] own lives." Now, Gravity's Rainbow, which covers the ground between the rocket's post-brennschluss screaming to its terminal explosion would seem to cover exactly that part of the rocket life cycle that Miles is describing, and the Chums are at this moment about to learn that they are to head for the Telluric Interior. This is reinforced by the narrator's use of "scherzo" to describe CoCitBotE, scherzos being the jaunty second or third movement of a larger musical composition, that larger composition in this case being, presumably, both the cosmology of the rocket life cycle that Pynchon returns to again and again, and whatever macro-structure he sees his different novels as being contained within. The fact that he opens AtD with "now" should be enough to demonstrate that there is an conscious structural relationship between that dark, disintegrating work and this bright building of a novel.
- That, and one can hardly ignore the fact that the narrator on p. 117 claims explicit ownership of CoCitBotE. Elsewhere in AtD, where the narrator steps in explicitly, it seems consistent that his assertions can be understood both as those of the author of the fictive Chums series and as TP himself. This is evident from page one (well, really three), where we, the faithful readers are told we will recognize Darby from earlier books, and indeed we do, though as a juvenile Pig Bodine.
- Finally, Pynchon clued us all in, in a big way, to the fact that he's familiar with Amazon's feedback system just this fall.
- So, whaddaya say, that constitute textual evidence? I honestly believe my thesis here, but I also honestly believe that it might seem a stretch to another reader. If you still think I'm out on a limb, let's trim back entry simply to mention the existence of Amazon comment. Or, if you want more evidence, I can give you a read of the Chums' underworld adventure and how it relates to GR (which I didn't do here largely cause, well, I'm sure I already sound like a pedantic sot). Or, we can flesh out the CoCitBotE-as-GR assertion more fully so that it doesn't seem like such a stretch. Or, we can copy and paste this whole thing to a discussion page and let the unwashed masses weigh in.
- --Squidwiggle 15:45, 17 January 2007 (PST)
Heyo, I stand by my impression that Tunbridge Wells and Amazon reviews have nothing to do with anything, but you've added a ton of argument in favor of some larger Pynchon works/Chums of Chance book connection. So let's see what you've got:
1) I agree that the Darby/Miles exchange on ATD_97-118#Page_112 seems to allude to verbose Pynchon commentators, but Darby and Miles are at that point talking about 4th of July fireworks. I don't see how that connects to any kind of CoCitBotE-as-GR argument.
- Because you were kind enough to parse my major points for me,
I'm going to respond to each in turn. My rationale for associating Miles' speech with CoCitBotE is primarily his imploring of the Chums that they consider their own trajectories immediately following the skyrocket speech. This, to my mind, suggests that TP, or Miles at least, wants to draw an analogy between his parable of the rocket and the immediate trajectory of the Chums' travels. Their next destination, which they receive orders for on the very next page, is the Telluric Interior. The Telluric interior bears further resemblance to the dark portion of the rocket's path because, well, it's literally dark in there, but also because in TP's symbolic scheme south, dark, China, hell, and interiors are all associated with one another. When Darby accuses Miles of sounding Chinese, he might as well be accusing him of sounding hellish. If you're not buying that association, I can track you down textual evidence, but I'm too lazy to do so just now.
2) I disagree that the use of "scherzo" on 177 has anything to do with GR, the rocket, or other Pynchon works. The definition of scherzo you note is very music-specific, but my dictionary sez that scherzo means, "a vigorous, light, or playful composition, typically comprising a movement in a symphony or sonata." And CoCitBotE *is* alluded to as a vigorous, light work. You've compared it to the rocket life-cycle and what you see as the greater structure of Pynchon's novels-- the latter may exist, but I don't see how this use of "scherzo" is related in any way.
- My definition came from the OED, which defines the word as a "movement of a lively character, occupying the second or third place in a symphony or sonata." This was, I admit, pretty much the extent of my knowledge of scherzi when I last wrote, but, as always, wikipedia is here to help. I agree that scherzo is clearly being used in a broader sense, as in not a strictly musical sense (though GR does display a clear indebtedness to the musical as a genre). I think it's not giving Tom enough credit, however, to assume that he didn't select the word with great care and intend its other connotations to be carried with it. Wikipedia offers a little more evidence, btw, stating that scherzi generally have an ABA structure, developing two different themes, but returning to their opening theme at the end, thus demonstrating forward motion but also an element of cyclicism, as does GR, whose simultaneously cyclical and (semi)parabolic structure has been described at great length by lots of people with letters after their names. See the Intro to Weisenburger's Companion as just one example. GR is also, as are scherzi in general, lively and comic. Just because this also describes CoCitBotE doesn't seem like a good reason that it couldn't also be describing TP's book. Further, being neither an opening or a closing section of a larger composition, i.e. a central section, parallels the dark, ballistic phase of Miles oration. It's interesting, also, that we don't actually see Miles speech, but rather get it second hand through the narrator. This additional diagetic level places the story at a remove from reality, which seems appropriate if it is meant to describe an obviously fictive passageway through the center of the earth.
3) It is possible that ATD's opening word of "now" in some way connects to the final two words of GR, but how does relate to a CoCitBotE-as-GR argument?
- The "now" is important because it provides evidence of the existence of a metastructure that includes both novels, and clues the reader in to the exact point in the rocket life cycle that closes GR and opens AtD, specifically the terminus of the darkened, free fall, the Δt moment of explosion (Miles' lights by the hundreds). If one accepts this structure, and also accepts that Miles is trying to draw an analogy between the dark phase of the rocket's flight and the Chums passage through the Telluric Interior, then the "now" serves to mark the transition from dark to light, from interior to exterior. I don't think it's a stretch to call GR an interior novel, opening and closing as it does in a theater, having Hell serve as its utopia, celebrating the subconscious. At the same time, I think that AtD's preoccupations are primarily exterior. Further elaboration of the interior/exterior, GR/AtD analogy upon request.
4) I'm skeptical that a connection between the Chums' underworld adventure and GR is intentional, although if you think it's there, by all means explain further. Quickly glancing over these pages again, all I see is an international mining cartel getting involved in the underworld, but such corporate enemies are typical in all Pynchon works.
- First of all there's the simple fact that there is a war occurring in the underworld and a War, both WWII and Mister Information's "real War," in GR. This is admittedly a little facile, but it's a start. Second, in the title, "bowels" calls to mind TP's evocation of N. O. Brown's theories of repression as a conceptual frame for GR. Second of all, the Queen of Plutonia, she of the Bowels and the sensual wickedness, calls to mind the main feminine character in GR, Katje (rhymes with Got-ya, as here Chthonica nearly gets Miles), referred to as the Golden Bitch and Domina Nocturna, both appropriate sobriquets for the Queen of Plutonia. Her Circe-like power (Circe having turned Odysseus's men to swine) calls to mind Katje's domination of poor, coprophilial Earnest Pudding who, after rooting, piglike in Katje's feces, died I might add of a GI disorder, a "massive E.coli infection," further reinforcing the bowel allusion. What's more, she and Blicero are the King and Queen of the War while in the cottage with Enzian, so her royal bearing still stands. Miles, being the most nonlinear/fragmented of the crew -- isn't he Thermodynamics Officer or something? -- would be the most preterite and therefore most likely to succumb to Chthonica. The phrase "narrow escapes" calls to mind the oening of GR, contrasting the increasingly narrow passageways of Pirate's dream from which he cannot, ultimately, escape. As for the Legion of Gnomes and the mining cartel, this is an allusion not to the Nazis and I.G. Farben (at least no more than those forces, in GR are themselves allusions) but rather to the actors in the real War, the war of material reality, of the constant flux of parts and particles that to which we embodied souls must inevitably submit (Cf. the "Real Text" of the War (GR 520)). Pynchon explains the convention of characterizing this flux of matter as war in GR, writing,
- the real business of the War is buying and selling. The murdering and the violence are self-policing, and can be entrusted to non-professionals. The mass nature of wartime death is useful in many ways. It serves as spectacle, as diversion from the real movements of the War. It provides raw material to be recorded into History, so that children may be taught History as sequences of violence, battle after battle, and be more prepared for the adult world. (105)
- If that doesn't prefigure the passage in AtD, then I don't know what does. The notion that WWII is a cartoon of the the real War is here taken to an extreme, rendered in fantastic imagery appropriate to the adolescent Chums.
5) The narrator on p. 117 claims explicit ownership of CoCitBotE, but where does the narrator come across as both Chums author and TP, besides the fact that Pynchon wrote this book?
- My argument here is pretty much dependent on the only other instance I've seen of the narrator referring to himself, when he refers to "my faithful readers" on p. 3. But I don't think any author with a largely 3rd person narrator throws allows the 1st person to creep in without some self reference, especially an author as fixated on diegetic levels and on the divide between reality and fiction as Pynchon is.
6) This is the first I've heard of Darby = Bodine, which you should flesh out further here or somewhere on the wiki.
- There is, first of all, Darby's name, suckling's easy association with pig. Aside from the name, there's the similarity of character: he's the foul-mouthed trickster figure in the crew. If he's a bit innocent to begin with, he sheds that innocence as the novel progresses, coming to fill the same swearing sailor role that Pig (or some Bodine) has played in V., GR, and M&D.
Conclusion) While interesting, I think that your interpretation of the subterranean sequence is so far just a bunch of unconnected fragments of observation. Connecting them into some kind of greater thesis is required to convince me, at least, that the Hollow Earth sequence and description of CoCitBotE is anything more than Pynchon having fun and imagining an entire novel he'll never actually write. Thanks, Bleakhaus 21:29, 18 January 2007 (PST)
- Well, I hope I've made my argument a little more compelling. All the best.