Against the Day Weblog

November 30, 2006

Weapon types

Filed under: Uncategorized — basileios @ 10:55 am

Something like a running theme again is the mention of various weapons and firearms. A Mannlicher appears earlier, a Colt and now a Mauser.

Magnetic field measurements

Filed under: Notes — basileios @ 10:51 am

The description in page 121 reminds me of measurements of the earth’s magnetic field by spacecraft, but I suspect this is only because I worked in the field in the past. The first measurements of that type were indeed done by balloon experiments as far as I know, but I don’t think that the South Atlantic anomaly for example was measured back then.

Chums of Chance in the Bowels of the Earth

Filed under: Questions — basileios @ 10:42 am

Well, I am not really sure I understand the essence of presence of this adventure, which is practically unfinished.

Fireworks, America, Paranoia

Filed under: Notes — basileios @ 10:38 am

I mentioned a couple of days ago my thoughts on the essence of being American based on the passage by Pynchon. Page 111 has another acute observation with which I agree 100%:

“… 4th of July fireworks are the patriotic symbols of noteworthy episodes of military explosion in our nations history, deemed necessary to maintain the integrity of the American homeland against threats presented from all sides by a benightedly hostile world’.

Is paranoia then integral to the American spirit which keeps a rather diverse nation intact based on possible external threats? And yes, this feels a lot more as if it was written for todays years of conflict and not for the 1900.

Total Pynchon

Filed under: Uncategorized — basileios @ 10:28 am

This is why I love to read Pynchon:

“Leaving the boys to gather closely, beneath the mephitically seeping volcano which rose nearly a thousand feet overhead, on a beach so intensely sunlit as to appear almost colorless, the blindness at the heart of a diamond for all they knew, while ocean waves came towering in one by one, arriving measured as the breath of some local god. No one at first had anything to say, even if it had been possible to hear above the battery of the surf.’

(Page 109)

Its not just a ‘Heart of darkness’ (which was published round the turn of the century) in reverse, but it also includes so many themes in just a small paragraph that the density of it is absolutely amazing.

Mavya and Kit

Filed under: Dramatis Personae,Notes — basileios @ 10:04 am

This is so rare for Pynchon. A mother – son relationship that appears normal if not touching. I can remember only one other episode in V. which comes close to this sentiment.

Mechanical analogies

Filed under: Notes,Questions — basileios @ 9:07 am

“Water falls, electricity flows – one flow becomes another, and thence into light. So is altitude transformed, continuously, to light’ (page 99)

Electricity (and heat) as a fluid were a concept which was around for more than a hundred years (I believe Benjamin Franklin was one of the main introducers of this). The key aspect in this passage though is the understanding of the light and electricity through the mechanical analogy of the water flowing and transforming into an other type of fluid. This was a key element in the scientific community of the time and ‘understanding truth’ was inconceivable without the building of such a mechanical analogy.

However, what is also crucial is the fact that experiments like the Michelson & Morley described earlier in the book and eventually the the theory of relativity destroyed this approach into smithereens. Another aspect of change embedded in the book?

Another interesting point is the paragraph on a connexion between spirituality and science that is brought in the previous page 98. I am rather sceptic at the moment on this spirituality attitude Pynchon is keeping with Against the Day. I ‘d very much like to see where this is going.

November 28, 2006

Terrorism and Religion

Filed under: Notes — basileios @ 11:17 am

An interesting passage in page 87. Religion and spirituality seem to play a much more important role in Against the Day than any other Pynchon books. The timeframe for this helps of course as spirituality seemed to have been a rather popular theme in the high society and literary circles at the time (see for example theosophy and the notorious madame Blavatsky) but the religion issue may also be an allusion to the change from a religious to a mechanistic view of the world (and an extrapolation of course to todays religious terrorist conflicts).

Colorado border

Filed under: Notes — basileios @ 11:06 am

You couln’t imply Mason & Dixon in a more direct way (page 83). Well, Ok apart from teh actual mention to the Mason-Dixon line in page 87.


Filed under: Notes — basileios @ 10:52 am
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References to mercury, the alchemical element for change in page 77 and passages like the one on page 55 about the changing of the baloon profession denote that the fluid changing times are the background to the whole book. The essence of change of course was also prominent in Gravity’s Rainbow and was in spirit a change science, technology, political hegemony and society. However, while in Gravity’s Rainbow the catastrophe, the revolution associated with these changes had already happened the point of view of Against the Day is in the highly complex and convoluted situation in which change hasn’t yet happened, the revolution isn’t there yet, the catastrophe has not taken place, but everything is imminent. These interesting times are much more interesting and more difficult to narrate.

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