Against the Day Weblog

December 13, 2006

Chums of Chance and books… again

Filed under: Notes,Questions — basileios @ 9:45 am

This appears to be too much for being a coincidence. The Chums of Chance are dealing with a books again. This time with H.G. Wells and the Time Machine. I can’t claim I can understand the significance of any of the Chums of Chance episodes but they do seem as textual references that require more thinking and reading. They are probably the episodes in which Pynchon is talking to us and to his heroes at the same time. I don’t know what this can reveal, but I am mystied with the possibilities.



  1. I’m now at the Harmonica Acadamy section of the book. At the point at which the Chums of Chance feel “disembodied” from their lives as adventurers, doubting they ever were more than kids reading the books with big imaginations (423). This is the most difficult part of the book I’ve encountered, and I think you’re on to something, suggesting that “Pynchon is talking to us and his heroes at the same time” — a sort of Romantic Irony?

    Also, this is an extremely “intertextual” portion of the novel — where have we encountered harmonicas before? In Gravity’s Rainbow. Notice the song on p. 420 quotes the song in GR sung when Slothrop drops his harmonica down the toilet — “Yippy dippy dippy doo” (hence the Commandant’s obsession with the latrine antics).
    Also, is this part of the book not dissimilar to the Ghastly Fop stories in Mason and Dixon, as well as the gradual fusion of these stories (and the young woman’s escape from the Jesuits in Canada) with the main narrative of M&D?

    I’m only on p. 425 — I’m eager to figure out what is the meaning of all the Chums of Chance stories.
    All and all, ATD is thematically the most obscure of Pynchon’s novels (possibly barring GR) — it is definately more obscure than Mason and Dixon, even if its language is simpler.

    Now I’m recalling GR contains the line “You never did the Kenosha, kid” — or something like that — any relationship to the Kieselgur Kid?

    Comment by John Reef — January 20, 2007 @ 3:06 am | Reply

  2. I’ve thought a bit more about my last comment, as well as the original comment to which I responded. The obvious reference to GR, as well as the more subtle references to Wells and Proust all allude to what? The act of reading.
    And when we’re reading something and are deeply invested in it, we can become disarticulated from our present, “quotidian” selves, as if the story we read takes on the illusion of reality. Now, are we reading something that takes place in 2007, or in the early 1900’s? It’s the latter — reading HISTORICAL fiction, we conjure as real something from the past — or, changing the terms just a bit, we’re imaginarily visiting the past. Time travel — cf. Mr. Ace on page 416.

    So if Mr. Ace (and I’m not sure what it is he’s “stealing” from the past quite yet) is an incursion of Pynchon’s audience — i.e. us — then the “reality” of the Chums of Chance’s situation is called into question, right? And thus their narrative becomes increasingly “literary” —

    I’m not sure how all this can be tied together — but it’s food for thought.

    Comment by John Reef — January 20, 2007 @ 3:32 am | Reply

  3. Great set of comments. Although I was on similar thinking I think I made more sense out of my thinking after reading these two comments. I do feel that there is a lot opf intertextuality in the whole of Against the Day and that this is a book in which Pynchon has a one-to-one with us fans. yesterday I finished the book (so I do not want to spoil the reading experience by adding anything spoilerish in this comment) but I do feel I am as close to Pynchon today as I have never been. The emperor is naked.

    re Kieselgur Kid. There certainly appears to be a connexion there. (I have the original ‘kenosha Kid’ story of Forbes parkhill next to me but have not been able to find the time to read it.)

    Comment by basileios — January 20, 2007 @ 7:33 am | Reply

  4. a little anecdote…
    During a fever fever stupor which lasted most of last week I made a hypnagogic association between Alfred Jarry and Against the Day and wondered whether Jarry’s “How to Construct a Time Machine” influenced Pynchon. Then, the next day, in a somewhat more lucid state, I first arrived at the section in the book that first mentions time machines (the manhattan time machine journey). Of course, Wells is still the more obvious influence, but I like the reverse cause/effect aspect of the association.

    Comment by Crowmeat — January 22, 2007 @ 10:03 pm | Reply

  5. My fellow on Facebook shared this link and I’m not dissapointed that I came to your blog.

    Comment by Liza — April 22, 2009 @ 6:44 am | Reply

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