The Scope And Structure Of Our Ignorance

“Everybody gets told to write about what they know. The trouble with many of us is that at the earlier stages of life we think we know everything- or to put it more usefully, we are often unaware of the scope and structure of our ignorance.”
Thomas Pynchon, Slow Learner: Early Stories

Swedish Edition of Gravity’s Rainbow

I have never been much of a costume person. But it was time for our final party – our celebration – of the group that started on January 2 of this year – to read, together, Thomas Pynchon’s ridiculously difficult book, Gravity’s Rainbow. After that much work (not only reading the book, but taking the train to Bishop Arts every Wednesday after work for three months) I wanted to celebrate. I wanted my trophy. And it was to be a costume party. So I spray-painted a three dollar straw hat to simulate a White Stetson, bought a brace of dollar store dart guns to simulate a pair of 45’s, and put on an old army uniform top… and I was Major Marvy – one of the most odious characters in the book. He did come to a very, very bad end, after all. I packed the getup into a paper shopping bag and headed out across the city to The Wild Detectives on the DART train.

The party was fun. One woman wore a cardboard basket with a large helium balloon floating over her head and carried fruit pies – she won the costume contest. There were a couple Pointsman in white lab coats carrying stuffed dogs (one guy applied some paper saliva to his dog) and two Brigadier Puddings. A lot of Hawaiian shirts, harmonicas, toilets, bananas, and octopi (named Grigori). One rocket, serial number 00000.

And I got my trophy.

Trophy from the Gravity’s Rainbow Challenge. Yes, I read the whole thing.

We took turns giving a short summary of our opinions of the book and reading a short quote. Two people (including me) thought the book was great. A handful came to like the book as they came to accept its weird and unique nature. The majority didn’t like the book, but enjoyed the process of reading it, especially in a group. A few absolutely hated it and wished they had never read it (which I, although I disagree, can fully understand). I asked one person that hated it with a passion what their favorite book was and they said, Harry Potter. If that’s your favorite book, you will never, ever like Gravity’s Rainbow.

My quote was the third of the Proverbs for Paranoids:

If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.

One eagerly awaited part of the party was the announcement of the next book in the Difficult Book reading series (they have already tackled Infinite Jest and Ulysses before Gravity’s Rainbow) which will start in September. In a bit of a departure, the choice is a Trilogy rather than a single book. It’s the “St Ives Trilogy”by Virginia Woolf – Jacob’s Room, To the Lighthouse, and and The Waves. I think I’ve read one of these – though it was a long time ago and I don’t remember very much. These aren’t books I’d ordinarily read – but that’s the point of a group like this, isn’t it – so I’m probably going to do it. If you’re interested (remember, it isn’t until September) get with me.

So:

There is time, if you need the comfort, to touch the person next to you, or to reach between your own cold legs … or, if song must find you, here’s one They never taught anyone to sing, a hymn by William Slothrop, centuries forgotten and out of print, sung to a simple and pleasant air of the period. Follow the bouncing ball:

There is a Hand to turn the time,
Though thy Glass today be run,
Till the Light that hath brought the Towers low
Find the last poor Pret’rite one …
Till the Riders sleep by ev’ry road,
All through our crippl’d Zone,
With a face on ev’ry mountainside,
And a Soul in ev’ry stone….

Now everybody—

Nothing So Mystical

“If there is a life force operating in Nature, still there is nothing so analogous in a bureaucracy. Nothing so mystical. It all comes down, as it must, to the desires of individual men.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Reunion Tower, taken from inside the Dallas Streetcar. On my way to Bishop Arts for a discussion of Gravity’s Rainbow.

This Octopus Is Not In Good Mental Health

In their brief time together Slothrop forms the impression that this
octopus is not in good mental health, though where’s his basis for
comparing? But there is a mad exuberance, as with inanimate objects
which fall off of tables when we are sensitive to noise and our own
clumsiness and don’t want them to fall, a sort of wham! ha-ha you hear
that? here it is again, WHAM!

—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Fabrication Yard, Dallas, Texas

Gigantic Horror-Movie Devilfish Name Of Grigori

Yet for all his agonizing all Pointsman will score, presently, is an octopus – yes a gigantic, horror-movie devilfish name of Grigori: gray, slimy, never still, shivering slow-motion in his makeshift pen down by the Ick Regis jetty … a terrible wind that day off the Channel, Pointsman in his Balaclava helmet, eyes freezing, Dr. Porkyevitch with greatcoat collar up and fur hat down around his ears, their breaths foul with hours-old fish, and what the hell can Pointsman do with this animal?

Already, by itself, the answer is growing, one moment a featureless blastulablob, the next folding, beginning to differentiate….

—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Fabrication Yard, Dallas, Texas

Information, Sunflowers, and Pinecones

 

 

 

 

“Information. What’s wrong with dope and women? Is it any wonder the world’s gone insane, with information come to be the only real medium of exchange?”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Sunflower and fly

Wednesday evening, dark, cold, we were all sitting on the big wooden table for this week’s discussion of this week’s seventy page section of Gravity’s Rainbow. Somebody remarked on the relationship between nature and mathematics… “Mathematics is our way of describing nature,” and then brought up the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ration and the spirals in “Sunflowers and Pinecones.”

My ears perked up. Early that day I had stumbled across a YouTube video on the subject. Of course, everybody talks about those darned spirals and how they show up everywhere. This video was different, though. It talks about the Golden Ratio and then goes on to say why it shoes up on Sunflowers and Pinecones. It shows why it’s the only way to organize a Sunflower or a Pinecone.

Watch it or not.

 

Sunflower

 

The Light Along Her Shoes Flows And Checks Like Afternoon Traffic

A single rocket explosion comes thudding across the city, from far east of here, east by southeast. The light along her shoes flows and checks like afternoon traffic. She pauses, reminded of something: the military frock trembling, silk filling-yarns shivering by crowded thousands as the chilly light slides over and off and touching again their unprotected backs. The smells of burning musk and sandalwood, of leather and spilled whisky, thicken in the room.

—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

 

Woodall Rogers Freeway, from Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Texas