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09-01-2012
The Gospel of Wealth: Towards a New Generation of American Consumership By Jim Chaffee
08-01-2011
Rick Perry leads Baal worshippers in prayer meeting By Pig Bodine M.Sc., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
02-01-2011
A Film Too Far: The Battle of the Strait of Hormuz By Jim Chaffee
08-01-2010
Maurice Stoker quasireviews The Vicious Circulation of Dr. Catastrophe: A Polemical Ensemble by Kane X. Faucher By Maurice Stoker
06-01-2010
Boozer Allan Hamilton Justifies the Tea Party By Boozer Allan Hamilton
04-15-2010
Keith Olbermann Freaks Out Pig Bodine By Pig Bodine
06-15-2009
Saving California: Secession and the Reagan Scheme By Pig Bodine
05-15-2009
Maurice Stoker on Tom Bradley's Even the Dog Won't Touch Me By Maurice Stoker
12-15-2008
Two Glad Tidings from The Marshall By Marshall Smith
11-01-2008
Sarah Palin's Party of God By Maurice Stoker
09-15-2008
Double-Ended Dildos Manufactured at Cosmodrome By Kane X. Faucher
07-15-2008
At the Airport By Tom Bradley
05-01-2008
Building the Perfect Weapon By Thomas Sullivan
04-01-2008
CNBC Wins Pequod Institute Award for Excellence in High School Journalism By Pig Bodine, M.Sc., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
03-01-2008
Pig Bodine's Funky Financial Cooze Network Topological Finance for Aging Bald Dudes By Pig Bodine, M.Sc., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
12-01-2007
Un Mensaje Navideño del Director General Por Sandra Ramos Rossi
Christmas Parades are a Deadly Derangement of Culture and other Seasonal Asides by Kane X. Faucher
11-01-2007
Euphotan, Protoplasmic Flash, and their Properties by Nail, with commentary by Chevy the Scientist
10-01-2007
Suggested reading, Universitatis Merdalina Literature 734.5, Advanced Topics in Mathematical Literature: Pseudo-British/American/Pidgin English Literature, Tensor Products of Novels and Poetry for Quasi-Conformal Plagiarism in Modern Genre and its Relationship to Sexual Identity and Morphisms by Maurice Stoker
08-01-2007
The Unexamined Life in Hell: Peregrinations Across The Diagnosis by Alan Lightman by Maurice Stoker
06-01-2007
Presidential Politics in the Year of the Toad by Boozer Allan Hamilton Ph.D.
04-01-2007
An Eleventh Tonkin Scenario by Donald Dickerson
03-01-2007
The Second Annual Howard Littlefield Boosterism Award for Economic Forecasting Awarded to Boozer Allan Hamilton by Pig Bodine, M.Sc., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
12-01-2006
Maurice Stoker On Writing a Prize Winning Best Seller by Maurice Stoker
11-01-2006
¿Study says lack of talent? by Pig Bodine M.S., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
08-01-2006
US Cracks International Terrorist Ring by Maurice Stoker
06-01-2006
Pig Bodine Solves the US Immigration and Education Dilemmas in One Blow by Pig Bodine M.S., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
05-01-2006
Maurice Stoker Anent Two Errors in Thomas Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon by Maurice Stoker
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Maurice Stoker Anent Two Errors in Thomas Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon - 1

Part I Topological Humor for Nonbelievers

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Given the climate of black-and-whitism about these days, let me confess I be a fan of Mr. Pynchon’s, having enjoyed in particular all his odd-numbered novels (anent this sequence more later, assuming this labyrinthine geodesic of aberrant mentality doesn’t cross the Rio Lethe). But there exist a pair of gaffs in Mason and Dixon more than mere flubs, given the duality of their pairing: one a spatial riff in the fabric of words, the other a temporal anomaly, an anachronism if you will, both mathematical to boot. These be nothing if not planned, part of the thread worming words into the very nature of space-time in all its curved fecundity; more than miscues of a mere mortal.

That is to wit first the stogie incident amidst chapter thirty-four (almost dead center!) in which a twisted cheroot (in a loose sense of the word) produces a smoak Möbius band. What horrible confusion to even the most moderately informed of readers! The would-be Toroidal smoak ring twisted via the quotient topology must emanate as smoak Klein bottle, not smoak Möbius band; as all those with a modicum of education (through only an elementary course in General Topology) know that the quotient space of a cylinder with reversed boundary identification becomes Klein bottle, the Möbius band rather the quotient space resulting from reversed boundary identification of rectangle.

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Of course, in one sense this be but another of Mr. Pynchon’s famous inversions, here right from left as a hapless two-dimensional bug traversing the non-orientable band (or bottle) returns with right left and vice-versa, a predicament about which Mr. Dixon likely knows a bit. But t’is Mason who would know the one-sided Klein bottle; once filled the entire device be wet, there being neither in nor out. Here a first tie to the second error, later to be discussed, perhaps the clue being the very idea that Mr. Klein’s decanter embeds only within four or more dimensions so as to avoid messy, even catastrophic self-intersections so abhorred by both geometers and English surveyors.

That this be no mere error in Mr. Pynchon’s thinking is evident, given the widely known fact he studied topology with Marshall M. Cohen, working to free the Whitehead groups (later shown by Saharon Shelah to have been neither here nor there depending on One’s feelings regarding Constructible Universes, Martin’s axiom and of course the Generalized Continuum Hypothesis). Holy Conspiracy, this no unintentional slip of ye olde word processor, and of course one is reminded of the mid-seventies Mike Keefe poster, raised fist, Free Abelian Groups Now!

That these sorts of subtleties slip by so many reviewers of Mr. Pynchon’s three major Romances (that odd sequence again) leaves One puzzled, the deficit between grokking and silently mouthing words growing with nearness to the literati, established gurus knowing not their coprocrème from their crème à chaussures. Is it any wonder the young eschew grammar?

As in Joyce Carol Oates going on about his darkly comic work. Comic how? Comic ha ha, comic weird, or comic Hanna Barbera? Comic as a novelist calling a Navy jet-jockey an Airman Second Class? Does then sailor Pig Bodine’s propensity for being forcibly removed from bars make him an ejaculated seaman?

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Maybe funny as Margaret Atwood’s praising the coprolalia in Elmore Leonard’s wooden and, in fact, improbable dialogue as subject of an essay for that comic book of the Illuminati, The New York Review of Books? Doubtful that Atwood knows an asshole from a shithole, but nothing a few days with a Marine rifle platoon in a combat zone wouldn’t cure. Since Leonard’s works be really the mechanical output of an industrial process, much like the music of the Beetles, the novels of the Hardy Boys (automated for consistency (the H-------n of little minds) sake) or McDonald’s Hamburgers, there exist no point in sending It out into the field.

With probability one the temporal inversion of Slothrop’s causality with respect to explosions due to operant de-conditioning remains one of the Funniest Bits in all Western Literature, a slap in the face of that quasi-pseudoscience Skinnerian psychology. But Mr. Pynchon’s mathematical jokes wear thin. His overuse of the old integral one over u du being log u, cabin or book or etcetera substituted for u, might be safely scrapped this far into his series. Is Sammy Hilbert-Spaes funny? Might not Paul Halmos saying, Gentlemen, there’s plenty of room left in Hilbert Space, be funnier? Look up Hochschild, G. P. in the index of Halmos’s Finite Dimensional Vector Spaces. There is a math joke. Even more side-splitting is that old jokester Halmos in his little book on writing techniques dissecting the style of Solomon Lefschetz, a true-life Pynchonesque who, said to have lost his hands in a mining accident, gave up engineering, had chalk-holders installed in lieu of missing prehensile organs, and became a mathematical artist.

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Perhaps Mr. Pynchon would do well to rattle around with some integrals in Hilbert space, anent A. V. Skorohod’s Integration in Hilbert Space. But please, Dear Sir, bear in mind the old story about the Mathematician who was so boring even the other mathematicians noticed it. None of this as funny as a Texas boy shooting himself in the face with a frog from a potato gun.

(The ancient log of u joke might well be replaced with the ancient integral of e to the x equals F of u sub n or even F of u sub ck. There are many possibilities in the World of Mathematics, as see J. Tits giving the Joseph Fells Ritt lecture on Rigidity at Columbia University once upon a time. Or the Introduction to Bruno Poizat’s Introduction to Model Theory. As funny as it is, be The New York Review of Books any match for Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, Commentationes Mathematicae Universitatis Carolinae, or J P Serre’s A Course in Arithmetic, which borders on comedic horror? But for integral humor it is hard to beat the now classic 1974 (a decade following the appearance of Alan Weiss in the Western War Whoop!) Mike Keefe cartoon for the College News Service embedding lecture notes deriving Cauchy’s integral theorem.)

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Before moving on, a summary of the only meaningful bit of this wordy first canto: The problem pointed out above is that when One begins with a cylinder and reverses orientation of the ends while gluing them via the quotient topology, one gets Klein bottle, not Möbius band; thus the smoak torus twisted be misrepresented. Certainly Mr. Pynchon is aware of this, as he knows that for Dixon to see a Klein bottle would be difficult in real-life (seeing but a three dimensional projection, though which projection not so easy to say yet potentially remarkable in its variations as it drifts) but not in this novel. So this be error compounded with some intention, whether conscious or not another question. For more, see sometime later.