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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 - 6

Part VII Minimax Sphere Eversion and a Shit Sandwich in Alice Springs

boat on pond

Two naked threads protruding from the polished surface of this novel lead to scientific metaphors describing what can also be termed a world of hurt, or perhaps a shit sandwich (which can be found in the pub of the same name in Alice Springs). Yet thoroughly smooth with nary a hint of blemish, the novel reads like a minimax sphere eversion. The bumps lost, as noted earlier, not by smoothing but by lopping them off about a frictionless nominal trajectory slipping between crevasse and peak, thereby sparing the reader any but hints of violent perturbation that may produce vertigo and chaotic bouts of nonlinearity, not to mention headaches and possibly stroke, which were the meat of many complaints regarding Gravity’s Rainbow.

Following the threads unwinds the entire edifice into tangled mass, introducing Large Deviations leading to wild swings from linearity. Don’t blame the Messenger; you eat the sandwich life hands you, translated in the eighties into the catchy Shit Happens, at least around Palo Alto where it could be found in many homes crocheted on wall-hanging samplers. Which leads back to the shitting duck of Vaucanson and forward to the merger of biology and art in Wim Delvoye’s Cloaca; though not represented as duck surely an improvement in the processing of food into feces. (See also his lovely Anal Kisses.)

The beauty of this novel lies in Mister Pynchon capturing the evil genius at the heart of the American psyche with cartoons; so-called freedom the cover for a society of murderous thugs and villains let loose upon the world like marauding pirates. All in the name of democracy, liberty for all, free enterprise, Jesus, words without meaning outside the knee-jerk reactions of media-conditioned pygmies. Is meeting Popeye and survivors of the Starship Enterprise in a backwoods tavern, flashing Vulcan greetings, discussing a Golem created by Indians who might be the lost tribe of Israel (shades of The Book of Mormon here) with a famous Prague rabbi and Timothy Tox, author of the Pennsylvaniad, any weirder than the Banach-Tarski Paradox? Maybe, but nothing more than distractions keeping the reader from seeing too clearly the brutality which plagues Dixon in his humanity and which Mason ignores in his egocentric disordered personality. Mason churlish, peevish, not so intelligent as he thinks, or perhaps stunted by his own Father’s misery and hateful disposition. In the end, Mason’s delusional deathbed discourse with Franklin, following his dispute with Maskelyne, his retiring completely from his tenuous professional career such as it was, could remind one of Grothendiek’s retiring to the mountains, to pondering the D---l changing the speed of light, except Grothendiek is acknowledged a master artist, whereas Mason a wannabe. In the end, the better astronomer really was Maskelyne, Mason following Rebekah’s edict, turning away from the convergence of the Nets to land in a limbo of final disappointment. Lucky for Dixon he went first.

So Mason and Dixon, newly finished with an adventure among the Dutch of South Africa, find themselves in the New World immersed in nothing if not second-order effects, largely ignored by Pynchon. For example, the loony religious immigrants founding the nation, besides being murderous real-estate hustlers on the take, are spiritual refugees from the Thirty Years War which, though seemingly settled a century prior, lingers with the suspicions of Jesuit plots and other paranoid and not-so-paranoid possible delusions (in fact migrating from pornographic comic books to the camp followers of Mason and Dixon, sort of an M. C. Escher meets Hogarth meets Guido Crepax (see Chapter Fifty-Three)), but what is shown are but first-order effects. T’is the second-order effects that drive the nation as we find it today, best expressed with the superstitious sects’ occult prayer, left over from prior religious wars: Lord, deliver me from other Christians.

Part VIII One Three Five: Six?

GPS marker on hill 38

The Pynchon sequence of novels is one, three, five, with two and four dips in the totality, like a witch’s hat lopsided on one side, the Promise of V followed by the tease of Lot 49, the grand peak of Gravity’s Rainbow, highly nonlinear and shunning no excess, plowing almost directly out of V with great force, then deeply dipped into Vineland and making a small rise here, with Mason and Dixon, but far too linear to compete with Gravity’s Rainbow.

The masterful stroke of Pynchon is bringing science (and engineering) into literature not within that cliché genre called science fiction, but as metaphor outside science fiction. He did this with originality and panache in Gravity’s Rainbow, a masterpiece. Here in Mason and Dixon science is part metaphor, but also in large part the pivotal subject of the work, in the same sense that science plays a “hardware” role in Sci-Fi. Pynchon treats it existing in the past, moving it entirely outside the realm of conventional science fiction as he did in Gravity’s Rainbow. This time, he treats an ancient study, astronomy, and its ties to surveying, as well navigation which lurks in the background. This is nothing if not courageous, with the bulk of the literati not only ignorant of science and mathematics, but openly hostile, without a clue of underlying aesthetics.

It is essential to not let this recognition of science and mathematics as part of the mainstream language, metaphor and in fact art for its own sake disappear within the sloppy morass of American fiction and letters. Pynchon’s courage in busting out of the orthodoxy of cliché should not die in vain. Unfortunately, to date he seems to have no followers. Perhaps that is because most writers have been duped into believing that the only measure of success is financial remuneration. In fact, part of the writer’s task is to lead the edge of society, not to let it be controlled by petty and small-minded businessmen and clergy, most of whom are thieves as Sinclair Lewis truthfully, if artlessly, pointed out in much of his no-longer popular work. For an entire segment of intelligentsia to turn its back on the major art-form of the last two hundred years is disgusting. Pynchon has shown a path no one seems willing to follow. Perhaps the majority of those reading him haven’t the intellectual wherewithal to understand him. To eschew mathematics and physics because one doesn’t like it is the equivalent of eschewing Shakespeare and the whole panoply of English-language literature. Unfortunately, that is what is most frequently done, resulting in work lacking in imagination, expression, depth and subtlety. American literature is currently in crisis, but of course since it is a money-losing proposition, who cares? It is not only literature, but mathematics, science, and a host of other intellectual arenas in which the US is becoming a dead duck, much like the later fate of Vaucauson’s shitting duck, featherless and unable to do aught but shit. We need immigrants to man our sciences, our engineering, and also our literature. Sad

In Mason and Dixon Pynchon uses the seemingly neutral pathway of science and engineering to paint as background the horrific past of the United States of America, which he contrasts to South Africa. He makes clear in a too subtle way that the US must face up to the fact that it was founded on a lie, was founded as a savagely racist nation, and that its greatest heroes were also racists, some of them, including Washington, murderous racists. The Great Liberator himself, as well the drafters of those sacred cows the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, were all racists. Just as Germany must face up to its Nazi past with all its horrors, Japan its savage brutality in China and other nations during WWII, so the US must fact up to the fact of its hideous beginnings, of the fact that it was, and remains, a racist nation.

A question for so-called Supreme Court Conservatives: Which decision was according to the spirit of the founding fathers, the 1883 case of Pace versus Alabama in which state anti-miscegenation laws were upheld or the overturning of that decision in 1967, Loving versus Virginia, declaring it unconstitutional for states to make miscegenation illegal? A similar question regarding the doctrine of separate but equal comes to mind. If you held a séance and asked Washington, Jefferson, and their ilk, and even threw in Lincoln, the answer would likely be unanimously in favor of Pace versus Alabama. Likely they would agree with trial court judge Leon Bazile, who upon sentencing a “mixed race” couple to jail for marrying within the nation’s capital, said: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” This was penned in 1965.

So for whom does Pynchon now write? Soccer moms, those illiterate, gum-chewing, earnest bimbos plying the highways with cars full of useless demon spawn? Has he thrown aside the scatological humor, the vulgarities and the explicit and meaningless sex for maybe a made-for-television movie? Certainly his use of cartoons might make some believe he tells dainty stories: too much linearization. Certainly the wondrously efficient gyro-compassing of the Middle-Earther’s vessel as recounted by Dixon would be a marvelous snippet in an old black-and-white cartoon, the ones with bug-eyed autos climbing stairs and all. Certainly on the basis of Gravity’s Rainbow alone Pynchon remains, if not our greatest living U.S. author, then among the top five or so. But that is not such an accomplishment given the quanity of merde published, most of which is too wet to fling or too dry to stick to the walls. The semiliterate worshippers of the current bestseller will soon remember that work as well as they remember those of Harold Robbins. At least we do not count Paulo Coehlo among our U.S. authors, though neither do we have João Ubaldo Ribeiro.

Of course, this entire cant may be misguided, the found confluence of errors merging into truth off the mark, illusion, or even more errors, though Pynchon’s personal message (the word “you” struck out and “thee” following) found in the second paragraph of Chapter Seventy-Five calls such a conclusion into question unless, Yikes, this be part of the It?

Maurice Stoker

GPS marker on hill 38

(Triage Pinochle Game courtesy of James S. Bush, saving me from being outdone by that smartypants Jim Chaffee)

© 2006