Chapter 42: 422-435
"Sh OED lists 'have or keep the weather gauge of' as be windward of, fig get the better of. On a side note, Pynchon also uses gage in GR for marijuana (in the Red Malcolm scene) and I always presumed this was a corruption of ganja or ganga, but no, it is listed under gage, LME, var of gauge, 1 A quart pot, long rare or obs LME, 2 A pipe; a pipeful (orig. of tobacco, now chiefly of marijuana), hence, marijuana, slang L17. That's L17 slang, foax! and no doubt the contents of the pipe changed some time before GW started growing and selling his crop in the M18." -- Dinn's Notes
See also: More Discussion on Dinn's notes
The dromons (from Greek δρόμων, dromon, i.e. "runner") were the most important warships of the Byzantine navy from the 6th to 12th centuries AD. They were indirectly developed from the ancient trireme and were usually propelled by both oar and sail, a configuration that had been used by navies in the Mediterranean Sea for centuries. - from Wikipedia
"Anglicized plural of German 'player' (as in Mabuse, Der...)" (Dinn's Notes). Possibly spelled as an "anglicized plural" in order to pun off spoilers, spies...?
hey? right out of G. Rex's purse it came
"G Rex being King George" -- Dinn's Notes, see page 367.
Cf. A Tale of a Tub, a satire by Jonathon Swift? Read it in Wikisource, or read about it in Wikipedia, which describes it in such a Pynchonian light:
- "the book is constructed like a layer cake, with Digression and Tale alternating. However, the digressions overwhelm the narrative, both in terms of the forcefulness and imaginativeness of writing and in terms of volume [...] Many critics have followed Swift's biographer Irvin Ehrenpreis in arguing that there is no single, consistent narrator in the work [...] The digressions individually frustrate readers who expect a clear purpose [...] Some, such as the discussion of ears or of wisdom being like a nut, a cream sherry, a cackling hen, etc., are outlandish and require a militantly aware and thoughtful reader."
Wikipedia also notes that satire targeted "indexers, note-makers." I found myself squirming as I read this paragraph while working on this wiki:
- "Swift's targets in the Tale included indexers, note-makers, and, above all, people who saw 'dark matter' in books. Attacking criticism generally, he appears delighted that one of his enemies, William Wotton, offered to explain the Tale in an 'answer' to the book and that one of the men he had explicitly attacked, Curll, offered to explain the book to the public. In the fifth edition of the book in 1705, Swift provided an apparatus to the work that incorporated Wotton's explanations and Swift's narrator's own notes as well. The notes appear to occasionally provide genuine information and just as often to mislead, and William Wotton's name, a defender of the Moderns, was appended to a number of notes. This allows Swift to make the commentary part of the satire itself, as well as to elevate his narrator to the level of self-critic."
On the other hand, I delighted in the Pynchonian names: Curll and William Wotton.
Library at Alexandria, circa 390 A.D.
The Royal Library of Alexandria, or Ancient Library of Alexandria, in Alexandria, Egypt, was probably the largest, and certainly the most famous, of the libraries of the ancient world. It flourished under the patronage of the Ptolemaic dynasty and existed, and functioned as a major center of scholarship, at least until the time of Rome's conquest of Egypt, and probably for many centuries thereafter. From WIKI
Oh Ruddier than the Cherry
"Aria from Handel's Acis and Galatea of c 1720" -- Dinn's Notes
I believe that the words were written by John Gay (1688–1732) and that Handel set them to music. In this operatic scene, "the giant Polyphemus [a love-stricken cyclops], more used to wreaking terror and devastation than feelings of love, attempts to woo Galatea (O ruddier than the cherry) but Galatea flees in terror" (Bampton Classic Opera). See Wikipedia for more on the tale.
Listen to it, hear: YouTube
Read along while you listen:
- O RUDDIER than the cherry!
- O sweeter than the berry!
- O nymph more bright
- Than moonshine night,
- Like kidlings blithe and merry!
- Ripe as the melting cluster!
- No lily has such lustre;
- Yet hard to tame
- As raging flame,
- And fierce as storms that bluster!
- Ripe as the melting cluster,
- no lily has such luster;
- yet hard to tame as raging flame
- and fierce as storms that bluster.
- O ruddier than the cherry,
- O sweeter than the berry,
- O ruddier than the cherry,
- O sweeter than the berry,
- O nymph more bright
- than moonshine night
- like kidlings blithe and merry.
It flies through the Air, in a curious, as it seems directed, Arc, hits the Tub with a solid bong, flattening its Point
Cf. p. 5, opening line to novel: "Snow-Balls have flown their Arcs, starr'd the Sides of Outbuildings"
Professor Voam , Philosophical Operator
"Voam appeared a hundred pages [p. 321] back as the 'camp naturalist' that Dixon consulted about Emerson's watch. That incident must have been a 'flash forward.'" -- from MDMD Dinn's notes on Ch. 41
In addition to Voam's striking job titles ("camp naturalist" and "Philosophical Operator"), note that in Pennsylvania and New Jersey there is an organization called VOAM Electric Cooperative Inc. — and VOM is the abbreviation for Volt-Ohm Meter.
"You'd be flatter'n a Griddle-Cake" [...] "Excuse me,-- to what End? Gazing at it, as it fries? saying Oh you're so Circular...your Airr-Bubbles, they're so intriguing,--"
" "*Than*, *than*" Took me a few parse errors before I realizes that Voam's intended 'flatter than' is read by Mason as 'flattering'." -- Dinn's Notes
Electric eel, here -- though this is incorrect as a "torpedo," when speaking of electric naval life, is an electric ray, order Torpediniformes (see Wikipedia).
Dixon, emerging coprophagously a-grin
coprophagous -- "Feeding on excrement" (Wiktionary); i.e., a sh*t eating grin
Latin for "they leave." Used as a stage direction in theater scripts, though the term is now obsolete. (See Wiktionary)
the Slave who spoke to Dixon earlier
"earlier being [page] 419.25 where he meets the 'pretty Bondmaiden' and it is Austra from the Cape. cf also [page] 431.5." -- Dinn's Notes
Pynchon having more playful fun with the job title of "Jobbers"--"Love," of course, being used euphemistically. Cf. Body Jobbers, Land Jobbers
in payment of a Debt forever unexplain'd to me
"Perhaps Austra incurred this debt by failing to lure Charles into fathering a child by her. Oh Complicity! Oh Complexity!" -- Dinn's Notes
novitiate (per Wiktionary):
- the period during which a novice of a religious order undergoes training
- the place where a novice lives and studies
- a novice
"The establishment of or state of having cordial relations; an agreement, accord, or reconciliation." -- Wiktionary
Dutch rifle wheellock, circa 1630: The jaw is normally tightened with the same spanner used to cock the lock. This being a "Dutch" lock.
A Polaris of Evil
At the time of Mason & Dixon, Polaris only literally meant the North Star: "Polaris" comes from Stella Polaris, the Latin form of its common name "Pole Star". The rarely used Greek name Cynosura (Κυνόσουρα) means "tail of the dog".
Polaris was the name of a famous guided missile system in the 20th Century.
Here, North as the place from which death and destruction comes in Pynchon's world is clearly alluded to and what is another negative allusion to "man's best friend" may be implied. There is Pugnax the dog in ATD. Arguably, dogs are symbols of the bourgeoisie in Pynchon, complicit in mankind's war-making History in TRP's vision.
"Another change that was made to the old Jaeger ["brought to the colonies by German gunsmiths in the early 1700’s"] that most scholars consider unique to the American longrifle was the addition of a brass patch box. The Jaegers and the early longrifles had storage compartments in the butt of the gun with sliding carved wood covers. The argument is that these covers were easily lost and something a little more practical was required for the longhunter. Hence, the hinged brass patch box." -- The Story of the American Longrifle (an excellent read, incidentally)
Pierce-work -- "Metalwork, woodwork, etc., incorporating perforations made for decorative or functional effect." -- OED
a Forest Weapon, match'd to a single Prey, heavier than a Squirrel, not quite so heavy as a Deer....
"about the weight of a man, say? Is that maybe why, in which case, evil polarises around this rifle?" -- Dinn's Notes
Mr LeSpark, as he will come to tell the Tale, declines back into the Couch
Tell the tale *now* (as in to Tenebrae, Ives, Ethelmer, DePugh, etc.) or tell the tale *then* as in rat out M&D's tub theft to Lord Lepton? (This idea was sparked by comments in Dinn's Notes.)
Sí, sí, Cariño
Literally, Spanish for "Yes, yes, Affection," but cariño can also mean (figuratively) "caress," which is what the Professor is doing to the eel as he's speaking. Perhaps Pynchon offers a clue later on the page in translating the eel's other name, "El Peligroso," as "The Dangerous One." Literally, this translates as "The Danger"; this logic would equate "Cariño" with "Affectionate One."
let a Nonelectrickal provide the Thrills for a change
The eel's identity is so wrapped up in being electrical that anything that cannot provide a spark is called "a Nonelectrickal"?!?
Or LP, long-playing record; certainly a "Cyclickal Creature" with a repetitive life.
una Criatura Ci'clica, asi eres
"a cyclical creature, so you are" -- HyperArts
worrying about Coach schedules
Perhaps busy travelers in the 18th Century concerned themselves with tight transfers on Coach lines--or perhaps this is more of Pynchon's riffing on Coaches as modern airliners?
far off E-do
"Edo is the old name for Tokyo, in use in the 1760s." -- Dinn's Notes
"The cessation of something or someone." -- Wiktionary