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xml:lang="en" lang="en" dir="ltr"> Chapter 42: 422-435 - Thomas Pynchon Wiki | Mason & Dixon

Chapter 42: 422-435

Page 422

Weather-gage
"Sh OED lists 'have or keep the weather gauge of' as be windward of, fig get the better of." -- Dinn's Notes

See also: More Discussion on Dinn's notes

Dromonds
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

Spielers
"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...?

Random House's unabridged dictionary has spielers as "1. a barker, as at a circus sideshow. 2. a person with an extravagant line of talk. 3. (Australia) a swindler. 4. (US slang) an announcer for a radio or television, especially one who gives commercials. 5. (British slang) a gambling den."

Page 423

hey? right out of G. Rex's Purse it came
"G Rex being King George" -- Dinn's Notes, see page 367.

The Tub!
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.

Laws of Leverage
The principle that describes how a tool such as a lever can amplify a force, allowing a massive object to be moved.

[The Law of the Lever] was proven by Archimedes using geometric reasoning. It shows that if the distance a from the fulcrum to where the input force is applied (point A) is greater than the distance b from fulcrum to where the output force is applied (point B), then the lever amplifies the input force. If the distance from the fulcrum to the input force is less than from the fulcrum to the output force, then the lever reduces the input force. Recognizing the profound implications and practicalities of the law of the lever, Archimedes has been famously attributed with the quotation "Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world." From WIKI


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

Page 425

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"

Hungarian Vampirism
Although vampiric entities have been recorded in many cultures, the term vampire was not popularised until the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe, although local variants were also known by different names, such as vampir (вампир) in Serbia and Bulgaria, vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania. This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism. From WIKI

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.

Page 426

Torpedo

Electric eel, here - though this is incorrect as a "torpedo," when speaking of electric naval life, is an electric ray, order Torpediniformes (see Wikipedia). Also, see page 234. The professor himself acknowledges the erroneousness of the term on page 431. See Alphabetical Entry.

Ferric Prodigy
Ferric refers to iron-containing materials or compounds. In chemistry the term is reserved for iron with an oxidation number of +3, also denoted iron(III) or Fe3+. On the other hand, ferrous refers to iron with oxidation number of +2, denoted iron(II) or Fe2+. Iron(III) is usually the most stable form of iron in air, as illustrated by the pervasiveness of rust, an insoluble iron(III)-containing material. From WIKI

"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

Page 427

Dixon, emerging coprophagously a-grin
coprophagous -- "Feeding on excrement" (Wiktionary); i.e., a sh*t eating grin

exeunt
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'. cf also [page] 431.5." -- Dinn's Notes

I was abducted by Malays
Dixon witnesses this abduction, with Austra's master looking on approvingly, on page 150.

Love-Jobbers
Pynchon having more playful fun with the job title of "Jobbers"--"Love," of course, being used euphemistically. Cf. Body Jobbers, Land Jobbers

Fly-Whisks
A fly-whisk is a tool to swat or disturb flies. It is used as a regalia in some cultures. See WIKI

Widows of Christ

See Alphabetical Entry

Novitiate
novitiate (per Wiktionary):

  1. the period during which a novice of a religious order undergoes training
  2. the place where a novice lives and studies
  3. a novice

Rapprochement
"The establishment of or state of having cordial relations; an agreement, accord, or reconciliation." -- Wiktionary

Dutch Rifle... with a Five-pointed Star... inverted.
Here it is again. See pages 342 & 101.

Dutch rifle wheellock, circa 1630: The jaw is normally tightened with the same spanner used to cock the lock. This being a "Dutch" lock.

Page 428

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.

Patch-Box
"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)

Piercings
Pierce-work -- "Metalwork, woodwork, etc., incorporating perforations made for decorative or functional effect." -- OED

Page 429

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

inverted Star,- in Lancaster Town
Referring to page 342.

form of a Daisy
Possibly an allusion to Daisy brand "Outdoor Products" which would later become famous for their selling of BB Guns to youth etc: Daisy was started in 1882 as Plymouth Iron Windmill Company in Plymouth, Michigan. In 1886 the company started to give BB guns with purchases of windmills. The gun was so popular the company started to sell guns instead of windmills. From WIKI

Page 430

the Sharper
A sharper is an older term, common since the seventeenth-century, for thieves who use trickery to part an owner with his or her money possessions. Sharpers vary from what we now call con-men by virtue of the simplicity of their cons, which often were impromptu, rather than carefully orchestrated, though those certainly happened as well. The 1737 Dictionary of Thieving Slang defines a sharper as "A Cheat, One who lives by his wits." In the nineteenth-century, and into today, the term is more closely associated with gambling.

Sharpers were romantic figures in the eighteenth-century, valued as imaginative figures for their perceived social independence and ability to create new social networks of gangs. The appeal of an independent society, operating outside the law, has been imaginative evocative for centuries, but in eighteenth-century London philosophical thought, influenced by Thomas Hobbes and Rousseau's new formulations of social contract, the romanticization of thievery reached new levels. John Gay's The Beggar's Opera and Henry Fielding's novel Jonathan Wild are only two examples of sharpers as heroes, in these cases, to provide satirical ammunition against the British Prime Minister Horace Walpole. From WIKI

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.)

Page 431

Mr. Linnaeus
See page 321

Gymnotus
Gymnotus is the among the most species-rich group of electric knifefishes (Gymnotiformes) found in the Amazon. Some Gymnotus species live in the leaf litter and root tangles of river banks. Other species are specialized to live on floodplains within the rootmats of floating meadows. Several species are broadly adapted to live in both of these habitats. Gymnotus are nocturnal predators feeding on insects, crustaceans, and other fish. They generate weak electric fields used in locating objects, and also for communication in which the males court females using stereotyped electrical "songs". From WIKI

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"?!?

Page 432

El P.
Or LP, long-playing record; certainly a "Cyclickal Creature" with a repetitive life.

una Criatura Cíclica, así 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?

"believe me, he'd be one unhappy Torpedo. How do I know? I counted."
The same joke is used in Inherent Vice, p. 18.

far off E-do
"Edo is the old name for Tokyo, in use in the 1760s." -- Dinn's Notes

Page 433

surcease
"The cessation of something or someone." -- Wiktionary

Rubicon
Rubicon is a 29 km long river in northern Italy... "Crossing the Rubicon" is a popular idiom meaning to pass a point of no return. This phrase is often used by journalists in newspapers. It refers to Caesar's 49 BC crossing of the river, which was considered an act of war. From WIKI

Antillean Cigar
Cuban cigar

Should be styl'd a "Monthly"
Because a Journal, from French 'jour', is a daily record.

Page 435

Squire Haligast
See pages 389, 373, 366, 391 & 470.

Annotation Index

One:
Latitudes and Departures

1: 5-11, 2: 12-13, 3: 14-29, 4: 30-41, 5: 42-46, 6: 47-57, 7: 58-76, 8: 77-86, 9: 87-93, 10: 94-104, 11: 105-115, 12: 116-124, 13: 125-145, 14: 146-157, 15: 158-166, 16: 167-174, 17: 175-182, 18: 183-189, 19: 190-198, 20: 199-206, 21: 207-214, 22: 215-227, 23: 228-237, 24: 238-245, 25: 245-253


Two:
America

26: 257-265, 27: 266-274, 28: 275-288, 29: 289-295, 30: 296-301, 31: 302-314, 32: 315-326, 33: 327-340, 34: 341-348, 35: 349-361, 36: 362-370, 37: 371-381, 38: 382-390, 39: 391-398, 40: 399-409, 41: 410-421, 42: 422-435, 43: 436-439, 44: 440-447, 45: 448-451, 46: 452-459, 47: 460-465, 48: 466-475, 49: 476-483, 50: 484-490, 51: 491-498, 52: 499-510, 53: 511-524, 54: 525-541, 55: 542-553, 56: 554-561, 57: 562-569, 58: 570-574, 59: 575-584, 60: 585-596, 61: 597-607, 62: 608-617, 63: 618-622, 64: 623-628, 65: 629-632, 66: 633-645, 67: 646-657, 68: 658-664, 69: 665-677, 70: 678-686, 71: 687-693, 72: 694-705, 73: 706-713

Three:
Last Transit

74: 717-732, 75: 733-743, 76: 744-748, 77: 749-757, 78: 758-773

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