V. Chapter Six – In which Profane returns to street level

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It might have been appropriate to begin this post with a declaration about my vacation. Something like: “I’m back from vacation refocused, reenergized, and ready to jump into the writing process.” I woke up about two hours earlier than I’m used to this morning in an effort to get back into a work schedule and I’m far too bitter with the universe about consciousness to exude such frivolities. Instead, while I try to get some coffee in my system, let’s just say that my vacation was superb and I’m in mourning about my vacation’s passing. I’ll get around to writing about it once I move through the stages of grief.

So, in the meantime, it’s back to writing about Pynchon and this is a fitting chapter to return with. Just as I’m returning from a sojourn away from the troubles of the world, Benny resurfaces in New York in this chapter. Admittedly, I didn’t go on vacation in the sewers where I explored the remains of a mad priest’s chapel and shot an albino alligator / Stencil in a diving suit. We can’t have everything though.  Continue reading “V. Chapter Six – In which Profane returns to street level”

Archival Gems

One of the elements that I miss from my doctoral work was the archival and historical research on the progressive era that I did on a regular basis. While I was usually searching for specific information, I regularly stumbled across little gems of information or research tracks that I never had the time to follow up. Lately I’ve found myself looking into some of the larger resources available online like the Library of Congress. I have a couple projects that are driving my work, but I’ve been coming up with enough intriguing snippets that I wanted to start collecting them here.  I hope that this will be the start of a new series of posts here. Sometimes I’ll include commentary. Other times I’ll just post the document, photo, or whatever it is I’ve stumbled across and let it speak for itself. I’ll always cite my sources in case any one else is interested.

First up is a sonnet by Katharine Warren from 1900. Originally published in The Atlantic, There’s a clear religious tone here. After reading so much radical literature during my doctoral work, it was intriguing and fitting to see this note struck in this particular poetic form.

A SONNET OF WORK.

WHERETO our labor and our bitter sweat?
The seed we sow we trample in the dark.
The flame we strike, our own tears quench the spark.
The white that we would purify we set
Our grimy print upon. And we forget
Thy ways and thoughts are not as ours, and hark
Toward what we take to be some heavenly mark,
And find we serve the devil to abet.
Then do Thou blind us, that we may not see
The measure of our own futility,
Lest, seeing, we should cease to work, and die.
Or give us sight, that we may know thereby
How through our labor, whatso end it meet,
We reach toward Thee who knowest no defeat.

Here’s the source and here are some other works by Warren.

Kill My Vacation Blues

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Just a note to say that the posting will be light to nonexistent for the next two weeks. I’ve decided to take a proper vacation. I originally thought that I’d keep up with posting while traveling, but I haven’t been satisfied with the quality of my work and instead of relaxing I was spending a bunch of time wondering why my writing was even more rubbish than usual. So it has dawned on me that I  need to either drop the blogging for the duration or drop the vacation. I’d say it was a hard decision, but that’d be a particularly egregious lie.

I wanted to post a picture of the best surprise I’ve received in a long time before I sign off. A certain friend (Mike) picked this up for me last year at a concert in San Francisco where he spent the opening act standing next to Corin Tucker without realizing it. I’m not sure if it was friendship that motivated him to get the cd signed for me or if he wanted to throw me off my vow to berate him about his obliviousness for the rest of time. (If the latter, he was obviously only partially successful.) Given that we weren’t going to see each other for eight or nine months though, we both forgot about it. (If only there were services that could safely transport packages across long distances for a small fee… No, too risky. Only personal delivery will suffice!)

Mike is, of course, awesome and I’m thrilled with the gift. I thought it was a good image to sign off with. It has that summer vacation feel and the right vibe for my upcoming travels. Many thanks to Mike.

See you in a couple weeks!

V. Chapter 4 – In which Esther gets a nose job

I’ve decided to keep this post short. The fact that I’m on vacation has nothing to do with this decision.

Is anyone buying this? No? Ok, fair enough. Truth is, it has been so long since I’ve had a real vacation that I’m forcing myself to take it easy. There is a lot to dig into in this chapter, but I’m keeping it simple. Here are a couple quick points on this week’s chapter:

– I’ve turned into a softy since I first read this book. I found myself skimming Schoenmaker’s detailed description of the operation much as I would quickly excuse myself from hearing the details of gruesome injuries and other misplaced dinner conversation topics.

– I found most of my attention on Schoenmaker’s back-story. Admittedly, the fist thing I thought of was a desperate desire that Scheonmaker was a partial inspiration for the character Woodhouse on Archer. That may have influenced my reading for a little bit. After I got over the wished for connection, I started paying a bit more attention to the decay that corrupts Schoenmaker’s ostensibly pure designs for becoming a plastic surgeon. After seeing Godolphin’s die through his rejection of the inanimate materials used to rebuild his face after the war, Schoenmaker turns to medicine to counter the actions of doctors like the one that kills Godolphin. The narrator notes, “if alignment with the inanimate is the mark of a Bad Guy, Schoenmaker at least made a sympathetic beginning” (101). The emphasis on “bad guy” through the capitalization indicates that we’re not expected to read this as easy categorizations of good and evil. Schoenmaker’s turn is described specifically as a decay, which in turn is intriguing since decay and rejection were exactly what destroys Godolphin, Schoenmaker’s inspiration. That decay is itself a turn away from the natural – in the case of Schoenmaker this means destroying noses to create more appealing, if unnatural, shapes. For V. it suggests the insidious move away from the natural and towards the mechanical. As I recall, Profane’s stint at Yoyodyne will expand on this theme.

V. Chapter 3 – In which Stencil, a quick-change artist, does eight impersonations

In light of the episodic nature of this week’s chapter, I thought I’d try something a little different: Eight points for eight impersonations. Stenci’s journey into conjecture about Porpentine hinges upon perspective so let’s look at where the quick changes take us. Continue reading “V. Chapter 3 – In which Stencil, a quick-change artist, does eight impersonations”