Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The V-2: 19th- & 20th-century automaton

I commend to Pynchonites The Style of Connectedness: Gravity's Rainbow and Thomas Pynchon, by Thomas Moore.  Moore observes that the V-2 fits both the 19th- (fuel burning) & 20th-Century (informational) senses for an automaton.

Moore, The Style of Connectedness, p173

The Style of Connectedness: Gravity's Rainbow and Thomas Pynchon
Thomas Moore
University of Missouri (May 1, 1987)
ISBN-13: 978-0826206251
Link to Google Books

Friday, December 30, 2016

David Cowart and the 17-year gap

David Cowart  in Thomas Pynchon and the Dark Passages of History (2012) also mapped Pynchon to Joyce and the 17-year gap with respect to Finnegans Wake, pp 112-113 (Reproduced below under "Fair Use").

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Cow Country by Adrian Jones Pearson

Cow Country is not only a satire of America in the tradition of Gulliver’s Travels but also an allegory for human life in the tradition of Moby Dick.

As satire, the reader discovers the Cow Eye Community College campus and the surrounding Cow Eye Junction to be populated by individuals who self-identify within binary factions: carnivores versus vegans, old timers vs. new comers, town vs. gown, beer drinkers vs. wine imbibers, tenured faculty vs. students (and adjuncts), faculty vs. administrators, Native Americans vs. settlers’ descendants, men vs. women, domestic truck owners vs. foreign car owners, manual typewriter traditionalists vs. electric typewriter progressives, and on and on. Each Cow Eye resident can and does self-identify as an oppressed member of a minority faction in perpetual conflict with an apparent oppressing majority faction. Thus, CECC and environs stand for America now and throughout its history. (The American flag is described throughout as having a varying number of stars at different points in the narrative that spans a partial academic year: at least 15, 23, 24, 25, 28, 34, 44, 46, 47, 48, and 49 stars at different narrative points.)  Pearson satirizes contemporary America as surely as Swift did the United Kingdom of his time in Gulliver’s Travels.

As allegory, the protagonist – call him “Charlie” – grapples with the fundamental human conflict between the temporal (the unimportant-but-urgent demands of deadlines, separate mortal beings, sex, time) and the eternal (the non-urgent-but-important facets of life, the source of one’s ultimate being, love, timelessness). Melville’s Pequod sets sail on Christmas day on her ultimate and doomed voyage; with allusion to that same event on the Christian calendar Pearson’s Charlie climaxes his tenure at CECC at a Christmas party where his own acts of commission and omission doom his educational administrator/special projects coordinator professional standing.

In Cow Eye the educational administration passages enlighten and entertain readers ignorant of that calling as surely as the whaling passages do in Moby Dick.

Throughout Charlie draws inspiration from the excerpted book within a book, The Anyman’s Guide to Love and the Community College, detritus from his predecessor Special Projects Coordinator who likewise failed at that calling despite her “...Degrees from two Ivy League colleges. A sparkling curriculum vitae. Experience up the ying-yang. Countless awards and commendations. References from the Queen of England and Archduke of Canterbury. You know the type. 

The human desire for love,” according to the Anyman's Guide,is as old as the community college itself…. In fact, love is even older – tracing its lineage back to the days, long before community colleges, when the heart was still an untamed beast like the many undomesticated cows that once roamed the world. These were the days of wandering and wonder, of vast unconquered lands that encouraged diaspora and discovery. For the history of humankind is the history of man’s quelling of his own desires. Or, rather, of their pursuit. Across continents and through time. With a diligence that knows no parallel among other beasts of burden. More than any force of nature, it is love – of self, of family, of god and country, of great ideas – that has been the constant catalyst in the making of the world as it is. Without love there would be no religion. No art. No philosophy. Without love we would not have saints or martyrs or prophets. And of course, without love we would not have community colleges.

It is said that for a thing to exist it must live side by side with its opposite. Day cannot be day without night. Nor can the flow exist without the ebb. In this way there can be no joy without despair. No enlightenment without ignorance. And no passage of time without the final resolution of death. But before there was a community college there could be none of this – nothing at all but a very dark void. And then came God and the universe that He created which in turn begat time and space, such that over the many billions of years and the many billions of miles, the lineage of learning came down from its timeless ancestors:

From God came the universe and from the universe came time and space. And from all of this came the community college where love itself is nurtured just as the sky nurtures the stars in her embrace. For surely there can be no truer love than the love of learning. The teaching of an idea requires the transfer of knowledge from one mind to the next, just as the birth of a child requires the transfer of seed from one mammal to another. This is why, among institutions of the world, the community college is the cradle of all that love aspires to be, and it is why, among lovers of the world, its faculty are a chosen people. And for this reason, the community college has always been, and will always be, the breeding ground for love. Its eternal source. The place it always returns to and whence it always comes. For to know the world in its entirety is to know, in a very small way, your local community college. And vice versa.

Does not the author of The Anyman’s Guide wax poetic upon her subject as Ishmael does upon the whale and the sea?

Cow Country came to wide attention  when Art Winslow of Harpers opined “Did Thomas Pynchon publish a novel under the pseudonym Adrian Jones Pearson?” (See the September 9, 2015, 12:12 pm, Browsings: The Harper'sBlog [Theory] The Fiction Atop the Fiction, by Art Winslow | Harper's Magazine via @Harpers).

It is true that Ruger firearms appear in the novels of Pearson and Pynchon --"a Ruger Blackhawk in thirty carbine” and "a Ruger .38" in the former and ".44 Magnum, a Ruger Blackhawk" in the latter (Inhernet Vice, pg. 250) -- however, that coincidence alone is insufficient to conclude the former to be a penname for the latter. (See a YouTube video demonstration of the Ruger Blackhawk 30 Carbine here 06:02 mm:ss.)  That coincidence is not “specific evidence if one were searching for a smoking gun (‘closure’) linking Pearson and Pynchon” (Winslow, 21st paragraph). [Note 1]

Cow Country by Adrian Jones Pearson is thoroughly enjoyable as a work of art itself. One need not have any acquaintance with novels by Pynchon to be entertained, enlightened, and motivated by Pearson’s, which I recommend.
A note about editions:  For about two-thirds of the novel’s text I listened to the Audible version that credits Therese Plummer and LJ Ganser, and I endorse their performances. (Hear a sample of the Audible version on the Amazon site here.)

Cow Country Paperback – April 8, 2015 (Above graphics and excerpts from this edition.)
by Adrian Jones Pearson
Paperback: 540 pages
Publisher: Cow Eye Press (April 8, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 099091500X
ISBN-13: 978-0990915003

Audible Audio Edition
Listening Length: 20 hours and 50 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: Audible Studios Release Date: February 9, 2016
Whispersync for Voice: Ready
Language: English

  1. It is true that a prose master may write in a variety of styles (cf Pynchon’s novels Mason & Dixon and Against The Day where the Pynchon-brand literary style from, say, Gravity’s Rainbow is eschewed for other styles). That is to say that it is feasible that Pynchon could have masked himself and could have adopted the style of a Pynchonian derivative if he so chose, but being merely possible does not render something actually so. The two literary styles in Cow Country – the novel itself and The Anyman’s Guide within that novel -- demonstrate that Pearson has mastered writing in multiple styles, a skill necessary to any novelist since Joyce’s Ulysses to be counted a member of the novelists' guild, IMHO.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Time Rose Pynchon

Q: Is this a photograph of Thomas Pynchon (hereinafter: Mr P )?

A: Probably not. It is probably just what it is purported to be: a photograph of Albano Ballerini, Brooklyn-based chef, photographer, and actor  [Notes 1, 2].

Q: Why would one think that picture to be Mr P?
A: Because he is credited in the role of  “Lorentz Mulino, a little-known filmmaker (credits link)" in a short film, Ulysses: the Animated Film (video link) -- recently "made available to the public" --  that documents an uncompleted production of an animated Ulysses, the 1922 novel by James Joyce, of Dublin, Ireland, on 16 June 1904.  That short film was the funniest thing I saw Bloomsday, June 16th. The Twitterverse of Joyceans alerted me to this film.

Q: Why would anyone think that Mr. Albano Ballerini may be Mr P as Mr P is notoriously known to avoid being photographed?

A: Because this animated Ulysses, or that short film about the uncompleted production, stands to the work of Mr P as the three known schemata stand to Ulysses [Note 3]. Joyce gave a schema to his publisher, Sylvia Beach, and to his friends Stuart Gilbert and Carlo Linati.

In my opinion, the world would not think so highly of Ulysses were it not for Gilbert’s effort with James Joyce's Ulysses: A Study that gave the public his schema showing the parallels in Joyce to Homer’s Odyssey.  Similarly, the help that Sylvia Beach gave to scholar Joseph Campbell at Shakespeare and Company [Note 4] changed Campbell’s life, empowering him to tell about similar parallels Joyce made to Ovid, to Dante, and to other mythmakers, throughout his fictions. Without such help the public may have dismissed Joyce as too arcane, too abstract, too Irish, too scatalogical, or too unrewarding for the non-academic.

It is my hypothesis, seeing Ulysses: the Animated Film (video link) and Ulysses: the Animated Film (website link), that the fictions of Mr P stand in relation to the that of James Joyce as Joyce's own fictions so stand in relation to the fictions of Dante. Joyce built his fictions upon a framework of Dante, according to Joseph Campbell [Note 5]. I assert: Mr P built his fictions similarly atop an architecture that Mr P took from Joyce.

Q: How is this so?

A: Campbell provides the mapping from Dante to Joyce or how “Joyce imitates Dante.” Campbell maps Dante’s Vita Nuova to Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dante’s Inferno to Ulysses, Dante’s Purgatorio to Finnegans Wake, and Campbell notes that Joyce did not live to complete that mapping via a final, simple, clear fiction that Campbell mapped to Dante’s Paradiso.

Q: How does that relate to Mr P?

A: Ulysses is a gigantic labyrinth, but at least two keys for orienting the reader to that labyrinth are found within; it is self-referential.  

Ulysses is filled with keys: crossed keys in advertisements, musical keys, the quays on the Liffey, a male gate key inserted into a female lock [Note 6].  The protagonists in Ulysses, Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom, are keyless as they wander through Dublin 16 June 1904.  If a reader of Ulysses discovers the two self-referential keys, then that reader could traverse Joyce's labyrinth and the fun for that reader has begun, in my humble opinion.  Such is my own interest as an amateur scholar of Joyce.

A key from Joyce to Mr P is the gap: the 17-year gap that exists in the published fictions of each. With Joyce, 17 years elapsed between the publication of Ulysses, the major fiction upon his reputation rests, and the publication of Finnegans Wake (hereinafter, “The Wake”). With Mr P, 17 years elapsed between the publication of Gravity's Rainbow, the major fiction upon which his reputation rests, and his next, Vineland. Coincidence?  If one maps Ulysses to Gravity's Rainbow, each followed by a 17-year gap, then, one maps the next four of Mr P's fictions to The Wake, which consists of four parts. Working backwards, the earlier fictions by Mr P map to the earlier fictions of Joyce. The first, V., maps to Joyce’s Dubliners; the second, The Crying of Lot 49, maps to a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. A-and the latest, Bleeding Edge, maps to that simple, clear fiction that Joyce did not live to write, according to Campbell.  See, the gap makes the map!
Q: So what?
A: An Artist creates Art.  It is what she does: The artist cannot help but to create art.
It would have not been keeping with the times for Mr P to have made a tabular schema (“See: you start with GR that maps to U, -- see this line here -- then Vineland maps to…”), a banal thing, as Joyce did, with inconsistencies among the three schemata.
No, as an artist Mr P had to create a schema that is a work of art in itself: Thus, the short film Ulysses: the Animated Film and its website,, is each a work of art: Alone and together the pair form a schema/schemata given the world by Mr P.
Q: So you contend that Mr P cast himself in the role of Lorentz Mulino, the visionary behind the failed project?
A: Yes.  
Not only cast himself, he nailed it: accent, costume, facial expressions: he brought his A-game to that filming, friend. Filming: Mr P subjecting himself to film!  Get it?
Note too, who wrote  The website ambiguously credits “Stephen”?  The surfer assumes that “Stephen” refers to the previously credited “Mr. Crowe” but that ambiguity is the very essence of Joyce and Mr P: Nothing may refer solely to a single person, place, or  thing; rather each must always refer to as many different, layered, persons, places, or things as possible: each layering having a consistent, internal logic. To the Joycean “Stephen” is the name of the artist.
Q:  You have lost me. What are you saying?
A:  Right: Let’s not digress into the multi-layered fictions of Joyce and Mr P: That is for another time.
Q: Why would Mr P, who has succeeded in not being photographed since his naval service, now allow himself to be photographed?
A:  The failed project, his total vision: That no one got his entire body of fictions may be an answer.
That is, it’s time for this show to be over; it’s time to fold this long con that has been played continuously since 1963 (or 1961, depending upon whether the copyright date or the publication date be the important date): The marks never caught on to the grift, *rubs finger aside his nose*.  
Is a joke a joke if no one gets it?  So it’s time for the Big Reveal, ladies and gentlemen.
Does one go out silently skipping spritely to death, whispering, “No one got my joke, my vision, my achievement: I have out-Joyced Joycesotto voce? Does one rather try to make it easy on them, toss them a little schema or two, the blueprint of the architecture (maybe ensure that the fictions don’t stop being read so that the widow, the spawn, and any future descendants continue to enjoy regular royalty payments until the whole mess goes into the public domain and Project Gutenberg makes available, for free, self-referential e-editions for research by any amateur)?
Maybe there are other reasons too: Pure speculation but the man did turn 79 on May 8, 2016:
The man is not unintelligent (IQ of at least 190: a one in a billion intellect: not too many of them around): he's cognizant of mortality: The man may enjoy some small amount of satisfaction, before shuffling off his mortal coil, to seeing his work better understood: Not as a collection of 8 assorted novels (infinite in scope), but rather as one, well-conceived body of fiction, conceived after Joyce, just as Joyce conceived his body of fiction after Dante: integrated. 
By unmasking himself as Albano Ballerini Mr P may be stating that if he were to be awarded any future accolades -- for example the Nobel Prize for Literature -- that he will show up:
It has been conjectured that no sane Nobel committee would award Mr P that prize to risk embarrassment, demeaning what that prize represents to the world, should he not show up [Note 8].
It may give Mr P some comfort to know that, after he returns to dust, scholars will have fertile plots to till, to conjecture what he did or did not intend, to speculate on dirty jokes as yet unrecognized: Jokes that have to be imagined with the mind as an architecture is imagined by the architect [see Note 7, again].  This is what Joyce wanted; this may be what Mr P insures by unmasking himself.
Then again, maybe the joke, the grift, continues:  This Mr. Albano Ballerini appears as the unmasked Mr P.  I leave it to forensic facial authentication experts to compare the physiognomies of Messrs Ballerini and P for authenticity.  I leave it to forensic vocal authentication experts to compare the vocal characteristics of Messrs Ballerini and P for authenticity.  Those are not my forte (nor my piano, either); I look for puns and patterns in literature; it is my pastime.  If Mr P has unmasked himself then the Nobel committee has less risk clearly. A-and any award committee has got to see, appreciating the schemata, that not only for the fictions the man deserves an award (axiomatic) but also for the performance art by which those fictions have been conceived, gestated, and delivered, placenta and all: this short film, Ulysses: the Animated Film (video link) and website, Ulysses: the Animated Film (website link), being  placenta and umbilical to the Pynchon-branded body of fictions:
Think about it: The man modeled his life on Joyce: The 17-year gap: could any other have been silent for 17 years before delivering the next installment?  That wait: the stuff genius does! The four fictions mapped to The Wake: genius does that!
The man adopted Joyce’s own tactics: silence, exile, cunning:
Silence: He has not granted interviews.  
Exile: He has lived in plain sight among us, as Albano Ballerini or under other identities: Who will ever know?
Cunning: He appeared on The Simpsons with a bag over his head: Genius!  On Twitter the account @ThomasPynchon has never tweeted. Some have conjectured that Mr P, under many accounts, is tweeting all the time: Should Mr P ever own up to any others accounts, it might be seen that he has never NOT been tweeting. (This is not without precedent:  Ben Franklin did much the same in Poor Richard's Almanack.)
So, to summarize my tedious answer: Mr P has out-Joyced Joyce.  His contemporary, Joyce Carol Oates (born June 16, 1938) when interviewed in 1976 replied “In a sense we [writers] are all post-Wake [Finnegans Wake] writers and it's Joyce, and only Joyce, who casts a long terrifying shadow…” [Note 9].  I contend: By a body of fiction Mr P did more than Joyce; in that he out-Joyced Joyce.  With the performance art, he has further out-Joyced Joyce. Finally with what he may be doing in social media, he may have replicated in real life that which he fictionalized in Bleeding Edge: Joyce made his real family life into his art; Mr P may be making his art into real life on social media:  It is eff’ing beautiful, man: That is how I see it.

Q: What would inspire Mr P to arrange his 8 literary works so?

A: Scholars may never know. Maybe Joyce told Nabokov what he, Joyce, had done regarding Dante, and Nabokov told student Pynchon (hereinafter “Student P”). Maybe Student P heard Joseph Campbell lecture at The Cooper Union; Campbell may have learnt from the Sylvia Beach: I like to think Joyce explained his schema to Beach, who explained it to Campbell.

But mostly, I like to think that Student P figured it out for himself.  Maybe he saw some unpublished materials while at Cornell; or not. I conjecture: Student P deduced what Joyce did regarding Dante. Student P may have appreciated Joyce’s scholarship on Dante, on Shakespeare, and on Homer. With such a deduction I conjecture Student P of having made the fictional- and life-imitating plan I attribute to Mr P.
Do you see? He had to remain masked in 1973; unmasking then would have ruined the entire plan [see Note 8 again].
Q: Why haven't academic scholars of Mr P noted this before?
A: Maybe one has. If so, I am unaware of it. I've not noticed much crossover between those who study Joyce and those who study Pynchon. On the Twitter accounts I follow there is not much crossover, at least.
Q: Is this just an elaborate hoax?
A: If so, it is neither the first time nor the last time someone has fooled me. I am easily fooled.  
However, it is damned funny.  Think about it:  Some hoaxer(s) went to a lot of effort producing Ulysses: the Animated Film (video link) and Ulysses: the Animated Film (website link) for the enjoyment of the Twitterverse of Joyceans.  That is a good prank! If it's a hoax I don’t know, and frankly, don’t give a damn.
Q: Have you a conclusion?
A: What Joseph Campbell wrote in the his conclusion to A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake about Joyce and Joyce’s Art is applicable to America's native son.  Read it: Both fictional geniuses; both deeply concerned with the plight of humanity; both espousing love as an answer to that plight; both leading us to see The Light but with the greatest of humor.  
If Mr P has unmasked himself in Ulysses: the Animated Film and, then he has himself, not I.
If not, then Mr P does not want to be unmasked. I have made my case for his having unmasked, but I am no academic scholar; I am an amateur.

Notes and links:
3. See the Linati schema for Ulysses and see the Gilbert schema for Ulysses and see the schema given by Joyce to his publisher, Sylvia Beach, in James Joyce, The Poetry of Conscience: A Study of Ulysses (1961).
4. Campbell, Joseph; and Edmund L. Epstein, Ph.D (editor): Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: On the Art of James Joyce, page xiii.
5. Ibidem, Joyce’s Dantean Model, pgs. 14-17.
6. It helps to know that the Coat of Arms of the Holy Roman Catholic Church includes two keys, crossed, the keys of Saints Peter and Paul. Joyce was fond of remarking that the Holy Roman Catholic Church was founded on a pun (“Thou are Peter").  Since Jesus used the pun then it ought to be good enough for him, Joyce, to use.
7. A Joycean joke in Ulysses is that the river Liffey maps to the human female vagina, the the natural female organ: “EIACULATIO SEMINIS INTER VAS NATURALE MULIERIS," U10.168 (223:31).
8. Professor Irwin Corey video.
9. Joyce Carol Oates, The Art of Fiction No. 72, Interviewed by Robert Phillips.

Copyright © 2016, Wilson Varga.  All rights reserved.