Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Against the Blog: 1-10

The Chums of Chance are on a mission in the Indian Ocean. They are to be on the opposite side of the Earth from Colorado Springs, thus to observe the effects thereon of Tesla's experiments. We can assume, therefore, that this is around 1899; the Chums more or less seem not to have aged, except that it is mentioned that Darby's voice has changed. Also, at least some of them seem to be at least vaguely sexually aware: "'That Jasper," sniggered, Darby," in reference to Lindsay, 'never pulled out his 'dummy' for nothing but pissing, I bet you!'" (110). There is discord among the ranks. Darby appears to be undergoing a teenage rebellion phase, and is preaching anarchism, to Lindsay's shock. Also, Miles is become increasingly eccentric: the meals that he cooks have become wildly inconsistent, and he periodically speaks in gibberish. You may recall that earlier it was established that he was prone to flashes of some sort of clairvoyance.

The central conflict among the crew concerns what the ship's new figurehead should be: Darby and Chick want a naked woman; Randolph want a "safe and patriotic" (ibid) eagle, and Lindsay, "as if offended by the worldliness of these choices" (ibid!) argues for a platonic polyhedron. They eventually compromise with a non-naked woman. The experiment takes place on the fourth of July. It's not at all clear what is ascertained, but afterwards, they seem to recover from their period of discord and sullenness.

They receive a new mission, to intercept a ship headed to the arctic regions, and stop its commander from doing...whatever it is he's doing. They receive the message through a pearl, developed by cunning Japanese techology to transmit information:

Through a highly technical process, developed in Japan at around the same time dr. Mikimoto was producing his first cultured pearls, portions of the original aragonite--which made up the nacreous layers of the pearl--had, through "induced paramorphism," as it was known to the artful sons of Nippon, been selectively changed here and there to a different form of calcium carbonate--namely, to microscopic crystals of the doubly-refracting calcite known as Iceland spar. Ordinary light, passing through this mineral, was divided into two separate rays, termed "ordinary" and "extraordinary," a property which the Japanese scientists had then exploited to create an additional channel of optical communication wherever in the layered structure of the pearl one of the tiny, cunningly-arranged crystals might occur. (114)

I quote the above passage because the next section, on which we are coming up, ie entitled "Iceland Spar" (this first section, I neglected to mention, is "The Light Over the Ranges").

The crew is to reach this ship (the Etienne-Louis Malus) by travelling through the Earth--yes, we're getting hollow-earth theory here. There's a whole big world underground, with civilizations and whatnot. The Chums encounter a city under siege by gnomes with electric crossbows. Oh yes. They stop to help, and their picaresque adventures inside the planet are, we are told, related in The Chums of Chance in the Bowels of the Earth--"for some reason one of the less appealling of this series" (117). After this interlude, they exit the interior world and continue their search for the Etienne.

Thus endeth part the first.



Blogger Jorn pontificated to the effect that...

I think TRP confuses Tesla's revelation of 03 July 1899 during a natural electrical storm with a Tesla experiment sometime later

5:09 PM  
Blogger Jorn pontificated to the effect that...

Tesla did calculate the antipodes for Colorado Spring, but didn't do observations there

5:10 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

I think it's pretty clear that a lot of the historical stuff in the novel is, to some extent, fictionalized.

...but wow, an actual Pynchon fan reading this? Crazy!

4:39 PM  

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