Saturday, November 25, 2006

Against the Blog: 1-5

Ha! This was a fun section. It gets a bit post-moderny, as some question is raised as to whether or not the Chums are, in fact, merely fictional characters. "The great national celebration possessed the exact degree of fictitiousness to permit the boys access and agency" (36), Pynchon writes. They meet up with the detective who's going to be traveling with them, a young man named Lew Basnight. Lindsay is perplexed that Lew is unfamiliar with the group's adventures: "But every boy knows the Chums of Chance...what could you've been reading, as a youth?" (ibid).

Lew obligingly tried to remember. "Wild West, African explorers, the usual adventure stuff. But you boys--you're not storybook characters." He had a thought. "Are you?"

"No more than Wyatt Earp or Nellie Bly," Randolph supposed. "Although the longer a fellow's name has been in the magazines, the harder it is to tell fiction from non-fiction."

The narrative then segues into Lew's personal history. He has evidently committed some sort of great sin that has resulted in his social ostracism, but he can't remember what it is, and nobody will tell him. His wife, Troth, leaves him over the matter, and he's stuck alone in Chicago, an unfamiliar city. Wandering around, he comes across a group of pseudo-mystics, from whom he begs for some chance of atonement for whatever it is he's done. The leader of the group, Drave, agrees to help him, and sends him to a hotel the group is known. After a surreal elevator ride to his room, Lew is asked to bring the bellhop a drink as a tip, which leads into a series of tasks from Drave and company, both usual and strange--the whole episode has a distinctly Edward Gorey-esque feel to it.

He ends up having an epiphany: "He understood that things were exactly what they were. It seemed more than he could bear." (42)

Finally, he is approached in a cigar store by Nate Privett, who, after noting his preternatural powers of observation, takes him on in his firm. It's ambiguous, but the final paragraph seems to suggest that he has gained the ability to sort of slip in and out of the world--"he had learned to step to the side of the day" (44).

And now I think we WERE in 1893. Please excuse the confusion.



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