Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Against the Blog: 2-11

Les Chums de la Chance are in Venice. They are working for a Sfinciuno family, who claims the right to Dogedom in Italy, even though this position has been abolished, and they had been banned from it years before then. So now they have a grudge against the Italian government. This family has established all sorts of colonies and trade routes and whatnot. The Chums' current objective: to locate the fabled Sfinciuno Itinerary, which charts various routes into Asia and is said to lead to the fabled city of Shambhala.

Chick ain't sure--and neither are we--whether this quest is entirely concrete, or whether we're getting all up in the allegorical shizznit. Their contact, Professor Svegli, tells them about anamorphoscopes, devices designed to make distorted images look normal. Naturally, this lead into the now-familiar idea of other worlds at ninety-degree angles from one another. The Itinerary is supposed to be a distortion that can be brought into focus by judicious use of specific anamorphic equipment.

Miles, wandering through Venice, has a vision of the city as it was before it was a city--when it was all marsh and whatnot. He sees some sort of being. After, he relates ecstatic prophesy, about how all of their travels are meant to lead to some greater, unimaginable glory. It's all very mysterious. As is much in this novel.

Chick is more into things of this world. He meets a young woman named Renata, who offers him a cigarette. He lights his and hers using a futuristic, radioactive lighter, which, he explains, has not yet been invented: he fished it out somehow from the river of time. Why not? Why not indeed.

She gives him a Tarot reading with miniature cards. He, it is revealed, is the Tower. She also predicts that the Campanile is going to collapse with two parties falling out. Huh!

Chick stays with her all night. It isn't clear to me whether they become intimately involved. Dawnish, Darby finds them having breakfast and is all like, dude, what the fuck? Back to the ship! Chick is dubious about this; about being in the Chums at all. "Chums of Chance were expected to die on the job," Pynchon writes. "Or else live forever, there being two schools of thought, actually" (254). But eventually, evidently, he gives in.

Pugnax the dog is also unsure about his role in the group; he has visions of running with wild dogs. He brings back a dog he's been hanging out with, Mostruccio, and asks Randolph if it can accompany them.

The Russians lead by Padzhitnoff are also in the area. Tension mounts, and there's a brief skirmish--but then, the Campanile collapses, as predicted. Which of them brought it down? Neither of them! How did it fall? Mystery! After, on Darby suggesting mockingly to Lindsay that the Russians can still be caught, Lindsay provides this entertaining riposte:

Or we might send in pursuit your maternal relation, Suckling, one glimpse of whom should prove more than sufficient fatally to compromise their morale, if not indeed transform them all into masonry-- (257)

Zing! Anyway, the meet with the Russians, who allege that the destruction was wrought by some other-dimensional thing. I hate to resort to calling it mysterious, but: it's mysterious.



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