Monday, December 11, 2006

Against the Blog: 2-9

I'm tired, but Against the Blog MUST GO ON!

Lew Basnight is in England, working with these strange occult detectives--of a sort--called the True Worshippers of the Ineffable Tetractys (TWIT). The headquarters has a freewheeling, Dionysian feel to it. The Grand Cohen of this branch of the organization, Nicholas Nookshaft (that name makes me want to giggle, but it may just be lack of sleep) shows Lew around. Nookshaft suggests that Lew was in fact blasted into a different plane when he was explodified.

This chapter of the group has custody of a hawt chick named Yashmeen Halfcourt, the daughter of an army officer currently on some sort of clandestine assignment.

Later, Nookshaft (HAHAHAHAHANOOKSHAFT) explains to Lew that the group is responsible for, oh...surveying? Investigating? twenty-two "suspects," each of whom--you guessed it--represents one of the Tarot deck's Major Arcana. I suppose somebody will at some point try to identify the novel's characters with the cards, if they haven't already. Lew, like me, wonders what sort of crime we're talking about here, but Nookshaft will only say:

Alas, nothing too clearly related to any statute on the books, nor likely to, it is more of an ongoing Transgression, accumulating as the days pass, the invasion of Time into a timeless world. Revealed to us, slowly, one hopes not terribly, in a bleak convergence...History, if you like. (223)

I hope that clears that up. All I'll say is that that "invasion of Time into a timeless world" thing makes me think of the Chums of Chance, and the ambiguity as to whether they exist in real time and whether they actually age.

Anyway, lots of mysterious shit happens, as you'd expect. Lew asks Yashmeen about Nookshaft, but he turns out to be a pretty mysterious fellow. She observes that England, or the English language in general, is very centered around numbers and codes.

So Lew's observing Tarot people, yadda yadda. A bad emergency thing comes up. Nookshaft explains that it likely has to do with the Devil card, personified by two professors, Renfrew and Werfner, English and German respectively, who are experts on international affairs, especially concerning the Eastern Question. Also, bitter rivals. Nobody seems to like either very much.

Nookshaft and Lew pay a visit to a medium in the group's employ, Madame Natalia Eskimoff. Lew is enchanted with her. Eskimoff had recorded a previous séance, during which something strange happened. This séance was in pursuit of Ottoman railway concessions; a member of TWIT named Clive Crouchmas wanted to get in touch with an agent who was killed in the field. This here railway concession is a subject of much rancor, with both England and Germany vying for it, which is I guess why we think the professors are involved. During the séance, there's some sort of psychic explosion. What has happened? It's very mysterious.

Afterwards, they're having tea and cakes, and Nookshaft starts discoursing on the questions of what would have happened had Edward Oxford succeeded in assassinating Queen Victoria. Ernst August, Duke of Cumberland would have become King, and, Nookshaft suggests, the nation would have descended into a military dictatorship, and the entire world except for the US would have turned against it. HMM. Modern-day parallels? Nookshaft further suggests that, in fact, we may well be living in this reality; that our current alleged reality is just a thin façade. Very Philip K. Dick.

And that is that.



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