Sunday, January 14, 2007

Against the Blog: 3-6

The good news is, this section features Pynchon perennial Pig Bodine (not referred to by his first name, however). The bad news is, he only appears very briefly and doesn't actually say or do anything distinctive. Man, what was the point of that?

Dally is going to Italy with her family to help with the magic act. They're on a liner called the Stupendica. Erlys recounts the story of how she met Merle, and we learn that he knew from the start that he wasn't Dally's father. Dally is irked, though not really *that* irked, that Erlys just up and left her. One evening, Erlys asks, what about that young man who keeps giving you the eye? From Yale, apparently, going over to Germany to study mathematics--yes indeed, it's Kit, obviously.

The only other mathematician on board is a fellow by the name of Root Tubsmith, with whom Kit makes friends.

One night, Erlys introduces Kit and her daughter; the attraction is mutual. She recognizes the Traverse name, and ascertains that he is Frank's brother (she helped Frank escape from Bob Meldrum a while back...remember?). Kit feels guilty that he's involved with the whole Vibe family, and feels that he is in some sense betraying his brothers. So he distances himself from Dally, to keep her away from any danger, although this may be partially just an excuse; it's difficult to say.

"It had begun to seem as if she and Kit were on separate vessels, distinct versions of the Stupendica, pulling away slowly on separate courses, each bound to a different destiny" (514). This has an element of literal truth: the fact is, the Stupendica is at the same time a battleship called the S.M.S. Emperor Maximilian Root Tubsmith discovers this by poking around in the ship's bowels. He is able to ascertain that the two ships were being built in neighboring shipyards, when at some point they "merged." Why? How? It is a mystery! They just did.

And then, bam, the ship transforms. It becomes all grimy and military, and the ship's crew turn into navy personnel and start ordering the passengers around. Kit is stuck below deck in the engine room; his suite has, naturally, vanished. This is where we get a brief glimpse of "an American stoker named O.I.C. Bodine" (517). Oh, I see Bodine! Very funny, Pynch. The Emperor Maximilian sort of wanders around; it's not clear where it's headed or why. Kit learns--I don't really understand the geopolitical significance, here, so I will but quote--that "they were destined for plantation on the Atlantic coast of Morocco as 'colonists' whose presence there would then justify German interest in the area" (520).

When they reach port, Kit, "not convinced he had a future in the Habsburg navy" (521), slips away, along with the other civilian passengers. He starts hanging around a waterfront bar, the Tawil Balak. One evening, a fishing vessel from Ostend, which had recently lost a few members, comes into port and takes Kit on. That evening, he gets into a conversation with a Jewish mystic named Moïsés, who claims that bilocations like that of the Stupendica/Emperor Maximilian aren't too uncommon 'round these parts. The example he gives is of Jonah, who, according to different traditions, traveled to two different ports, "as if the Straits of Gibraltar acted as some metaphysical junction point between the worlds" (521).

On the fishing vessel, the crew comes upon an enormous, overwhelming school of fish. Once they're full up, it's back to Ostend.

Back on the Stupendica, (the Emperor Maximilian is off wandering around somewhere), Dally is feeling kind of mopey over Kit's disappearance. Where? She does not know. She just hopes he didn't fall overboard. Anyway, the ship ends up in its home port of Trieste.



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