Tuesday, April 24, 2007

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Friday, April 20, 2007

My fortune cookie is insulting me.

"If at first you succeed, try to hide your astonishment," it says. Jeez! Unprovoked aggression from eggrolls is one thing. That, I would expect. But fortune cookies? We're living in some seriously dark-ass times.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

65% of members got laid

...is what a recent spam message sent my way said. I like how scientific they are about it. I mean, if they can be so exact, they MUST know what they're talking about, right?

Posting has been light, I know, and AtB posting abysmal. This is because right now I am one busy motherfucker. I won't claim that I COULDN'T do more posting if I really put my mind to it, but it's hard to think about such things when you're so bogged down in work.

More as various factors allow.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It may not quite be worthy of Pynchon-level fervor...

...but there's a new Richard Russo novel coming out this Fall, which is pretty exciting.


Resolved: "It's All Coming Back to Me Now"--as written by Jim Steinman and performed by the short-lived Pandora's Box--is total genius. Especially because I'm drunk. Forget about the lame Meat Loaf version, and also forget about the Celine Dion version, which I've never heard, but come on--Celine Dion. Ugh.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Against the Blog: 4-9

NOTE: And...this is where my strength gave out.

So now, I'm listening to the audiobook version of the novel. Fifty-three and a half hours! The narrator's quite good, actually. Does different voices, including accents and dialects, quite well.

Cyprian Latewood and Bevis Moistleigh, headed to Bosnia to see what's what. On the ship, they meet a girl named Jacintha Drulov and her guardian, Lady Quethlock. Cyprian, from various small details, suspects that this is "a Lady Spy and her apprentice." Bevis is smitten with the girl. There's dancing, and stuff, and Bevis is unhappy to have to leave. But he does, and there they are in Sarajevo. They meet with the guy they're supposed to protect, Danilo Ashkil, a peripatetic Jew who knows fuckloads of languages. And now he's in danger, it is alleged.


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Boy, it didn't take long to break THAT streak.

More Against the Blog tomorrow, godz willing. In the meantime, please note that this blog is the number one google hit for "Derrick Theign." With or without quotes. LOOK UPON MY WORKS YE MIGHTY AND DESPAIR.

Against the Blog: 4-8

This entry appears before the last one because of the inelegant way blogger handles saving drafts. Awesome!


Austria's gonna annex Bosnia, so Theign orders Cyprian to go there to see what's what. Bevis Moistleigh goes along as well.

Meanwhile, Yashmeen loses her job and gets kicked out of her flat in for being a dirty Jew. Ominous to say the least. There's also a lot of talk about geopolitics that makes my brain hurt. Cyprian offers to put her in touch with this Vlado Clissan fellow who can allegedly help her...when they first meet, sheltering from a storm under an awning, they have a sexual encounter that I think any court would probably classify as rape. But, she's nonetheless fascinated by him. This is all part of her highly polymorphous sexuality, I suppose.

So anyway, there they are. They go to Venice. I have to admit, my memory of this whole Vlado thing is a bit on the vague side. Fortunately, he'll be dead soon enough.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Against the Blog: 4-7

If I can manage one a day, I'll be done, oh, probably by the end of the month. I'm not sure how many more sections there are. Big fat fuckin if, though.

Chums of Chance. Shambhala! It has been revealed by the Tunguska Event. There's also some talk about the Event maybe having destroyed the temporal barrier sort of thing between them and the rest of the world.

They arrive at the scene of the event shortly after the Russians. The Trespassers, speculates Lindsay, little realizing that Pynchon inexplicably DROPPED that particular storyline and is never gonna pick it back up. Somewhat baffling, unless there's something I'm missing. Which is very possible.

Vanderjuice contacts them from Tierra del Fuego--apparently, that's on precisely the opposite side of the globe from Tunguska, and all sorts of crazy shit went down there as well. Darby namechecks Tom Swift (794). Tee hee.

They meet with the Russians to consult. They end up talking about investment schemes, which seems to lend credence to the whole "mortality" thing. More involved in worldly concerns, and that.

They find that the Siberian wilderness has become an industrial wasteland, and the sky is filled with commercial airships. A vision of the future? I have no idea what Siberia's like nowadays.

Ominous foreshadowings:

Was it Tchernobyl, the star of Revelation? An unprecedented harrowing of the steppe by cavalry in untold millions, flooding westward in a simultaneous advance? German artillery of a secret design more powerful by orders of magnitudes than any military intelligence office had ever suspected? Or something which had not quite happened yet, so overflowing the tidy frames of reference available to Europe that it had only seemed to occur in the present, though really originating in the future? Was it, to be blunt, the general war which Europe athis summer and autumn would stand at the threshold of, collapsed into a single event? (797)

Dally's still moping around about Kit. It's implied that she and the princess with whom she's boarding have had some sort of sexual contact. Hunter's off messing around with his own ghosts.

Meanwhile, at Trieste, Cyprian is consulting with a cryptologist named Bevis Moistleigh. A porn name if ever I heard one. I'll let you in on a little secret: Cyprian, in whom I had little interest at first, ends up becoming the most interesting character in the novel.

Bevis is decrypting stuff. As you do if you're a cryptologist, I reckon. He's having trouble 'cause it's a complex code. Derrick Theign pops his head in to check on them. Theign ends up betraying the organization and getting tortured to death. Boy, I'm a regular Cassandra here, amn't I?

Reef meets up again with Ruperta at Marianbad (there's no indication of why exactly he's going where he's going, which I think is part of the point--Reef's turns out to be pretty interesting too). They fuck, but halfheartedly. One night, precipitously escaping from a jealous husband, he here's a voice from the heavens telling him to cut out all this crap and rededicate himself to actual real-world stuff--like revenge, for instance. Super wholesome!

Yashmeen's in Vienna. Boy, everyone's turning up in this chapter. She's working in a dress shop, where she runs into Noellyn, her friend and sometime lover from her English schoolgirl days. Noellyn is wearing a previously-alluded-to Silent Frock, that blots out all noise. I have NO idea what this particular contrivance is supposed to signify. It doesn't exactly DO a whole lot.

Anyway, they have sex. Big surprise. Something about the Tunguska Event is fucking with time, so it keeps being night.

All of this malarkey goes on for a month. Then, it stops. And so does the section.


Against the Blog: 4-6

Let's see if I can do an Against the Blog segment in spite of being a little drunk.

The Tunguska Event happens. What caused it? It is a mystery! Padzhitnoff (you know, the commander of the Russian Chums of Chance counterpart) thinks it may have been Germans. The natives think it was their thunder god. What is the truth???

Kit and Prance witness it also. Huh, they think.

Crazy stuff is going on in the wake of the event, like mosquitoes drinking vodka and wolves reciting Bible passages in Old Slavonic. Then, they stop.

Kit and Prance separate, and the latter is picked up by our friends the CoC. The former falls in with a group of directionless former convicts. Later, he meets a party of travelers which includes--whaddaya know?--Fleetwood Vibe. He tells Kit that his father has gone crazy; none of the offspring expect to see any inheritance money. Scarsdale TOTALLY gets killed much later, by none other than Foley Walker. It's great. Sorry; that was a spoiler. But I guess this whole thing is. Never mind! Colfax is playing professional baseball. La! 'Wood is searching for a secret, hidden railroad out here. Bonne chance!

Kit leaves sometime during the night.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Against the Blog: 4-5

Prance stayed back in Irkutsk, but Kit and Hassan reach lake Baikal. But the REAL goal is to get to "the greaet stone at the mouth of the Angara, where the river flow[s] out of the lake," sez Hassan. What about the Doosra's master? asks Kit. You've already spoken to him, sez Hassan. And then he's gone. Dood.

Back in time a bit: to get where they were going, they had to pass through a big ol' stone gate--otherwise, you won't be able to go where you're going, allegedly. A metaphysical thing. And as they pass through, Kit has a vision, accompanied by deafening choral sound,of terrain leading to a mysterious city. And that's that.

So they tramp onwards. It's kind of picaresque. Hassan cultivates marijuana or something like from plants found along the way. The wind howls; wolves howl. Onward.

Irkutsk is "a peculiar combination of rip-roaring and respectable" (773). There, they're meant to report to a British smuggler named Swithin Poundstock. Hassan is gone, but he left a bag o' hemp for Poundstock, who pays them in large, counterfeit coins.

So the geopolitical situation in the area: there are three Tunguska river basins, the Upper, Stony, and Lower, each with a different warring clan. And there's a shaman named Magyakan who acts on behalf of the inhabitants of the Lower. So...onward and upward, I guess.

Search search search. Prance (who I thought wasn't supposed to be here; either I'm misreading, or Pynchon screwed up slightly) suggests that

"Differences among the world religions are in fact quite trivial compared to the common enemy, the ancient and abiding darkness which all hate, fear, and struggle against without cease"--he made a broad gesture to indicate the limitless taiga all around them--"Shamanism. There isn't a primitive people anywhere on Earth that can't be found practicing some form of it. Every state religion, including your own, considers it irrational and pernicious, and has taken steps to eradicate it." (777 fever!)

As it turns out, Prance is working for the British government in some undefined way. And that is seriously all.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Against the Blog: 4-4

Hoo boy. So I just finished the novel--now let's see if I can plow through four hundred more pages' worth of blogging. Of course, it wasn't supposed to be like this--the whole initial idea was to provide impressions as I read. I think that idea was probably doomed from the start, however. Ah well--onward and upward! I think the book's final sections (not that we're quite there yet) may be its best.

So okay. Reorient. Kit is heading west to Asia to find Auberon Halfcourt--who, it turns out, was never actually lost but is living like a lord (dig the alliteration!) in Kashgar. He has a Russian counterpart, Colonel Yevgeny Prokladka, just across the way, enjoying a similar lifestyle.

The main concern here and now is an allegedly-man prophet known only as "the Doosra," operating somewhere to the north and causing trouble. Disrupting trade routes and whatnot. A messenger comes bearing a message from him. His name is "Al Mar-Fuad." He's wearing "English hunting tweeds and a deerstalker cap turned sideways," and he pronounces R sounds as W's. Geddit? El Oh El.

Anyway, the Doosra's message is simple: the city must be surrendered to him.

A brief flashback to when Auberon purchased Yashmeen from the slave market. His initial attraction to her was not entirely paternal, but he seems to have gotten over this.

A Lieutenant Dwight Prance, formerly "a scholar of geography and languages at Cambridge," is in residence out here as well. Geopolitics are discussed. I have to admit, most of this sort of went over my head, and I don't think it ultimately impacts the story that much. Though I might be wrong.

Auberon, having "decided to resurrect a long-shelved plan to project a mission eastward to establish relations with the Tungus living east of the Yenisei," asks Kit to undertake this delightful mission. What the hell, he thinks. Maybe this is what I'm meant to be doing. Prance is to accompany him.

The next day: the Doosra shows up, "younger than Kit had imagined and lack[ing] gravitas." He informs our heroes that he is, in fact, only a subordinate, and that they should talk to his master, up north. He sends a fellow named Hassan to help Kit and Prance out.




just kidding ha ha april fools