Sunday, December 17, 2006


When in Mason & Dixon the eponymous duo were shown visiting New Castle, DE, and using the steeple on the church on the Green as a reference point for their calculations, I must admit I was touched: here were Pynchonian protagonists in my hometown! Granted, the loveable surveyors were there well before America became the United States, but so was the town I hail from (well, actually I'm from the suburbs between it and Wilmington). The church of course is still there and the Green and the churchyard played their picturesque part in a senior high school project on the old town. Despite the fact that Pynchon's novel was set so far in the past, I amused myself imagining TP himself visiting my familiar stomping-grounds so as to recreate the place for his protagonists.

In Against the Day, I'm similarly amused by the fact that some of it takes place at and around Yale, but the narrator's remarks on Yale simply echo remarks in Gravity's Rainbow about Harvard: (gee, won't those Cornellians ever stop sniping?), but I admit I was tickled by the following:

All the way out Prospect Street, past the cemetery, the feeling grew that something awful was about to happen.

Since every time I walk or drive home from campus, I go "all the way out Prospect Street" past the Divinity School, which is well past the cemetery, this allowed me for a moment to think of Pynchon taking the same path up Science Hill. The only problem I have with his statement is that the cemetery is right on the edge of the main campus, so to go "all the way out, past the cemetery" is merely to be at the start of Prospect (which is called College Street until Grove, where the cemetery sits). But I grant you that only the cemetery was likely to have been there both in the time of Kit Traverse and now, so it would be hard to pick another landmark. But I'm quibbling. The sentence steps for a moment onto my turf, and that was a pleasure.

" . . . . sometimes, to be sure, he'd caught hints of some Kabbalah or unverbalized knowledge being transferred as if mind to mind, not because of so much as in spite of Yale." I hear you, brother, I hear you . . .


Andrew Shields said...

I think the closest I have come to something like that was when I was reading a book called "Zwischen Paris und Rom" by one Alfred Kerr (a German drama critic of the early 20th century). I had bought it more or less at random at the Kassel train station and read it in the train on the way to Basel; at the point when I was arriving in Basel, Kerr was describing his own arrival by train in Basel.

Donald Brown said...

As the comedian Robert Klein would say "oooo-weeeee-oooooo" (weird sci fi movie sound).

Or as we used to say, aping Californian heads of the Kesey variety: "synchronicity spoken here!"

Andrew Shields said...

There's also the Twilight Zone theme song from the fifties! I bet a lot of people now use that melody to mean "coincidence" without even knowing the source.