16 May 2008

Iceland Spar

Notes on the second part of Against the Day (see also Part One). As I continue reading the fourth part, putting down these stray thoughts has really helped me get a better handle on the numerous things Pynchon is up to.

~ p. 125: the mythic "extra man" (someone's doppelgänger?) appears aboard the Inconvenience

~ p. 126: How Iceland spar polarizes light

~ p. 127: "Of course he would leave--that was only fortune-telling--it could not interfere with her love."

~ p. 131: An academic argument for the colonization of Time (and "'additional dimensions beyond the third'"): "'Why not?'"

~ p. 132: The math of Time travel

~ p. 133: The Librarian on Iceland spar:
"It's the genuine article, and the sub-structure of reality. The doubling of the Creation, each image clear and believable.... And you being mathematical gentlemen, it can hardly have escaped your attention that its curious advent into the world occurred within only a few years of the discovery of Imaginary Numbers, which also provided a doubling of the mathematical Creation."
~ p. 143: Throyle explains bilocation and how the shamans' "'notion of time is spread out not in a single dimension but over many, which all exist in a single, timeless instant.'" Interestingly, this is also the perspective of light. In other words, if one were traveling at the speed of light, past and future would merge into "a single, timeless instant" (or an eternal now). Light is completely "present"--as well as being both particle and wave.

~ p. 176: Lew and the social invisibles:
There was always some Forty-seventh Street, always some legion of invisible on the one side of the account book, set opposite a handful on the other who were getting very, if not incalculably, rich at their expense.
~ p. 198: "Web found himself crying out the names of his sons. From inside the pain, he was distantly surprised at a note of reproach in his voice, though not sure if it had been out loud or inside his thoughts. He watched the light over the ranges slowly draining away."

~ p. 228: Madame Eskimoff on how she records her séances:
"We take electros of the original wax impressions immediately after every sitting. Part of the routine. I have listened to these tonight already several times, and even if details are here and there obscure, I felt it a grave enough development to summon you here."
I immediately thought of William Gass quoting Rilke:
"The coronal suture of the skull...has...a certain similarity to the closely wavy line which the needle of the phonograph engraves on the receiving, rotating cylinder.... What if one changed the needle and directed it on its return journey along a tracing which was not derived from the graphic translation of a sound, but existed of itself naturally...along the coronal suture, for example." At the present time technicians have done something similar for the movement of the heart, so that death is seen as a straight line, or heard as a continuous drone.

It is of course a fanciful project: to fill the world's cracks with needles that will let us hear those cracks speak.
~ p. 237: Anarchists as Trekkies! This is classic Pynchon:
This person greeted the Cohen by raising his left hand, then spreading the fingers two and two away from the thumb so as to form the Hebrew letter shin, signifying the initial letter of one of the pre-Mosaic (that is, plural) names of God, which may never be spoken.

"Basically wishing long life and prosperity," explained the Cohen, answering with the same gesture.
Also acknowledging sci-fi fans as a subversive element?

~ p. 242: Renfrew on Werfner: "'keen-witted but unheimlich'". Thanks to Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves, I know that this last word means "uncanny." That whole digression of his about this word was one of the best parts of the book (that and "Echo"). I really should reread it sometime (and toss in The Whalestoe Letters while I'm at it).

~ p. 250: The complex combination of light, Iceland spar, lenses, and mirrors "'reveal the architecture of dream,'" allowing one to see into the Invisible.

~ p. 251: Miles sets them straight (yet again):
"As the Franciscans developed the Stations of the Cross to allow any parishioner to journey to Jerusalem without leaving his church-grounds, so have we been brought up and down the paths and aisles of what we take to be the all-but-boundless world, but which in reality are only a circuit of humble images reflecting a glory greater than we can imagine--to save us from the blinding terror of having to make the real journey, from one episode to the next of the last day of Christ on Earth, and at last to the real, unbearable Jerusalem."
~ p. 256: Pynchon describes artillery fire as "abolishing Time":
what they saw "now" in the sights was in fact what did not yet exist but what would only be a few seconds from "now"
~ p. 257: More mama jokes:
"Hey, Lindsay, you can still catch 'em if you hurry," taunted Darby.

"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--"

"Well, your mother," riposted the readily nettled youth, "is so ugly--"

"Gentlemen," implored Randolph [...]
Apparently, these date back to Shakespeare.

~ p. 306: Merle's idea of Iceland spar's potential is similar to Tesla's ideas for electricity. In this reading, "anarchy" simply means offering something that would make life easier for all--except the Powers That Be.

~ p. 312: "If she was not to be the great lost love of his life, she could've perhaps been the great unlistened-to commentator upon it."

~ p. 323: The true Anarchists revealed as Vibe's bombers.

~ p. 324: Kit's new direction:
"Dr. Hilbert at Göttingen is developing his 'Spectral Theory,' which requires a vector space of infinite dimensions. His co-adjutor Minkowski thinks that dimensions will eventually all just fade away into a Kontinuum of space and time."
~ p. 354-55: Magician Luca Zombini:
"Remember, God didn't say, 'I'm gonna make light now,' he said, 'Let there be light.' His first act was to allow light in to what had been Nothing. Like God, you also have to always work with the light, make it do only what you want it to."
His trade also involves strategic uses of the Nicol prism, double refraction, and the ubiquitous Iceland spar, which
"Doubles the image, the two overlap, with the right sort of light, the right lenses, you can separate them in stages, a little further each time, step by step till in fact it becomes possible to saw somebody in half optically, and instead of two different pieces of one body, there are now two complete individuals walking around, who are identical in every way, capisci?"
Of course, this creates other problems. Like having multiple versions of the same person roaming the world simultaneously.

~ p. 370: How music trumps Anarchist theory:
"Yet I've noticed the same thing when your band plays--the most amazing social coherence, as if you all shared the same brain."

"Sure," agreed "Dope," "but you can't call that organization."

"What do you call it?"

~ p. 375: Ewball Oust on Iceland spar in Mexico:
"Espato is what they call it down there. Sometimes you hear espanto, which is something either horrifying or amazing, depending."

"Like looking at somebody through a pure enough specimen and seeing not just the man but his ghost alongside him?"

Ewball regarded Frank with some curiosity. "Plenty occasions for goose bumps down in those drifts as it is. Espantoso, hombre."
~ p. 377: Pynchon invokes Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury:
They climbed up the red-brown mountainside, into sunlight and purple artemisia, where wild dogs wandered the roofless stones, till they were high enough to see, beneath the harsh radiance of the Good Friday sky, where cirrus clouds were blown to long, fine parallel streaks, the city below, spread east to west, stunned as if by mysterious rays to a silence even Frank and Ewball must honor--the passion of Christ, the windless hush...even the stamping mills were silent, even Silver itself taking its day of rest, as if to recognize the price Judas Iscariot received. Sunlight in the trees.
~ p. 391: More Iceland spar: "And there was this deep glow, though not enough ambient light in here to account for it--as if there were a soul harbored within."

~ p. 410: G.K. Chesterton references?:
The boys found their way down to West Symmes Street and into the Ball in Hand, which proved to be a particularly low and disreputable haunt.
For some reason, this line made me think of The Man Who Was Thursday's Gabriel Syme and The Ball and the Cross.

~ p. 415: Does Mr. Ace reveal the true motive of the existence of the Chums of Chance?
"You are not aware that each of your mission assignments is intended to prevent some attempt of our own to enter your time-regime?"


Anonymous said...

iceland spar has double the power of any other crystal..
Double in the physical world =
double in the spiritual world.
The area between the two refracted beams is very very special!!

Anonymous said...

serendipitous detection leads to understanding true synchronicity.

Zardoz is right, it must be experienced.