22 June 2008

Rue du Départ

Notes on the fifth and final part of Against the Day (see also Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four).

~ p. 1074: Quite an eye-catching Freudian slip: "Reef, Stray, and Ljubica returned to the U.S. pretending to be Italian immigrants." Of course, it's not Stray (Reef's first wife), it's Yashmeen. Which makes me wonder if there's an alternate version to this story that didn't get completely edited out or if it was simply a proofreader trying to have some fun...

~ p. 1076: A worthwhile topic:
Jesse brought home as an assignment from school "write an essay on What It Means To Be An American."

"Oboy, oboy." Reef had that look on his face, the same look his own father used to get just before heading off for some dynamite-related activities. "Let's see that pencil a minute."

"Already done." What Jesse had ended up writing was,

It means do what they tell you and take what they give you and don't go on strike or their soldiers will shoot you down.

"That's what they call the 'topic sentence'?"

"That's the whole thing."


It came back with a big A+ on it. "Mr. Becker was at the Cour d'Alene back in the olden days. Guess I forgot to mention that."
~ p. 1077: A recurring theme:
"The world came to an end in 1914."
~ p. 1078: Kit is confronted with
a startling implication of Zermelo's Axiom of Choice. It was possible in theory, he was shown beyond a doubt, to take a sphere the size of a pea, cut it apart into several very precisely shaped pieces, and reassemble it into another sphere the size of the sun.

"Because one emits light and the other doesn't, don't you think."

Kit was taken aback. "I don't know."

He spent awhile contemplating this. Zermelo had been a docent at Göttingen when Kit was there and, like Russell, had been preoccupied with the set of all sets that are not members of themselves. He was also notorious around the beer halls for a theory that no expedition could ever reach either of the poles, because the amount of whisky needed was directly proportional to the tangent of the latitude. Polar latitude being 90°, this meant a value approaching infinity--Q.E.D. It didn't surprise Kit much that the peculiar paradox should be traceable in some way back to Zermelo.
~ p. 1081: Here is more evidence and an expansion of my theory from Part Three, p. 596 that the Afghani dirhan around Yashmeen's neck is the "ancient coin" of the novel's cover. Lord Overlunch explains Kit's visit to Shambhala via a certain stamp:
"I like to look at these all carefully with the loupe at least once a week, and today I noticed something different about this ten-dirhan design, and wondered if possibly someone, some rival, had crept in here while I was out and substituted a variant. But of course I found the change immediately, the one face that was missing, your own, I know it well by now, it is, if you don't mind my saying so, the face of an old acquaintance...."

"But I wasn't..."

"Well, well. A twin, perhaps."
I still tend to think that the dirhan is Yashmeen's and the image is Shambhala after all.

~ p. 1084: The Chums' wives are going to have babies and suddenly the writing has switched to the present tense:
As the sails of her destiny can be reefed against too much light, so they may also be spread to catch a favorable darkness. Her ascents are effortless now. It is no longer a matter of gravity--it is an acceptance of sky.
Glorious life continues...as the novel ends.

~ p. 1085: "They fly toward grace."

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