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January 7, 2010

We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire Nuku Nuku
Posted by Avram Grumer at 02:24 AM * 32 comments

A few lines from Wikipedia’s summary of the anime film TAMALA2010: A Punk Cat in Space:

The film is in a large part a cartoon cat version of Thomas Pynchon’s novel The Crying of Lot 49 […] It begins in Meguro City, Tokyo, Cat Earth, a world of corporations and commercialism, where a giant mechanical Colonel Sanders wanders through streets with an axe embedded in its head repeating an advertisement for meat over a loudspeaker.

(via Calamity Jon)

Also, looking over Pynchon’s page on Wikiquote has me determined to finally get around to reading Gravity’s Rainbow. Might need new glasses for Against the Day, though.

And hey, look:

“If America was a person, — and it sat down, — Lancaster town would be plunged into a Darkness unbreathable.” — Mason & Dixon (1997)

“If the U.S. was a person,” he later became fond of saying, “and it sat down, Columbus, Ohio would instantly be plunged into darkness” — Against the Day (2006)

Comments on We Await Silent Tristero’s Empire Nuku Nuku:
#1 ::: Adrian Bedford ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 03:44 AM:

Hi, long-time reader, seldom commenter here, possibly with first comment. Woo.

At the ripe old age of 46 I sat down late last year and read Gravity's Rainbow for the first (but I don't think last) time. It was breathtaking. Crazy-funny, but then gaspingly dark. Confusing as all get-out, but I managed with the help of online resources (eg this excellent, concise summary), which at least was able to clue me in to what was going on in some of the weirder passages (I was very pleased to learn that the bit with [Possible Spoilers here] Slothrop falling into a toilet in a jazz club, and sliding through the plumbing system, noting the grisly detailed stuff attaching to the inside of the pipes, was a hallucination he saw while under the influence of drugs. At first I wasn't sure, which no doubt says more about my own poor reading skills than anything else.

I loved the book, though. It did my head in, but it was just marvellous.

#2 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 09:41 AM:

Following the link to the "typographer's lament:" I have to say that while typography matters, I don't think I'd refuse to read somethign because it had "lining uppercase numerals," as one commenter said. I'd read the thing I wanted to read, even if it was printed from a badly-cut mimeo and all the closed curves were blacked in. Oh wait, I have.

But then, I listen to old scratchy recordings, too, because that's where the music is.

#3 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 09:48 AM:

too bad about the self-quotation in m-d and atd.

for probably unrelated reasons, i never read those, despite having lapped up each of crying, v, and g.r. as soon as they came out (and they were huge events).

g.r. is an amazing book. it also, i think, shows why ellison's invisible man was an even greater book.

#4 ::: fishbane ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 10:03 AM:

The film is in a large part a cartoon cat version of Thomas Pynchon’s novel The Crying of Lot 49

Wasn't the novel itself a cartoon version of The Crying of Lot 49?

Don't get me wrong, I think it is one of the best works of a living U.S. American author. But I'm just saying...

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 10:11 AM:

Yesterday, at the recommendation of Victor Milàn, I started watching "The Last Exile". The first 2 episodes were tough going, It got better after that. It helps that the main character is a spunky female mechanic. I do wonder about her being called Lavie Head though.

#6 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 11:56 AM:

I have a book on old tools that, through some sort of typography glitch, has a spurious ligature one every single instance of a a couple of consonant combinations (IIRC one of them is "st-- there's a loop connecting the uppermost serif of the "s" to the tip of the "t"). Hundreds of pages of this. You get used to it after a while but it is peculiar at first.

#7 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 12:19 PM:

I have to see this movie.

Avram, Gravity's Rainbow is an incredibly rewarding book. I read it at 16, in college, and have re-read it at intervals since. It continues to hold up well. (Vineland, however, I thought was weak.)

I've really got to get to Against the Day.

#8 ::: Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 12:30 PM:

GR may've been the last good thing TP wrote. Some really beautiful writing, in between the jokes.

#9 ::: Daniele A. Gewurz ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 01:54 PM:

@C. Wingate: Are you sure it was a glitch? Did it resemble the one in the last row here?

#10 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 02:21 PM:

Anderson: I thought Mason and Dixon was pretty good, though not the same kind of masterpiece; granted it's been a while since I read it.

#11 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 02:56 PM:

C. Wingate @ 6: The s-t ligature has going in and out of style since manuscript days. I'm not that into it myself.

#12 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 03:07 PM:

If you're going to read Gravity's Rainbow, obtain a bottle or can of Moxie and keep it handy. You'll know when it's time to open it.

#13 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 03:16 PM:

I read Gravity's Rainbow while I was living on Capitol Hill in Washington DC during the attempted impeachment of Richard Nixon.

It made perfect sense, then.

I'm not sure it would have at any other time. Damn good book, though.

#14 ::: Phil Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 04:26 PM:

#7 Clifton Royston: I have to see this movie.

It's been a while since I've seen Tamala 2010, but from what I remember it's not really what you would call a must see sort of experience. The movie turned out to be surprisingly boring for something that inherently weird and visually over the top. The audience I saw it with boggled at the first half and then were nodding off in the second. Admittedly, I haven't read Pynchon so there may have been wonderful, insightful allusions that were flying over my head the entire time, but I kinda doubt it. So, yeah, I wouldn't recommend going to too much effort to track a copy of the movie down.

#15 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 04:56 PM:

Oh well then. I guess it's no Read or Die! or Paranoia Agent (though I liked Paranoia Agent better before its last couple episodes.)

#16 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 05:56 PM:

Well, I'll represent a minority viewpoint here (thus far).

I started reading Gravity's Rainbow not long after it came out, got to the toilet scene mentioned above, and thought to myself -- Wow, this is a lot like Ulysses: he takes too many words to say what he has to say; he gives me too many details about things I really don't care about; and because the plot takes so long to unfold there's no beginning-middle-end, only a vast and undifferentiated middle.

Some people like big sprawling books they get can lost in. Some of us prefer tightly-written books that clearly move from beginning to end. Some people like Dhalgren, while others of us much prefer The Ballad of Beta-2.

Gravity's Rainbow isn't as bad as the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, where you get halfway through the first huge book, and the characters haven't even made it to the first inn as they set forth on their quest. Nevertheless, for me GR is a perfect example of bookbloat.

#17 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 05:59 PM:

Lucy @2, I linked to Berry's lament because I've had a copy of that paperback edition of Against the Day sitting in my apartment for, oh, a couple of years now, I think. And every time I pick it up in contemplation of reading it, I open it up, look at the type, and my head twinges in anticipation of having to get through a thousand pages of too-small type set in too-long lines, and I put it down again, and pick up something I'll be able to read without having to take painkillers.

#18 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 06:34 PM:

Adrian Bedford #1:
You were meant to be unsure which parts of the book are real and which aren't. It's from the point of view of a character who can't be sure what's real.

(Similar to Illuminatus in this respect.)

Unfortunately this can become, at its worst, an excuse not to resolve the plot.

#19 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 06:36 PM:

But how can Lot 49 be turned into an anime? It's intrinsically literary, intrinsically American, intrinsically culturally obscure in a way that you wouldn't get if you didn't grow up in this country.

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 06:40 PM:

Dan @ 16... this is a lot like Ulysses: he takes too many words to say what he has to say; he gives me too many details about things I really don't care about; and because the plot takes so long to unfold there's no beginning-middle-end, only a vast and undifferentiated middle

Recent issues of Locus talked about Gravity's Rainbow and how some people in 1973 felt it should have won the Hugo, but it didn't, thus robbing SF of its chance of being recognized by the more literary spheres. Or words to that effect. I never read Pynchon's book, but, based on your comments and others, I get the idea I should be glad that SF has remained pulpy trash.

#21 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 06:52 PM:

Illuminatus is similar enough to Pynchon's works that I have to ponder about how it's different.

In common:
The idea that the main characters can't really know what's going on because messing with their mind is part of the Plan;

Stream-of-consciousness-style writing;

Love of puns, obscure literary allusions, and all that stuff;

But different in this respect:
Pynchon seems crueler; the story line naturally leads to brokenness as inexorably as thermodynamics leads to entropy, and you end up wondering what happened in a giving-up-hope kind of way; it's a tragedy and you feel like he doesn't care that it's a tragedy.

Shea and Wilson on the other hand take you to a place where although you still don't know what messed with your head you are in a better place for it; the characters come out more hopeful, more adapted, more enlightened, having grown.

#22 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 10:32 PM:

Here I was, pondering why sf/f reader - writers tend to not admire Joyce's Ulysses whereas they tend to admire Pynchon.

Maybe not so much after all?

Love, C.

#23 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 10:48 PM:

Dan @16, well, I think there's room in the world, and in the SF genre, for tight, fast-moving books like Bester's The Starts My Destination, and for sprawling door-stops like Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, full of digressions about cereal-eating and fake letters to Penthouse.

Serge @20, I don't read Locus, but I wish the SF community would grow out of the feelings of inadequacy we've collectively got about "literature", presumably brought about by the trauma of having our grade school English teachers sneer at that rockets-and-ray-gun stuff way back when. We've conquered the world, the culture is ours. Who cares what Ms Crabapple thought forty years ago?

#24 ::: Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 11:53 AM:

he takes too many words to say what he has to say

This seems to accept that novels have messages, like telegrams do. A large part of GR is simply there for its own sake. You either think it's funny or you don't.

he gives me too many details about things I really don't care about;

Ever read Balzac?

and because the plot takes so long to unfold there's no beginning-middle-end, only a vast and undifferentiated middle

Think about the pun in "plot" and you will have an idea of what GR is very deliberately trying *not* to do.

I'm cool with anyone's disliking GR -- de gustibus etc. -- but disliking it for its failure to be something it is not at all trying to be, seems like a possible misunderstanding, rather than aesthetic distaste.

#25 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 07:03 PM:

I've just remembered something I wondered about for a long time: If WASTE is "We Await Silent Tristero's Empire", what's TRASH? (The best I've been able to do is "Tristero's Rise Annuls Sovereign Homelands", but there's people much more clever than me out there.)

#26 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 10:26 PM:

Serge @5: If you finish Last Exile I'd be interested to know what you think of it.

#27 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 10:38 PM:

If Pynchon had ever made it to the Aleutian Islands--did he?--it would have been him that said, rather than whoever else said it that I forgot, that if someone ever decided to give the world an enema, that's where they'd put the hose.
I'll keep an eye out for the DVD of that movie.

#28 ::: Micah ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2010, 11:15 AM:

#5 ::: Serge @5: "Lavie Head" sounds much better if you pronounce it with the Japanese L/R, more of "Ravie" than "Lavie".

BTW, does anyone know if there's a term for the L/R sound that the Japanese use? Well, I suppose there has to be a term, because otherwise linguists would go insane, but does anyone know what that term is?

(Also, I enjoyed Last Exile through to the end.)

#29 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2010, 04:47 PM:

Micah @28, here's an article about liquid phonemes.

#30 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2010, 01:16 PM:

The main problem with Against The Day isn't the writing, which is fun and weird as most of Pynchon's prose, it's that it's really 4 loosely connected novels all mashed together, with no chapter headers, in an unwieldy omnibus volume that could collapse your chest, were you to fall asleep reading it in bed.

Break it into 4 volumes and you have a wonderful quartet of novels that would be like John Crowley's Aegypt books, only with more adventure and dirtier jokes.

#31 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2010, 07:33 PM:

If we are still talking about Gravity's Rainbow (the thread's been quiet) I want to ask: Does anyone here understand the ending? I didn't.

Jurer vf Fybguebc jura gur obbx raqf?

I was disappointed when I arrived at the end of such a long flight of fancy not sure where it landed.

#32 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2010, 02:56 PM:

L vs. R: I have observed that there is a "triple point" in the way I shape consonants in my mouth, from which I can derive multiple sounds by short shifts in tongue position: "l", "y", Semitic (I think; it's distinct from the French version) "r", and the Castilian "ll" (which in standard international Spanish is pronounced "y", but the original Castilian sound is sort of halfway between "l" and "y": technically, palatalized "l"). The triple point itself gives you an odd sound partaking of all three root consonants.

You can also derive other consonants by modified shifts, including one which has aspects of both "l" and Semitic(?) "r"; I often wonder if this is the original "liquid" sound.

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