Sunday, April 09, 2006


On of my favorite Faulkner moments - the prisoner, stalking for alligators (the Cajun with him) lost in forgotten Mississippi-Louisiana swamp, somewhere in the flood-sunken abyss below Vicksburg. From If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem [The Wild Palms]:

Doubtless he did not know himself how it happened, what was happening. But he doubtless remembered it (but quietly above the thick) rich-colored pristine cigar in his clean steady hand) what he knew, divined of it. It would be evening, the ninth evening, he and the woman on either side of their host's empty place at the evening meal, hearing the voices from without but no ceasing to eat, still chewing steadily, because it would be the same as though he were seeing them anyway - the two or three or four pirogues floating on the dark water beneath the platform on which the host stood, the voices gobbling and jabbering, incomprehensible and filled not with alarm and not exactly with rage or even perhaps absolute surprise but rather just cacophony like those of disturbed fowl, he (the convict) not ceasing to chew but just looking up quietly and maybe without a great deal of interrogation or surprise too as the Cajun burst in and stood before them, wild-faced, glaring his blackened teeth gaped against the the inky orifice of his distended mouth, watching (the convict) while the Cajun went through his violent pantomime of violent evacuation, ejection, scooping something invisible into his arms and hurling it out and downward and in the instant of completing the gesture changing from instigator to victim of that which he had set into pantomimic motion, clasping his head and, bowed over and not otherwise moving, seeming to be swept on and away before it, braying "Boom! Boom! Boom!", the convict watching him, his jaw not chewing now, though for just that moment, What? What is it he is trying to tell me? thinking (this a flash too, since he could not have expressed this, and hence did not even know that he had ever thought it) that though his life had been cast here, circumscribed by this environment, accepted by this environment and accepting it in turn (and he had done well here - this quietly, soberly indeed, if he had been able to phrase it, think of it instead of merely knowing it - better than he had ever done, who had not even known until now how good work, making money, could be) yet it was not his life, he still and could ever be no more than the water bug upon the surface of the pond, the blumbless and lurking depths of which he would never know, his only contact with it being the instants when on lonely and glaring mudspits under the pitiless sun amphitheatred by his motionless and rivetted semicircle of watching pirogues, he accepted the gambit which he had not elected, entered the lashing radius of the armed tail and beat at the thrashing and hissing head with his lightwood club, or this failing, embraced without hesitation the armored body itself with the frail web of flesh and bone in which he walked and lived and sought the raging life with an eight-inch knife-blade.

One paragraph: three sentences. Also, Faulkner never actually uses the word 'alligator.'


David said...

Just changing templates and no writing? How's GR treating you?

Jeremy said...

Up to page 400-something. Pynchon is a badass. The first Kekule' mention just came in. There's definitely some Nietzsche and Jung going on there.

David said...

Well definitely Jung. There are some things kinda similar to Nietzsche, but I don't Pynchon would agree with Nietzsche about hardly anything.

I think Pynchon is familiar with the important movements in philosophy, but I don't think that's the direction he is really influenced from. Several of these big time writers have basically stated that they consider themselves drastically ahead of contemporary philosophy, and that they don't really think about it much.

Jeremy said...

I would agree. Especially given Pynchon's time of writing - he's probably not to concerned with "saying" anything specific. However, the themes of freedom vs. destiny, themes of science and limitations, the eternal recurrence (the same rocket over and over), are Nietzschean: look his use of the tail-devourer image in my post titled "nietzsche." read the first block-quote. GR would be more like Zarathustra than, say, Beyond Good and Evil. In fact, Slothrop kind of out-Zarathustra's Zarathustra.

Anyways, in the scene where he introduces the tail-devourer, it feels like Pynchon deliberately tries to distance his symbol from Nietzsche and Jung. All the better for art, I'd say.