“It’s all about the light, you control the light, you control the effect, capisci?” (Pynchon’s Against the Day)

Luca Zombini liked to explain the business, at various times, to those of his children he deluded himself were eager to learn, even someday carry on, the act. “Those who sneer at us, and sneer at themselves for paying to let us fool them, what they never see is the yearning. If it was religious, a yearning after God—no one would dream of disrespecting that. But because this is a yearning only after miracle, only to contradict the given world, they hold it in contempt.

“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.”

He unrolled an expanse of absolute fluid blackness. “Magician-grade velvet, perfect absorber of light. Imported from Italy. Very expensive. Dyed, sheared, and brushed by hand many, many times. Finished with a secret method of applying platinum black. Factory inspections are merciless. Same as mirrors, only opposite. The perfect mirror must send back everything, same amount of light, same colors exactly—but perfect velvet must let nothing escape, must hold on to every last little drop of light that falls on it. Because if the smallest amount of light you can think of bounces off one single thread, the whole act—affondato, vero? It’s all about the light, you control the light, you control the effect, capisci?”

I think we get a fairly concise illustration of some of Against the Day’s major themes here: light, invisibility, perception, control, etc.



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