Read Kurt Vonnegut’s early short story “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”

“Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”

by

Kurt Vonnegut

(Originally published in Galaxy as “The Big Trip Up Yonder”)

001

GRAMPS FORD, his chin resting on his hands, his hands on the crook of his cane, was staring irascibly at the five-foot television screen that dominated the room. On the screen, a news commentator was summarizing the day’s happenings. Every thirty seconds or so, Gramps would jab the floor with his cane-tip and shout, “Hell, we did that a hundred years ago!”

Emerald and Lou, coming in from the balcony, where they had been seeking that 2185 A.D. rarity—privacy—were obliged to take seats in the back row, behind Lou’s father and mother, brother and sister-in-law, son and daughter-in-law, grandson and wife, granddaughter and husband, great-grandson and wife, nephew and wife, grandnephew and wife, great-grandniece and husband, great-grandnephew and wife—and, of course, Gramps, who was in front of everybody. All save Gramps, who was somewhat withered and bent, seemed, by pre-anti-gerasone standards, to be about the same age—somewhere in their late twenties or early thirties. Gramps looked older because he had already reached 70 when anti-gerasone was invented. He had not aged in the 102 years since.

“Meanwhile,” the commentator was saying, “Council Bluffs, Iowa, was still threatened by stark tragedy. But 200 weary rescue workers have refused to give up hope, and continue to dig in an effort to save Elbert Haggedorn, 183, who has been wedged for two days in a …”

“I wish he’d get something more cheerful,” Emerald whispered to Lou.


“SILENCE!” cried Gramps. “Next one shoots off his big bazoo while the TV’s on is gonna find hisself cut off without a dollar—” his voice suddenly softened and sweetened—”when they wave that checkered flag at the Indianapolis Speedway, and old Gramps gets ready for the Big Trip Up Yonder.”

He sniffed sentimentally, while his heirs concentrated desperately on not making the slightest sound. For them, the poignancy of the prospective Big Trip had been dulled somewhat, through having been mentioned by Gramps about once a day for fifty years.

“Dr. Brainard Keyes Bullard,” continued the commentator, “President of Wyandotte College, said in an address tonight that most of the world’s ills can be traced to the fact that Man’s knowledge of himself has not kept pace with his knowledge of the physical world.”

Hell!” snorted Gramps. “We said that a hundred years ago!”

“In Chicago tonight,” the commentator went on, “a special celebration is taking place in the Chicago Lying-in Hospital. The guest of honor is Lowell W. Hitz, age zero. Hitz, born this morning, is the twenty-five-millionth child to be born in the hospital.” The commentator faded, and was replaced on the screen by young Hitz, who squalled furiously.

“Hell!” whispered Lou to Emerald. “We said that a hundred years ago.” Read More

Madeleine Reading — Italian School of the Eighteenth Century (Attributed)

1394629586030218 (1)

Infinite Fictions (Book acquired 2.10.2015)

Control (Gravity’s Rainbow)

It’s control. All these things arise from one difficulty: control. For the first time it was inside, do you see. The control is put inside. No more need to suffer passively under ‘outside forces’—to veer into any wind. As if…A market needed no longer be run by the Invisible Hand, but now could create itself—its own logic, momentum, style, from inside. Putting the control inside was ratifying what de facto had happened—that you had dispensed with God. But you had taken on a greater, and more harmful, illusion. The illusion of control. That A could do B. But that was false. Completely. No one can do. Things only happen, A and B are unreal, are names for parts that ought to be inseparable…

From Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravity’s Rainbow.

A rambling and possibly incoherent riff on Inherent Vice (film and novel) and The Crying of Lot 49

IMG_0200

A. The first time I saw Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Inherent Vice, I was in the middle of rereading Pynchon’s novel The Crying of Lot 49, which I hadn’t read in fifteen years. I remembered the novel’s vibe, its milieu, but not really its details.

B. I read The Crying of Lot 49 and then immediately reread it. It seemed much stronger the second time—not nearly as silly. Darker. Oedipa Maas, precursor to Doc Sportello, trying not to lose the thread as she leaves the tower for the labyrinth, rushing dizzy into the sixties.

C. Another way of saying this: Inherent Vice is sequel to The Crying of Lot 49. Any number of details substantiate this claim (and alternately unravel it, if you wish, but let’s not travel there)—we could focus on the settings, sure, or maybe the cabals lurking in the metaphorical shadows of each narrative—is The Golden Fang another iteration of The Tristero?—but let me focus on the conclusions of both novels and then discuss the conclusion of PTA’s film.

D. A favorite line from a favorite passage from The Crying of Lot 49: “the true paranoid for whom all is organized in spheres joyful or threatening about the central pulse of himself.” Paranoia as a kind of sustained hope, a way to find meaning, order, a center.

E. The final pages of The Crying of Lot 49 find Oedipa trying to make sense of the labyrinth (my emphases in bold):

For it was now like walking among matrices of a great digital computer, the zeroes and ones twinned above, hanging like balanced mobiles right and left, ahead, thick, maybe endless. Behind the hieroglyphic streets there would either be a transcendent meaning, or only the earth. In the songs Miles, Dean, Serge and Leonard sang was either some fraction of the truth’s numinous beauty (as Mucho now believed) or only a power spectrum. Tremaine the Swastika Salesman’s reprieve from holocaust was either an injustice, or the absence of a wind; the bones of the GI’s at the bottom of Lake Inverarity were there either for a reason that mattered to the world, or for skin divers and cigarette smokers. Ones and zeroes. So did the couples arrange themselves. At Vesperhaven House either an accommodation reached, in some kind of dignity, with the Angel of Death, or only death and the daily, tedious preparations for it. Another mode of meaning behind the obvious, or none. Either Oedipa in the orbiting ecstasy of a true paranoia, or a real Tristero. For there either was some Tristero beyond the appearance of the legacy America, or there was just America and if there was just America then it seemed the only way she could continue, and manage to be at all relevant to it, was as an alien, unfurrowed, assumed full circle into some paranoia.

There is either meaning, or there is not meaning. Read More

“A Walk in March” — Grace Paley

This hill
crossed with broken pines and maples
lumpy with the burial mounds of
uprooted hemlocks (hurricane
of ’38) out of their
rotting hearts generations rise
trying once more to become
the forest
just beyond them
tall enough to be called trees
in their youth like aspen a bouquet
of young beech is gathered
they still wear last summer’s leaves
the lightest brown almost translucent
how their stubbornness has decorated
the winter woods
on this narrow path ice tries
to keep the black undecaying oak leaves
in its crackling grip    it’s become
too hard to walk    at last a
sunny patch    oh!    i’m in water
to my ankles   APRIL

The Ill-Matched Couple — Goya

Live long and prosper (Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon)

One day, the Meridian having been closely enough establish’d, and with an hour or two of free time available to them, one heads north, one south, and ’tis Dixon’s luck to discover The Rabbi of Prague, headquarters of a Kabbalistick Faith, in Correspondence with the Elect Cohens of Paris, whose private Salute they now greet Dixon with, the Fingers spread two and two, and the Thumb held away from them likewise, said to represent the Hebrew letter Shin and to signify, “Live long and prosper.” The area just beyond the next Ridge is believ’d to harbor a giant Golem, or Jewish Automaton, taller than the most ancient of the Trees. As explain’d to Dixon, ’twas created by an Indian tribe widely suppos’d to be one of the famous Lost Tribes of Israel, who had somehow given up control of the Creature, sending it headlong into the Forest, where it would learn of its own gift of Mobile Invisibility.

“And . . . do you folk wear Special Hats, anything like that?” inquires Dixon.

From Thomas Pynchon’s novel Mason & Dixon. (More/some context).

Max Frisch/PK Dick biography (Books acquired, 2.19.2015)

IMG_5137

I took my daughter to the bookstore last Thursday, where she traded in a bunch of Junie B. Jones books for more Junie B. Jones books. Anyway, I didn’t intend to pick up anything for myself, but, well…
IMG_5142 IMG_5141

Ship in a bottle (Inherent Vice)

Ship in a bottle (Inherent Vice)

A Conversation about Evan Dara’s Novel Flee (Part 1)

[Context/editorial note: I’ve been meaning to read Evan Dara’s latest novel Flee for a while nowand when Biblioklept contributor Ryan Chang told me he’d be reading it as part of a contemporary literature class I decided to join him. This is the first part of a two-part discussion which took place over a few weeks of emails. — ET].   

Edwin Turner: So you’re reading Evan Dara’s Flee for a class, right? What’s the name of the class again? What are some of the other texts in the class?

Ryan Chang: Yeah, a class called 21st Century Fiction: What is Contemporary? We started out reading Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo and Acker’s Empire of the Senseless. We just finished reading Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad (awful), and we’re moving onto Chaon’s Await Your Reply and Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge. Everything, up to Pynchon, has as its central conflict the dissolution of the subject vis. the postmodern. Perhaps because of the spatialization of time (Egan, Reed) or a steroidal fungibility of a self because of technology (Chaon). The awareness of how deeply we are disciplined by master narratives (Acker). We’ve yet to get to Blake Butler’s There Is No Year and Richard Powers’ The Echo Maker, which I’m looking forward to after the Chaon and Egan who, in their attempt to write novels critical of the contemporary (more so of Egan, who does nothing but neuter the very real state of late capitalism’s terror into entertainment), do not make it past the merely interesting. I liked the Egan much less than the Chaon; part of the problem is the prose style, I think — it’s characteristically white American, shaped by sentimentality and preoccupied with the syntax of conventional form. In other words, the blueberry muffin prose styles betray the experimental forms in which they’re enveloped.

ET: I always have to look up the word fungibility. Dara’s Flee seems to fit into that early theme you mention, the conflict of the dissolution of the subject, which is both the book’s formal rhetorical strategy, but also its plot program, encapsulated (maybe) on page 45: “What is the weight of we?” What do you make of Dara’s style here? Like initial impression?

RC: I’m about ~40 pages in. I think I mentioned in the Books Acquired thing I wrote that Dara, stylistically, is hitting hard on Gaddis. Admittedly, I’m most familiar with the late Gaddis — Carpenter’s Gothic. (Agape Agape, too, but this is, of course, his letter to Bernhard.) I like that both focus on voice, on streams of speech that collide or blur into each other. The Gaddis influence is more of an echo than anything.
Specifically re: Dara — the interruptions, digressions and hesitations immediately struck me as something like a Tragic Greek chorus that, having incurred some sort of its own trauma (and not acting only as the all-knowing unconscious of the play), is completely disoriented, confused of its own purpose. But amidst the cacophony–or something like a directed cacophony towards the reader–they are still unwittingly functioning as a chorus. They’re giving us the stage for Flee’s story, hinting quietly at the book’s central plot conflict. Also naming characters (Carol, Rick, Marcus, etc), which is now more intriguing to me at the passage from p.45 you mention. What’s also different in Carpenter’s Gothic is, while that whole book remains on one diegetic level (as far as I can remember, it’s been a few years) because no narrator ever announces itself, in Dara, there’s a blurring of diegetic arenas, a refusal to centralize any narrative authority. Ok, so, re: dissolution of the subject: It seems that not only are the chorus members interrupting themselves, but they’re also interrupting the narrator as well. Each left-margin emdash cuts the narrator off, in a way, if you will. That scene when they’re pitying Rick, acting as a narrator with dialogue tags. The commonly individuated voice of the narrator is subsumed into the characters’ diegetic arena; a tension between the collective and individual implicit in prose structure alone. It also seems, by “36,551,” that whatever the population is fleeing from is not collectively driven (ie., the pity for Mark’s poorly planned meetings for something, we don’t know what yet), but selfishly driven. And in the flattening power of numbers, that selfishness — a hermetic individuality — becomes collective. There is a kind of infinite distance between I and we that, perhaps, the book is trying to trace? Or its relationship in the temporality of the novel is a perpetual expanding/contracting relationship, like a rubber band?

As far as I am in the book, the interruptions and digressions also have a hysteria to them that points to something the chorus is ignoring even in the face of the beginnings of a series of rude awakenings. Each voice just bemoans this dissolution of themselves; but, especially in the scene where Rick is, like, torn apart for his idea in service of the township, each voice is just narcissistically concerned with how it’s going to inconvenience them, rather than the potential worth of Rick’s idea.

ET: I teach an introductory American lit class, and today we were talking about Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily,” which I think offers this wonderful example of a first-person plural narrator, this kind of limited chorus that is not-quite omniscient, not-quite omnipresent, and hardly omnipotent. It’s this weird we that seems able to transcend time, but not space—it can live for more than eighty years but it can’t see into Emily Grierson’s house. Its limitations are human; its limitations are the limitations of all the members of a community. I had your email in the back of my head while I was riffing on all this today—that, yes, the we is this fiction that we all subscribe to (hey look, I just used it!)—it’s our linguistic tag for culture, religion, whatever—but it requires some other—a you, I guess, that we can all point to, an Emily Grierson that’s only part of the we by paradoxically not being a part of the we, by defining the weFlee doesn’t seem to have that other, at least not in the first seven chapters anyway, although it does foreground two protagonists in Rick and Carol—something that Dara’s first novel The Lost Scrapbook does not do. The Lost Scrapbook is far more polyglossic than Flee also, which again reminds me of Faulkner’s story in its unified we-ness—Flee‘s narrative voice somehow unifies entropy, breakdown, the chaotic rumbling becomes this throbbing tone of dissolution (“There’s no here here,” page 79), where the narcissistic flight of each member of the community paradoxically underwrites the viability of a community, the possibility of a community… Read More

Moondog – Moondog 2 (Full Album)

ESL — James Jean

ESL-painting

Moondog – Moondog (1969) (Full Album)

Signs Preceding the End of the World (Book acquired, 2.13.2015)

IMG_5097

Yuri Herrera’s novel Signs Preceding the End of the World is forthcoming from And Other Stories. It looks pretty good. Their blurb:

Signs Preceding the End of the World is one of the most arresting novels to be published in Spanish in the last ten years. Yuri Herrera does not simply write about the border between Mexico and the United States and those who cross it. He explores the crossings and translations people make in their minds and language as they move from one country to another, especially when there’s no going back.

Traversing this lonely territory is Makina, a young woman who knows only too well how to survive in a violent, macho world.  Leaving behind her life in Mexico to search for her brother, she is smuggled into the USA carrying a pair of secret messages – one from her mother and one from the Mexican underworld.

Fishbowl — Jason Chan

fishbowl_sm

There is no avoiding time (Pynchon’s Inherent Vice)

Sauncho was giving a kind of courtroom summary, as if he’d just been handling a case. “. . . yet there is no avoiding time, the sea of time, the sea of memory and forgetfulness, the years of promise, gone and unrecoverable, of the land almost allowed to claim its better destiny, only to have the claim jumped by evildoers known all too well, and taken instead and held hostage to the future we must live in now forever. May we trust that this blessed ship is bound for some better shore, some undrowned Lemuria, risen and redeemed, where the American fate, mercifully, failed to transpire . . .”

From Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. The passage, near the end of the novel, acts as a summary—or rather one of several summaries—to Inherent Vice’s shaggy plot. The blessed ship is The Golden Fang, aka Preserved. I’ve been sketching out a riff on Inherent Vice the novel, Inherent Vice the film, and The Crying of Lot 49. (This passage also kinda sorta summarizes The Crying of Lot 49. And Mason & Dixon).

Girl Reading — Richard Sala

tumblr_njw104ES9h1r16qfco1_540