Some form of zombie powder (Pynchon’s Against the Day)

Reef joined Ruperta’s loose salon of neuræsthenics traveling hot spring to spring in search of eternal youth or fleeing the deadweight of time, finding enough impulsive or inattentive cardplayers to keep him in Havanas and $3.50-a-quart Champagne, and Ruperta surprised enough now and then with silver and lapis Indian trinkets and the odd bushel of flowers to keep her guessing, she having figured him for a white savage masquerading as an exquisite. Which did not prevent them from going round and round on average once a week, memorable uproars that sent everybody running for the periphery, uncertain as to what distance was safe. In between these dustups, Reef had long, desultory conversations with his penis, to the effect that there wasn’t much point missing Stray too much right now, was there, as it would only blunt the edge of desire, not only for Ruperta but whoever else, Yup Toy or whoever, might drift by over the course of their travels.

They finally parted company in New Orleans after a confused and repetitive headache of a night that began at the establishment of Monsieur Peychaud, where the Sazeracs, though said to’ve been invented there, were not a patch, it seemed to Reef, on those available at Bob Stockton’s bar in Denver, though those Absinthe Frappés were another matter. After taking on fuel, the party moved out into the French Quarter hunting for modes of intoxication “more exotic,” meaning, if you pushed it, some form of zombie powder. Ruperta tonight was in a narrow black bengaline costume with a Medici collar and cuffs of bastard chinchilla. Nothing on underneath except for stays and stockings, as Reef had had occasion to find out earlier, at their habitual lateafternoon rendezvous.

It had soon become apparent in this town that what you could see from the street was not only less than “the whole story” but in fact not even the picture on the cover. The real life of this place was secured deep inside the city blocks, behind ornate iron gates and up tiled passages that might as well’ve run for miles. You could hear faint strands of music, crazy stuff, banjos and bugling, trombone glissandi, pianos under the hands of whorehouse professors sounding like they came with keys between the keys. Voodoo? Voodoo was the least of it, Voodoo was just everywhere. Invisible sentinels were sure to let you know, the thickest of necks being susceptible here to monitory pricklings of the Invisible. The Forbidden. And meantime the smells of the local cuisine, cheurice sausages, gumbo, crawfish étouffé, and shrimp boiled in sassafras, proceeding from no place you could ever see, went on scrambling what was left of your good sense. Negroes could be observed at every hand, rollicking in the street. The so-called Italian Troubles, stemming from the alleged Mafia assassination of the chief of police here being yet fresh in the civic memory, children were apt to accost strangers, Italian or not, with, “Who killa da chief?” not to mention “Va fongoola your sister.”

Another passage from Thomas Pynchon’s novel Against the Day.


2 thoughts on “Some form of zombie powder (Pynchon’s Against the Day)”

Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.