“…the amazing, world-reversing night of Fourth of July Eve 1899″ (Pynchon’s Against the Day)

For years after, there were tales told in Colorado of the amazing, world-reversing night of Fourth of July Eve 1899. Next day’d be full of rodeos, marching bands, and dynamite explosions—but that night there was man-made lightning, horses gone crazy for miles out into the prairie, electricity flooding up through the iron of their shoes, shoes that when they finally came off and got saved to use for cowboy quoits, including important picnic tourneys from Fruita to Cheyenne Wells, why they would fly directly and stick on to the spike in the ground, or to anything else nearby made of iron or steel, that’s when they weren’t collecting souvenirs on their way through the air—gunmen’s guns came right up out of their holsters and buck knives out from under pants legs, keys to traveling ladies’ hotel rooms and office safes, miners’ tags, fencenails, hairpins, all seeking the magnetic memory of that long-ago visit. Veterans of the Rebellion fixing to march in parades were unable to get to sleep, metallic elements had so got to humming through their bloodmaps. Children who drank the milk from the dairy cows who grazed nearby were found leaning against telegraph poles listening to the traffic speeding by through the wires above their heads, or going off to work in stockbrokers’ offices where, unsymmetrically intimate with the daily flow of prices, they were able to amass fortunes before anyone noticed. .

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

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8 thoughts on ““…the amazing, world-reversing night of Fourth of July Eve 1899″ (Pynchon’s Against the Day)”

      1. PS I actually “went out and bought” (ordered, via bookstore), Jules Siegel’s LINELAND, the expanded (padded with webchats! laugh) version of his notorious “Who is Thomas Pynchon… And Why is He Taking Off With My Wife?” article for Playboy (to which I first saw references here, at Biblioklept). The original article appears near the middle of the “book”, which is only peripherally about Pynchon but offers more (if we need it) insight into the self-serving-recollections-of-the-former-friend-of-a-genius Effect. I was neutral about Siegel after reading a few articles by and about him… before reading LINELAND… but after reading half of the “book” I found him a nakedly self-aggrandizing, shabbily competitive character, full of by-now-thoroughly-discredited Oh-Wowisms and passive-aggressive attacks on Pynchon’s work and person (his claim that Pynchon told him that he’d written so much of Gravity’s Rainbow “high” that he had to re-write most of it… obviously the self-deprecating joke of a successful writer talking to a less-successful friend… was Cultural Slander, imo, because Siegel extrapolated from that a theory that Drugs (plus neuroses) Were at least partially Responsible for the Work). Yipes. Be careful who you hang out with in college!

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          1. Ah, not your fault! We all take our chances when we order out-of-print books online. But what really made me want to disinter Jules Siegel and punch him (not hard) was what I found when I got the book home and opened to the first line of the introduction:

            “If you are expecting to read a book about Thomas Pynchon, you are in the wrong place.”

            Laugh.

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  1. I bought this big fat book when it first came out and STILL haven’t managed to shovel a path to it… I MUST! (Is this passage concerning in some way N. Tesla…?)

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