- Please keep these annotations SPOILER-FREE by not revealing information from later pages in the novel.
the iron of their shoes . . . seeking the magnetic memory of that long-ago visit
Familiar cartoon gag, a horseshoe magnet attracting all sorts of hardware as it flies through the air.
- But here, TRP suggests, Tesla's activities really do cause electromagnetic upheaval in Colorado.
What the North called the Civil War. (See p.7)
Tesla, Dr. Nikola (1856-1943)
Tesla was a Serb-American inventor, engineer and physicist whose patents and theoretical work form the basis of modern alternating current electric power (AC) systems, radio, and a bunch of other stuff. Wikipedia entry Tesla researched in Colorado Springs from May 1899 - January 1900, a location he chose because of the frequent thunderstorms, the high altitude, and the dryness of the air. Wikipedia on Tesla at Colorado Springs.
Much of the the funding for his Colorado Springs laboratory came from Colonel John Jacob Astor. Tesla's friend and patent lawyer, Leonard E. Curtis, persuaded the El Paso Power Company to supply Tesla with all the electricity he wanted, free of charge. The arrangement ended the night Tesla's activities burned out the dynamo and the entire city lost power. PBS: Tesla - Master of Lightning
"Tesla logged in his diary on July 3, 1899 that a separate resonance transformer tuned to the same high frequency as a larger high-voltage resonance transformer would transceive energy from the larger coil, acting as a transmitter of wireless energy, which was used to confirm Tesla's patent for radio during later disputes in the courts. These air core high-frequency resonate coils were the predecessors of systems from radio to radar and medical magnetic resonance imaging devices."  This information was later used to confirm his patent for radio which he received posthumously in 1946, 3 years after his death. .
Pynchon confuses this 03 July 'vision', during a natural electrical storm, with later experimental generation of high voltages.
The Tesla Society confusingly describes Tesla as a "Serbian-born American" but states his birthplace as Smiljan, Croatia.
Vectorist . . . by way of the Electricity
Vector symbolism offers an economical way to describe electrical processes; electrical engineers still use vector algebra and vector analysis combined with concepts from complex number theory.
a turbine generator located underneath a waterfall
Not sitting there to catch the falling water. A waterfall is a convenient place for a power plant because you can get easy access to two elevations: take in water at the top, install your turbine at the bottom. The mention of penstocks and other plumbing farther down the page confirms that the flow is being captured in pipes at the head of the fall and run through a turbine at the bottom.
engineering students... from Cornell, Yale
Cornell is Pynchon's alma mater, where he initially studied engineering. Pynchon bio
James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) was a Scottish mathematical physicist among the pioneers of electromagnetism. Pynchon made use of his theoretical "Maxwell's Demon" in The Crying of Lot 49. Wikipedia entry
Up to this point there have been many mentions of things invisible, here capitalized. Recalling Blundell's quote from p. 24, suddenly everything connects and makes sense to Kit after his revelation. It is a mystical experience for him as he reaches this knowledge through something like a voice telling him.
- So we have as opposites light/ dark; visible/ invisible. And to this point in the book, Miles, Lew Basnight, and Kit have experienced the Invisible. Note that there are various ways of seeing, and not all of them use light.
So is altitude transformed, continuously, to light
The potential energy of water at an altitude is realized when it falls, producing the flow of electricity required for the production of artificial light.
Hamilton had experienced at Brougham Bridge in Ireland
William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865) was an Irish mathematician, physicist, and astronomer who made important contributions to the development of optics, dynamics, and algebra. His discovery of quaternions is perhaps his best known investigation. The discovery of quaternions reportedly occurred during a walk with his wife by the Royal Canal in Dublin. Upon having the inspiration for the formula, he promptly carved it into the side of the nearby Broom (or Brougham) Bridge. Wikipedia entry
a jump from one place to another
An allusion to quantum jump (or quantum leap), which would be proposed some years later as a model for the electron's transition between energy states within an atom and as the sole cause of the emission of electromagnetic radiation, including that of light, by atoms. Interestingly enough, the term "quantum leap" would later become a standard vernacular term to describe abrupt advances. Wikipedia entry
The phrase also suggests either bilocation (Foley Walker and Scarsdale Vibe, cf. p. 100) or changing dimensions (moving to another parallel world?), which Lew Basnight appears to have done without knowing it (p. 24).
with . . . what perilous æther opening between and beneath
The etymology of air includes æther. The gap between initial and final states is a region where there's nothing to "support" the particle making the quantum jump.
- Is there any link between this and the earlier discussion of Aetherists at Case Western when Michaelson and Morley are experimenting?
the truth he now possessed in his personal interior, certain and unshakable
Kit's belief in Vectorism is solidified.
Not belief. He's broken through to a state where he doesn't have to write the math down—he sees directly from problem statement to solution.
Jack, we're seventeen
Pike's Peak or Bust!
The slogan of miners heading to Colorado during the Gold Rush of 1859.
Frank got so nervous about climbing
Is Frank acrophobic?
Cañon City alumnus
An ex-convict who has done time in the Colorado pen.
Lieutenants of Industry Scholarship Program
The metaphor "Captain of Industry" gets dusted off; Vibe is the captain, so his minions can't go any higher than lieutenants.
Mr. Merriwell, we really need this touchdown
An allusion to the fictional character Frank Merriwell, an adventuresome student at Yale and football hero, he was created by the pulp fiction writer Gilbert Patten, who wrote under the pen name Burt L. Standish. The first story, "Frank Merriwell: or, First Days at Fardale" appeared in Tip Top Weekly on April 18, 1896. Merriwell went on to appear in comic books, radio programs, and dime novels. As the passage suggests, Merriwell constituted an idealized picture of the east coast, old money elite. Wikipedia Entry on Frank Merriwell
This possible deal with the devil that Kit makes to get into Yale recalls the evil pact made to get Tyrone Slothrop into Harvard in Gravity's Rainbow.
The title of a 1932 Marx Brothers film ("Horse Feathers"). Another possible indication for the promised Groucho Marx cameo. See also "ducksoup" (p.25)
The first major battle in the American Civil War to take place on Northern soil, in 1862. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history, with almost 23,000 casualties.
The Enrollment Act of 1863 allowed draftees to pay $300 to a substitute who would serve for them. (See here for an example substitution form.) J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, James Mellon and future president Grover Cleveland all hired substitutes. Within a year the price had gone up to $1,100, however. Civil War Draft Records: Exemptions and Enrollments
There were two battles of Cold Harbor: the first, in 1862, predated Antietam, so this would have been the second in 1864 Wikipedia.
the Brain and its Mysteries
This is a recurring theme, with suggestions of neurological symptoms already seen, such as Miles Blondell's weird feelings and Lew Basnight's malady. As seen below, the presence of the bullet has some effects on his brain: he receives "communications, from far, far away," which can be symptoms of brain injuries.
For more on auditory hallucinations see the recently published Muses, Madmen, and Prophets: Rethinking the History, Science, and Meaning of Auditory Hallucination by Daniel B. Smith.
Prior to the development of the minie ball, rifles were not used in combat due to the difficulty in loading. The ammunition used by rifles was the same diameter as the barrel in order for the bullet to engage the groves of the rifled barrel. As a result the ball had to be forced into the barrel. The minie ball, originally designed by Captain Claude-Etienne Minie of France and improved on by manufacturers in the United States, changed warfare. Since the minie ball was smaller than the diameter of the barrel, it could be loaded quickly by dropping the bullet down the barrel. This conical lead bullet had two or three grooves and a conical cavity in its base. The gases, formed by the burning of powder once the firearm was fired, expanded the base of the bullet so that it engaged the rifling in the barrel. Thus, rifles could be loaded quickly and yet fired accurately; 620; From the Smithsonian website
However, Minié balls are relatively large, generally .58 caliber, so that would be a mighty large piece of lead lodged in his brain. Picture
"far, far away"
A nod to the opening lines of Star Wars? “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."
A similar episode is in Richard Powers' "Three Farmers on their Way to a Dance" (1985), in which a character affirms that he can get military radio communications thanks to a dental filling. Richard Powers has often been compared to Pynchon.
The dichotomy of bodily and spiritual well-being appears in the The World is at Fault letter that Pynchon wrote in the early 60s.
"if it exists"
Assuming this is c1882, when the Standard Oil Trust was formed, it was already well-known.
ten gallons of coffee
Major caffeine abuse also figured in to Mason & Dixon.
Vibe and Walker work together in part because of Walker's "powers". These "vibrations" could be the source of the name Vibe.
This is the first mention of the Doppelgaenger theme of the book, which Wikipedia calls "a sinister form of bilocation."
With that kind of personal faith . . . handling snakes
Wikipedia says snake-handling did not become a movement until the 1920s but was a sensational practice before the end of the 19th century. The requisite "personal faith" is defined in Mark 16:17-18: "And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name . . . [t]hey shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." Southern Appalachia is now the epicenter of snake-handling.
'Excuse me'... 'Thank you' in Croatian. [cite] Also in Serbian, though written in a different alphabet.
a message from perhaps farther beyond...
Kit may think it another message from the Invisible. Due to his belief in Vectorism?
how Mr. Vibe . . . had been left free to behave
The mission given to Walker is to constrain Vibe, who in some sense shares a "karma" with him.
"Tithing," Tesla said, "giving back to the day."
Tesla's contempt for this tithing positions him as—wait for it—against the day.
Jake with me
Fine with me.
"not here on the desolate lee shore whose back country is death"
Wonderful, just wonderful...
Since this is 1899, the Chums should be six years older than they were in Chicago. But they seem to age at a slower rate than folks on earth below.
this era of desuetude
Time when usual rules and customs are not being practiced.
The time between midnight and 4 a.m. Another naval practice observed by the Chums.
A boy . . . under a baggy cap with its bill turned sidewise
I can't identify this as to title or date, but the subject appeared in lithographs that hung in many homes in the first half of the 20th century. It was also famous via Charlie Chaplin's work w/ the child Jackie Coogan. See an image at
A radio. He received a patent for the radio after his death. The transmissions of July 3, 1899 (see Page 97, above) were used as evidence that he should be granted the patent.
- A member of the wiki has pointed out that Tesla recorded thunderstorm observations on that date but did not carry out transmissions.
voices . . . difficult to credit with any origin in the material sphere . . . hoarse whispering
Messages coming from a world the Chums don't inhabit? From outside their novel, I suggest, specifically from their author, who is preparing to take over the narration again.
I would suggest that in the early days of radio even Tesla himself thought he was receiving messages from Mars, when in fact he was discovering the foundation of radio telescopy. Edison and Marconi also thought radio would allow them to converse with the dead. That the Chums also hear voices is probably to be expected. On the other hand, please see Electronic Voice Phenomena for a paranormal discussion on the phenomena.
I think there is more to this. Above, a reader noted that Merle works with light AND sound. Just as one might "see" via the Invisible (Miles, Lew, and Kit), one might "hear" via the invisible, as Foley Walker does, as well as the Chums here.
Indian Ocean islands of Amsterdam and St.Paul
As noted in the text, Indian Ocean Islands. Both are volcanic in origin. Strangely (given the CofC's prior location in Chicago), they are located in the very southern part of the Indian Ocean, in line with South Africa. They remain without permanent residents. Wikipedia article on St. Paul Island
A westerly is a wind that is coming from the west, not heading toward the west. Given the location of the two islands they flew over, they must have come from south of the equator near the southern parts of South America or Africa or possibly even Australia.
islets vanished from the nautical charts
Do features really vanish from charts? Could it be that their names were no longer recorded?
It is possible that some small islands collapse or are eroded, and disappear below the sea, to "rejoin the Invisible".
This island's name may have been one of the ones to vanish.
- I think TRP created this name, since the island masks the underground installation.
huge underground construction
The description calls to mind Boston's "Big Dig," or a bunker such as those built by SAC, NORAD or other military organizations. In particular it brings to mind the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate in Colorado Springs, CO.
One of the Greek Furies. [Wikipedia]
Apparently a real shipwreck as well. [Scroll down to St. Paul Island]
four hundred of us made it
The informative page linked in the preceding entry is pretty clear: 330-odd of them made it.
"Curious," Chick said.
His register of speech is very different from what we heard in earlier episodes. And he has somehow now got enough education to have been named "Scientific Officer."
Not Krakatoa. The Chums are in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
antipodal to Colorado Springs
Amsterdam and St. Paul are, to within a few dozen miles, exactly on the opposite side of the Earth to the Springs. Because Tesla's work there wound up early in 1900, the antipodal point could not have held much interest after that. The 1899 dating holds.
Chums of Chance Logistical Services
In the whole series of novels this is probably the only mention of CoCLS. All the other books had instruments, weapons, etc., just appear without explanation. "Never questioned, always on time" simply because it's written (or unwritten) that way.
- I think it is more sinister -- their shadowy organization has the reach and the resources to make things appear, but a) the boys' location away from sources of supply and b) the boys' growing awareness (such as Chick's "scientific knowledge") lead them to notice.
mephitically seeping volcano
"Mephitic" means foul-smelling.
Since McKinley was assassinated (by an anarchist) in September, 1901, this situates the episode some time between 1899 and 1901.
a beach so intensely sunlit as to appear almost colorless
Again an excess of light takes away from the ambience rather than adding to it -- a sun bleached beach.
blindness at the heart of a diamond
This enigmatic imagery is reflected (no pun intended) in a few references: more
"where the light came down sifted through so many emerald screens that it was as flawless as the heart of a diamond. " (Anne of Green Gables, Chapt. 15, by Lucy Maud Montgomery)
"It was a singularly sharp night, and clear as the heart of a diamond." A Story that is Untrue by Ambrose Bierce
blindness seems not to be a positive with this metaphor. No light, a heart that cannot see. Diamonds = lightlessness.
- I interpreted it as lots of light = blindness; i.e., again the distinction between seeing, learning, understanding vs. light.
An important diamond with a blindness at its heart is the one in Wilkie Collins's novel The Moonstone (1868)(Project Gutenberg). The diamond brings misfortune to its possessor; it is stolen twice early in the novel, and various characters try to regain it. It may be worth noting that, in Collins, a big diamond with a blindness at its heart is worth less than its compounds, if it's cut into pieces.
Since his (Darby's) voice had changed
In three-quarters of a century Tom Swift didn't age half a dozen years. The Chums could not have aged much before AtD opened, because they weren't very old when we met them. Now the mascotte who sang the treble parts has become an adolescent.
The once cheery mascotte... into a distrust of authority
In this section Darby Suckling looks to be the "punk" of the Chums ala Darby Crash. Wikipedia
Nihilism comes from the Latin nihil, or nothing. It appears in the verb "annihilate", meaning to bring to nothing, to destroy completely. Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy. Nihilism is most often associated with Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) who argued that its corrosive effects would eventually destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions and precipitate the greatest crisis in human history. Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Sons (1862) popularized nihilism by his character Bazarov who preached a creed of total negation. In Russia, nihilism became identified with a loosely organized revolutionary movement (1860-1917) that rejected the authority of the state, church, and family. The movement advocated a social arrangement based on rationalism and materialism as the sole source of knowledge, and individual freedom as the highest goal. The movement eventually deteriorated into an ethos of subversion, destruction, and anarchy. And by the late 1870s, a nihilist was anyone associated with clandestine political groups advocating terrorism and assassination. (Nihilism).
In the Timaeus of Plato, the eponymous character claims, in what he calls his "likely story," that the cosmos was created by the gathering of triangles into regular solids which coincide with the four elements: the pyramid (fire), cube (earth), octahedron (air), icosahedron (water), and dodecahedron. The dodecahedron becomes associated with Æther.
In his early work Mysterium Cosmographicum, Johannes Kepler used the Platonic polyhedra to model the solar system. Wikipedia entry on the Platonic polyhedra, including a picture of Kepler's polyhedra model of the solar system
Clarendon is a serif typeface created in 1845 that was often used for wanted posters in the Old West. Wikipedia entry, with a sample
"Zumbledy bongbong," [Miles Blundell] called encouragingly, as the food flew. "Vamble, Vamble!"
Miles's odd speech may be an allusion to that of the Muppets' Swedish Chef.
He may also be speaking in tongues, or simply have some sort of apraxia of speech, given these comments and those on the following page.
- Remember that Miles is the Chum who did not see the crockery, was preoccupied, and says that he "sees" at times in a different dimension. Now, like Foley's voices, above, we have Miles with an auditory (as well as his visual) affliction.
unmix a failed sauce
There is a folk belief, however, that mayonnaise and other egg-based sauces will separate during a thunderstorm. You can, however, re-mix sauces of this kind that have de-emulsified.
time is intrinsic in every recipe
Not whether you bake the pie for 20 minutes or 40. What's intrinsic is that the recipe always takes you forward in time. Start with ground meat, end with a hamburger, never the other way around.
"Of the metawarble of blibfloth zep"
Poor Miles' communication problems continue.
Something that is ostentatiously smart Definition. "bone china" takes on new meaning!
In the U.S.A., it was almost the Fourth of July
Inconvenience is a day ahead of the U.S., being well west of the International Date Line.
noteworthy episodes of military explosion . . . necessary to maintain the integrity of the American homeland
Put the stress on military. Other explosions achieve different purposes.
Explosion without an objective . . . is politics in its purest form
Set this against not only the next entry but also against Drave's aphorism "Remorse without an object is a doorway to deliverance" (p. 39).
Haymarket bomb . . . wonders of chemistry
Cf. p. 79, "the widely admired Mexican principle of politics through chemistry."
I wish I knew what they were arguing about
Randolph's consciousness has not been raised, as we used to say in the 1970s.
"the nature of the skyrocket's ascent"
Chumps of Choice blog suggests that this refers to Gravity's Rainbow.
about the trajectories of your own lives
Miles has divined that the Chums have adventures (the display) but also intervals when their movement is unsensed from outside: between the end of one of their novels and the beginning of the next one.
"Think, bloviators, think!"
To bloviate means to speak or write at length in a pompous or boastful manner. CoC blog suggests that this, coupled with the verbose allusion to Gravity's Rainbow above, is Pynchon's message to jargony commentators of his work, presumably in academia.
Presumably, us as well
By the time Inconvenience was ready to take once more to the sky
Another damned anticlimax. They travel halfway around the world, Logistical Services puts on a big push to supply the experimental station, and we get not one single word about any data collected or knowledge gained as a result of Tesla's experiments.
Although . . . recall that the night of the experiment was introduced as "the amazing, world-reversing night of Fourth of July eve" - I think we are to read the amazing reversal in the internal affairs of the Inconvenience as the most noteworthy result.
President McKinley . . . naked woman . . . National Bird . . . something to eat . . . one of the Platonic polyhedra . . . draped female personage
It is hard to see how the final figurehead choice is a "compromise" among these candidates.
In many militaries' units, the executive officer (XO) is the second-in-command, reporting to the commanding officer (CO).
"contamination by the secular"
Secular can be defined as "denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis." As the Chums have so far not been overtly religious, perhaps they mean secular in the spiritual sense?
Secular also means "worldly", as in, that which the Chums of Chance are literally above: 113: "That sort of bickering may be for ground people, but it is not for us."
Odd. Sounds like something from Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but isn't. Anyone? Famous, surreal Polish writer of the 20th Century, Gombrowicz, Witold (Wikipedia entry).
Miles is having trouble communicating in words. See p. 110 and 111
- When language fails him (an auditory communication), perhaps he is away among the Invisible.
Today in Indonesia. Wikipedia entry
"Special Japanese Oyster"
The pearl that comes from this oyster that facilitates communications from the Chums' Upper Hierarchy is a result of Japanese experimentation "a pearl of quite uncommon size and iridescence, seeming indeed to glow from within" that connects with the red calcite that powers the Q-weapon, as well as Merle's and Bounce's device later in the novel. Read on...
This seems to be a standard mode of communication as the Chums get out the equipment, pull the blinds, etc., as if per usual.
The pearl as means of communication from the "Upper Hierarchy" bears some similarity to the Gnostic/Manichean/Eastern Orthodox passage from the apocryphal Acts of Thomas. called The Hymn of the Pearl. The gnostic gloss on the story is that we (here The Chums) are spirits lost in the world of matter who forget our true origin, until a divine being, i.e. "The Upper Hierarchy", sends a message by way of a revealer (usually Jesus, here the pearl) to help us remember our mission.
In the hymn the son of the king of kings is sent to retrieve a pearl from a serpent. There is no obvious serpent at this point in AtD, but the Chums get the pearl in Surabaya, whose name derives from suro (shark) and baya (crocodile), in this case both white, which together bear a mytho-poetic parallel to, a "paramorphic encryption" of a serpent.
And like the calcite that powers the Q-weapon, in Biblical studies there is a Q document which when mixed with the book of Mark yields Matthew and Luke. Prominent Biblical scholars theorize that such a book consisting of the saying of Jesus must exist based on textual analysis, but a copy has never been found. Certain texts are, as one of the Librarians says, "outside of time" but may be inferred from the evidence. (p.133)
The oysters are sold to Miles with "unusual persuasiveness" at "what did seem a remarkably attractive price." This might be an inversion, a "parable parody," a parody of the Parable of the Pearl. wherein Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to a pearl of great price; whereas here, at first glance, Miles gets his pearl at discount. In re-reading it though, we are not actually told the pearl is cheap, but that whatever price it came at was remarkably attractive and unusually persuasive, in other words, the Kingdom of Heaven is an attractive bargain and persuasive at any rate of exchange with worldly goods.
It is of note that MILES gets the pearl, since he is the Chum able to enter the dimension of Invisibility (vs. visible). And it occurs after he fails to successfully master the auditory as well (language, above).
An early incandescent lamp invented by Hermann Nernst (1864-1941), which made use of a heated ceramic rod to produce light in ambient air (in contrast to Edison's incandescent, which required a vacuum to operate). Link
Dr. Mikimoto (Kokichi)
Produced the first cultured pearl in 1893 in Toba, Japan. As he left school at 13 to help support his family, any Doctorate he may have obtained must have been honorary.
And the Japanese:
- Through a highly secret technical process, developed in Japan at around the same time Dr. Mikimoto was producing his first cultured pearls, portions of the original aragonite which made up the nacreous layers of the pearl had, through “induced paramorphism,” as it was known to the artful sons of Nippon, been selectively changed here and there to a different form of calcium carbonate namely, to microscopic crystals of the doubly-refracting calcite known as Iceland spar.
"Spar," in mineralogy: a transparent or translucent light-colored crystalline mineral, usually readily cleaved and somewhat lustrous; e.g. Iceland spar (calcite) . . . . (paraphrased from Bates & Jackson, Glossary of Geology, 2nd ed.)
See this handy "About Geology" page , with an illustration demonstrating a spar's double-refraction effect on printed letters--remarkably like that on the cover of ATD! This kind of calcite has rhombohedral cleavage, because each of its faces is a rhombus, a warped rectangle in which none of the corners are square. Is each of the rectangular pages of ATD then a warped cleavage from some sort of crystalline whole, refracting its text in several directions at once? Of course, to the Chums the text message they receive from Upper Hierarchy has but one simple meaning. "Paramorphism" = the structural alteration of a mineral without any change in its external form or chemical composition.
And look at this too, how to make Iceland Spar animations: 
Doubling / Advertisements / Stereo Lamps / Lounge / Beach Citadel / Restaurants / Brooklyn-Manhattan-Queens / Windows / Electromagnetic sun / Art Galleries / New Front / New Media / Doubling: New York 2000 (Summer) even in the multi-colored food. Talk about scent, high-end music and multifaceted sensorial experience. The reflection of candlelights in every television set.
divided into two separate rays, termed "ordinary" and "extraordinary"
In the optics lab, physics students split a laser beam into two rays, which impinge on an object and are reflected onto a photographic plate, generating a hologram. The Japanese here anticipate the process, using the differently polarized rays (split by the Iceland spar) instead of laser light and replacing the plate with minute crystals in the pearl. The idea of three-dimensional holography and data storage in solid crystals would not resurface until the 1950s or 60s.
This parallels the doubling of people in AtD. So far we have seen Foley Walker as a double of Scarsdale Vibe.
the limitless mischief of pearls
A book's worth of superstitions exist around pearls. Pearls bring tears. The bride must wear pearls. The bride who wears pearls will be unhappy. If your pearl loses its luster, you are about to die. A pearl dissolved in wine is a poison. A pearl dissolved in wine is a love potion.
get up buoyancy
A surface ship "gets up steam" in preparation for departure. Another naval or nautical analog.
1775-1812, a French officer and mathematician whose work was predominantly concerned with light. He studied ray systems, and his theory on polarisation was published in 1809. His theory of the double refraction of light in crystals was published in 1810. Malus is best known for his law describing intensity of light as it passes through polarized materials. There are delicious metaphorical implications for any reader of a Pynchon novel.Wikipedia
Malus is also the genus of the apple. And in Latin, malus means "bad," "evil," or "wicked." Note that in the narrative to come, the ship is frequently referred to simply as the Malus.
Probably meant to contrast the "blindness at the heart of a diamond" referred to on p. 109. Pynchon may want to call to mind The Scarlet Letter, in which Pearl, the child produced by the union of the protagonist, Hester Prynne, and the Rev. Dimsdale, becomes a symbol of beauty derived from sin (there, and likely here, represented by the grain of sand around which the pearl forms). This also serves to link the pearl to the ship Malus (above).
Dr. Alden Vormance
" Vormance's surname may be meant to combine "Romance" and "worm," calling to mind the Romantic exuberance that motivated 19th century exploratory expeditions as well as the serpent of the Biblical expulsion story.
Another Pynchonian "V" name and we know what Pynchon thinks of "Romantic exuberance". See GR, at least. And a remark in ATD [to find].
Alternatively, Vormance may be a conflation of the German prefix vor- (meaning "forward" or "before") with the -mancy combining form (e.g. necromancy) meaning prophecy--Gobbag 12:38, 11 February 2007 (PST)
a strong presumption of Bad Taste
The Chums seek to avoid this accusation just as Peter Pan tries to avert Captain Hook's taunt, "Bad form." The phrase occurs in J.M. Barrie's novel Peter Pan (Peter and Wendy), possibly also in the stage version, and again in the movie Hook.
(1571-1630), mathematician best known for his laws of planetary motion, one of the foundations of Isaac Newton's theory of gravity. Wikipedia Kepler was a Platonist who believed that mathematics and music were instrinsically linked and that both were signs of God, as the physical and spiritual were linked. We have already seen many examples in AtD of mysterious singing, humming, and other noises coming out of the atmosphere.
1656-1742, Halley was an English physical scientist most remembered for the comet he which he predicted would return. In 1692 he proposed that the earth was hollow. In 1698 he departed on a two year voyage as captain of the HMS Paramore in order to measure variations in the Earth's magnetic field. In 1716 he suggested timing the transit of Venus to determine the distance between the earth and the sun.
The method of traverse (pun ignored) by which the Chums proceed became known as a Symmes' Hole after John Cleeves Symmes who, in 1818 circulated a pamphlet arguing for the existence of such holes in the polar regions and further volunteered to lead an expedition to said regions.
Symmes' following lecture tours were further carried forth by one J.N. Reynolds. "[Edgar Allen] Poe is said to have repeatedly called out the name "Reynolds" on the night before his death, though no one has ever been able to identify the person to whom he referred." Edgar Allen Poe's first published short story, "Ms. Found in a Bottle" (1833) took, as its premise, the existence of Symmes' Holes: theoretical holes in the polar areas which led to a hollow interior. And his novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym recounts a voyage to the South Pole, where suddenly everything gets warmer and the sailors find themselves approaching the entrance to a hollow earth. For a Wikipedia discussion,
- Research has its charms, but so does mindless surfing. This blog presents a map of the Earth inside the Earth, complete with Shambhala. The layout unfortunately doesn't fit the AtD account, but it's quite funny.
the great portal . . . noticeably smaller
Unrelieved light is unendurable; the entry into the Earth offers shadow, but the region of shelter has shrunk. Unrelieved ultraviolet light is deadly; the "ozone layer" in the atmosphere serves as protection, but the cover has shrunk—particularly in the Antarctic—as the "ozone hole" has grown larger. A small parallel, but it forwards the theme a little.
- Wouldn't additional warmth bring a larger opening?
the airship entered the planet's interior
As did Jeremiah Dixon in Mason & Dixon, Pynchon's 1997 novel, guided by what seemed to be an extraterrestrial Being. This passage links the two books interestingly, as Hollow Earth is a fairly prominent trope in M&D, although there is no mention of the portal's small size. Has it shrunken because the theory is losing ground?
this is a self-protective reflex
In his mystical phase Miles proves to be a believer in James Lovelock's "Gaia."
the ship's nitro-lycopodium engines
Inconvenience has gone through a major refit, apparently: no more hydrogen power. Lycopodium consists of spores from a club moss, usually Lycopodium clavatum. It is a highly flammable yellowish powder. Photographers used it for flash illumination. In principle, an internal combustion engine can run on a powdered fuel, though difficulties abound in practice. The "nitro" part is a puzzle; nitromethane (called "nitro" or, in drag racing, simply "fuel") seems the most obvious reference. Do the ship's engines use a slurry of lycopodium in nitromethane? That would be a tricky fuel to handle.
I don't think "nitro" refers to a particular, separate substance. The prefix nitro- indicates a substance whose molecules have the group NO2 attached to them. The oxygen in this group is easily released, with the result that nitro-compounds usually burn very rapidly and intensely, effectively having their own internal oxygen supply. Strictly the prefix should be applied to well defined molecular species such as nitromethane, nitrobenzene, etc, etc. However it is also used for complex biological substances treated with a nitrating agent such as nitric acid: nitrocotton (gun cotton) is a common example. Pynchon has probably invented nitro-lycopodium as a plausible though non-existent propellant, in the fashion we're accustomed to seeing with him.--Gobbag 06:57, 11 February 2007 (PST)
That is probably right, and a good point. "Plausible though non-existent" in Pynchon works because it is surrounded by the existent or prospectively existent: A modest collection of real AtD minerals/rocks/gems (lorandite, jade, Iceland spar) makes a context in which "Special Japanese Pearl" can nestle. Similarly, nitro-lycopodium falls into a class that already contains hydrogen, coal, muscle power (wheelfolk), petroleum derivatives and waterfalls. And Pynchon's fictional history is underpinned by historical events described in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Telescopes and binoculars are described by their magnifying power (say 7X) and the diameter of their objective lens or "pupil" (say 35 mm). For many years 7X35 binoculars were a practical compromise for field use (army issue, etc.), but these were useless at night because they could not collect enough light. "Night" binoculars might be 7X50 or even larger. Similarly, a night-glass is a telescope with an oversized lens in front.
What would come to be called an amplifier in post-Chums times.
human timbres and rhythms, not speech so much as music
Again the "choir" image as on page 19. The Music of the Spheres as well.
bolts of intense greenish light
Hmm, the Chums are getting the same view of this war as America got of the "Shock and Awe" campaign in Baghdad.
In an emergency, that choice lies at the Commander's discretion
Not the people. Freedom of speech and the President's sole decision to go into war resembles some sort of Catch-22 paradox. Its what maintains a Dynasty in power for years, decades or even centuries. Its about money, power and greed. Not freedom or humanity.
the byzantine politics of the region
Byzantine: fiendishly complicated, from Byzantium, the name of the city that would later become Constantinople and later again Istanbul. The claim indicates that Inner Earth has politics similar to those of Outer Earth.
royal court of Chthonica
The adjective chthonic means "of the earth" or "of the underworld" and is often used to refer to the gods and other entities residing under the surface of the earth. The adjective is used creatively, and most famously, in the fictional works of H.P. Lovecraft ... a chief deity of his ficitional universe being Cthulhu.
The "Plutonist" movement, as opposed to the "Neptunist", was quite in vogue in the late 1800s, being a theory of geography which held that the interior heat of the earth was somehow responsible for various geological processes.
"Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" is an archetypal figure of conservative England whose correspondence can be found frequently in newspapers railing at the latest outrages of modernity. Tunbridge Wells briefly features in Gravity's Rainbow.
On whether this and the subterranean adventure may allude to Gravity's Rainbow, see Discussion.
my harmless little intraterrestrial scherzo
Once again, the unseen narrator appears. By inference, the narrator is also the author of the various Chums of Chance... books referenced in ATD. This episode's also a little inter-textual scherzo: Poe (Arthur Gordon Pym), Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Pelucidar, Star Trek, Indiana Jones and the Hollow Earth... and Jeremiah Dixon's own underground journey in M&D. Doesn't Chick Counterfly sound rather Spockian here (cf. 115, bottom)?
a tiny circle of brightness far ahead
Literally "the light at the end of the tunnel," a metaphor used repeatedly, and to no good effect, by American political leaders starting some weeks after the beginning of the Vietnam War.
a tricky bit of steering
If you emerge at the North Pole, every way you steer is south, so which south will take you to the rendezvous?
The Light Over the Ranges
Against the Day
Rue du Départ