If there are Account-books in which Casualties are the Units of Exchange

Mr. LeSpark made his Fortune years before the War, selling weapons to French and British, Settlers and Indians alike,— Knives, Tomahawks, Rifles, Hand-Cannons in the old Dutch Style, Grenades, small Bombs. “Trouble yourself not,” he lik’d to assure his Customers, “over Diameter.” If there are Account-books in which Casualties are the Units of Exchange, then, so it seems to Ethelmer, his Uncle is deeply in Arrears.

—Mason & Dixon (p31)

Equator-crossing and the Royal Baby

In such a recreational Vacuum, the Prospect of crossing the Equatorial Line soon grows unnaturally magnified, as objects in certain Mirages and Apparitions at Sea, — a Grand Event, prepared for weeks in advance. Fearless acrobats of the upper Courses and hardened Gunners with prick’d-in black-powder Tattoos are all at once fussing about, nitter-nattering like a Village-ful of housewives over trivial details of the Ceremony of Initiation plann’d for those new to this Crossing, and dropping into Whispers whenever these “Pollywogs,”— namely, Mason, Dixon, and the Revd Cherrycoke,—happen near. Members of the Crew are to take the parts of King Neptune and his Mermaid Queen, and their Court, and the Royal Baby,— a role especially sought after, but assign’d by Tradition to him (Fender Bodine is an early favourite in the Wagering) whose Paunch, oozing with Equatiorial Sweat, ’twill be most nauseating for a Pollywog to crawl to and kiss,— this being among the more amiable Items upon the Schedule of Humiliation.

—Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon (pp 55-56)

Chiclitz has actually figured out a way to cash in on redeployment. He is about to wangle with Special Services the exclusive contract for staging the equator-crossing festivities for every troop ship that changes hemispheres. And Chiclitz himself will be the Royal Baby on as many as he can, that’s been written in. He dreams of the generations of cannon fodder, struggling forward on their knees, one by one, to kiss his stomach while he gobbles turkey legs and ice-cream cones and wipes his fingers off in the polliwogs’ hair.

—Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (p558?)

“Did you hear about my Paralyzed Hand?”

Later, having rewritten it, ten pages from the end of the final draft, his hand went out on him. “Did you hear about my Paralyzed Hand?” he wrote in a letter. “Why Tom old boy”—Warlock talk—“I woke up this here otherwise promising morning with a clump of inert floppy for a hand. Lentils. Lentils and some kind of exhaustion known only to nits in sedantary occupations. Me, the once hunter after restless game gone to seed in a J. C. Penny armchair covered by a baby blanket … but the hand came back by pins and needles after a month and I got done …”

—From introduction by Thomas Pynchon to Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Fariña


I had the exact same thing happen to my right (writing, haha!) hand last month. The condition is known as a radial nerve palsy. In my case, like Fariña’s, it cleared up after about a month.

In the echo, there was silence.

The sky changed, the entire translucent dome stunned by the swiftness of the shimmering atomic flash. The light drove their once tiny shadows to a terrifying distance in the desert, making them seem like titans. Then it shrank, the aurora crashing insanely backward, like a film in reverse, toppling, swimming into a single white-hot bulge, a humming lump, festering core. It hovered inches above the horizon, dancing, waiting almost as if it were taking a stoked breath, then swelled in puffing spasms, poking high into the stratosphere, edging out the pale skyrocket vapor trails at either side, the ball going sickly yellow, the shock wave releasing its roar, the entire spectacle catching fire, blazing chaotically, shaming the paltry sun.

In the echo, there was silence.

—Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Fariña

Still he was in love.

Still he was in love.

And love was a consolation. Like a sideshow panacea for symptomatic ills, it soothed anxiety, pain and doubt; eased fear and insomia, purged the more accessible demons, and apparently acted as a mild laxative. Above mach 1, of course, control systems were likely to reverse. Anxiety might come crawling back on six prickly legs, pain might return with a prodigal scream to the inner ear, fanged demons might drop from the darkness, doubt might creep whispering from a mildewed closet, insomia might collapse weeping between his eyes, constipation might close insidiously in. But speeds were still relatively moderate and Gnossos liked it down where he could hear the sound of his own exhaust.

—Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me by Richard Fariña

“Here’s to money”

“Here’s to money,” he said, not quite aloud. After a time you discovered that it was all that was important, because with it you could buy liquor and food, clothes and women, and make more money. Then, after a further time, you went on to discover that liquor was unnecessary and food unimportant, that you had all the clothes you could use and had had all the women you wanted, and there was only money left. After which there was still another discovery to be made. He had made that by now, too.

— Warlock by Oakley Hall (1958)

Chase Music

At long last, after a distinguished career of uttering, “My God, we are too late!” always with the trace of a sneer, a pro-forma condescension—because of course he never arrives too late, there’s always a reprieve, a mistake by one of the Yellow Adversary’s hired bunglers, at worst a vital clue to be found next to the body—now, finally, Sir Dennis Nayland Smith will arrive, my God, too late.

Superman will swoop boots-first into a deserted clearing, a launcher-erector sighing oil through a slow seal-leak, gum evoked from the trees, bitter manna for this bitterest of passages. The colors of his cape will wilt in the afternoon sun, curls on his head begin to show their first threads of gray. Philip Marlowe will suffer a horrible migraine and reach by reflex for the pint of rye in his suit pocket, and feel homesick for the lacework balconies of the Bradbury Building.

Submariner and his multilingual gang will run into battery trouble. Plasticman will lose his way among the Imipolex chains, and topologists all over the Zone will run out and stop payments on his honorarium checks (“perfectly deformable,” indeed!). The Lone Ranger will storm in at the head of the posse, rowels tearing blood from the stallion’s white hide, to find his young friend, innocent Dan, swinging from a tre limb by a broken neck. (Tonto, God willing, will put on the ghost shirt and find some cold fire to hunker down by to sharpen his knife).

“Too late” was never in their programming. They find instead a moment’s suspending of their sanity—but then it’s over with, whew, and it’s back to the trail, back to the Daily Planet. Yes Jimmy, it must’ve been the day I ran into that singularity, those few seconds of absolute mystery … you know Jimmy, time—time is a funny thing … There’ll be a thousand ways to forget. The heroes will go on, kicked upstairs to oversee the development of bright new middle-line personnel, and they will watch their system falling apart, watch those singularities begin to come more and more often, proclaiming another dispensation out of the tissue of old-fashioned time, and they’ll call it cancer, and just won’t know what things are coming to, or what’s the meaning of it all, Jimmy …

—Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon