2007-07-30 23:01

Mindless Pleasures

(This week only! Special Deal! I thought I would, con permiso, reinstate the Addl Discussion post. Future moderators should feel under no obligation to follow suit. I just have a few small observations to make that would likely take the main comment stream too far afield… I meant to get this up at the beginning of the week, but — alas, time being what it is — that didn’t quite work out. Better Nate than lever, I s’pose.)


Orgasm, hallucination, stupor, sleep is a fairly succinct catalogue of Pynchon’s motifs. They are the mindless pleasures of the Preterite. They are the carrot and stick, the currency more potent than lucre, that They use to bend people to Their will…

The Tower

The working title of Gravity’s Rainbow was Mindless Pleasures, and there is something about the closing passage of this chapter that suggests to me (once again) that this current book, in some embryonic form, was already gestating alongside an incipient Mason & Dixon and Gravity’s Rainbow, as hinted at in the Donatio letters. (So another point of speculation: which is the fourth novel referenced? Some version of Vineland? Some other monster work slouching toward Penguin to be born?)


Also, I had never before thought of Slothrop’s anticipatory hardon as resembling a dog’s nervous anticipation of an electrical storm, but the similarities are striking (ouch, sorry). Has this been suggested before? I mean, I know there’s that strong Pavlovian theme going on in GR, but that’s about conditioning — what about plain old “animal freaking out hours before the tornado hits” type stuff? What if Slothrop was just… born that way?

And if we recall Vineland’s epitaph (“Every dog has his day, and a good dog just might have two days”) along with the proliferation of dogs throughout his books (almost more important, or at least ubiquitous, than TRP’s beloved pigs), we might have a curious reflection on the idea of anticipation, simultaneity, mindless pleasures, the life (and exploitation) of appetites, etc etc, which seems more and more to be a basso continuo of sorts within all his books…

By Way of Explanation, 28 June 2020

Shortly before Against The Day was published, I joined the Chumps of Choice as one of the guest moderators for a group-read of the book. We began in December of 2006 and ran through to December 2007.

I hosted four times, with one additional “side” post. In the interest of owning your own content, I have dredged the following five posts from the Chumps Blogspot archives to give them a new, permanent home here.

I was someone else then. Some posts from that blog will slowly be reappearing here at AFC, backdated with their original publication dates.

Here are links to the five ATD posts:

  1. Light and Pain pp 189–219
  2. “We Shall Pretend to Know Nothing” pp 318–335
  3. Against the Day pp 792–805
  4. Mindless Pleasures
  5. What I Tell You Three Times is True pp 976–999

And they all share the tag Chumps.

pynchon chumps

Previous post
Against the Day With this chapter and the last, we see the Event from a number of perspectives. This chapter (number 56 for those who’ve been counting) is divided
Next post
What I Tell You Three Times Is True What we’ve got this week are two chapters, both returning us to the Southwest, and inaugurating another long string of unlikely reunions. For such a