Thursday, May 8, 2014

Seventy-Seven Today, or: Smegmo Is the Messiah of Kitchen Fats

More Cardew for his birthday yesterday. HEY! Thomas Pynchon was born 77 years ago today.

  • Proverbs for Paranoids:
  1. You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.
  2. The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.
  3. If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.
  4. You hide, they seek.
  5. Paranoids are not paranoid because they're paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.

Gravity's Rainbow, above and below.

     There is no graceful way out of this now. Darlene has brought a couple-three more candy jars down off the shelf, and now he goes plunging, like a journey to the center of some small, hostile planet, into an enormous bonbon chomp through the mantle of chocolate to a strongly eucalyptus -flavored fondant, finally into a core of some very tough grape gum arabic. He fingernails a piece of this out from between his teeth and stares at it for awhile. It is purple in color.
     "Now you're getting the idea!" Mrs Quoad waving at him a marbled conglomerate of ginger root, butterscotch, and aniseed, "you see, you also have to enjoy the way it looks. Why are Americans so impulsive?"
     "Oh try this," hollers Darlene, clutching her throat and swaying against him.
     "Gosh it must really be something, " doubtfully taking this nasty-looking brownish novelty, an exact quarter-scale replica of a Mills-type hand grenade, lever, pin and everything, one of a series of patriotic candies put out before sugar was quite so scarce, also including, he notices, peering into the jar, a .455 Webley cartridge of green and pink striped taffy, a six-ton earthquake bomb of some silver-flecked blue gelatin, and a licorice bazooka.`
     "Go on then," Darlene actually taking his hand with the candy in it and trying to shove it into his mouth.
     "Was just, you know, looking at it, the way Mrs. Quoad suggested."
     "And no fair squeezing it, Tyrone."
     Under its tamarind glaze, the Mills bomb turns out to be a luscious pepsin-flavored nougat, chock-full of tangy candied cubeb berries, and a chewy camphor-gum center. It is unspeakably awful. Slothrop's head begins to reel with camphor fume, his eyes are running, his tongue's a hopeless holocaust. Cubeb? He used to smoke that stuff. "Poisoned . . ." he is able to croak.
     "Show a little backbone, " advises Mrs. Quoad.
     "Yes, " Darlene through tongue-softened sheets of caramel, "dont you know there's a war going on? Here now love, open your mouth."
     Through the tears he can't see it too well, but he can hear Mrs. Quoad across the table going "Yum, yum, yum," and Darlene giggling. It is enormous and soft, like a marshmallow, but somehow - unless something is now seriously wrong with his brain - it tastes like gin. "Wha's is" he inquires thickly.
     "A gin marshmellow," sez Mrs. Quoad.
     "Awww . . . ."
     "Oh that's nothing, have one of these- " his teeth, in some perverse reflex, crunching now through a hard sour gooseberry shell into a wet spurting unpleasantness of, he hopes it's tapioca, a little glutinous chunks of something all saturated with powered cloves.
     "More tea?" Darlene suggests. Slothrop is coughing violently, having inhaled some of that clove filling.
     "Nasty cough," Mrs. Quoad offering a tin of that least believable of English coughdrops, the      Meggezone. "Darlene, the tea is lovely, I can feel my scurvy going away, really I can."
The Meggezone is like being belted in the head with a Swiss Alp. Menthol icicles immediately begin growing from the roof of Slothrop's mouth. It hurts his teeth too much to breathe, even through his nose, even, necktie loosened, with his nose down inside the neck of his olive drab T-shirt. Benzoin vapers seep into his brain. His head floats in a halo of ice.
     Even an hour later, the Meggezone still lingers, a mint ghost in the air. Slothrop lies with Darlene, the Disgusting English Candy Drill a thing of the past, his groin now against her warm bottom. The one candy he did not get to taste - one Mrs. Quaod withheld - was the Fire of Paradise, that famous confection of high price and protean taste - "salted plum" to one, "artificial cherry" to another . . ."sugared violets" . . "Worchestershire sauce" . . . "spiced treacle" . . any number of like descriptions, positive, terse - never exceeding two words in length - resembling the descriptions of poison and debilitating gases found in training manuals, "sweet and sour eggplant" being perhaps the lengthiest to date. The Fire of Paradise today is operationally extinct, and in 1945 can hardly be found: certainly nowhere among the sunlit shops and polished windows of Bond Street or waste Belgravia. But every now and then one will surface, in places which deal usually other merchandise than sweets: at rest, back inside big glass jars clouded by the days, along with objects like itself , sometimes only one candy to a whole jar, nearly hidden in the ambient tourmalines in German gold, carved ebony finger finger-stalls from the last century, pegs, valve-pieces, threaded hardware from obscure musical instruments, electronic components of resin and copper that the War, in its glutton, ever-nibbling intake, has not yet found and licked back into its darkness . . . . Places where the motors never come close enough to be loud, and there are trees outside along the street. Inner rooms and older faces developing under light falling through a skylight, yellower, later in the year

My favorite though, the one I would take to a Deserted Island if I could only take one, is Against the Day, which is scheduled for rereading late this year/early next year (of all Pynchon's characters I love Cyprian Latewood best):

The now-famous yearly Candlebrow Conferences, like the institution itself, were subsidized out of the vast fortune of Mr. Gideon Candlebrow of Grossdale, Illinois, who had made his bundle back during the great Lard Scandal of the '80s, in which, before Congress put an end to the practice, countless adulterated tons of that comestible were exported to Great Britain, compromising further an already debased national cuisine, giving rise throughout the island, for example, to a Christmas-pudding controversy over which to this day families remain divided, often violently so. In the consequent scramble to develop more legal sources of profit, one of Mr. Candlebrow's laboratory hands happened to invent "Smegmo," an artificial substitute for everything in the edible-fat category, including margarine, which many felt wasn't that real to begin with. An eminent Rabbi of world hog capital Cincinnati, Ohio, was moved to declare the product kosher, adding that "the Hebrew people have been waiting four thousand years for this. Smegmo is the Messiah of kitchen fats.


     Cyprian came with them as far as the river. Above them cloud had begun to enfold the convent and church, as if denying them second thoughts. The morning seemed to be darkening toward some Balkan equivalent of transformation.
     She handed Ljubica to Cyprian, and he held her ceremoniously, and kissed her loudly on the stomach as always, and as always she squealed. "Don't remember me," he advised her. "I'll see to the remembering." Back to Yash's arms, she beamed at him calmly, and he knew he had only minutes before regret would force him into a mistake of some kind. "Go safely. Try to stay out of Albania."
     As if seized by something ancient, Yashmeen cried, "Please - don't look back."
     "I wasn't planning to."
     "I'm serious. You mustn't. I beg you, Cyprian."
     "Or he'll take you below, you mean. Down to America."
     "Always makin with em jokes," Reef in a hollow chuckle.
     And none of them looked back, not even Ljubica.
     And Cyprian was taken behind a great echoless door.

  • Happy Birthday, Mr Pynchon.
  • No choice but freedomActual market outcomes are based upon near infinite artificiality. The money we trade for goods and services is made of mere tokens invented and defined in a system operated by banks in a very specific sort of collaboration with states. The markets that most grandly shape social outcomes do not directly touch goods and services at all. Financial markets determine what we collectively build and do, and who bears what risk, by virtue of trade in claims on wholly abstract entities that almost incidentally transact in human labor and operate on the physical world. Once one is seduced by the capacity of markets to exercise control without appearing to do so, one is left with the neoliberal temptation to play sorcerer’s apprentice by rejiggering contracts and definitions or taxes and endowments in hopes of retaining the clever system of free and voluntary coercion that markets provide but getting better outcomes from it.
  • Human nature for ideology.
  • Ultimi Barbarorum, Ultimi Porcorum.
  • Branding authors in Boston.
  • Something.
  • Yes, I know I missed Randall Jarrell's birthday a couple days ago, have a poem - his most famous, yes - below the Cardew.


Randall Jarrell

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.