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    #1

    Problem with understanding a sentence from Pynchon's Inherent Vice

    Hi! Can anybody help me to clarify a couple of moments in this paragraph from Pynchon's Inherent Vice?

    “On Adrians office wall was a framed picture of a bride and groom, taken long ago somewhere in Europe. On top of the desk was a half-eaten glazed doughnut and a paper container of coffee, and behind it was Adrian, silent and staring. Heated downtown smoglight filtered in from the window behind him, light that could not have sprung from any steady or pure scheme of daybreak, more appropriate to ends or conditions settled for, too often after only token negotiation. It would be hard to read anybody, let alone Adrian Prussia, in light like this. Doc tried to anyway.”

    1. Does heated in this case refers to downtown or to smoglight? In other words does Pynchon write about heated downtown or heated smoglight of downtown?

    2. What's the meaning of the passage light that could not have sprung etc. ?

  1. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Problem with understanding a sentence from Pynchon's Inherent Vice

    Quote Originally Posted by einzelne View Post
    Hi! Can anybody help me to clarify a couple of moments in this paragraph from Pynchon's Inherent Vice?

    “On Adrians office wall was a framed picture of a bride and groom, taken long ago somewhere in Europe. On top of the desk was a half-eaten glazed doughnut and a paper container of coffee, and behind it was Adrian, silent and staring. Heated downtown smoglight filtered in from the window behind him, light that could not have sprung from any steady or pure scheme of daybreak, more appropriate to ends or conditions settled for, too often after only token negotiation. It would be hard to read anybody, let alone Adrian Prussia, in light like this. Doc tried to anyway.”

    1. Does heated in this case refers to downtown or to smoglight? In other words does Pynchon write about heated downtown or heated smoglight of downtown?

    2. What's the meaning of the passage light that could not have sprung etc. ?
    Pynchon! I love that guy! You picked some tough reading. Most American readers don't understand everything he says. It's a little bit like reading William Shakespeare or James Joyce: we read him as much for the sound as the sense.

    1: The smoglight is heated. He's being poetic. Smog doesn't make light, and there's no such word as smoglight. Smog filters light out. But phrasing it this way animates the smog and makes the light seem sinister.

    2: Whew! Okay: It is not natural daylight. Figuratively, it's the kind of light you might end up with as a result of making a bad bargain. So it's bad light, impure. It suggests that Adrian Prussia is a bad guy. (And he is.)
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #3

    Re: Problem with understanding a sentence from Pynchon's Inherent Vice

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    Pynchon! I love that guy! You picked some tough reading. Most American readers don't understand everything he says. It's a little bit like reading William Shakespeare or James Joyce: we read him as much for the sound as the sense.

    1: The smoglight is heated. He's being poetic. Smog doesn't make light, and there's no such word as smoglight. Smog filters light out. But phrasing it this way animates the smog and makes the light seem sinister.

    2: Whew! Okay: It is not natural daylight. Figuratively, it's the kind of light you might end up with as a result of making a bad bargain. So it's bad light, impure. It suggests that Adrian Prussia is a bad guy. (And he is.)
    Thanks a lot for your explanation! Still I would like to clarify a couple of details.

    1) Are you 100% sure that it is the smoglight that heated? The reason I'm asking it is that physically it's impossible to "heat light". You can heat something (an object, or a substance like water or air) and as a result this object starts to emit specific light (in this case smoglight). I know that we discuss a fiction book here, not some thermodynamics textbook, but given the fact that Pynchon studied engineering physics a couple of years and scientific metaphors a very important in his novels (especially thermodynamical ones), I thought that he couldn't use "heated smoglight" as a metaphor. But may be I just misread him as a non-native speaker.

    2) So in this case 'scheme' is synonymous with 'bargain'?

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    #4

    Re: Problem with understanding a sentence from Pynchon's Inherent Vice

    Grammatically, yes, it is the "smoglight" that is heated. Don't analyze it too much. He's just saying that it was hot, smoggy and not brightly lit. Sunlight that was filtered through the smog.

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    #5

    Re: Problem with understanding a sentence from Pynchon's Inherent Vice

    Quote Originally Posted by einzelne View Post
    Thanks a lot for your explanation! Still I would like to clarify a couple of details.

    1) Are you 100% sure that it is the smoglight that heated? The reason I'm asking it is that physically it's impossible to "heat light". You can heat something (an object, or a substance like water or air) and as a result this object starts to emit specific light (in this case smoglight). I know that we discuss a fiction book here, not some thermodynamics textbook, but given the fact that Pynchon studied engineering physics a couple of years and scientific metaphors a very important in his novels (especially thermodynamical ones), I thought that he couldn't use "heated smoglight" as a metaphor. But may be I just misread him as a non-native speaker.

    2) So in this case 'scheme' is synonymous with 'bargain'?
    Yes, it's the smoglight that is heated. If you're not sure, you might try diagramming the sentence.

    The bargain is not the scheme. Negotiating is a kind of bargaining. "[T]oo often after only token negotiation" = frequently after weak bargaining.

    He's using scheme in several senses of the word: somewhat as in schema or scene, and mainly as in plan. He's sort of saying that the light is not part of daylight's plan - it's not natural.

    Yes, he has a background in math and engineering, and that is the foundation of many of his metaphors. But that's just his education. At heart he's a language magician. One reviewer talks about his "elasticity of syntax." That means that he stretches language. Why? To serve his ambitious artistic needs.

    So just let his words work they're magic on you. He's not being literal! He's playing with words - and with history, customs, and human motives. That's the fun (and genius) of Pynchon.
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 23-Apr-2015 at 22:25.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  3. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Problem with understanding a sentence from Pynchon's Inherent Vice

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    Grammatically, yes, it is the "smoglight" that is heated. Don't analyze it too much. He's just saying that it was hot, smoggy and not brightly lit. Sunlight that was filtered through the smog.
    Exactly.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #7

    Re: Problem with understanding a sentence from Pynchon's Inherent Vice

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post

    He's using scheme in several senses of the word: somewhat as in schema or scene, and mainly as in plan. He's sort of saying that the light is not part of daylight's plan - it's not natural.
    Thank you! I had a vague feeling that he's playing with words in this place but I couldn't quite get it. At a certain point I even thought that by scheme he meant a color scheme but it didn't make a lot of sense. Now it makes perfect sense!

    Thank you for your explanation. Such close analysis helps a lot, not only to appreciate his unique style but also to appreciate English language.

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    #8

    Re: Problem with understanding a sentence from Pynchon's Inherent Vice

    Quote Originally Posted by einzelne View Post
    Thank you! I had a vague feeling that he's playing with words in this place but I couldn't quite get it. At a certain point I even thought that by scheme he meant a color scheme but it didn't make a lot of sense. Now it makes perfect sense!

    Thank you for your explanation. Such close analysis helps a lot, not only to appreciate his unique style but also to appreciate English language.
    Actually, color scheme would fit, wouldn't it? It looks like you're doing a good job of working your way through the book. The hardest parts are probably the dialogue, because he captures so many ungrammatical mannerisms of different types of people - the way hippies, talk the way police talk, the way doctors talk, the way bikers talk, and so on.

    Enjoy!
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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    #9

    Re: Problem with understanding a sentence from Pynchon's Inherent Vice

    Quote Originally Posted by Charlie Bernstein View Post
    So just let his words work they're magic on you. He's not being literal! He's playing with words - and with history, customs, and human motives. That's the fun (and genius) of Pynchon.
    I agree- there's a lot of going with the flow with Pynchon, but that is one of the things that makes him such an extraordinary writer. Let it wash over you- Mason & Dixon was a stunning piece of writing, for instance, but I would be hard pressed to summarise it, but I loved reading it.

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    #10

    Re: Problem with understanding a sentence from Pynchon's Inherent Vice

    Tdol -

    My wife and I are laughing right now. Yup, Mason & Dixon was a hoot - but summarize? No way! I'm reading Bleeding Edge now. I think he's making it easier for us as he's getting older. On the cover of Gravitiy's Rainbow, they should hang a sign that says: "Abandon plot, all ye who enter here!"
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

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