Arguably the first British Pizza

“Apologies, Sir,—” Whike all Unctiously, “the foreign Word again, was …?”

“The apology is mine,— Pizza being a Delicacy of Cheese, Bread, and Fish ubiquitous in the region ‘round Mount Vesuvius… In my Distraction, I have reach’d for the Word as the over-wrought Child for its Doll.”

“You are from Italy, then, sir?” inquires Ma.

“In my Youth I pass’d some profitable months there, Madam.”

“Do you recall by chance how it is they cook this ‘Pizza’? My Lads and Lasses grow weary of the sam Daily Gruel and Haggis, so a Mother is ever upon the Lurk for any new Receipt.”

“Why, of course. If there be a risen Loaf about…?”

Mrs. Brain reaches ‘neath the Bar and comes up with a Brown Batch-Loaf, rising since Morning, which she presents to “Cousin Ambrose,” who begins to punch it out flat upon the Counter-Top. Lud, fascinated, offers to assault the Dough himself, quickly slapping it into a very thin Disk of remarkable Circularity.

“Excellent, Sir,” Maire beams, “I don’t suppose anyone has a Tomato?”

“A what?”

“Saw one at Darlington Fair, once,” nods Mr. Brain.

“No good, in that case,— eaten by now.”

“The one I saw, they might not have wanted to eat…”

Dixon, rummaging in his Surveyor’s Kit, has come up with the Bottle of Ketjap, that he now takes with him ev’rywhere. “This do?”

“That was a Torpedo, Husband.”

“That Elecktrickal Fish, such as those styl’d by the Neopolitans, Cicinielli…

“Will Anchovy do?” Mrs. Brain indicates a Cask of West Channel ‘Choives from Devon, pickl’d in Brine.

“Capital. And Cheese?”

“That would be what’s left of the Stilton, from the Ploughman’s Lunch.”

“Very promising indeed,” Maire wringing his Hands to conceal their trembling. “Well then, let us just…”

By the Time what is arguably the first British Pizza is ready to come out of the Baking-Oven beside the Hearth, the Road outside has gone quiet and the Moorland dark, several Rounds have come and pass’d, and Lud is beginning to show signs of Apprehension. “At least ’tis cloudy tonight, no Moonlight’ll be gettingthro’,” his mother whispers to Mr. Emerson.

—Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon (pp 235-236)

Here’s my contender for best sentence in literature

Laboring through a world every day more stultified, which expected salvation in codes and governments, ever more willing to settle for suburban narratives and diminished payoffs–what were the chances of finding anyone else seeking to transcend that, and not even particularly aware of it?

Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day

Paranoid evolution, talking dogs

Viz.— once the only reason Man kept Dogs was for food. Noting that among Men no crime was quite so abhorr’d as eating the flesh of another human, Dog quickly learn’d to act as human as possible,— and to pass this Ability on from Parents to Pups. So we know how to evoke from you, Man, one day at a time, at least enough Mercy for one day more of Life. Nonetheless, however accomplish’d, our Lives are never settled,— we go on as tail-wagging Scheherazades, ever a step away from the dread Palm Leaf, nightly delaying the Blades of our Masters by telling back to them tales of their humanity. I am but an extreme Expression of this Process,—”

Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon (p 22)

‘The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.’

‘LaMont, are you willing to listen to a Remark about what is true?’ ‘Okey-dokey.’ ‘The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.’ ‘Maybe I ought to be getting back.’ ‘LaMont, the world is very old. You have been snared by the delusion that envy has a reciprocal. You assume that there is a flip-side to your painful envy of Michael Chang: namely Michael Chang’s enjoyable feeling-of-being-envied-by-LaMont-Chu. No such animal.’ ‘Animal?’ ‘You burn with hunger for food that does not exist.’ ‘This is good news?’ ‘It is the truth. To be envied, admired, is not a feeling. Nor is fame a feeling. There are feelings associated with fame, but few of them are any more enjoyable than the feelings associated with the envy of fame.’ ‘The burning doesn’t go away?’ ‘What fire does when you feed it? It is not fame itself they wish to deny you here. Trust them. There is much fear in fame. Terrible and heavy fear to be pulled and held, carried. Perhaps they only want to keep it off you until you weigh enough to pull it towards yourself.’ ‘Would I sound ungrateful if I said this doesn’t make me feel very much better at all?’ ‘LaMont, the truth  is that the world is incredibly, uncredibly, unbelievably old. You suffer with the stunted desire caused by one of its oldest lies. Do not believe the photographs. Fame is not the exit from any cage.’ ‘So I’m stuck in the cage from either side. Fame or tortured envy of fame. There’s no way out.’ ‘You might consider how escape from a cage must surely require, foremost, awareness of the fact of the cage. And I believe I see a drop on your temple, right … there …’ Etc.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (P 389)

[David Foster Wallace speaking to David Lipsky] I think what it reminds me of is the way that the fall of ’89 felt … feeling like, that I was washed up, and what was painful about that is never gettin’ a chance to you know be felt about the way LaMont feels about those players. And then also realizing how pathetic that was.

— Although of course you end becoming yourself by David Lipsky (pp 254)

we called them Granola Crunchers or simply Crunchers


Only that it was perhaps marginally less unbelievable in the context of her type, in that this was what one might call a quote Granola Cruncher, or post-Hippie, New Ager, what have you, in college where one is often first exposed to social taxonomies we called them Granola Crunchers or simply Crunchers, terms comprising the prototypical sandals, unrefined fibers, daffy arcana, emotional incontinence, flamboyantly long hair, extreme liberality on social issues, financial support from parents they revile, bare feet, obscure import religions, indifferent hygiene, a gooey and somewhat canned vocabulary, the whole predictable peace-and-love post-Hippie diction that im—

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace

On the eighth of December the Captain has an Express from the Admiralty

I am a little puzzled by this passage:

On the eighth of December the Captain has an Express from the Admiralty, ordering him not to sail. “Furthermore,” he informs Mason & Dixon, “Bencoolen is in the hands of the French. I see no mention of any plans to re-take the place soon. I am sorry.”

“I knew it…?” Dixon walking away shaking his head.

“We may still make the Cape of Good Hope in time,” says Capt. Smith “That’ll likely be our destination, if and when they cut the orders.”

—Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon (p 33)

Without any further explanation the Seahorse proceeds down the Channel towards its bloody encounter with the l’Grand. But why? Captain Smith has orders from the Admiralty, which is responsible for command of the Navy, not to set sail. And as we have seen in the proceeding matter of the hundred pounds for expenses the Captain has “no wish to offend” “the Great Circumnavigator” George Anson, the then First Lord of the Admiralty.

Does this mean the orders not to sail should be read as “do not sail to Bencoolen”? This makes sense as it has been taken by the French, but “furthermore” suggests Bencoolen is an additional reason not to sail not the primary one. Is the Admiralty aware of the danger posed by the L’Grand?

Who is the “they” Captain Smith is referring to when he talks about cutting orders? If it’s the Admiralty, then why would they order the captain not to sail and then not cut orders. Surely the two are one and the same. If it is the Royal Society then this raises other questions.

Judging by the threatning letter the Royal Society send Mason and Dixon in reply to their letter from Plymouth, it is they whom the captain is referring to. So why then would he follow their orders over those of the Admiralty not to sail?

“Happen,” Dixon contributes in turn, “we were never meant at all to go to Bencoolen,— someone needed a couple of Martyrs, and we inconviently surviv’d?”

Dixon’s suspicions about the motives of the Society (on page 44) offer another glimpse of an explanation hinted at by captain Smith earlier. That Mason & Dixon are not the only ones sent out to observe the Transit of Venus.

“No one else is going there to observe,” Mason “Odd, isn’t it? You think there’d be a Team from somewhere.”

Capt. Smith look away, as if embarrass’d. “Perhaps there is?” he suggests, as gently as possible.

Of course this suggestion is absolutely correct, Maskelyne has also been sent out by the Society to observe the Transit from St. Helena. But it is his mission that fails not theirs. Why the captain should know about this, almost to the point of embarrsement, is unclear. But certainly Mason & Dixon are being kept in the dark.

“As if…there were no single Destiny,”

“As if…there were no single Destiny,” puzzles Mason, “but rather a choice among a great many possible ones, their number steadily diminishing each time a Choice be made, till at last ‘reduc’d,’ to the events that do happen to us, as we pass among ’em, thro’ Time unredeemable,—much as a Lens, indeed, may receive all the Light from some vast celestial Field of View, and reduce it to a single Point. Suggests an optical person,— your Mr. Bird, perhaps.”

—Mason & Dixon (p45)

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.