Nicholas tells the story of the Giant Hemp-Plant

“Big,” the Indian replies directly, smiling and nodding. Mason notices that ev’ryone is nodding.

“Hemp-Plant,” Dixon reminds Nicholas.

Many people, he explains, even from far away, make the Journey and Ascent. In earlier times, they climb’d to a Limb wide enough not to roll off of, and camp’d there overnight. But ’twas a fix’d season, and a growing Demand,— soon the great Limbs grew crowded. Some Travelers were not careful with their campfires, starting larger fires soon put out, tho’ not before producing lots of Smoak. Big Smoak. Depending upon the Winds, often climbers were delay’d for days.

The first long-house began to appear upon the sturdier Branches, each season’s Pilgrims sleeping in them overnight, then travelling on upward, others remaining to wait for them, smoking meanwhile Resin broken from some Bud nearby, and wrapp’d in a piece of Leaf, the whole being twisted into a giant Cigar. Soon sheds were added to Lim-side Inns, serving as Depots for the Jobbers who buy direct from the Bud. Bands of Renegadoes arrive to attack and rob the Enterprizers, who accordingly must band together in arm’d Convoy. Yet desparate men will assault even these vertical Caravans. ’Tis a lively time out there upon the Stalks.

Mason & Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon

We utterly refute any allegation to the contrary

“We utterly refute any allegation to the contrary. It is a matter of huge regret that Peter Oborne, for nearly five years a contributor to the Telegraph, should have launched such an astonishing and unfounded attack, full of inaccuracy and innuendo, on his own paper (my italics).”

—A spokesman for the Daily Telegraph.

Refute is not synonymous with rebut or deny. That is, it doesn’t mean merely “to counter an argument,” but to “disprove beyond doubt; to prove a statement false.” Yet the word is commonly misused for rebut—e.g.:“Ontario Hydro strongly refuted [read denied or rebutted] the charges, saying none of its actions violate the Power Corporations Act.” Tom Blackwell, “Local Power Utilities Sue Ontario Hydro Over Pricing,” Ottawa Citizen, 25 Apr. 1997, at D16. See rebut.

Sometimes the word is misused for reject—e.g.: “Two-thirds of the people refuted [read rejected] [Nicholas Ridley’s] belief the European Monetary Union is a ‘German racket to take over the whole of Europe’…” Toby Helm, “Majority Back Euro Deals,” Sunday Telegraph 15 July 1990, at 1.

A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner

Run-on sentences, the “comma splice”

With a comma splice, two independent clauses have merely a comma between them, again without a conjunction—e.g.: “I need to go to the store, the baby needs some diapers.”

The presence or absence of a comma—and therefore the distinction between a run-on sentence and a comma splice—isn’t usually noteworthy. So most writers class the two problems together as run-on sentences.

But the distinction can be helpful in differentiating between the wholly unacceptable (true run-on sentences) and the usually-but-not-always unacceptable (comma splices). That is, most usage authorities accept comma splices when (1) the clauses are short and closely related, (2) there is no danger of a MISCUE, and (3) the context is informal. Thus: “Jane likes him, I don’t.” But even when all three criteria are met, some readers are likely to object. And in any event a dash seems preferable to a comma in a sentence like that one.

A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner.

Believe I’ll have another of those… ? Would tha join me?

“— aye then here they come! How canny, with these greeaht Foahm Tops on ‘em, what do tha call thah’?”

“That is a ‘Head,’” Blackie quizzickal. “They don’t have that, back wherever you’re from? What kind o’ Ale-Drinker are you then, Sir?”

“Shall we quarrel, after all?”

“Innocent question,” Blackie looking about for support.

“Very well, as tha did ask,— I’m a faithful and traditional Ale-Drinker, Sir, who does thee a courtesy in even swallowing this pale, hopp’d-up, water’d-down imitation of Small Beer.”

“Far preferable,” replies Blackie, “— even if slanderously and vilely untrue,— to that black, sluggish, treacly substitute for Naval Tar, Sir, no offense meant, that they swill down over in England?” with a look that would have been meaningful, could it get much beyond a common Glower.

Dixon sighs, Ale Loyalty is important to him, as part of a pact with the Youth he wish’d to remain connected to. He lifts and drinks, as calmly as possible, the entire Pint of American Ale, without pausing for any Breath. Having then taken one at last, “O Error!” he cries, “How could I’ve so misjudg’d this?”

Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon

Does Britannia, when she sleeps, dream? Is America her dream?

Does Britannia, when she sleeps, dream? Is America her dream?— in which all that cannot pass in the metropolitan Wakefulness is allow’d Expression away in the restless Slumber of these Provinces, and on West-ward, wherever ’tis not yet mapp’d, nor written down, nor ever, by the majority of Mankind, seen,— serving as a very Rubbish-Tip for subjunctive Hopes, for all that may yet be true,— Earthly Paradise, Fountain of Youth, Realms of Prester John, Christ’s Kingdom, ever behind the sunset, safe till the next Territory to the West be seen and recorded, measured and tied in, back into the Net-Work of Points already known, that slowly triangulates its Way into the Continent, changing all from subjunctive to declarative, reducing Possibilities to Simplicities that serve the ends of Governments,— winning away from the realm of the Sacred, its Borderlands one by one, and assuming them unto the bare mortal World that is our home, and our Despair.

Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon

the unspeakable torment of vacated souls

…but Eliot was to draw on Bergson’s challenge to the technological artifice of clock-time which enforces the present and ignores the cumulative incursions of the past. Duration, the lived experience of Time, is subjective and continuous, not measured out in ticks and tocks. (To experience the even monotony of measured time— the ‘petty pace’ of Macbeth’s tomorrow’s— is the unspeakable torment of vacated souls.)

The Imperfect Life of T. S. Eliot by Lyndall Gordon.

The Las Viudas Cilice is a device suggested by Jesuit practice

“Shh. Here it is. Here is what disobedient Novices must wear.” The Las Viudas Cilice is a device suggested by Jesuit practice, worn secretly, impossible, once secur’d, to remove, producing what some call Discomfort,— enough to keep thoughts from straying far from God. “If God were younger, more presentable,” murmurs Crosier, “we’d be thinking about Him all the time, and we shouldn’t need this,—” her Gaze inclining to the Hothouse Rose, deep red, nearly black, whose supple, long Stem is expertly twisted into a Breech-clout, to pass between the Labia as well as ‘round the Waist, with the Blossom, preferably one just about to open, resting behind, in that charming Cusp of moistness and heat, where odors of the Body and the Rose may mingle with a few drops of Blood from the tiny green Thorns, and Flashes of Pain whose true painfulness must be left for the Penitent to assess… Of course, this is all for the purpose of keeping her Attention unwaveringly upon Christ. “Considering what Christ had to go through,” Jesuits are all too happy to point out, “it isn’t really much to complain about.”

—Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon.

The Captive’s Tale

One night I dream that I have come to a Bridge across a broad River, with small settlements at either approach, and in its center at the highest point of its Arch, a Curious Structure, some nights invisible in the river mists, Lanthorns burning late,— a Toll-House. Not ev’ryone is allow’d through, nor is paying the Toll any guarantee of Passage. The gate-keepers are members of a Sect who believe that by choosing correctly which shall dwell on one side of this River, and which the other, the future happiness of the land may be assur’d. Those rejected often return to one of the Inns clustered at either end of the Bridge, take a bed for the night, and try again in the morning. Some stay more than one night. When the Bills become too burdensome, the Pilgrims who wish strongly enough to cross, may seek employment right there,— at the Ale-Draper’s, or the laundry, or among the Doxology,— and keep waiting, their original purpose in wishing to cross often forgotten, along with other information that once seem’d important, such as faces, and their Names,— whose owners come now to my rooms to visit, and to instruct me in my Responsibilities, back wherever it is I came from. They say they have known me all my life, and seek to bring me away, “home” to where I may at least be seen to by Blood. Perhaps there is a young man, professing with the skill of an amateur actor to be my husband. “Eliza! do tha not recognize me? The little Ones,—” and so forth. Someone I cannot abide. Stubbornly, I look for some explanation of this Order to live upon a side of the River I’d rather be across from than on.

—Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon

Who claims Truth, Truth abandons. History is hir’d, or coerc’d…

 … Who claims Truth, Truth abandons. History is hir’d, or coerc’d, only in Interests that must ever prove base. She is too innocent, to be left within the reach of anyone in Power,—who need but touch her, and all her Credit is in the instant vanish’d, as if it had never been. She needs rather to be tended lovingly and honorably by fabulists and counterfeiters, Ballad-Mongers and Cranks of ev’ry Radius, Masters of Disguise to provide her the Costume, Toilette, and Bearing, and Speech nimble enough to keep her beyond the Desires, or even the Curiosity, of Government….

–Mason & Dixon (p. 350)

Remedios Varo, ‘Bordando el Manto Terrestre.’

embroidering-the-earth-s-mantle-1961 (1)

In Mexico City they somehow wandered into an exhibition of paintings by the beautiful Spanish exile Remedios Varo: in the central paintings of a triptych, titled ‘Bordando el Manto Terrestre’, were a number of frail girls with heart-shaped faces, huge eyes, spun-gold hair, prisoners in the top room of a circular tower, embroidering a kind of tapestry which spilled out the slit windows and into a void, seeking hopelessly to fill the void: for all the other buildings and creatures, all the waves, ships and forests of the earth were contained in this tapestry, and the tapestry was the world.

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon.