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Women & Men Chapter Discussions > 0534 BETWEEN HISTORIES: BREATHERS THICK AND FAST

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message 1: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Discuss.

message 2: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Thanks, Jonathan. I'm rereading this section to write a summary on it, too.

message 3: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments I'm working on the "a lot" part, Jonathan. I'll go back to Choor, too.

message 4: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Here are my notes on this section so far to review in detail:
Luisa and the naval intelligence officer
Luisa and Mel Mayne
Luisa sings at Lincoln Center, name of Lincoln, the correspondent
Tapeworm and tracks, signifying paths (journey of Dreaming? History?)
Elf owl
Leona Stormer
Brad's Day
Peanut butter and jojoba
Sarah travels via the piano's melody
Everyone's relation to Sarah and her death, libration points
Sarah was right about the wind and earth
Sarah's opinion on wind curves
Earth and sun's relation
Jim and Grace talk in stereo
Naruto vs. Hamlet
Margaret and Sarah's relationship
Mirage bomber
Navajo's idea of time
Pearl Miles, Jim's teacher
Chasm of the sun
Jim nearly hitting kid in joy ride
Grace Kimball wanting male genitals exposed as part of workshop, joke about raping men
Mother was a boy creature
Double moon
Zoologist and botanist
Colt firearm
Four Corners

message 5: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Another important clue:
"Relation of breath to wind and flesh to cloud"
I also wonder what the Navajo matron with the hole in her head meant. Also, the part about Margaret seeing a weather clue that indicated that she should leave her prince. I'm trying to get at the meaning of that.
And the volcanic plug that is also featured in the future.

message 6: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Then again, I may end up doing the review before the summaries. The connections are throughout the book.

message 7: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Thanks, Jonathan. The name-pair and name thing became crazier and is part of McElroy's punch line at the end of the book. I'm trying to track down the Spence line, which is a major line and also has a weird name thing. I've missed something along the way that is critical toward me making sense of this.

message 8: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Thank you, Jonathan. I'm currently working on connecting the myth of the Hero Twins to Jim, et al., to the futuristic technology of radiation enabling the splitting of one to two back to one. Actually, they are connected, but I'm connecting all the other stuff to them. I love how he weaves it back and forth from myth to history to SciFi, to past/present/future. And then there's this matter of relations. Lots of huge themes to juggle.

message 9: by Aloha (last edited Nov 11, 2012 06:04PM) (new)

Aloha | 497 comments I was flipping through Introduction to Meteorology to compare its definition with its usage in W&M. Here are the definitions I found in the book that may have relevance to W&M:

1. Radiation Theory: Physicists employ the term radiation when speaking of an energy-transfer process that requires no physical medium for its propagation. Radiant energy is that form of energy which is transferred by radiation. These are abstract concepts. In our ordinary Newtonian frame of reference, radiant energy has no mass. It is not visible. In fact, radiant energy is undetectable except by specially designed "receivers" or detectors. These detectors are usually quite selective in the fraction of the total radiant energy to which they respond...

2. Wind roses: Experience indicates that the wind direction at any given place may vary from hour to hour and from day to day. In some instances, pronounced changes with the seasons are brought about by variations in the major dynamic and thermal circulation patterns. Some fluctuation may be due to local turbulence...

In this connection, a graphical representation of the relative frequency of the wind from a given direction is shown by the length of a line radiating from a circle. An array of such lines represents the average wind direction to eight points of the compass. Such a diagram is called a wind rose. The wind rose provides statistical information on the horizontal motion of the atmosphere, although, of course, it does not distinguish between causes. It is a valuable aid in planning airport runway layouts, locations of vegetative wind screens, and architectural features in buildings. It is of great value in air pollution studies and industrial planning where gaseous effluent may seriously affect the economy of an entire district.
(P. 74)

message 10: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Thank you again, Jonathan, for helping to refresh our memory! I'm focusing on the hot clues as to what the book's about.

message 11: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments This was a difficult section to have made a two week hiatus prior to reading. Would that I had taken that hiatus after this BREATHER. There is a lot of great narrative stuff here, like Brad's Day, but also a lot of almost gibberish-type passages. Towards the end are a few fantastical run-on sentences which are so maddeningly endearing. Also, towards the end, we get a picture of how Margaret's stories get passed around and through Frick, both she and Mayn adding their portion to the myth, and Grace finding herself as the Nava-choor (read -jo) Prince.

Do not skip over Jonathan's summaries above. Most excellent. I would also recommend reading the Judith and Holofernes story in the biblical Apocrypha. It's short and important to the scenes of Louisa and her mufti'd lover. (It's also a great story).

message 12: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Tell me about it! The brain can only hold so much information. I feel like I'm forgetting info. left and right on this book.

message 13: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Jonathan wrote: ""almost gibberish-type" "

If I may, this is second reading and there's still that 'gibberish' seeming. I know that's a strong word and wrong word, but by it I only mean to signify an almost total break in anything resembling narrative structure. And it may have been a matter of only a few sentences or paragraphs; until one returned to Brad's Day or some similarly recognizable event.

That Choor Monster, so alien on first reading, was like being at home again on second reading. I'm not a re-reader, so this all is rather eye-popping to me. I'll have to double-check on that near-p50 occurrence of Foley, cuz he's me favorite, perhaps.

message 14: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Nathan, this book requires that you reread to let information slowly absorb into your long term memory. There is only so much you can fit into the short term memory.

Jonathan, you have a fine eye for detail. I'm only taking a breather so I plan to come back and contribute. Then again, we have to let other people have the pleasure of trying to summarize the chapters. It's definitely a challenge to put down on paper what you've read.

message 15: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan (nathandjoe) | 51 comments This seems like a convenient place to talk about Owl Women and her songs, which are quoted in this section and others. Here is a link to some English text of them:


And the original 1920 book it is recorded in can be found here:


And here she is:

message 16: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Jonathan's deleted posts ::

pp 534-575, part 1
As usual, this BREATHER has been wild, and will not come into focus for this reader until more information has been accreted. I grasp the main thread(s) and hold on. This BREATHER, the thread I feel most comfortable discussing is Brad's Day, but there is also a great deal going on in the nineteenth century, both the Mythic West of the Choor Princess, and the historical west of Marcus Jones (botanist naming strains of locoweed) and Chilean Mena (zoologist chasing the javelina population northward).

Brad's Day begins a month and week or two after Margaret had 'imposed a brief stone' on the family burial place, Sarah's grave "empty of all but earth" as Alexander suggests for the inscription. Mel has already gone off to work, the two boys are to leave for school, when Brad begins banging on the keys of his mother's piano. We observe, as obfuscations pointed out, the sadness and pain coming out of Brad as a tantrum, for he can not deaden his pain through words (words like the ones Mayn later uses to tell this story of Brad's Day to Ted, Joy, Mayga) or through investigation (we find out Mayn made a 'very quiet research trip' to the beach where 'his mother left her departing note'. He even took notes, but knew he couldn't use the 'mystery material' for his school's journalism class.

pp 534-575, part 2
Brad had, after grasping his mother's violin case and sliding it into his arms ('Pretty morbid'), flung a 'wild stone' (from his pocket?), striking the glass front of a bookshelf. Brad sounds 'like being sick', flails to 'wound the air'. Jim is sad, sympathetic, but also annoyed, feeling everything at once. Perhaps this is thought during later telling(s) of the story, but possibly at the time: 'Maybe that is what little brother Brad was (suffering and) carrying on about: that she was really here, but you couldn't reach for her'.

Alexander comes to the house to 'check on the boys' and finds the piano room in disarray. Others come over the course of the day, Margaret, Bob Yard, Mel comes home, even Pearl W. Myles, Mayn's 'statuesque journalism teacher' shows up, after finding out about the situation at the house when she calls the Democrat asking for advice and support in creating 'a school newspaper independent of the principal'.

We have flashes to other moments, usually revolving around Sarah's death. Important to note is the discovery of 'certain of her effects (including a large black towel) well above high water at Mantoloking, with incidental vague apologies written to a neighbor' whose dory (fishing boat) she took out and that was found on a spit in Bernegat Sound with one oar missing. Also of note is a scene where Mayn overhears his father and another man (possibly identifiable now as Bob Yard? I'm thinking about the line: 'but the diversion of the boy's (Brad's?) presence was not the only fact between the two men who were not willing to hate each other...') discussing Lincoln (Abraham, though he has a name-twin in love with Mayn in our mid-late 1970s). Mayn is hiding under the porch. Mel is asked "Wasn't he married to an impossible lady?" and responds "I wouldn't want to say that for the record."


Sounds good, Aloha. I left out a lot in mine. I still feel very lost in the Choor/West sections.

pp. 575-600, part 1
Brad's Day continues into phase Brad-Together-Again. As Bob Yard says to Brad, to the ire of our (half) brothers (won't he leave Brad alone?), “you've been the center of attention, but you ain't the only one.” In this arbitrary number of pages I've carved out of this BREATHER, Jim's pain and loss manifests, in a very teenage way, that perhaps echoes into his very own New Jersey Myth. I've also got some news from beyond the immediate Mayn solar system this time, it is a BREATHER after all.

Let's pick up back at the house that the Mayn house: Bob Yard is quoting Sarah on the wind, it going straight ahead in a line, except the world is turning. Mel questions when she'd ever say a thing like that? Jim is irritated at Bob, possibly knowing more than he knows about Yard being Brad's father. Jim gets on his bike and rides to his mother's grave. His grandmother already there (?), talking to Eukie Yard, the groundskeeper.

We flash to various Jim-memories of Sarah throughout the chapter, including at this point in the text a memory of events that are a homology to Maya's story in still life: sisters sharing information:

[Sarah] had written a poem to President Truman about the atomic bombs but showed it to Alexander who gave it to Mel without telling Sarah, and Mel was going to run it in the paper, print it as a surprise. But brad told Sarah and she went downtown. Jim heard she ran all the way-- and took it off Mrs. Many's desk and left without a word to Mel who was at the far end of the shop keeping calm beside a press probably, and maybe nothing was said about it.

Jim is by the grave, Margaret comes to him, they discuss Sarah's presence/absence in the grave/their life. Jim boldly asks Margaret if Brad is his brother, and M admits he's only half brother, tells Jim that Sarah didn't tell her until the morning after that day at the beach.

We learn that Margaret's maid was/is (not sure at what time) also named Margaret, a 'shiny-black little indestructible girl'. Anyone working on a name-pair list?

Jim continues to remember his mother, he'll miss asking her things, but most of all just being 'in the same understanding room together' Jim remembers young Brad coming into his room, Jim giving Brad one of his duplicate baseball cards to look at, but Brad 'watched Jim instead'

pp 575-600, part 2
Mel, Brad, Bob, and Pearl drive to the cemetery, perhaps following Jim obliquely, perhaps more motivated by Brad. Pearl is told the Democrat is being sold. Jim asks Eukie for a swig of his applejack, but ends up taking the bottle with him, grabbing 'four mouthfuls of the mausoleum-blessed local' stuff as he walks around, seemingly avoiding his relations (and Bob and Pearl). Jim Questions Eukie about what Margaret was talking to Eukie about when Jim rode in. He thinks she's hiding something (who's Brad's father?). Bob and Brad continue to squabble about what Sarah said about the wind and whether it can be believed. Jim, a little drunk and angry, impulsively takes Bob's truck (keys still in it?) out for a drive. A little over a mile past the cemetery, Jim turns around to go back, but as he turns, he finds a boy in the back of his truck, though of debatable reality. Jim only glimpses him in the mirror, or perhaps feels his weight as the truck turns around. Jim sees the boy as a shirtless indigent piner. By the time he is turned around and 'ready to shift up' the kid isn't back there anymore. He thinks he sees his 'fugitive passenger' a little later, 'striking across a field' and then many times in subsequent days. Jim, in this case, is reminding me of John in the departed tenant. The interrogator is incredulous toward Jim's story. 'You can hardly expect belief in a tale like that about Jim driving not so much licenseless as without any practice-unless we had here a heroic episode?' He gets back to the cemetery. Margaret: "What's the meaning of this?" Jim: "Sorry, I forgot the body". Mel slaps Jim.

pp. 575-600, part 3

Here is where I write about things that are farther from position Jim Mayn

--We find out Lincoln became interested in Mayn before joining Body-Self. Where did she read or hear the letter to Flick?

--Lou set up a foundation to fund geothermal research, weather control.

--Larry gets a full name, Larry Shearson.

--Grace has plans to expand her operation nationwide, Body-Selves multiply, take on brand name Eros. There are plans for the men too, a 'further separation of the sexes'. The 'assembled members' of Body-Self are 'betraying themselves with talk called input taped raw...always retrievable'. I know Grace is recording herself, but is she recording everyone? This, and her commercial plans for Eros, puts Grace into the category of halfway sinister to this reader. What are you all making of this? I feel like perhaps something Clara says in Body-Self might end up recording and be crucial to the plot. Moving on, Grace on anal sex: 'the asshole, sensitive zone that it is, should be upgraded as not only the easy out that it has traditionally been but as a joyful entry as well.'

--Mayga had the sense that returning home from Washington would be the start of 'some, long fall'.

--Brad and his high-school sweetheart wife adopt three kids (and were in turn adopted by them).

--Opera Diva Luisa is poised like a "new Judith to this mufti warrier, finely furnishing her king sized bed". She knows he is after Dr. M. Can she, will she kill her Holofernes? Judith, from the book named after her in the Septuagint, painted by Caravaggio, is pictured below.

[photo of Judith]

--I guess the guy in the railroad flat who speaks on New Weather during Jim's adulthood is the 'decrepit nephew' of the original (1893-4) Hermit-Inventor, the nephew was walking with the Yards on that day on the beach that the novel keeps returning to. So Jim met him as a child before he met him in his flat. I take him being a nephew literally, because if he's just a spiritual successor to the Hermit-Inventor, how would he also know Margaret? By the way, what is the connection of the Yards to the Mayn family beyond of course Sarah's relationship with them? Again, I feel like I've not picked up some important fact(s), or have forgotten it/them. I keep in mind though that 'most curiously facts are the future of their absence where that precise absence is in the questions here and now.'

pp 600-630

--remembers his mother's musician friends.

--thinks about Margaret's stories, 'their exact date of inspiration, their pretty weird anatomy, their topography that changed like the weather...'

--'s father Mel and Bob Yard met 'upon a running board sweeping to [Mel's] destiny downtown from church to hotel to reception today the day [Mel] best-manned a local friend's nuptials.' (in an earlier chapter Jim considers a photo of this) Then Mel meets Sarah (an 'unexpected feminine obstacle en route to the hotel punch bowl') at the wedding, talks of his position at the paper that he doesn't know her family owns.

--sleeps with Mayga (after one of those Ted and Mayn and eavesdropping Spence gatherings, this time at a bar in DC?). For both 'this is the first time unfaithful' to their respective spouses.

--possibly saves the life of a girl who is hit on the head by Dr. Range's wildly stray golf drive. Jim moves her tongue out of the way, keeps her from choking.

--is borrowing Bob Yard's car again, this time after asking. But he's having two different girls meet him in the car (the Vandovere girl and the Pietrangeli girl) and they've taken off and gotten into an accident. More details forthcoming, pretty sure, in this situation, a highlight of the BREATHER.

pp 600-630
Diva Luisa

--considers ways to kill Mufti Officer such as pouting bleach down his nose. She plots murder during several time periods in this BREATHER, including while 'giving him head'.

--calls Clara "Momo" on the phone, trying to get Mufti to think she's talking to North, but Mufti is on to her. He asks why she would be quoting Naruda in Spanish and English to North. And he has heard her utter the name Mayn. He thinks the Mufti officer is deciding Dr. M's fate based on whether or not Dr. M knows 'a certain thing or not'.

--decides to take the part of Horatio after all, in the 'degenerate run of the gay Hamlet opera-ette'.

message 17: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments #18----
pp 630-end, part 1
We continue with more details of Jim's investigation of Sarah's disappearance at Mantoloking Beach. Jim hitchhikes in the rain to get there. At the beach, he sees the brother-in-law of the guy that let Sarah use his dory. He questions the brother-in-law about things like, has anyone drowned and not ever washed up on the shore, have the police investigated the suicide? The brother-in-law chuckles at the idea of the police using resources to investigate a suicide. He doesn't realize Mayne's relation to the semi-recently drowned, yet does soon after Jim shoves him, yelling "You bastard" before running. 'Jim ran like the halfback he was, because detectives didn't run, they stepped behind something'.

Jim is 'shaking his fifteen year old fists out to sea, and roaring, and screaming, hurting his throat'. One of the things he is screaming, though possibly not in words is "I don't want to find her". Later we find Larry thinking similar thoughts about his mom's different kind of leaving.

Jim writes about visiting the beach, under the pretense (to himself it seems) that the investigation is for Pearl's journalism class. Brad ends up reading what Jim wrote.

pp 630-end, part 2
I continue to leave a lot of important and interesting things out, even related to the main Mayn thread coursing through the BREATHER. But I don't want to move out this, the longest chapter of this dear novel quiet yet.

--We get a clear sense of why there are so many contradictions in the Choor stories. I guess this was apparent before, but we get pointed to specific instances of 'embroidering' on the tale as it is retold by Jim to Flick, Flick to Lincoln, Lincoln to her Group. We learn more about the two genealogies of the gun for example, and we learn that Jim is the origin of the Navajo Prince's mother's resurrection, which explains to this reader for the most part the why of the resurrection (I say wish fulfillment, but obviously it's more complicated/deeper than that, beyond words really).

What else?
--more name pairs: Ann Marie's middle name is Maureen, Maureen is Grace's right hand woman. There is a third Margaret after Grandma and her servant, and it's Sammy's boyhood girlfriend who he loved to dance with.

--Jim has a sense, a 'prevision' that Lar' is 'doomed, and soon', though he hasn't gotten Lar' involved in the Chilean plot, he hopes...

--Tons of stuff with Spence, him calling various figures in Mayn's life, looking for information, one of Flick's friends, Dina West...

--How about all the all lower case chapters told in miniature or given homologies. Like, think about how Mayn sees the Eiffel tower in the same way that Martin hears the unknown sound.


'But breathers aren't what they-or-we used to be: once marginal, the breather came to take up major space like a friend in need whom you have to listen to for weeks of personal crisis'

I wish I took notes not only on what I understood, but notes as to which passages I found "almost gibberish-type" so I can attack them precisely with future knowledge/dictionary/internet. The other day I got burned out on moving forward and decided to lazily move through the Choor Monster chapter again. It's amazing how clear the gibberish gets. It was bizarre reading about Foley ~p.50.

Nathan: Don't get too excited, there are just some mentions of the correspondence between an inmate and the 'current' incarnation of the Hermit-Inventor. Still, those sentences went unremarked upon in my previous reading/in my notes, seemed too extraneous. Also, now that I think of it, we get some Foley and Dr.M interactions in Choor Monster as well, but I haven't looked again at those yet.

#28---(response to Jonathan, "This seems like a convenient place to talk about Owl Women and her songs")-----
Thank you. I'm really excited to read through these.

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