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Women & Men Chapter Discussions > 1110 BETWEEN US: A BREATHER TOWARD THE END

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message 1: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (last edited Nov 02, 2012 10:35AM) (new)

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

"The Dream as Later Reported," beginning on page 1157, was originally published as "A People Oriented Bomb of Late America," in Grand Street 2.1 (Autumn 1982).


message 2: by Aloha (last edited Nov 09, 2012 08:50AM) (new)

Aloha | 497 comments (view spoiler) And I still haven't figured out the hole in the head of the Navajo Prince's mother. Anybody can help me out here?


message 3: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (last edited Nov 09, 2012 08:47AM) (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Aloha wrote: "A major punch line is that "

I'm not sure if that counts as a reading-hypothesis or a spoiler. [I'm not good with spoilerings]

No one needs to look, I know, but it gets pushed through feeds.


message 4: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Okay, I put spoiler tags. I forgot about the feeds. I thought that people who looked in this thread would have finished the book.


message 5: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Aloha wrote: "Okay, I put spoiler tags. I forgot about the feeds. I thought that people who looked in this thread would have finished the book."

For myself, having such hypotheses and questions in mind is part of the enjoyment of reading. But I understand that for others, the arising of those questions from out of the text, unspoiled, is part of the fun. That is, what questions the text asks can be spoiled, jus as answers provided. I'm just not sure what to make of the situation.


message 6: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments It shouldn't matter since time is non-linear around here. The end could very well be the beginning. :o)


message 7: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Aloha wrote: "It shouldn't matter since time is non-linear around here. The end could very well be the beginning. :o)"

Surely your thinking of Finnegans Wake?

[you'll notice that talking of time as "linear" or "non-linear" reduces it to a thing which is not temporal, ie, something spacial, with those 3-dimensions.]


message 8: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Nathan "N.R." wrote: "you'll notice that talking of time as "linear" or "non-linear" reduces it to a thing which is not temporal, ie, something spacial, with those 3-dimensions.] "

Well, how about "not progressing forward in sequence of nows"? I like the metaphor of non-linear better. Less words.


message 9: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments It was during the convo with Pearl that there was the revelation. I'll have to look at that again later tonight.


message 10: by Aloha (last edited Dec 11, 2012 06:04AM) (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Wow! Thanks, Jonathan. That was one of my questions, the significance of the hole in the head. I love how we're always finding out new things in this book. I'll work on the Hermit Inventor/Anasazi/Aborter section this weekend. I've been distracted with holiday wrap ups, preparing for Proust, etc. I have to go back to this book and the content of this forum to mine for more info. You're terrific, Jonathan!


message 12: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Hopefully, I'll be focused enough to turn my mind back to this. You're doing Proust, too, so I have a feeling your mind will be heading that way once you're done summarizing the final chapter. I think the forum is set up well enough for others to start contributing once they hit the book. We've left plenty of topics and questions that needs interpretations and answers to.

As I said, you don't really have to do any more work for your review. Stitching together your terrific summaries should be enough. Have a great holiday, Jonathan. Don't bring the book onto the airplane. You may throw the weight distribution off! :o) Thank you for all your contribution on this fascinating book.


message 13: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Jonathan wrote: "On Spence, the beginnings of an answer: [spoilers removed] Though in general, I'm a bit lost. I'm very curious as to how you guys and gals feel about this ending."

I'm a bit lost myself, but am enjoying new insights as they come. I had a more symbolic take of the character of Spence. There were several clues for me. The main clue was the Native American mythology of (view spoiler)


message 14: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments BTW, I haven't read Infinite Jest and am skipping it due to time constraint. I wanted to start gearing my mind for Proust. Am I missing out or will Gravity's Rainbow do? I left Gravity's Rainbow unfinished for Women and Men, and would rather finish that before I read Infinite Jest.


message 15: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Jonathan wrote: "What did it mean for the healer to turn into a weather formation to avoid being reincarnated??."

There's a correlation between "breath to wind" and "flesh to cloud." My interpretation is that in order not to "die", thereby going through the process of reincarnation, he changed to another flesh form, the cloud mist. In that form, he can travel and investigate the volcanoes.


message 16: by Aloha (last edited Dec 12, 2012 02:53AM) (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Since this is based on the Navajo creation myth, you can't demythologize it. This whole book's premise is based on the movement from the matriarchal society with all its myths to the patriarchal society with its myths. McElroy is making a commentary on societal change and values. Note the significance of Ship Rock to the Native Americans, yet it has a different meaning to the geologists.

Here is the Wiki explanation of the Navajo creation myth, mentioning the mist people. There's also interesting references to clouds. I'll put this in Affiliated section, too, since the Navajo myth is integral to the story.

Diné_Bahaneʼ


message 17: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments I'm looking at the summary for Infinite Jest. I am going to have to hit it with the IJ group after the Ruskin lectures.


message 18: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments I only just researched this because you mentioned the mythology. It's so obvious to me now that I don't know why it didn't occur to me to research the Navajo myth first before anything else. When you think about it, all the meteorology metaphor is because of the creation myth. The atmosphere and things relating to the sky (sun/moon) are predominant in the myth. That makes a lot of sense when you consider nomads have to rely on gazing at the sky and the weather to gauge their place on earth. This forces them to see connectedness with the whole earth, unlike modern society's need to compartmentalize in order to block out distractions, and the noise.

Ha! I just had another epiphany from talking to you. I see I need to do another review, a much more philosophical review.


message 19: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Jonathan wrote: "But I want to know how to demythologize it, like you can do with the Navajo Mother's hole in head. This might be impossible/not intended, I admit! "

As a starting point I'd take a look at the parallel stories of the Navajo and the Chileans. No one's talked about the overthrow of the Allende government by the CIA on 9/11 1973 which forms an integral part of the book and which I believe is of primary importance to McElroy. I just saw him put his phrase "articulated. . . small-scale" into the mouth of Allende's economist. But the parallel would be in regard to the Europeans pushing out the Native populations // CIA overthrowing Allende. What is lost in the one and what is lost in the other. . . a possibility of being-in-the-world contained in the Navajo culture and the possibility of Allende's socialism trumping the Chicago School's brand of unbridled capitalism.

Demythologization is one aspect of interpretation (what is the material-social reality underlying these myths) but one can also take the myths at face value as story and ask, what is McElroy doing with them as material woven into the texture of his novel, and how does the language of the mythology relate and interrelate with other languages within the novel? The meeting of those languages, for instance, which we witness in regard to Shiprock.

Also, Margaret's stories get passed around, added to, handed down, etc, just as do traditions; the story itself is an object within the book; will the Navajo culture survive because Flick and Grace both find themselves within it enough to tell it and retell it?

Just some thoughts. . .


message 20: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments From what I see of his lacework, he's weaving in the Native American mythology with the Chilean political event, using metaphors from meteorology, economics, women/men relations, tapeworm, and misc. history, with a thread of noir intrigue. I think his mythology and societal issues is strong, but his noir was overpowered by everything else thrown in. I think it's because the noir was not his purpose. Instead, making a societal statement was his purpose.


message 21: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Then again, this book is such that, depending on your background, you may focus on a thread and not notice others. It's really bizarre how the whole book changes the moment I look at it from a different point of view.


message 22: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Jonathan wrote: " your second paragraph is why I used the McElroyian 'one system...turned...to another' another instead of demythologization in my follow up"

I wanted to splice that excellent quote into my above comment, but missed it. In addition to it serving as an interpretive cue, it would also indicate the commodity structure of the economy--everything turned into the universal commodity money (and thus "Dreaded"?). As we turn one system into another, should we also bear in mind their distinctive natures and resistance to reductionism and/or interpretations?

How about the east-bound parallels of the Healer turned to mist and the army of the unemployed marching on Washington (which also contains its own contingent of reincarnation)? Also, the EFE Princess is turned into a cloud. . .


message 23: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (last edited Dec 12, 2012 09:49AM) (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Jonathan wrote: "When I say details of lacework I mean details details like (and again, I'm not done with the book. I need to swear off goodreads until I am, really) who is the woman who shot TW and why? What is th..."

I'm so foggy on my memory of my first reading (and also having been hit over the noggin by SO MUCH stuff toward the end that first reading) that I have no recollection to what degree anything and everything got bundled up. BUT, your questions make me think of the "conclusion" of IJ with threads lying here and there and its demand to return to the beginning, etc. More than a tidy little story, W&M is a fleshed out world, perhaps, with all of its little non-explananda. I suspect, knowing McElroy's skill, that all of your questions are answerable (unless known to be unanswerable) at the margins and just outside the margins of its pages.

None of that is helpful, but I've got a day's reading ahead of me some time today within that penultimate chapter.


message 24: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Jonathan wrote: "When I say details of lacework I mean details details like (and again, I'm not done with the book. I need to swear off goodreads until I am, really) who is the woman who shot TW and why? What is th..."

The woman in the baseball cap was a member of the Cuban firing squad in Santee/Spence's faked photo, in which he combined a picture of two college kids with the firing squad to make it look like they're about to be executed.

There is something significant with the volcanic formations in the northeast that the Anasazi healer wanted to see after he turn into a mist cloud. The volcanic formations was representative of the volcano that housed Ship Rock, so could it represent going back to balance? Margaret's purpose in telling Jim her story was that he can discover his root, which is related to The Navajo Prince. It was insinuated that Jim and Spence were his soul sons (Twin Heroes?) who would perhaps make it right.

Amy is the exiled Chilean economist's assistant. Jim wanted to have a discussion with her for info. on the economist.

The radiation coming from the cemetery is strange. There was mention that, although the mother's body was not there, something else was there. Could the radiation coming from the Trace Window? That means a Trace Window showed up there? Being a Trace Window means they can travel through time? Is there some sort of a bizarre SciFi element with people from the future and Trace Windows involved in the intrigue between the Cuban government and the Chilean government?


message 25: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Aloha wrote: "The radiation coming from the cemetery is strange."

The Trace Window picks up a signal from a radioactive substance. This substance is apparently the same naturally occurring element out of which the libration plates are made. It is mined out of a mountain (the one that dreams?) and this mountain is apparently headed east and Spence has some questions about it. The alloy seems to be a property of the Mayn(e) clan--Jim has it, so does Margaret and Jim's mother Sarah. Who else? Did the diarist MH Mayne have it? But, this alloy does NOT originate from Chilean copper and Bolivian (?) tin; contrast the coal being mined at Four Corners which is turned into "natural" gas.


message 26: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments I've still got that bit to do yet to catch up with your questions. Stock pile them here if nothing else, if you call that music real noise!


message 27: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Jonathan wrote: "As I return to the text, the narrator himself asks me to chill out:"

Same here. I flipped from the penultimate chapter to the final chapter and was slapped by a few paragraphs of exactly what you found. I finished reading yesterday exactly where you picked up, with the "Don't Know."

Someone had remarked about how all the initial sentences of chapters are statements in medias res. BETWEEN US: "We already recall what has just happened." And that second paragraph about Obstacles, going around or through them. . . . Also, we see the return of our angels who seem to have been absent for several hundred pages. And the interrogator seems to have had some kind of change of heart?.


message 28: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments Looks like we'll all listen to the author and take a breather for the holidays. Proust is about all I can handle right now.


message 29: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments I recall it mentioned somewhere that Alexander might be a Trace Window. I need to refresh. So much details to juggle in the head.


message 30: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Jonathan wrote: "Okay, I'm gearing up to begin targeted rereading for small details, but first I mean, I want to confirm some HUGE stuff with other finishers. Maybe you guys aren't talking about this because it's m..."

(view spoiler)


message 31: by Perifian (last edited Oct 01, 2013 05:29PM) (new)

Perifian | 9 comments Финита ля комедия! I am reminded of my first viewing of 'Solaris' after wearily wading through 'Stalker' et al.: grinning disquietingly with cardiopulmonary system on the verge of exploding from ridiculous intensity and finally, with a leap of artistic maturity, bizarrely confined to a single expressive medium, able to appreciate previously tolerated works of profound beauty/beautiful profundity. I'm much too physically/intellectually/emotionally exhausted, humanity internalised, drill known, to comment on mine experience of the conclusion, the first and the last of words I read. My interest in JPM introduced me to GR and I intend for the impending intimidatingly enthusiastic review, with hope but a comparatively atrocious footnote in completion, to be my first; I cease mine intolerable, illiterate ramblings and nap.


message 32: by Aloha (new)

Aloha | 497 comments :oD


message 33: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 662 comments Alexei wrote: "...mine intolerable, illiterate ramblings and nap."

Yes, more of both please. Looking forward to your review. Very much.


message 34: by Nathan "N.R.", James Mayn (new)

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


#10---
Aloha: Did you see the answer to the hole in head Q in the Mike-Whipped summary? Check out this wiki entry on Vertus Hardiman, a real life version of the Navajo Mother: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertus_H...

I'm working on the Spence/Mayn thing...


#13---
That photo Aloha! Chilling and yet he looks so brave.

I'm trying to finish the book before I take a plane to Georgia for the holidays (boarding Saturday). I don't want to carry the very-heavy-thing on an airplane, but I fear I'm going to have like fifty unanswered questions by the end even if we've 'teamed in research of one solution to two or more problems' and thus be forced to scour the text as I glide through the troposphere. If this book brings us anywhere, it brings us back to our most important relations, so it will be good to see them.

No rush on the Inventor/Anasazi/Aborter section. I hope many future posters will be inspired to fill in that gap, OPENING IN THE VOID, known bits II, known bits III, news, etc. I hope to write something good on this final chapter at the least, but it's going to be hard, as it appears to be connecting the entire book together. That, then a review, and while all this is occurring I'll maybe be asking you and Nathan and obfuscations specific questions and hopefully be able to answer any directed my way.


#15---
On Spence, the beginnings of an answer: (view spoiler) Though in general, I'm a bit lost. I'm very curious as to how you guys and gals feel about this ending.


#16---
Mmm...the "puzzle-solving" aspects of W&M must appeal to me at some level because I am intent on solving them, and they are often entwined with the kind-of-espionage element to the book that I enjoy. I can't shake a simple thrill when say, Jimmy Banks opens a package with a note that says 'messenger must be liquidated' and then another covered in undecipherable (to both J.B. and I!) initials.

(Though I, like you, admire the family drama aspects of the novel even more.)

I'm not sure if I'm lost or if the novel is designed to have me still lost at this point. I fear the former but can accept the latter. Again and again we see examples of noise, bad information forcing individuals to come to make harmful decisions or inaccurate conclusions. Perhaps we are being asked to realize that we will always live with this noise and the possibility of failure to interpret? Mayn at one point asks himself "Why do I tell these stories as if they were finished?" I think we also may be asked to remain in a state of acknowledging a movement toward the future with additional information (and noise) still to come. Anyways, this could be total bullshit as I still have plenty of pages left to read. What I truly fear is that the threads will "resolve" because of a whole lot of authorial wrenching...

I may or may not understand what you are saying about scope. If my reply has nothing to do with what you said, please inform me. McElroy repeats and reformulates the same ideas at several different levels (fractals get brought up a lot, I think it's a useful way to think about the book) and that seems to give the book a kind of intense focus, but I feel that McElroy both does apply his ideas 'outward' to a diverse and realized cast and successfully inspires one to think about one's one life in his terms for a while, in a way sending his authorial consciousness outward, away from the text as we go to work, on the road, to the park, whatever.

Infinite Jest and W&M are both incredible, human, outward facing books in my mind. I think you are right in that IJ works quicker, mainlines some of it's shit right into you. DFW's portraits are clearer, but perhaps weirdly that is because Mayn is shown so intricately at so many ages and in so many complicated states that it's a little harder for us to believe in a stable Mayn who isn't always in some clattering moment. DFW's portraits are drawn with thicker lines. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I still count Infinite Jest as one of my, if not my absolute, favorite novel(s).



#17---
It's quite a mysterious thing for him to have said. Maybe he felt the difficulty/reward balance was too discouraging (fair, though that hardly would warrant a "sucked canal-water"), maybe he's covering up how much of an influence McElroy really was on him (I can think of a half dozen striking parallels between IJ and W&M), maybe (as Nathan has suggested) Wallace never actually read it or finished it or engaged it fully enough.


#20---
I haven't really thought too hard about the Hero Twins mythology, but I shall as I finish up the novel. The 'throw their breath' line sounds like something a Trace Window can do, certainly. You know what I want answered? What did it mean for the healer to turn into a weather formation to avoid being reincarnated??

IJ and GR are totally different but equally spectacular novels. I'd say finish Gravity's Rainbow if you were still enjoying it when you left off. I may start Proust a little late... There are a few big ones I want to read before I'm in the thick of Lost Time. But I'll get in by February for sure.


#22---
Well, yeah, I get what happened to the healer in the logic of the myth. But I want to know how to demythologize it, like you can do with the Navajo Mother's hole in head. This might be impossible/not intended, I admit!


#25---
Holy shit, even after just glancing over it for a two minutes I can tell I should have read Diné Bahaneʼ way before I got to this point, to see how Margaret/Mayn/Flick/Lincoln/Grace's myths interact with it at least. But I still think it worthwhile to put the story of the healer through the "Dreaded Modulus by which one system can be turned like tables to another", and try to find a non-mythic expression of his story.


#28---
I very much agree, and your second paragraph is why I used the McElroyian 'one system...turned...to another' another instead of demythologization in my follow up (too much exposure to Rudolf Bultmann). The third paragraph also needed to be stated outright, for sure. I feel I understand what McElroy is doing in the macro sense, but am having a hard time with the details of his lacework.


#31---
When I say details of lacework I mean details details like (and again, I'm not done with the book. I need to swear off goodreads until I am, really) who is the woman who shot TW and why? What is the significance of the healer being associated with the mist beings in Diné Bahaneʼ (Why did Margaret or whoever passed that detail to Margaret or whoever developed it after Margaret include it)? Why did Amy and Mayn go to the Opera together earlier in the book? (How did they meet?) Why did anyone speculate there was radiation coming from the Mayn/e graves in the first place? This is without even looking at my notes... I've gotten so much out of the novel that I won't begrudge it if I can't figure these things out, but I would like to try, and if X question is unsolvable with the information we have I would like to know it to be unsolvable.



#34---
Yes, I like what you did with Coxley's Army and the healer. I would like to do more of that when I'm finished. I also enjoyed your interpretation of the Dreaded Modulus. Reminds me of a great Delillo line from Underworld: "Capital burns off the nuance in a culture".


#37---
Aloha: Yes, that appears accurate re: Woman in Baseball Cap, the formations being representative of Ship Rock (Which Margaret had been to, we know, so it fits very well that this is the way she integrated Ship Rock into her story. Thanks Aloha!), and Jim's connection with Amy via interest in Mackenna (though I think we can do more with the Capped Woman and some aspects of the Amy/Jim relationship still seem off).

Nathan: The Mountain is also apparently the subject of the Anti-nazi symphony and also a Wide Load, which is thought to be the code name of the woman in the baseball cap. Trace Windows: Lar'(?), Uncle Wally, TW, Norma(?), Jim, Margaret, Sarah, Senora Wing (assuming she didn't get all that information about the characters in the novel the old fashioned way, so ? still). Very interesting, the connection between crypto-thorium and the libration plates...

Sorry if this obsession over detail appears obnoxious, but I figure it's such a rarity that we have 3-4 people freshly finished or about to finish W&M so I want as much of this down on the internet for the future as we can get. Hopefully we can collectively be the Stephen Moore for the rest of the goodreaders gathered here and someday the wider internet.


#39---
I had to take a 24 hour W&M break because I was just getting too agitated trying to make connections. As I return to the text, the narrator itself asks me to chill out: 'but now he imagines he is no longer himself [...] and can leave a Don't Know, with inside it, at secret rest, the knowledge that, like information shared, Don't Know is the answer to two or more questions' (1132).

More on the Dreaded Modulus, very much in line with what Nathan has been saying about it, and very much a corrective to some of the ways I have been thinking: We are perhaps encouraged to, like Lar', move from 'the either/or system-switch of D.M. to the twain egal individualized screens seen both/and [...] so why trace it as a dreamed-up substitution...'

On 1131 there is a lot of good stuff relating the Anasazi healer to both the New Weather caused by Krakatoa and the atomic bomb, which certainly leads us toward a non-reincarnational future....

[photo]

---

I would also encourage readers to be on the lookout for information surrounding the Chinese Woman who can be in two places at once (gottabe a Trace Window).


#42---
The late prominence of Alexander in this last chapter is definitely working for me. Can we count him as a Trace Window too after the sublime sequence on page 1141? Also really enjoying the conversation between Jim and Jeanie, the re-emphasis of the meta element of W&M, the exchange about the place of The Dream in the novel.


#44--
Okay, I'm gearing up to begin targeted rereading for small details, but first I mean, I want to confirm some HUGE stuff with other finishers. Maybe you guys aren't talking about this because it's more obvious to you but (view spoiler) Thoughts??


#46---
Alexander/Navajo Prince/Sarah Mayn stuff:(view spoiler)

#47---
The end is built to in such an a way both totally direct and yet understated in the maelstrom of the BREATHERS (who could guess at that final scene?). McElroy could not have handled this better. Watch McElroy build, from the first BREATHER "Sarah, Jim's mother who heard but one of Margaret's takes the one Jim did not hear, of what happened when the Navajo Prince met the East Far Eastern Princess once of Choor and her long-time betrothed..." to that epic central BREATHER where we hear "Brad [say], "She was crying, I remember, she said Gramma had told her a sad story about the Indians [...] And, Brad, what story about Indians? Gramma never told those stories to anyone but me. / Mom said it was a swap. She told Gramma some things, and then Gramma told her some story about an Indian who died." Rereading W&M is an utterly fantastic thing.


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