Beware The Holiday Candy Bowl
December 24, 2018 1:30 AM   Subscribe

As we enter into the season where we are presented with candies and confections of various sorts, I suggest we all take a moment to read this short excerpt from Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, affectionately known as the Disgusting English Candy Drill. It is short, it is hilarious, and it should serve as a warning to us all.
"Here now love, open your mouth."

Through the tears he can't see it too well, but he can hear Mrs. Quoad across the table going "Yum, yum, yum," and Darlene giggling. It is enormous and soft, like a marshmallow, but somehow---unless something is now going seriously wrong with his brain---it tastes like: gin. "Wha's 'is," he inquires thickly.

"A gin marshmallow," sez Mrs. Quoad.

posted by hippybear (30 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
This and the banquet scene. And the Desperate Enterprise.
posted by Clave at 2:06 AM on December 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Christmas Eve, 1955, Benny Profane, wearing black levis, suede jacket, sneakers and big cowboy hat, happened to pass through Norfolk, Virginia. Given to sentimental impulses, he thought he’d look in on the Sailor’s Grave, his old tin can’s tavern on East Main Street. He got there by way of the Arcade, at the East Main end of which sat an old street singer with a guitar and an empty Sterno can for donations. Out in the street a chief yeoman was trying to urinate in the gas tank of a ‘54 Packard Patrician and five or six seamen apprentice were standing around giving encouragement. The old man was singing, in a fine, firm baritone:

Every night is Christmas Eve on old East Main,
Sailors and their sweethearts all agree.
Neon signs of red and green
Shine upon the friendly scene,
Welcoming you in from off the sea.
Santa’s bag is filled with all your dreams come true:
Nickel beers that sparkle like champagne,
Barmaids who all love to screw,
All of them reminding you
It’s Christmas Eve on old East Main.

Thomas Pynchon, V.
posted by chavenet at 3:08 AM on December 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

You look a little peaky. Have some of these camphorated figs - I soaked them in brine to make them a little chewier.
posted by um at 3:53 AM on December 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

the banquet scene

I'm a Byron the Bulb man, personally
posted by thelonius at 5:09 AM on December 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

Metafilter: Now once again he finds himself checking out these ruddy gelatin objects
posted by lalochezia at 6:08 AM on December 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have only ever been able to complete The Crying of Lot 49 and V, but maybe it's time to try Pynchon again. Any suggestions as to the best of the rest?
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 6:12 AM on December 24, 2018

I firmly believe I would enjoy at least half of those concoctions.

But my family thinks I can't be trusted with flavour anyway, because I've eaten a half-kilo of onions pickled with cloves in the past 24 hours.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 6:22 AM on December 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

I've eaten a half-kilo of onions pickled with cloves in the past 24 hours
“How did all the wallpaper in my bedroom peel off overnight?”
posted by letourneau at 6:27 AM on December 24, 2018 [14 favorites]

maybe it's time to try Pynchon again

Bleeding Edge is contemporary, paranoid, and prescient. A NYT review from Jonathan Lethem; here's a companion wiki if you want to know more as you read.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:44 AM on December 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite passages in all literature!! A total gut buster.
posted by supermedusa at 6:58 AM on December 24, 2018

You know, I've tried reading Gravity's Rainbow a few times, but I've never made it past the first few pages. It's always been like reading Neal Stephenson while very, very drunk, or the literary equivalent of trying to climb a glass wall covered in cooking spray.

This candy thing, though, is tempting me to give it another shot.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:20 AM on December 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

This has so many Proustian notes for me, due to visits to great aunts in Manor Park and East Ham in the 1970s. I have absolutely no doubt that had my wine gum and psilocybin years overlapped instead of being a decade and a half apart, my identification (in this respect) with Slothrop would be total.
posted by Devonian at 7:43 AM on December 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

I can confirm: Meggezones were a) real; b) as foul as described. They were the Extreme Unction of cough sweets.

While Scotland can lay claim to the aggressively vile Glickman's Cough Tablet (imagine hard fudge, but heavily mentholated), other countries are no slouch in the gag-reflex bonbon department: Wrigley's Doublemint Kona Creme gum (USA), Thrills Gum (Canada: "still tastes like soap"), Dubbelzout Drop (NL).
posted by scruss at 7:58 AM on December 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

If Pynchon weren't an author seemingly custom machined for the metafilter demographic this thread would contain different quotes from GR and would be going in a very different direction.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:03 AM on December 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

Are people Fisherman's Friends fans? They're not all that serious as a lozenge goes, but you can sure get some odd reactions if you offer them around, for something every service station sells.

Also, for those of us who are not yet inducted into the cult of Pynchon, could you clarify in what way at all thatwhichfalls?
posted by AnhydrousLove at 8:21 AM on December 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

No, I can't.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:27 AM on December 24, 2018 [4 favorites]

I mean, if you want to just come out and say "I think Gravity's Rainbow is an awful book and here's why", feel free. Even fans of the book should be grown-up enough to handle a little contrary opinion. (Me, I've never been able to crack it.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:34 AM on December 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I really owe it to myself to re-read GR one of these days. I remember lugging a hardback I borrowed from the library around in my bag in college... between that and Infinite Jest, my shoulder still hasn't forgiven me.
posted by SansPoint at 8:55 AM on December 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

Are people Fisherman's Friends fans?

"With Friends like this, who needs enemies?"
posted by gimonca at 9:19 AM on December 24, 2018 [6 favorites]

Any suggestions as to the best of the rest?

I think Mason & Dixon might be a better book than Gravity's Rainbow so I'd say give that a shot. I've had it in my mind to pick up Against the Day again because I've only read it the one time (library copy) and it definitely deserves a re-read or two.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:36 AM on December 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have read the Rainbow a couple of times, I had to make a dictionary for the first few chapters so when I read again, I didn't have to keep looking things up, you know like mullioned windows and the details of military uniforms. I love the Rainbow and the next time I read through I will understand more of the plot line, especially getting to know more about Turing. It is rich, delightfully so.
posted by Oyéah at 10:36 AM on December 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

The only Pynchon that I've successfully been able to get into, let alone complete, is Inherent Vice. I have yet to see the recent movie of it, but mean to at some point.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:39 AM on December 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Mason & Dixon as a great option for more Pynchon. I’m tempted to see this entire passage as people discussing their favorite TP titles and pressing their friends to read them. “It’s got a talking dog and lots of songs, basically a Disney movie that one. You’ll love it.”
posted by q*ben at 10:55 AM on December 24, 2018

I recommend his first novel, V. It covers his favorite themes: world history (especially colonialism and Africa), conspiracies , bohemians and other outsiders. It is long enough to build up the layers of detail and cross-reference that make for the characteristic feel of his big books. But I found it more accessible than his other long books. It helps you keep reading --- a page turner! --- thanks in part to its ingenious structure. Chapters alternate between two story lines --- one around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, mostly around the Mediterranean, the other in the 1950's, mostly among New York city artists, musicians, writers --- beatniks! --- and sailors. There is a character who connects the two story lines.
posted by JonJacky at 11:31 AM on December 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Would add the priest in the sewers in V. to an intersection between Pynchon and the holidays. Though maybe reserved for Easter.

In terms of accessibility, I’d put his books in tiers:

Bleeding Edge
Inherent Vice
Crying of Lot 49

(Probably also the short story collection)

All have relatively straightforward narrative structures and points of view, using generally conventional language.

Against the Day

Easy enough to follow from scene to scene, but the larger form and the book’s concerns are more challenging.

Gravity’s Rainbow
Mason & Dixon

Wild beasts. Companion encouraged.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 12:18 PM on December 24, 2018 [7 favorites]

The Meggezone is like being belted in the head with a Swiss Alp.

I love this scene. I keep reading it to people.

(First time I read GR I got a concussion - er, not a causal thing. I came to in the emergency room and my memory slowly tricked back. I picked up the GR paperback and could only remember that I was reading and enjoying it, but couldn't recall the details. So I (re)read it.

The pre-concussed me had annotated it. Every other page had cryptic observations, some in code. I soaked them up through anamnesis. I still can't understand some of them.)
posted by doctornemo at 12:34 PM on December 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yes V.
It includes the story of Fairing's Parish, how a demented catholic priest convinced of the upcoming post-apocalyptic rat domination of NY, goes down in the sewers to convert the rats and in the process discusses catechesis and marxism with his flock. This is being related to the lead character - sort of - Benny Profane while participating in a public works team on a mission to hunt down an alligator living in the NY sewers.
posted by talos at 12:54 PM on December 24, 2018

I personally found M&D to be a total blast, the most fun I've had while reading Pynchon. Against The Day was difficult enough that I tried 4 times to get through the novel and finally resorted to listening to the unabridged audiobook to get through it. And I haven't listened to an audiobook since because that one f'n Wore Me Out.
posted by hippybear at 1:24 PM on December 24, 2018

I honestly think a good deal of Pynch's reputation as a comic writer hinges on this scene, it's among his very best.

As to where to begin (I've read 'em all, and a few of 'em twice):

If you're a hippie, then Vineland.

If you've read Eco's Foucalt's Pendulum, or the DaVinci Code, then Lot 49

If you like Patrick O'Brian try M&D

If you know early 20th century then Against the Day

If you dig the Coen Brothers read Inherent Vice

Bleeding Edge is contemporary and accessible as well

V and GR are pretty hardcore in this day and age, but worth the time

just my 2 cents as a fan.
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:11 PM on December 24, 2018 [8 favorites]

As much as Zoolander is dated by how normal an orange mocha frappuchino now sounds, I'd bet my left eye at least seven places in London would sell you a box of gin marshmallows.
posted by ominous_paws at 1:05 PM on December 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

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