Richard Python and Gravity’s Rainbow

We recently read Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.  The book is considered one of the GREATEST AMERICAN NOVELS EVER WRITTEN SO HELP ME GOD (20th Century Category).  Thousands of people say they have read it; hundreds of people have actually read it; and 4 people have enjoyed it. 

No one has understood it – making it the quintessential modern (or is it post-modern – we get confused) novel.   The story (if you can call it that) is like gentrification in your major cities:  New York, LA, Roanoke, New Shoreham.  It’s sprawling but it’s also dense.  It is literary and sophomoric and occasionally pornographic – just like Block Island.

Assuming he is still alive, Mr. Pynchon is a remarkable person.  We say “assuming” because he is a recluse, and no one actually knows if he is still alive.  There are very few pictures of him, and even slimy celebrity “journalists” have been unable to hack into his computer and steal all the naked selfies he has undoubtedly taken.  That alone is remarkable.   

The most interesting thing about the book (and Pynchon) is this.  In 1974 Gravity’s Rainbow won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction.  Actually, it shared that honor with another book no one reads.  Instead of attending the ceremony, Mr. Pynchon authorized a comedian to go in his place.  The comedian accepted the award on behalf of Richard Python and then gave a bizarre and funny acceptance speech.  In this era of attention seeking, I cannot imagine anyone (other than perhaps Bob Dylan) doing that. 

As for my comments on Gravity’s Rainbow, we didn’t actually read it.  We only said we read it.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

Vatican Reports on Sexual Abuse Scandal (Exclusive)

The Vatican was appalled to learn recently that some of its priests have been accused of sexually abusing children. Just in the last week it issued a report on former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who rose through the church’s hierarchy despite repeated allegations of sexual misconduct. We are assured in the report that his rise to power had nothing to do with his phenomenal fundraising skills.

McCarrick was expelled from the priesthood in 2019 after a Vatican investigation found him guilty of abuse of power and sexual crimes against minors and adults. Fortunately, his crimes and abuses only spanned a handful of decades, so no one can accuse the Vatican of failing to act promptly.

Here at Pungent Sound our very own Father Orifice (pronounced Orifeechee) has asked to explain the Vatican’s reasonable and measured actions. Because we believe that even the powerful should be given a chance to be heard and because Father Orifice is a pretty proficient fundraiser himself, we immediately agreed. Take it away, Father Orifice.

Bishop’s Hole

Oh, the games we played in Bishop's Hole,
but the foul winds have begun to blow
so once again it's time to go.

Even though it's hard,
I must leave this behind.
That's what the rector said,
and he does have a good head.
Granted, this happens all the time.
It's why we installed a pipeline,
which can send me anywhere
because Bishop Hole's are everywhere.

But still it's hard
and I'm leaving quite a mess,
but reputations must be protected,
so there's nothing here to confess.
When I think about the good we inflict
this only gives my conscience a tiny prick.

We lie in the shadow of the Cross,
so there isn't anything we can't lick.
            *          *          *
O.K.  That's enough with the juvenile jabs.
I've had my fun, and it's cruel to taunt.
Let's get serious for a moment.

We told you that we would fix things,
and you had faith.
Then you learned that we continued 
to rape your children and cover it up.
You even found our pedophile pipeline.

That was awkward for us.

So we promised to stop for real.
And you believed us, but we lied.  Again.
No rational person should have believed us.
But you did.

You continued to give us your children,
and we continued to prey.
You trusted us - the black vultures you should have feared.
And we never did a single thing to earn your trust.

After all that, shouldn't you be the ones condemned?
            *          *          *
Have you noticed how we love gold veneer?
It's everywhere, and it's immaculate
as long as you don't stand too near.

We've made the luster last all these years,
because we polish the gold with your children's tears.
Those tears run like torrents between the pews.
It's like Noah's Flood.

And there's nothing else we will do. 

Father Orifice, Chaplain of Pungent Sound Technical College of Technology.

Breaking News

Hello! Here at Pungent Sound we love the news. It does not matter what kind: TV news, internet news, radio news, podcasts, twitter, gossip, and analysis. It’s all the same, and it’s all fantastic.

We appreciate the thoughtfulness. The measured tones. The respect these outlets have for their readers, viewers, and listeners. Most of all, we appreciate the accuracy. And there is no doubt that competition and variety have elevated social discourse and enlightened the public. With all this in mind, I wrote the following poetic tribute.

Breaking News

   A cow covered with hundreds
   of mouth-like lesions
   each containing a tongue
   that lovingly licks my ear -
   tells me all the black lies
   I desperately want to hear;
   a massive udder with hundreds
   of mottled leathery teats -
   and I suck the sour milk.

   Luvgood Carp, Editor-in-Chief and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

First Published in Ariel Chart.

Nobel Prize Winner Has a Foot Fetish

Part-time writer and full-time foot fetishist, Olga Tokarczuk, won the Nobel Prize for Literature (Silly Languages Category) in 2018. Having never heard of her (and unable to find anything about her on TMZ.com), we concluded she does not exist.

However, we stumbled across her book, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones, in Book No Further, which is not the worst book shop in Roanoke. According to the book’s cover, Ms. Tokarczuk is from Poland and inexplicably writes in Polish, which explains why we and TMZ never heard of her. As an aside, writing in Polish seems to be a poor marketing decision – one that she should reconsider if she hopes to have any success.

As made clear in Drive Your Plow, Ms. Tokarczuk loves feet and William Blake – for many of the same reasons. Early on the narrator confesses that she must wash her feet thoroughly before going to bed. Perhaps this is because “[i]t is in the feet that all knowledge of Mankind lies hidden; the body sends them a weighty sense of who we really are and how we relate to the earth.” But if you need more proof of her fanaticism for feet, Big Foot is the name of the first character to die in this fantastical murder mystery. (Spoiler alert).

So according to Ms. Tokarczuk (and by extension, all of Poland), feet are not weird and disgusting. What is weird and disgusting is our concept of reality. The narrator argues that humans are programmed to reject reality; that the “human psyche evolved in order to defend us against seeing the truth . . . The psyche is our defense system – it makes sure we’ll never understand what’s going on around us. Its main task is to filter information, even though the capabilities of our brains are enormous. For it would be impossible to carry the weight of this knowledge. Because every tiny particle of the world is made of suffering.” Major theme alert: don’t trust your brain, trust your feet. So that’s weird.

Drive Your Plow is a wonderfully unusual murder mystery. At times the reader is swept away with philosophical discussions on animal rights, astrology, feet, Blake’s poetry, and feet. Then the reader remembers that the body count is now up to three and each death has been grisly. According to the narrator, an older woman who lives alone, free will does not exist. Instead, our lives are controlled by the stars and planets, with the most powerful being Uranus. And this is undoubtedly true – just think of how you fear the whims of Uranus every single day.

For this odd and unreliable narrator, human rights and animal rights are indistinguishable. In fact, animals may have the better claim to Earth. Certainly the Polish winter in this book would be cruel and inhospitable to any person, as we are not born with any practical protections against its harshness. Accordingly, we are fools to believe this world was created for us – so perhaps it was created for the animals. This strident belief drives the narrator and the entire story to a conclusion that probably will not surprise the observant reader. But the joy is in the travel, and at the end the reader is thankful for the Czech Republic. Name one other instance when that has ever happened.

A final word about William Blake. At one time people apparently read him. Ms. Tokarczuk is the only person who still does. There are wonderful quotes and references to Blake throughout the story, and they enrich it. Ms. Tokarczuk is so enthralled with Blake that she compels one of her characters to become a translator of Blake’s poetry into Polish – thereby condemning him to a life of poverty, futility, and anonymity. In a book crammed with horrors, this may be the most horrific of all.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans