Thursday, May 22, 2014

the last book I ever read (Thomas Pynchon's Vineland, excerpt two)

from Vineland by Thomas Pynchon:

Moody. He’d once been a junior Texas rounder, promoting bad behavior all over the Harlingen, Brownsville, McAllen area. For a while he and a small gang had managed to migrate as far as Mobile Bay, spreading apprehension from Mertz to Magazine, but he was soon back in his native orbit, hanging out to all the ladies Dauphin Island orchids kept fresh with the beer in an ice tub in the truckbed and resuming his ways, which included driving fast, discharging firearms inappropriately, and passing around open containers, till a sheriff’s deputy friendly with the family suggested a choice between the Army now or Huntsville later. The war then approaching was never mentioned directly, but, “Well, what’ll I get to shoot?” Moody wanted to know.

“Any weapon, any caliber.”

“I mean, who do I get to shoot?”

“Whoever they tell you. Interesting thing about that, way I see it, you don’t have nearly the legal problems.”

Sounded good to Moody, who went right down and joined up. He met Norleen while he was at Fort Hood at services in the same narrow wood church they got married in, just before he shipped out. It was about mid-Atlantic, surrounded by nothing that did not refer, finally, to steel, vomiting for days, imagining the horizon outside, the unnatural purity, before he understood how terrified he was. It was the first time in his career he couldn’t climb in the truck and head for some borderline. He felt himself about to go crazy in this deep overcrowded hole, but he hung on, he tried to see through his fear, and when it came it was like finding Jesus—Moody saw, like the comics or Bible illustrations, a succession of scenes showing him the way he had to go, which was to imagine the worst and then himself be worse than that. He must torture the violent, deprive the greedy, give the drunks something to stagger about. He would have to become a Military Policeman, be as bad as he had to be to make it, using everything he knew from those rounder days. And so he did, pulling his first MP duty in London, on and about Shaftesbury Avenue, accessorized in virgin white, known, in military slang in those days, as a “snowdrop.”

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