Saturday, May 24, 2014

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

from Vineland by Thomas Pynchon:

By morning there were scores of injuries, hundreds of arrests, no reported deaths but a handful of persons unaccounted for. In those days it was still unthinkable that any North American agency would kill its own civilians and then lie about it. So the mystery abided, frozen in time, somewhere beyond youthful absences surely bound to be temporary, yet short of planned atrocity. Taken one by one, after all, given the dropout data and the migratory preferences of the time, each case could be accounted for without appealing to anything more sinister than a desire for safety. At his news conference, Brock Vond referred to it humorously as “rapture.” Fawning, gazing upward at the zipper of his fly, the media toadies present wondered aloud where, in his opinion, if it was OK to ask, Mr. Vond, sir, the missing students might have gotten to. Brock replied, “Why, underground, of course. That’s our assumption in this, from all we know about them—that they’ve gone underground.” Somebody from the radical press must have infiltrated. “You mean they’re on the run? Are there warrants out? How come none are listed as federal fugitives?” The reporter was led away by a brace of plainclothes heavies as Brock Vond genially repeated, highlights dancing merrily on his lenses and frames, “Underground, hm? Rapture below. Yes, the gentleman in the suit and tie?”

Earlier, while the newshounds had all been across campus at the main gate, preoccupied with getting shots of coed cuties in miniskirts being handled by troopers in full battle gear in which leather recurred as a motif, none had noticed the small convoy of field-gray trucks, locked shut, unmarked, that had left out the back way without even pausing for the security at the checkpoint. Threading a complex array of ramps, transition lanes, and suspiciously tidy country roads, the trucks eventually pulled up onto the little-known and only confidentially traveled FEER, or Federal Emergency Evacuation Route, which followed the crestline of the Coast Range north in a tenebrous cool light, beneath camouflage netting and weatherproof plastic sheet. It was a dim tunnel that went for hundreds of miles, conceived in the early sixties as a disposable freeway that would only be used, to full capacity, once.

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