levy_mason_and_dixon - On January 1st 2006 I began to...

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On January 1st, 2006 I began to fulfill my New Years resolution to read Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon at a pace of three pages a day. I resolved to look everything up that was interesting or obscure. I took a lot of notes throughout the nine months it took to read the book. This is the result. If you find any errors, please email me at [email protected] and I'll incorporate your corrections into this text. Toby Levy pages 1-3: The first numbered page in the hardcover first edition is page 6. Leafing back from there, page 1 is the one that has only the words "Mason & Dixon" in chapter heading typeface about a quarter of the way down the page. The ampersand usage is correct in that it was a business partnership. Mason is always listed first because he was generally considered to be the man in charge of their two major undertakings. Unnumbered page 2 is totally blank. Unnumbered page 3 is a partition title page. The partition number is spelled out "One" and is given the name "Latitudes and Departures." This first part of the book is 250 pages. The second part of the book is over 450 pages long and the last part is barely 50 pages long. Both "latitudes" and "departures" have several meanings in the context of the work. Latitudes meaning locations on the globe that the surveyors travel through and also meaning the freedom both surveyors give each other to disagree in their personal philosophies. Departures meaning the leaving to travel to foreign lands and also the variance from their plans that they are required to make. pages 4-6: Unnumbered page 4 is totally blank. Unnumbered page 5 begins Chapter 1. This page opens the story during a snowy December in a large busy house with children making their way in the afternoon to a family room. This room they love to play in is the one in which unneeded furniture is stored. Page 5 reveals that the year at the start of this book is 1786, and the place is Philadelphia. This is where Charles Mason died earlier that year. The first named character is Whiskers the cat. The children are identified on this page only as "the twins and their sister." They and assorted friends gather in this family room to hear tall tales told by the Reverend Wicks Cherrycoke. Cherrycoke (the name of a bit character in Gravity's Rainbow) came to Philadelphia to attend Mason's funeral but arrived too late. The house belongs to his sister Elizabeth and Elizabeth's husband, the Merchant J. Wade LeSpark. Cherrycoke is invited to stay with them as long as he likes, and he soon assumes the roll as entertainer of the children. One nice image on this page is of the city frozen over. Water has frozen on every tree and the sunlight reflecting on it is described as "Nerve-Lines of concentrated light." pages 7-9: On page 7 the children are given names: the sister is Tenebrae. The word tenbrae is latin for "shadows." It is the name of a Catholic religious ceremony. The Twins are named Pitt and Pliny. Pitt was named for British statesman William Pitt and for his son also
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