Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Dark Side of a would-be Man-in-the-Moon

Michael Chabon

I'm reading Michael Chabon's latest literary effort, Moonglow: A Novel, and I keep hearing echos of Thomas Pynchon's Meisterwerk, Gravity's Rainbow. Early German expert on rockets and space travel, Wernher von Braun, is quoted for an epigram in both novels, albeit different quotes.

Pynchon quotes von Braun in an epigram at the beginning of Gravity's Rainbow: "Everything science has taught me - and continues to teach me - strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace." That's a pretty optimistic quote for Pynchon to use, though I know he's using it in irony, given who von Braun was.

Chabon's use of von Braun for an epigram is superficially darker: "There is no dark side of the moon, really. Matter of fact, it's all dark." I suppose this 'good' German with the aristocratic name and dark designs meant that the moon gives off no light of its own.

Anyway, despite the different quotes, Chabon is writing with the sense that Pynchon is peering over his shoulder, and Chabon is explicit about this, for about halfway through the book, one of the main characters - the narrator, in fact - turns to Pynchon's Magnum Opus to learn about the German V-2 rocket program.

So, what does it all add up to? I don't know, exactly - I've only just passed the book's halfway mark - though I do know that von Braun desired to travel to the moon (hence my title's Man-in-the-Moon motif). But it's a great story so far . . .



At 7:52 AM, Blogger TheBigHenry said...

I've just begun reading Moonglow and have already encountered the name of a neighborhood I once lived in -- "Riverdale", a neighborhood in The Bronx, the latter being one of the five boroughs of New York City.

So far, I am intrigued by this story. Thanx for the recommendation, HJH.

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Chabon is a talented storyteller, TBH. The question in this case is how much of this story is true, for Chabon casts it as family history.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:08 AM, Blogger TheBigHenry said...

I will let you know if I perceive anything that I have first-hand information about, HJH, unless, of course, it's classified. If it's classified, however, there will be no comment forthcoming.

At 9:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

If no comment arrives, I will already know too much!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:27 AM, Blogger TheBigHenry said...


I will let that one go. Be advised, however, that knowing too much could have some grave consequences for the "knower".


At 9:31 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, as the older Koreans say, "If you know too much, you will die."

Jeffery Hodges

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