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August 31, 2009 / Infinite Tasks

Learning from the Technical Interviews

What we learn from the technical interviews (and the surrounding materials) is quite impressive, and helps to both affirm and disconfirm some of my prior speculations as described in The Mystery of the Entertainment Master. But, some new questions also arise. Trying to figure out the sense of this plot is like putting together a used puzzle that comes in a bag instead of the original box with the picture on it (and here I’d like to shout-out my co-de-conspirator Paul who is also pursuing these questions in his Week 10 Post). You’re never sure if all the pieces are actually there. Here are some of the pieces:

P. 721: The A.F.R.’s first technical interview is of Gately’s burglary associate from the DuPlessis murder. Back on p. 57, we learn that this is none other than Trent “Quo Vadis” Kite (at least, we learn that by flipping to corresponding endnotes #13 & #16). Along with Gately, Kite tied M. DuPlessis to a chair with electrical cords from the same M. Café-brand Automatic Cafe-au-Lait-Maker that the A.F.R. found in a pawn shop and traced to Kite. (If I wasn’t a Krups devotee, I would happily rename my Mr. Coffee Monsieur Café!)

P. 721: Through Kite, the A.F.R. is led to a certain cranio-facial pain specialist, and then on to the Antitois shop. It is hard to say for sure, but this could be the same cranio-facial root-specialist with whom Ted Schacht interns twice a week, as part of his non-Show professional career plans to be dentally corrective (see p. 267). Here’s the connection: Randy Lenz regaled Green with a tale of a party at a South Boston orthodontist “that dealt Lidocaine to Bing-retailers on the prescription dicky” (p. 559), making said orthodontist “very popular with dealers indeed” (n. #233, p. 1038) since Lidocaine is a far better Bing cut than non-prescription options. The technically interviewed specialist is described here on p. 721 as “sartorially eccentric” – dressed funny, that is – which should refer to the peace-sign flashing deliverer of cartridges and DMZ, dressed in a “paisley Nehru jacket … wearing also the most stupid-appearing small round wire spectacles with salmon colored lenses” (p. 481), and of course a Grateful Dead cap. How else, then, could this specialist have led the A.F.R. to Antitois Entertainment?

Who is “Quo Vadis” Kite, other than Gately’s sometimes associate and the man who apparently passed the stolen cartridge off to a badly dressed orthodontist Lidocaine dealer? “Quo Vadis” means something like “Whither are you going,” asked by Peter of Jesus as he walks by, Jesus replying something on the order of “Heading off to a crucifixion, man!” Seems meaningful, I guess, but I’m not sure how.

P. 726 :The open-air kidnapping and subsequent technical interview of the WYYY engineer is related to that (WYYY) being the last known place of employment of Madame Psychosis. Based on the engineer’s consistent story even beyond a high pain threshhold, A.F.R. is comfortable in their procured knowledge that Madame has moved to a local Substance-Difficulty-Rehabilitation facility, which will be the next possible site of technical interviewees. This could turn out rather poorly for some Ennet House Residents, methinks. Why, oh why, did they give Lenz the boot? Turn him over to Marathe & Fortier & Broullîme, I say. (By the way, my suspicion that Broullîme is the “infamous organizer” to whom Duplessis reported seems to be contra-indicated by the fact that B. has a “role in the [A.F.R.] cell (p. 725), and is thus probably neither a top organizer nor the shadowy Albertan who was part of the multi-channel cable assault on the Big Four television stations I suspected him to be.)

Okay, so the technical interviews aren’t working out so great for anyone, really. I don’t know much more than before. But along the way, there are many other tidbits to be gleaned.

P. 722: Here we discover that the street-display cardboard-wheelchair-disenser of happy-faced cartridges at which Joelle stopped on her way to her suicide is not A.F.R.-sponsored, but rather came from the rival F.L.Q. The cartridges from that source are blanks, presumably placed there as part of the larger blackmail/terror-extortion program of many anti-O.N.A.N.ite sects. But not the A.F.R., who simply seek to take down as much U.S.A. personnel as possible without requiring a specific payback. If successful, as Hal and Orin speculated earlier: “Quebec would be not so much allowed as required by Ottawa to secede, to face on its own the wrath of a neighbor struck down by its own inability to say ‘Non’ to fatal pleasures.”

Pp. 722-723: We also learn that the “Swiss” hand model is none other than Mlle. Luria P–, whose presence at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Int. Airp. (see p. 565) and then in Orin’s bed (preceded by that triangulation pose) is due to A.F.R.’s belief that a duplicable Entertainment copy was given to DuPlessis by “this relative, an athlete.” (Cf. p. 726, wherein “the redoubtable Mlle. Luria P– was winning necessary confidences with her usual alacrity.”)  Furthermore, Marathe suspects that Steeply thinks that Orin was responsible for the “razzles and dazzles” (Entertainment releases) in Berkeley and Boston. Well, at least we now know why Luria is so heavily armed, anyway!

Pp. 724-725: Sadly, the samizdat cartridge which is indeed found in the Antitois shop after a few days of viewing-Roulette is a non-duplicable copy, though it is interesting that it does nevertheless include “the embossed smile and letters disclaiming need of happy pursuit.”

P. 726: Here we have it confirmed that ETA has already been infiltrated by one Canadian instructor and one student, who are now being joined by a third employee. The Instructor is surely Thierry Poutrincourt, whose fascinating French dialectical conversation with H. Steeply, soft-profiler, reveals that she (Poutrincourt) knows he (Steeply) is an agent, and probably also that he is a he in the first place (see n.#274, #275, and #276, all on p. 1052) . At this time, then, we are left to wonder about Avril’s possible direct contact with the Quebecois separatists, since she is apparently not one of the infiltrators, and after all, if (as I speculated earlier) she were the one who passed the Master off to DuPlessis, why would the A.F.R. not know?

Update: In Comments, Jeff has proven that the student infiltrator is in fact John N.R. Wayne.  Check this out: “According to Geoffrey Day’s article that Struck plagiarizes in n. 304, “‘La Culte du Prochain Train’ . . . is known to have originated . . . among the male offspring of asbestos, nickel and zinc miners in the desolate Papineau region of what was then extreme southwest Quebec” (p. 1058), and failing to jump athwart the train tracks “is known also as ‘Faire un Bernard Wayne’” (p. 1060). On p. 262 we learn that John Wayne’s father is an asbestos miner.”

Lots of questions, few (ok, maybe a few) answers. Only 250 pages to go, and I begin to think a few puzzle pieces may never have made it into the bag. If not, the Jest’s on me!

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11 Comments

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  1. Paul / Sep 1 2009 8:46 am

    I love the idea of the puzzle pieces in a bag (we have several of those in our house..and plenty more without all the pieces).

    But thank you so much for two things that I totally missed. That last paragraph on page 721 I either skimmed or skipped altogether. SO much is packed into that dense assemblage of words. But even more importantly is the call back to Endnote 16: “Extremely unpleasant Quebecois-insurgents-and-cartridge-related subsequent developments make it clear that this was (again) Trent (‘Quo Vadis’) Kite.” The wording of it is just to perfect not to show off!

    Man, you are keeping good notes!

    I also missed that the Swiss hand model is Luria P____. But when I went back to pg 722-23, I didn’t see it there. Can you be more specific?

    Thanks once again!

    • infinitetasks / Sep 1 2009 9:10 am

      Sorry, I wasn’t clear, and I’ll edit this above, too.

      P. 723: “… Southwest ops, the infiltration of that relative of the auteur felt most strongly to have knowledge or possession of the duplicable copy.”

      P. 726: “In the desert, the redoubtable Mlle. Luria P– was winning necessary confidences with her usual alacrity.”

  2. Dan Summers / Sep 1 2009 8:46 am

    If you’re reading as closely as this, I’m sure the remaining pages will yield answers. If not, I can refer you when all is said and done to an IJ guide that lays out a pretty clear path for how the Master got where it did.

    I, myself, have my own theories about who sent the “razzles and dazzles.”

  3. Paul / Sep 1 2009 12:22 pm

    Thanks Jeffrey. It doesn’t take much to miss something important!

  4. Jeff / Sep 2 2009 3:17 pm

    Great working out of that graf on 721! There really are a lot of links in that chain that the narrator kind of elides.

    I’m curious about the E.T.A. employee who was recruited. I’m with you on Poutrincourt for the instructor, and I don’t know of any other Canadian student there but John ‘N.R.’ Wayne. (Plus, Wayne being in with the A.F.R. would explain pp. 16–17: “I think of John N. R. Wayne . . . standing watch in a mask as Donald Gately and I dig up my father’s head.”)

    But who’s the employee? I’m tempted to suspect Lateral Alice Moore, because we know she keeps her ear to the ground and has access to all the records, but I don’t have any actual reason to think she’s doubling on her employers.

    • infinitetasks / Sep 3 2009 5:18 pm

      I’m tempted to agree with you about Wayne. Back on p. 385 is the only place I remember specifically Canadian students being referred to (at the showing of Mario’s I.Day film), and it says “John Wayne and a handful of other Canadian students.” I seemed to remember some other references, but then again, why does Wayne stick his head in Hal’s room silently?

      But for the life of me, I can’t yet figure out an obviously “recruitable employee.” I think L.A.M. is loyal. But thinking Pynchonially, what is true “loyalty” at E.T.A.? Not to O.N.A.N., that’s for sure – not in a place run by Mrs. Inc and C.T. Maybe only to the memory of J.O.I., and to Schtittian philosophy.

      • Jeff / Sep 3 2009 8:24 pm

        Ah, that’s a good question—what would make an E.T.A. employee want to participate in the A.F.R.’s plot? Because they’d have to know it would be dangerous to the Incandenza family, and E.T.A. feels like the kind of place that takes its connection to the Incandenzas very seriously.

        Oh, and here’s another connection between Wayne and the A.F.R. that I would have to say pretty much clinches it: According to Geoffrey Day’s article that Struck plagiarizes in n. 304, “‘La Culte du Prochain Train’ . . . is known to have originated . . . among the male offspring of asbestos, nickel and zinc miners in the desolate Papineau region of what was then extreme southwest Quebec” (p. 1058), and failing to jump athwart the train tracks “is known also as ‘Faire un Bernard Wayne’” (p. 1060). On p. 262 we learn that John Wayne’s father is an asbestos miner.

        Huh, I just had a thought. It’s out there, but it’s a thought: What do you think the chances are the recruited employee is Schtitt? He’s got a philosophy that lines up reasonably well, in many respects, with Marathe’s, and he does leave a lot room open in terms of identifying what he pays his ultimate loyalty to (“Any something. The what: this is more unimportant than that there is something.”)

      • infinitetasks / Sep 3 2009 9:56 pm

        That is fantastic! I’m updating the post above, so nobody misses that bit of genius! Bernard Wayne indeed! I’ve been thinking I should re-read n.#304, and you busted it out.

        I’m going to refrain from agreeing or disagreeing about Schtitt. I don’t like it, but that has more to do with my own confused feelings about Schtitt than with any textual evidence. Although perhaps what gets me is that the employee has been “recruited,” i.e. “newly,” (or so it is implied), and why would Schtitt just now be getting on the A.F.R. train (ouch)?

      • Jeff / Sep 4 2009 6:28 pm

        Thanks for the update! (And I hope this comment is going in the right place in the queue; hard to tell where it’s going to end up.)

        I also dislike the idea of Schtitt as the turncoat; it was more in the nature of a trial balloon. For a more strictly textual possibility, it may be worth trying to figure out Mrs. Clarke. “Stelliform” isn’t all that common a word, but it does come up twice in n. 304 with regard to cults/Séparatisteur movements; it also comes up twice in reference to the mashed potatoes served at dinner after Hal and Stice play their exhibition match for Steeply (pp. 628 and 638). (It is also used to describe Blood Sister’s protegé’s hairdo, which is at least another Canadian connection, with the filming in Toronto.)

        We know Mrs. Clarke has been with the Incandenzas “since long before E.T.A.” (p. 765), so she could be an attractive source of information and assistance for the A.F.R. But this is again all just fishing for an explanation. Haven’t seen anything convincing yet about anyone.

  5. Sarah / Sep 9 2009 1:40 pm

    Wow. I maybe got about five percent of the above. I’m impressed that the plot ties together so neatly, but even more impressed that the novel has so much going for it that I remain relatively unperturbed by a failure to follow the basic story.

    It’s all pointing to a re-read. Or two.

  6. max / Jan 8 2013 6:04 pm

    Great site!

    In terms of the Canadian student mole, Hal talks about a Saskatchewan kid in his Canadian class who aces it and draws weapons in his notebook. It’s not Wayne, and more likely Wayne is a casualty of the whole thing, IMHO.

    Also, Sixties Bob is revealed to be the certain cranio-facial. It might be the case that Schacht is interning for him, but I can’t make that connection. Presumably Kite led to Sixties Bob, who led to Antitois. If DuPlessis did have the Master, then it sounds like Bob gave it to Antitois when he traded the DMZ for a lava lamp.

    Pemulis seems to catch on to something and (I think) suspects it’s (mistakenly) the DMZ and not the tape that has him worrying at the end. The DMZ seems like a red herring, though we’re left to wonder what’s in Pemulis’s shoe and where has it gone?

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