[Rats, I thought I had published this one Tuesday, but I see that I had accidentally scheduled it for next Tuesday].
I wasn’t planning on focusing on names again this week, but there are a few things that came up that put names back on my radar. The first of which was the fact that he mentions Adam Levin, author of the novel The Instructions, as a person who smoked as much as he does. But speaking of this, there is a lot of fiction within fiction revealed here. So these were two interesting ideas.
In fact though, this was a tough section to write about because a lot happened. With more action, there seemed to be less to ponder because so much moved things forward. Not a lot happened in the first week, but comparatively, this was action galore.
Chapter 1, Section 4 “All-Encompassing and Tyrannical”
As this part opens, Belt muses about Lotta’s conspicuous generosity. As with many other things in this story so far, Belt is super analytical. He decides that her generosity had to mean something. But what.
- What she too spidged to realize she’d given so much money?
- Was it a communication of some kind? But what?
- Was she hinting that she loved him?
- If she did, it was not mutual but he didn’t want to offend her. So how should he proceed with the loan? Anything he did might offend her, which he didn’t want to do.
He “knew a stalemate of hypotheticals when [he] saw one.”
The question of if he should spend the money is mooted when his father returns early.
His father tells a lengthy story about why he left the fishing trip. He’d gotten a fight with his friends who claimed that Belt was a puker. Belt did once puke on a fishing trip. Clyde’s friend Rick’s son Jim pretty much butchered a fish trying to take the hook out and belt threw up. Rick said they call Belt “the Duke of Puke.” So Clyde got into a fight with his best friend. He also realized he’d forgotten to leave Belt money so he came home early.
Clyde is a prickly dude to be sure. Here’s a couple of example of Clyde’s behavior to his son.
He asked if it was I who’d left the water on the kitchen table, and, if so then why had I left the water on the kitchen table, but before I could answer either question, he’d already begun to sarcastically offer a number of reasons why someone who has just celebrated his thirty-eighth birthday might feel entitled to leave water on a table instead of feeling obligated to spill it in a sink and wash its container or, at the very least, rinse its container. He didn’t say container, but he didn’t only say tumbler. He named a large assortment of containers–glass, cup, mug, tankard, stein, grail, chalice, etc.–as if he felt that uttering a exhaustive list of names of containers from which one might drink was necessary to bringing his point across with clarity.
When at least he finished speaking, I told him I wasn’t yet finished with the water.
“So finish it,” he said.
We also learn that Clyde had not only purchased one of the “Jonboat Say” T-shirts, he mounted it in a glass frame (and assumed that it bugged Belt. It did, but doesn’t any longer.
Chapter 1, Section 5 “On the Chin” also has a lot of “action.”
Belt talks to a few inans and it’s interesting to learn that the inans have opinions about each other.
The slide is a whiner and mocks Belt for having to talk to the inans out loud rather than in his head. The slide encourages him to try to talk in his head, but it’s so muffled the slide rips him apart.
He leaves the slide and when his feet hit the ground, the SafeSurf spoke up. The SafeSurf is empathetic. and here we get some more incorrect names. The SafeSurf initially calls him Blight Magnificat. ||I knew Magnificat sounded off||. SafeSurf also reveals how much he dislikes the slide because the slide has been calling him |not pebbles| because it replaced pebbles, I guess. But even that’s insulting because SafeSurf didn’t replace pebbles it replaced woodchips which replaced the pebbles.
Then comes the frankly astonishing information that there is a girl, unnamed of course, who can also speak to inans. Belt has known about this girl for some twenty years and had been looking for her. But how do you find someone who is talking to inanimate objects? Especially if she is talking to them in her head. The inans can’t tell people apart aside from gender, so they’re no help.
Then we hear that ten years ago she had killed herself with pills in the bathtub (news travels slowly among inans but it does travel). But now the SafeSurf tells him there is a new girl who an talk to inans and it has encountered her.
Then comes some real drama and real action.
Five fourteen year old boys all wearing identical baseball hats embroidered with “yachts” approach. Their names are on the brims: LYLE, BRYCE, CHAZ, CHAZ JR. There was a fifth who was further back and called Triple-J (or Trip). Belt had let Blank out and the boys spotted it immediately The boys think Blank is adorable and want to buy it. The fifth boy is ignoring them as he is doing something by the slide.
Belt gets tense about the boys closing in on him and he lashes out at them. Triple-J comes over and subdues him but jumping on his kidneys. But in a remarkably restrained manner. He even makes sure that Belt is okay. But belt has figured out who this boy is. When Triple-J said “Dicksneeze,” Belt knew that it was Jonboat’s son.
After the beating Belt passed out. When he wakes up he find a cure taped to the slide–Triple-J had taped him there with Band-Aids.
Belt brought the cure home and wanted to save it. He doesn’t want to dact on the cure because he wants to remain innocent of that experience. He assumes that the cure has bonded with Triple-J, so he knows he will need the Independence
He thinks of Chad-Kyle because of his Bic lighter. The sound it makes is claimed to be a flick but it is duosyllabic and it sounds a lot like CHAD-kyle.
Chapter 1, Section 6 is called “Toe”
The cure that belt brought home died over night (Belt tried to save it but wound up killing it instead). The cure had been in the process of laying a reproductive pearl.
Belt is actually burying the dead cure in the backyard when his father sees him.
It begins with a possibly touching moment between Belt and Clyde. Clyde got a cure from the cuddlefarmer at the brothel the night before with the intent of then both dacting on it together–a bonding experience. But it was so cute that Clyde couldn’t get it to his mouth fast enough.
When Clyde sees him burying a cure, he assumes they both self-dacted which makes them even.
But then there’s more of Clyde’s prickliness.
Speaking of forgot, I hope you’re better at remembering which hook you took that spade from than you are at remembering to lock the shed door.
I had locked the shed door. “It’s locked,” I said.
“Sure,” said my father, “I can see it’s locked now, but it wasn’t while you did whatever you were doing with my spade over there for however long you did it.”
“No one would’ve broken in while I was standing in sight of it.”
I didn’t say they would. I’m talking about habits. The more often you fail to lock the shed when you leave it, the more likely you are to forget to lock the shed.”
“Maybe,” I said.
Trust me,” he said.
“I trust you,” I said.
“Don’t get all autistic, I’m fucking with you Billy. Lighten up. Take it easy.
As Belt leaves the scene, Clyde says he’ll just dig up whatever Belt has buried (which Belt said was a 25 year-old cure).
Belt goes to the bank to return Lotta’s money and to talk to Chad-Kyle about Independence.
He has an awesome conversation with Gus about handkerchiefs and how the demise of the handkerchief is essentially responsible for the death of romance and the rise of child beating (its pretty spectacular).
Gus is an interesting character and Belt likes him. He even says “I really like your name. It’s an old-timey name. A tough kind of name, but not like a bully. Just straight up tough.
When Belt reveals that his father is Clyde Franklin Magnet, Gus knows him–he was Clyde’s supervisor (before he retired or, you know, was fired).
Later Gus says to Belt, “And so your name’s uh–its’ Cuff, right?”
Belt says he’ll give him an autographed copy of No Please Don’t. And soon enough Belt’s book will come into prominence in the story.
But first he goes to talk to Chad-Kyle who is trying to get his Independence cure (and two others) to do a (violent) trick which he thinks will get him on the marketing plan for Independence.
Chad-Kyle goes on a long, hilariously inaccurate, diversion about the inventor of dynamite. “I can’t remember his name” [Aflred Nobel]. Nobel created it to blow up mountains but then someone realized it could be used as a weapon in WWI against the Nazis. That’s when he had his Topeka moment. When Belt says he doesn’t think that’s right, Chad-Kyle says, “facts are subjective anyway.”
Finally Lotta Hogg drags Belt away (No worries, Beltareeno) and says she wants to take Belt to lunch. She says she hates the idea of killing cures–and this makes him think twice about her. He calls CK a “wang scab” but she says he’s not that bad. She is playing Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away,” the first music mentioned in the book, I believe.
They go to Arcades Brothel. They recently started serving pizza (which Belt decides isn’t very good). Lotta orders them a flight of slices (ha). It turns out Lotta’s mother is the cutefarmer who sold Clyde the cure last night.
Belt goes into the bathroom trying to decides if he could actually like or even love someone like Lotta. When he returns he sees that she has a cures toe in her cleavage. (His mind comes up with some repulsive alternatives before realizing what it actually is).
She tries to get him to eat one, “PWEESE? Aw we want is Cwoseness.” But Belt will have none of it.
Chapter 1, Section 7 “What the Gold Should Have Done”
The final section of the chapter features Triple-J at the Magnet house. It also features a lot of detail about No Please Don’t.
Belt says there are three vaguely autobiographical moments in the novel. Although he won’t spoil the novel by revealing anything more than that Gil Benjamin MacCabby is mourning the loss of his beloved Bam Naka action figure and the chipmunk episode resonates for him in a way it really didn’t for Belt. (I’m not detailing the chipmunk episode).
When Belt gets home, Triple-J greets him with a quote from the book, “What should gold have done.”
Triple-J says he loves No Please Don’t. It’s the first book he ever loved and he has read it many times.
Jonboat’s former driver is now driving around Triple-J. His name is Burroughs. Belt tells Burroughs to call him “Belt,” but his father says “Call him Billy.”
Clyde and Burroughs get into a tough guy conflict that leads to nothing. Eventually, Triple-J (Burroughs calls him Trip) invites Belt and his father to “the compound.”
Before they leave, Burroughs takes Belt aside and says that Jonboat was convinced that Belt modeled Bam Naka after him. He was quite upset about it but has since gotten over it. Belt assures him that Jonboat is tangentially involved in the narrator if at all.
Triple-J asks if Belt will watch his movie A Fistful of Fists, and read his two papers “On Private Viewing,” and “Living Isn’t Functioning.”
But despite how much Belt would like to engage with Trip’s media, he decided to reread Chapter 9 (the end of part 1–this is also the end of part 1) of No Please Don’t, the first time he’s read it since he wrote it.
Gil MacCabe is 9 years old. He was given a ring by his father and he suspects it is not real gold. Like any good watcher of cartoons, he decides to test the realness of the gold by biting it, as any good cartoon prospector would do. of course he [like me] doesn’t know what the biting is supposed to prove.
He winds up ruining the ring, but doesn’t know what it even means.
Of all the nugget-biters in the Westerns Gil’s seen…not one of them ever even once explains just what the nugget did or didn’t do between his teeth to assuage his suspicions of its being fools’ gold or confirm his hopes of its being real gold.
This leads to Gil remembering back when he was 3 or 4 years old. Gil thought about how on shows glass would break. So when his mother served him water in a glass instead of a sippy cup he wanted to know what kind of glass this was. His mother doesn’t understand and says it’s just glass. Glass is glass.
But Gil doesn’t believe his mom wasn’t horrible enough to give him dangerous glass. So he bit the rim.
It hurt. He bled. It was all her fault.
Triple-J related to this accusing line that it was all her fault, although Belt didn’t mean it the way Trip took it.
Gil was wrong that it was his mother’s fault. He was just too young to know it. But Trip must have made a psychological connection because of his own mother’s alcoholism and subsequent death in a car collision. Darla Pellmore-Jason, née Field, may not have been an alcoholic when they were married, but she became one after Jon Jon left her for Fondajane Henry. Presumably Trip felt that Belt also didn’t think very highly of mothers.
On the plus side, Belt takes Triple-J’s misunderstanding as a good sign. When he was younger, Belt misunderstood J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey) and Kafka (“A Hunger Artist” this time) when he first read them. Now he sees Trip’s misreading of his book as making him comparable to Salinger and Kafka.
He ends the section by referencing the section above “All Encompassing and Tyrannical” and the time he refused his father’s invitation to go see the Mustangs game and get ice cream. he promises to mention other times when No Please Don’t was autobiographical in the next few sections.
Language is so clearly very important to Levin. You can see it in misunderstandings–as in No Please Don’t or in getting people’s names wrong.
But also in Levin’s use of exotic words.
He emphasizes the word taction (which the dictionary says is obsolete) as the unexpected word for the act of touching. Belt says, “It seemed important to recall the word.”
And also in this phrasing after Belt gets beaten up: “I was, somewhat literarily, yards from where I’d lain when my father first taught me all he knew about suffering. [emphasis mine].
The use of literarily hearkens back not only to the meta-novel within a novel but also to Belt’s referencing The Instructions earlier in the section.
Aside from Salinger and Kafka and The Instructions, there’s no other stories mentioned, I don’t think.
Incidentally, I co-posted this on my own site which includes a “Soundtrack” for each post. All of the posts for Bubblegum will “feature” bubblegum pop songs. This week’s is Captain Groovy And His Bubblegum Army with the song of the same name.
I really like the misspoken names, and Blight Magnificat is a great one. I’m glad you highlighted it.
I also enjoyed the interaction with Gus a whole lot, though I had forgotten about his contention that the demise of handkerchiefs correlated with the rise of child abuse, which is tangentially relevant to the piece I’m working on for next week. A couple of other things you mention (the chipmunk episode and its connection to suffering) also resonate with what I’m cooking up for next week’s reading, though I didn’t call them out and am glad you’ve pulled them out here.
I hadn’t heard of Captain Groovy And His Bubblegum Army.
It is so helpful to have these rundowns to help refresh me about the events of the week’s reading (in the absence of me just taking notes like any high schooler knows how to do). Thank you!
That wang scab Chad-Kyle’s potted history of dynamite was beautiful.
Hey, you’re our resident onomaster—do you make anything of Burroughs? If he’s a namesake, I think the smart money’s on William S. rather than Edgar Rice…
I instantly assumed William S. Especially because of the language and violence. If they start taking major hallucinogens, we’ll know for sure!!
I actually had to look up the Nobel/dynamite info because some of it was correct. It also taught me a whole bunch of stuff about Nobel that I didn’t know. Books are fer lernin!
Given the double-duty some of the names do as not-purely-human names (Belt, Magnet, Chad, Hogg), I wonder if we could think of this transporter named Burroughs as one who burrows? It’s probably a bit of a stretch.