“The Battle of Fallow Field” by James Terry on failbetter.com

This is a clever, and sometimes funny, story by James Terry on failbetter.com (named after a Samuel Beckett quote). It’s called “The Battle of Fallow Field.” It’s about two corporals from the Revolutionary War who, upon their deaths, find themselves transported to a strange limbo: a shopping mall parking lot. Here they discover the joys of a 19-piece bucket of fried chicken and debate the best way to eat it:

Do you not agree, argued Corporal Wilson, that these Pieces of Chicken are not all Equal?

I do.

You do or you do not agree?

I agree that they are not all Equal.

You agree then that of the 19 Pieces of a full Bucket-8 Drumsticks, 6 Breasts, 5 Wings-you agree that the Wings are good, the Drumsticks better, the Breasts best?

In Essence, yes.

Then listen to me, Corporal, said Corporal Wilson. This is no trifling Matter. There are only three Categories of Chicken Pieces to choose from, corresponding precisely with the Number of Times you & I wish to eat in a Day’s Time. Three Chicken Parts, three Meals. The Matter then, if we can agree to eat only one Piece each at each Meal, and if we can agree that a different Type of Piece-Wing, Drumstick, Breast-will be eaten at each Meal, the Matter then is a simple one: which Part of the Chicken do we eat at which Meal?

This story has shades of Beckett’s absurdist masterpiece Waiting for Godot. It also reminds me a little of Thomas Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon with its pseudo-use of 18th Century vernacular and how it gently satirizes the Age of Reason.

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Cheese Rolling in Gloucestershire

In San Francisco they have “Bay to Breakers” in the Los Angles they have the “Dooda Parade” in Gloucestershire they have the “Cheese Rolling and Wake.” While it’s not quite as dangerous as running with the bulls in Pamplona, 19 or so people were injured in this year’s rolling. If Thomas Pynchon had his way, quite a few more may have perished. From “Mason & Dixon,” Pynchon’s description of “The Octuple Gloucester.”

“Scaled up from the dimensions of the classic Single Gloucester, not only in Thickness, but actually octupled in all dimensions, making it more like a 512-fold or Quincentenaridoudecuple Gloucester,–running to nearly four tons in weight when green, and even after shrinkage towering ten feet high by the time it emerged from the giant Shed built at the outskirts of town especially for this unprecedented Caseifaction,–the extraordinary Cheese, as it slowly aged, had already provided material for months of public Rumor.”

And a Pynchon reference would not be complete without a song. Enjoy.

“Here’s to the great, Octuple boys! the

Mon-ster Cheese of fame,

Let’s cheer it with, a thund’rous noise,

Then twice more the same,–

Oh the bells shall ring, and

The guns shall roar,

For the won-derful Octuple Glo’r….

Aye, all the Lads, who push and who-pull,

Ev’ry Master, ev’ry Pupil

Single-ton and married Coople,

Ev’ry minim, dram, and scruple

Of their Praise is Thine, Octuple!

I’ve never tasted a Gloucester cheese. Is it good?

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

Buy it at Amazon.com

The 150-word Review: If you find Thomas Pynchon intimidating, you’re not alone. Back when my literary pretensions were fresh (and sincere), my goal was to read “Gravity’s Rainbow” and claim it as a “trophy”–a bright shiny medal that I could pin to my chest and be the envy of bookish-types everywhere. Only to fail. Twice. (I have read “Mason & Dixon.” So there. Praise me. )

“The Crying of Lot 49” is a more accessible introduction to Pynchon. Consider it a 10K in comparison to the ultra-marathon of “Gravity’s Rainbow.” It has everything Pynchonites (Pynchonians? Pynchonese?) obsess over and provides a primer for tropes that Pynchon will eventually crank to eleven in later novels. When Oedipa Maas becomes the “executrix” of her ex-boyfriend’s estate, she embarks on a surreal Californian adventure, encountering wacky musicians, esoteric tech weenies, and the Tristero: a sinister, centuries-old society, whose underground mail service may still exist today.

Having this book on your shelf will impress: fans of inventive character names and silly song lyrics, conspiracy theorists, Harold Bloom, auctioneers, Lisa Simpson (Are you reading “Gravity’s Rainbow?” “Well, re-reading.”), Thurn und Taxis, boorish North Beach tourists, and nascent computer hackers.

This book will go great with: Paulaner Hefe-weizen

Set the mood with: Mr. Postman (Beatles cover)

Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Actually Norm, Thomas Pynchon may have modeled the fictional “Yoyodyne” corporation after Boeing, where he worked as a technical writer in the early ‘60’s.