Vaucanson and the Automatic Duck

Almost everything in Mason and Dixon is based on historic fact. Pynchon takes a lot of liberties but the foundation is always true.

Near the middle of the book we meet an automatic duck, a piece of machinery, an automaton, created by one M. Vaucanson, who discovers how to love (the duck), quickly evolves beyond the bounds of its mechanical being and falls in love with a french chef. While the story of the duck's discovery of love and subsequent evolution are pure fiction, Vaucanson and his Canard DigĂ©rateur, or "Digesting Duck" are real.

Jacques de Vaucanson was a french inventor in the early 1700s. Famous for creating highly complex automata and mechanical devices, including the first completely automated loom. (wikipedia). He designed the Canard to "eat", "digest", and "defecate."

It didn't actually look the picture above. Here's the real thing:

This is Pynchon's approach. Blending fact and fiction. You can't trust anything. The most absurd passages turn out to be fact, and when you think you have the whole truth, it turns out you don't know the half of it.

In other news:  I'm only halfway through this book, so we're going to stick with it for another month. OK.


Cheap Shot

Upon being insulted by Dixon:

" '-- Inexpensive Salvo,' Mason notes."

Funny, yeah?


Pynchon's Comedy

Pynchon likes to use his giant genius brain to make lots of low-brow dirty jokes.  Here's a funny article from Slate about it:  http://slate.me/1evZQJm

Pynchon's books are dripping with his sense of humor. High brow, low brow, super subtle, and slapsticky. One can practically see a smirking Pynchon typing out each sentence, even the more straightforward ones.

All light from the outside vanishes as something fills the Doorway.
"Gaahhrrhh!" it says.

Mason & Dixon is written in a pseudo-Olde English style, with random capitalization and lots of apostrophes. For example, in this passage, Dixon is expressing remorse for an altercation in his past where he threw a man at a dart board.

 "I admit, 'twas the improper way to test thee for Cranial Acuity, - I ought to have ta'en the Board from the Wall, brought it to thee, and then clash'd it upon thy Nob, tha Bugger."

You can almost hear Pynchon giggling when he types "clash'd it upon thy Nob."