[percy-l] LITR Slow Read Chapter 5 –“July Fourth”

Patrick Lynch padraig at well.com
Sun Jul 27 15:57:13 EDT 2014

Note: Like others, I enjoy Percy from an amateur (in its original sense) 

We read about the times before and after the opening July Fourth 
section. There is a Bantu uprising and More has turned over the 
lapsometer to Art Immelmann. He also has holed up Moira, Lola, and Ellen 
in a motel as the sand pits in the golf course; Art has loosed the 
lapsometer on Knothead, Bantu, and others while imminent destruction may 
happen, according to Dr More.

Currently I am reading Karl Ove Knausgaard’s /My Struggle/ (Vol. 1) and 
it seems to parallel one of the points Percy may be making in this 
section, as Knausgaard meditates on art and how it changes over time:

The fact that things other and mysterious were relevant to us had led my 
thoughts to angels, those mystical creatures who not only were linked to 
the divine but also to humanness, and therefore expressed the duality of 
the nature of otherness better than any other figure. /At the same time 
there was something deeply dissatisfying about both the paintings and 
angels, since they both belonged to the past in such a fundamental way, 
that part of the past we have put behind us, that is, which no longer 
fit in, into this world we had created where the great, the divine, the 
solemn, the holy, the beautiful, and the true were no longer valid 
entities but quite the contrary, dubious or even laughable/[Emphasis 
added.] … As far as Norwegian art is concerned, the break came with 
Munch; it was in his paintings that, for the first time, man took up all 
the space. Whereas man was subordinate to the Divine through to the Age 
of Enlightenment, and to the landscape he was depicted in during 
Romanticism - the mountains are vast and intense, the sea is vast and 
intense, even the trees are vast and intense while humans, without 
exception, are small - the situation is reversed with Munch. /It is as 
if humans swallow up everything, make everything theirs. The mountains, 
the sea, the trees, and the forests, everything is colored by humanness. 
Not human actions and external life, but human feelings and inner life./ 
[Emphasis added.] … We understand everything, and we do so because we 
have turned everything into ourselves. Nowadays, as one might expect, 
all those who have occupied themselves with the neutral, the negative, 
the nonhuman in art, have turned to language, that is where the 
incomprehensible and the otherness have been sought, as if they were to 
be found on the margins of human expression, on the fringes of what we 
understand, and of course, actually, that is logical: where else would 
it be found in a world that no longer acknowledges that there is a 
beyond? (pp. 220-22 in Knausgaard, /My Struggle/, Vol. 1, (trans. Don 
Bartlett), New York: Archipelgo Books, 2012)

While there is a lot here about art, I think it also reflects More’s 
point of view in this section. He talks of angelism and bestialism. 
Everything becomes shaped by his humanness, his perspective. Everything, 
the women, the lapsometer, the Bantus, the Knotheads, reflect him and 
where he currently exists. Winner in The Pit (almost by accident), he 
now must go out into the world as it is in this section.

In one sense, this section is More in The Pit, not as himself, but as 
Mr. Ives.He knows what others do not. His responses are determined by 
his inner comprehension. Yes, he is abstracted from himself by love/lust 
for the three women, and yes, this Pit (with fire and brimstone burning 
in the sand pits of the gold course) may even be the Inferno, and yes, 
More finds it very more difficult to breath and stay awake, because some 
kind of revelation is at hand.(Are the three women parallels to the 
three temptations of Christ in the desert in some way?) Dr. More will 
see it all come together in his own epiphany, similar to Mr. Ives 
understanding of what he perceives everything is about in the Pit 
section. This may be because all of this is a much needed distraction. 
He must be distracted because, as Mr Ives must shut down, he will reveal 
a frightening and hard-to-express revelation about what Samantha’s death 
means to him. (He will also need a grace to process this. Three graces 
in Lola, Moira, and Ellen?)

In a comic sense (very much like the /Divine Comedy/ and very much as 
Lauren Stacy Berdy has already hinted), More for this section seems very 
much Percy’s “man on the train.” Snipers are shooting at him; colleagues 
are attacking him; only a few like Ellen and Victor truly commiserate 
with him. He annotates every moment with a keen sense of that moment and 
he details every move. He answers all questions curtly because he ‘s 
“focused.” Here arises the comedy because he is focused on the moment 
(shades of Kiekegaard) and the current crisis. Yet he remains distracted 
by needing to “save” the women and his lapsometer. He has a clear 
antagonist in Immelmann (with a nod to the Satanic overtures many here 
have mentioned). In fact, he resembles a Flannery O’Connor’s character 
with a gun (lapsometers?) pressed against the head.

But is all of this some kind of strange grace that Percy has assembled, 
leading to More’s very quick revelation about what happened toward the 
end of Samantha’s life? Is this the Pit where More reveals to himself, 
as he revealed to the crowd the “truth” about Mr Ives, the utter truth 
necessary to seek a grace? To comprehend a grace? Are we joining More in 
answering what may be a key question, “If only––If only we hadn’t been 
defeated by humdrum humming present time and missed it, missed 
ourselves, missed everything” (p. 374)? Is he finding a way to step past 
his broke heart and find the grace to return to the present and his 
present life, and consequently to be present to his own life and “pineal 

And what of the lines from Christmas carols/songs that echo throughout 
the chapter? Where do they fit into all of this?

Thanks to  all the thoughtful consideration of the previous section (in 
the the future subsequent section.

I offer these as thoughts to begin consideration of Chapter 5 of our 
online discussion. Have at them, reinforce them, undermine them, ignore 
them. Please accept these amateur considerations as a mere invitation 
for more wonderful thoughts, draft-like as they are.

Patrick Lynch

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