This song comes from Rush’s 2112 album. Since I’ve started reading JR, the refrain keeps popping into my head. People talk of the influence of Ayn Rand on the band at this time and this song fits the bill. When you think about the themes of most rock songs (carefree sex and partying) the lyrics to this song are totally conservative: “You don’t get something for nothing, you can’t have freedom for free.” Rush has always been a hard working band, so this attitude makes sense.
And the song also resounds with the capitalists in this story–make your money (and other people’s money) work for you. “Countless ways you pass the day.”
The song starts quietly but man it rocks hard with some really heavy guitars. And the solo is intimidatingly noisy.
Oh and as for Rand, “What you own is your own kingdom.”
Of course, there is a little less capitalism as the song ends: “in your head is the answer, let it guide you along, let your heart be the anchor and the beat of your song.” So, the message is not one of greed, but that to make your dreams come true you have to work for it. Not bad advice, really. Unless you were born into money of course. In which case, never mind.
[READ: Week of July 2, 2012] JR Week 3
My JR posts are proving to be a day late (but not a… nope I won’t say it). It’s not the reading that’s hard it’s finding time to write these up. So, apologies for those waiting with bated breath.
The week’s section opens with sex, specifically, Polaroids of sex. Mr Angel, Stella’s husband, gets a call from Coen at the hospital (he got into an accident because of his broken glasses (ha–it was not reckless driving). Then he starts talking with Terry about sprucing up the place–nice paneling, some plants–she thinks that’s a great idea (and actually buy a plant with her own money later). They are interrupted by Mr Angel’s worker Leo who presents him with a stack of photos of the same Terry engaging in various graphic sexual positions (the boys in shipping had them). With multiple men. And although none of the men work in the office, the pictures are taken in this very office. Mr Angel suggests that the photos could be doctored, to which Leo replies, “You’d have to have a picture of her eating a cucumber to paste onto this one, that’s some doctor” (151). Childish but very funny.
Mr Angel goes off to Dayton to deal with some business and we see that quickest passage of time yet in the book. Most of the book so far has been set in a day or two, but as we stay with the secretaries, several days pass in Mr Angel’ absence. Terry and Myrna move their things into the same area so they can talk and listen to the radio while they work. So there’s the gossip and the radio chatter vying for attention (the radio comes in Spanish as well as English) and the scene stays with them over a few days and through weekend. Although this book doesn’t shy at all from potty humor, I enjoyed this little exchange before he leaves: Mr Angel say that she’s left the letter “s” off the word scrap on one of the documents. She’s so embarrassed!
Terry also says she has something to tell Mr Angel about Leo…but that never gets said aloud, even when he returns and reminds her.
So we hear Terry and Myrna talking–that if Leo tries that with her, he’ll get a hole in his belly, that Kenny in Dayton (who Mr Angel is traveling to chastise) is a pain in her ass, that Terry and Kenny (who has a kid) have been “making it” (four times on Monday) at his friends’ house because his son is sick (154). Ew. There’s also a funny musical joke–if Angel weren’t so cheap they’d have Muzak.
Mr Angels comes back and there are lots of messages, although nothing advanced with Mr Angel and Edward. But he does say that he’s going to have to fire Kenny–he heard some bad things about him as well (which makes Terry grab a tissue).
As Mr Angel walks to a diner, he gets hit by a bouncing ball. He turns to throw it back and sees the thrower is Jack Gibbs playing with a little girl (remember that Gibbs has stock in the company and used to work there). But Gibbs runs off. Angel has lunch and then asks the girl (Rose) who the man was–her father she says, and that he goes to see her every week. The scene jumps to Terry and Myrtle on the subway talking about Mr Angel looking at dirty photos–one of the men was hung like Kenny. This to me implies that Terry was not in the pictures…
The scene shifts abruptly to the husband and wife (Ann & Dan diCepahlis) who bicker and bicker. And they fight some more about everything: “You’re the only one that can have an appointment?” (161). She is reading the Kama Sutra (excerpts provided) but she is annoyed by him making faces in the window (he is role-playing for industrial consultants). They get home where the kids (Nora and Donny) have made a puppet show. (The home life is still chaotic, but it seems somewhat easier to parse this time: there’s the two kids, a grandpa (I assume his father) and a dog. Nora is very excited to show them the puppet show. Grandpa is asleep and apparently ate the dog food thinking it was leftovers. Donny is plugged in and can’t eat unless he i plugged in, but the wires are everywhere [what could THAT mean?]. The puppet show doesn’t go so well, and grandpa is soon in the toilet as predicted.
They send the kids off to bed and Ann gets ready for bed herself. She is in the bathroom naked and he asks if she’s not afraid the kids will see her walking around like that. She also has some kind of inflatable device on her thighs. [I can’t decide if I’m supposed to know what that is.] Nora sees it and asks what’s going on. He says to Ann, you see what I mean about them seeing things. She replies it’s a bout time she sees things. “She thinks sex is bumblebees spraying dandelions….” (166). Ann also sleeps naked, which Dan finds disconcerting.
Dan runs into JR, literally, at the Post Office causing JR to drop all of his mailings–incoming and outgoing (and to step on one that is poorly typed). There’s stuff from the National Rifle Association, there’s an Artificial Penis and a solicitation by a woman who wants to show off her thirty-eights. He has received a debenture from Alberta, Canada [debenture: A promissory note or bond offered by a corporation to a creditor in exchange for a loan, the repayment of which is backed only by the general creditworthiness of the corporation and not by a mortgage or a lien on any specific property]. He claims to be getting a lot of them. His friend is more interested in the Canadian stamp. There’s more talk of crap and cheap stocks with JR apparently sending money all over the country. But the most interesting thing is the clock that JR has received (care of Class J). The clock is for opening an account at a Nevada bank, but his friend says it should belong to the whole class since it was care of the class. (We also learn that Mrs Joubert has been out sick half of the time since their NY trip). There’s an argument about how the Nevada bank (or the woman with the thirty-eights) would ever know if the sender is 21 or even 105, as long as they get their money.
One of the forms is from the Army and there is much concern about not upsetting the Army. But JR says he’s just ordering picnic forks–how can anyone get in trouble with that? JR has a pretty lengthy scam (although perhaps it is above-board) in place for promising to buy these items–there’s a lot of borrowing from places. Like creating a bank account based on the signature he sent them for Class J and borrowing off of that.
The next segment is about JR’s interest in Eagle Mills,. a corporation in New York. Later, when Mr Bast is visiting the broker, he will ask about this. But as of now, JR believes he is getting interest that was originally supposed to be paid to Selma Krupskaya. JR says he is the new registered assign, his friend says “you’re the registered asshole” (170). He’s buying all of these cheap shares with the picnic forks deal.
The kids are on the way to school (JR is going to skip gym to go to the post office), and kids are asking all kinds of things in Mrs J’s absence (where’s Buzzie “they say he has some of the little red ones for a quarter.” (173). Then we get to the administrator’s office. Dan’s wife is being asked to teach sex ed–but they need to speak to Dan first. They think it will be fine since Coach Vogel has created an electronic human body that will avoid any harassment. Before they can get to that Mr Stye, who is in insurance (and who we much later learn is black, which causes some consternation) is going to sit in on the meeting. And, according to Hyde, Vern is interested in his getting on the school board.
Mr Stye is here to watch the Drivers Ed videos (currently being shown to the elementary ed students to get them interested in cars). As Dan asks how this fits into the budget they go through the various other classes like adult ed,
…we’ve got retreads in there now.
–Retards, that’s supposed to be, that’s the…
–Retards rights. A little trouble with your machine printout here Dan. Retards.
–Dan’s been having a lot of trouble with is holes” (176).
It also turns out that Ann is planning to strike against the school over Bast being fired. Dan says he doesn’t have tenure yet “–He doesn’t even have a certificate” (176).
There’s some chatter about Bast and a boy who turned in train tickets and talk of a lost child. Oh and Mrs Flesch and Skinner are suing the school and the paving company (and several other entities) for the accident thery were in on school property.
And then they switch over to the TV, grade six (class J) has Mr Gibbs holding up the Diamond Cable stock certificate. And Mr Gibbs is describing the trip in less than glowing terms (the basket example is mentioned, he says that Governor John Cates, the man you met, is better known as Black Jack Cates, and then explains the concern that you’ve already lost 4 dollars once you purchase. He concludes with, “If they don’t own you they can’t trust you” (183).
Stye (who has not said a word during all of this fiasco) leaves and Hyde says he doesn’t like a “sullen black” (182). They talk about integrating (they’ve already got two other black families). But there’s a Korean and a Hawaiian. Then the phone rings, Mr Eigen is calling to say that, Schramm, a friend of Mr Gibbs has put his eye out with a pencil. They go to tell Gibbs and also to yell at him for his lesson about the field trip. Gibbs gets pissed and says he has an emergency he must get to New York. The Major yells Where did you learn that stuff? What textbook?. Gibbs invites the major to come with him because Schramm feeds on outrage, “just his rage over the mean insensitive stupid you, you’d be the biggest God damned inspiration I could bring him…” (184). Then someone asks him to turn in the extra tickets at the station.
The scenes shifts back to JR at the post office with his belligerent friend. Turns out that JR has made “Edwerd Best” his business representative. Which the other kid (who is the son of one of the men talking about the business of school–perhaps Mr Hyde?) think is hilarious because he doesn’t even know how to spell his own name. We also learn that JR had the mound of dirt hauled away from the front of their house too (the boy’s father was talking about it earlier–damnedest thing, the mound was just gone).
We follow Gibbs to the trains station where he runs into the same guy who tried to have him removed the other day. He tries to get his money for the tickets but first hands him a betting slip), then the guy tells him to fill out a form and mail it in. Gibbs says he needs the money to pay for today’s ticket. But the man doesn’t budge. Gibbs runs onto the train without a ticket or a refund. He sits in a seat with a German newspaper and pretends to be German when the conductor asks for a ticket. Gibbs gives him one of the children’s tickets and feigns ignorance until the conductor gives up. (he also implicates the ticket booth attendant, because he knew the name from his lapel-ha). When they arrive, Gibbs calls his lawyer and explains that he has no money for child support (which he doesn’t mind paying) or alimony(which he does). Then he thinks he sees a friendly face looking at him.
He calls out to Amy (Mrs Joubert) but she is only excited to see her son Francis. He imagines what it would be like to have a woman like that be excited to see him. Then Amy and Francis hurry off to his father’s apartment. Francis has been away ay school. He asks if daddy will be taking him to Geneva. Daddy is Lucien, he has been away also, but he is back now. He arrives home that evening and he and Amy have a talk about things we don’t know too many details about yet. Although perhaps he is thinking of taking Francis to Switzerland. When she wakes up they are both gone. Francis has left a note. She gets herself ready and heads off to Mr Davidoff’s office. As she goes in she runs into Mr Skinner (from the accident) who admires her cleavage, we’re not entirely sure why he’s with Davidoff.
Davidoff is very nice to Mrs Joubert and says its been crazy since her father left the company. But she says she is there to talk to Mr Beaton. Davidoff demurs and says he can do anything Beaton can do and faster. She says it’s a legal matter and Davidoff says they’re getting that minority issue all straightened out. She has no idea what he’s talking about. So he changes the subject to have her look at the photos of her class when they came in for the stocks. Davidoff is kissing her ass big time hoping for some kind of good word from Amy to a higher up. She nods but is noncommittal. She asks to talk to Beaton again and Davidoff gets the secretaries involved.
One of the secretaries says that Mr Beaton is in Mr Crawley’s office, and the camera jumps to Crawley’s, where Mr Bast is there to sell his aunts’ stock (there’s a funny misunderstanding that turns into a medical discussion). Crawley starts talking to Bast about stocks and Bast has no idea what’s happening). The talk of quarters and eighths and splits has him dumbfounded (as I assume it had man people dumbfounded since playing the market wasn’t as common as it is now). Then Bast asks about stocks for JR. He asks about the Norma Mining Company, which Crawley says he should frame because it is worthless. Crawley tries to get rid of him, but Bast drops on the desk JR’s portfolio. JR didn’t edit the portfolio so Crawley sees all kinds of junk mail, marital aids (God sir! Perfectly barbaric!) (199). He finds an occasional stock, and he tells Bast that they are all worthless–he doesn’t deal in penny stocks, sir.
Then Crawley asks how Bast knows Amy Joubert–that she has some nice things to say about him in her note. Bast is delighted. But he can’t get any more out of Crawley because Crawley decides to entertain Bast’s questions a moment longer. So bast asks about the Eagle Mills stock. The company has millions of dollars in assets but the stock is worthless–their creditors should have thrown them in to bankruptcy. Although the long upshot is that if someone took over the company a person could trade in his stock for preferred stock (which the company would issue to avoid taxes). And then Crawley hits on an idea. If Bast is a composer, perhaps he’d like to score music for Crawley’s two-hour documentary on zebras. Zebras? And then next scene is wonderful–Crawley is talking about his film (and how it could be 40 minutes longer and the “nigger boy” who helped them to film in) and Bast is trying to interrupt with questions about the stocks. Crawley proposes opening up all the public lands to zebras (to get the layabout hippies with their “trailers and beer cans” out of the parks). Then he says you’d have to release predators to cull the herd.
Crawley takes a phone call and Bast sees his copy of A Movable Feast open to page 190 (a nice nod to hunting, although I don’t know what’s on page 190). Crawley talks (on the phone) about Doctor Dé in Gandia and compares him to Idi Amin. Then Bast asks about the Canadian debenture. Crawley says its worse than Eagle Mills. Crawley sees a penis enlarger ad which he laughs at and tosses in the garbage. Then he offers Bast $200 for his musical services for his film and says he’ll listen to a first draft later in the week. Bast leaves.
We sits with Crawley for a while as he unpacks everything that just happened. He calls someone with a plan to unload the guy’s Eagle Mills Bonds–someone seems to be looking for them. Then he asks his secretary for more information (from the pink forms) about the Alberta debenture. Then he asks who is bringing a class action lawsuit against Diamond Cable. (He gleaned this idea from something Bast muttered about JR’s class and the Diamond Stock) and he takes the penis enlarger ad out of the garbage and uses it as a bookmark. Then he calls Beaton to ask a bout the Diamond Cable lawsuit
Beaton says there is no lawsuit against Diamond, he would have heard of it and no, don’t go public with denials–that will just make it worse. Then we see that Beaton is sitting with Amy Joubert. She asks if Lucien can just take Francis to Switzerland. He says they can get the law involved if he does and Amy is annoyed that everyone is so litigious. Beaton takes a phone call and gives Amy something to read–she complains that people are always handing her things to read here and she never understands any of it. This turns out to be a patent infringement lawsuit about a medicine. A company that Diamond Cable bought was making this medicine that was going to be sold to the military. The Italians (this is the Nobili file that’s been mentioned a few times) are making it for less because they ignore patent law.
Then we learn a bit more about Amy and Lucien. Beaton explains that Lucien is a principal holder of Nobili which is based out of Switzerland. When Amy says that she saw Lucien last night–their arrangement is that she and Francis sleep at Luicien’s NY apartment whenever Francis is back from school and Lucien is in town–Beaton freaks and says that this impropriety could undermine their separation, especially if she goes to his place voluntarily. She doesn’t care about any of that. Then we learn about Amy’s brother Freddy who causes trouble for the family. [Unrelated to this story I’m sure is that in Joyce’s “The Dead” the ne’er-do-well brother is named Freddy too]. And she is frustrated that her father forgives and forgives Freddie but gives her a hard time and controls her and asks her to sign papers (which she is doing right now) without knowing anything about what she’s signing. And he did the same thing to her mother. And if her father only knew the men she has met recently that she’s kind of interested in–a drunken gambler (Gibbs) and a composer (Bast) he would freak out! And yes, she would happily give her fortune to them, family be damned. The final thing she signs tells us that she is 27 (which is amazing, as I had assumed she was much older right from the start).
She finally leaves Beaton’s office and Davidoff grabs her again. He asks her to look ay 286 pictures to decide which she likes best. The second is of a nun cutting up a frog (a nice call back to a joke when the school administrators wer talking. They said that the Catholic School Holy Name was taking their TV signal, but somebody says you should see the nun cut up a frog). Davidoff scrutinizes a few more pictures, but Joubert just wants to leave. We see that JR is front and center in most of the pictures–he’s been acting as secretary for the class. Davidoff doesn’t want JR in the front (he’s rumpled and his ubiquitous sweater is disgusting), but then moans that there are no blacks in the class either.
Mister Hyde calls Davidoff and the scene switches to Hyde’s office (with Davidoff”s voice coming through the speaker in a different font–the acrobatics that this book goes through are wonderful). He has his secretary call Mister Mollenhoff, who has gone to Akron (I haven’t quite pieced together who Mollenhoff is yet–[thanks Simon in the comments for clarifying]). Hyde goes out to get his car. There’s an amusing joke about picking up your car at a parking garage before you said you were coming back and how much that pisses off the attendants. And then Hyde drives home. He’s listening to a ball game on the radio. He stops at a red light. As the light changes, the (black) guy in the car next to him grabs his watch from his writs and takes off. Then Hyde pulls over and opens the hood and someone comes over and offers to share looting the car with him–you can have the front–c’mon man.
We shift to the school where 186,000 forks have been shipped. The newspaper is also reporting about a sit down strike in the fourth grade. But it was just some kids sniffing glue in Vogel’s shop class and they couldn’t stand anymore.
Finally it comes to brass tacks–Whiteback’s job is to make the District Superintendent look good, and he is not doing so. Indeed, Whiteback is taking a lot of abuse here. But as with everything else the story shifts, now talking about bulletproof glass which they will surely need in the future. Even though right now they just want to meet the standards that the insurance company set out. Vern says he wants to get Stye on the school board to get him on their side (of this insurance deal).
This scene about discipline continues into next week’s read, but for now it’s all about discipline. Look at Catholic schools–those kids draw inside the liens! One of the administrators sent the photo of the nun dissecting a frog (to the parent company–so somehow Davidofff’s company owns the school?) for the annual report. Also, how many new phone booths are going up the school? Is that in the budget?
The scene goes on for a lot longer, but I’m coming to an unnatural stopping point–the committee acknowledges that they are bringing in Dan’s wife as curriculum specialist to get her off of the strike committee. There is more grousing about Bast. Someone wondered how many complaints came in about Bast’s outburst but there were none from the company, the only ones were from senior citizens. bast has been in to pick up his check (imagine!). They had cut him a check for $15, which someone says is more than he should get but which the treasurer acknowledges meant the decimal point was off–“Dan’s been having trouble with his holes Vern…” (225).
As more details come into the story, it gets funnier and funnier. The crazy overlapping of dialogue allows for crazed hijinks to ensue. But it also allows for misunderstandings to get blown way out of proportion. And although that is like the basis of every sitcom, since there is no real protagonist (well, JR, but he’s not the one who misunderstands) we aren’t shouting (as I do) “if you would just stop talking you could straighten everything out.” Rather we are just laughing at the incompetence.
As you’ve seen above, I am definitely confused in certain sections as to who says what. But as with Gravity’s Rainbow, the book seems to move in small circles–doubling back on itself to fill in pieces, or make jokes about earlier things. Of course this makes it even harder to know what is important. And, of course, the unattributed dialogue makes it really hard to know who is saying what. Most of the time I don’t think it matters much, although it is nice to try to keep some people straight (I can’t figure out who the obnoxious administrator with the son in school is).
The other hard thing is wondering if the stuff that I find confusing is because it is contemporary pop culture circa 1975 that I wouldn’t know or if it’s deliberately confusing (like the inflatable device on Ann’s thighs). Regardless, I’m enjoying the book immensely and can’t wait to see how it all plays out.
[See Simon’s comments below for useful spoiler-free insights].