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29+ quotes from Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon

Quotes from Mason & Dixon

Thomas Pynchon ·  773 pages

Rating: (8K votes)


“The general public has long been divided into two parts; those who think that science can do anything and those who are afraid it will.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Next worst thing to unrequited Love, isn't it? Insufficient hate.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Who claims Truth, Truth abandons. History is hir'd, or coerc'd, only in Interests that must ever prove base. She is too innocent, to be left within the reach of anyone in Power,- who need but touch her, and all her Credit is in the instant vanish'd, as if it had never been. She needs rather to be tended lovingly and honorably by fabulists and counterfeiters, Ballad-Mongers and Cranks of ev'ry Radius, Masters of Disguise to provide her the Costume, Toilette, and Bearing, and Speech nimble enough to keep her beyond the Desires, or even the Curiosity, of Government.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Does Britannia, when she sleeps, dream? Is America her dream?-- in which all that cannot pass in the metropolitan Wakefulness is allow'd Expression away in the restless Slumber of these Provinces, and on West-ward, wherever 'tis not yet mapp'd, nor written down, nor ever, by the majority of Mankind, seen,-- serving as a very Rubbish-Tip for subjunctive Hopes, for all that may yet be true,-- Earthly Paradise, Fountain of Youth, Realms of Prester John, Christ's Kingdom, ever behind the sunset, safe til the next Territory to the West be seen and recorded, measur'd and tied in, back into the Net-Work of Points already known, that slowly triangulates its Way into the Continent, changing all from subjunctive to declarative, reducing Possibilities to Simplicities that serve the ends of Governments,-- winning away from the realm of the Sacred, its Borderlands one by one, and assuming them unto the bare mortal World that is our home, and our Despair.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“These times are unfriendly toward Worlds alternative to this one”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Facts are but the Play-things of lawyers,-- Tops and Hoops, forever a-spin... Alas, the Historian may indulge no such idle Rotating. History is not Chronology, for that is left to Lawyers,-- nor is it Remembrance, for Remembrance belongs to the People. History can as little pretend to the Veracity of the one, as claim the Power of the other,-- her Practitioners, to survive, must soon learn the arts of the quidnunc, spy, and Taproom Wit,-- that there may ever continue more than one life-line back into a Past we risk, each day, losing our forebears in forever,-- not a Chain of single Links, for one broken Link could lose us All,-- rather, a great disorderly Tangle of Lines, long and short, weak and strong, vanishing into the Mnemonick Deep, with only their Destination in common.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Mason glowers, shaking his head. "I've ascended, descended, even condescended, and the List's not ended,— but haven't yet trans-cended a blessed thing, thankee.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Acts have consequences, Dixon, they must. These Louts believe all's right now,-- that they are free to get on with Lives that to them are no doubt important,-- with no Glimmer at all of the Debt they have taken on. That is what I smell'd,-- Lethe-Water. One of the things the newly-born forget, is how terrible its Taste, and Smell. In Time, these People are able to forget ev'rything. Be willing but to wait a little, and ye may gull them again and again, however ye wish,-- even unto their own Dissolution. In America, as I apprehend, Time is the true River that runs 'round Hell.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Why is it that we honor the Great Thieves of Whitehall, for Acts that in Whitechapel would merit hanging? Why admire one sort of Thief, and despise the other? I suggest, 'tis because of the Scale of the Crime.--What we of the Mobility love to watch, is any of the Great Motrices, Greed, Lust, Revenge, taken out of all measure, brought quite past the scale of the ev'ryday world, approaching what we always knew were the true Dimensions of Desire. Let Antony lose the world for Cleopatra, to be sure,--not Dick his Day's Wages, at the Tavern.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“The Line makes itself felt,-- thro' some Energy unknown, ever are we haunted by that Edge so precise, so near. In the Dark, one never knows. Of course I am seeking the Warrior Path, imagining myself as heroick Scout. We all feel it Looming, even when we're awake, out there ahead someplace, the way you come to feel a River or Creek ahead, before anything else,-- sound, sky, vegetation,-- may have announced it. Perhaps 'tis the very deep sub-audible Hum of its Traffic that we feel with an equally undiscover'd part of the Sensorium,-- does it lie but over the next Ridge? the one after that? We have mileage Estimates from Rangers and Runners, yet for as long as its Distance from the Post Mark'd West remains unmeasur'd, nor is yet recorded as Fact, may it remain, a-shimmer, among the few final Pages of its Life as Fiction.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“if you think you see no slaves in pennsylvania," replies capt. zhang, his face as smooth as suet, "why, look again. they are not all african, nor do some of them even yet know,--may never know,--that they are slaves. slavery is very old upon these shores,--there is no innocence upon the practice anywhere, neither among the indians nor the spanish nor in the behavior of the rest of christendom, if it come to that.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“consider," replies the geomancer, "--adam and eve ate fruit from a tree, and were enlighten'd. the buddha sat beneath a tree, and he was enlighten'd. newton, also sitting beneath a tree, was hit by a falling apple,--and he was enlighten'd. a quick overview would suggest trees produce enlightenment. trees are not the problem. the forest is not an agent of darkness. but it may be your visto is.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Takes them less than a week to run the Line thro’ somebody’s House. About a mile and a half west of the Twelve-Mile Arc, twenty-four Chains beyond Little Christiana Creek, on Wednesday, April 10th, the Field-Book reports, “At 3 Miles 49 Chains, went through Mr. Price’s House.” “Just took a wild guess,” Mrs. Price quite amiable, “where we’d build it,— not as if my Husband’s a Surveyor or anything. Which side’s to be Pennsylvania, by the way?” A mischievous glint in her eyes that Barnes, Farlow, Moses McClean and others will later all recall. Mr. Price is in Town, in search of Partners for a Land Venture. “Would you Gentlemen mind coming in the House and showing me just where your Line does Run?” Mason and Dixon, already feeling awkward about it, oblige, Dixon up on the Roof with a long Plumb-line, Mason a-squint at the Snout of the Instrument. Mrs. Price meantime fills her Table with plates of sour-cherry fritters, Neat’s-Tongue Pies, a gigantick Indian Pudding, pitchers a-slosh with home-made Cider,— then producing some new-hackl’d Streaks of Hemp, and laying them down in a Right Line according to the Surveyors’ advice,— fixing them here and there with Tacks, across the room, up the stairs, straight down the middle of the Bed, of course, . . . which is about when Mr. Rhys Price happens to return from his Business in town, to find merry Axmen lounging beneath his Sassafras tree, Strange Stock mingling with his own and watering out of his Branch, his house invaded by Surveyors, and his wife giving away the Larder and waving her Tankard about, crying, “Husband, what Province were we married in? Ha! see him gape, for he cannot remember. ’Twas in Pennsylvania, my Tortoise. But never in Maryland. Hey? So from now on, when I am upon this side of the House, I am in Maryland, legally not your wife, and no longer subject to your Authority,— isn’t that right, Gents?” “Ask the Rev,” they reply together,”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“It is a three-piece affair, everything quilted, long jacket, waistcoat, and trousers, which have Feet at the ends of them, all in striped silk, a double stripe of some acidick Rose upon Celadon for the Trousers and Waistcoat, and for the Jacket, whose hem touches the floor when, as now, he is seated, a single stripe of teal-blue upon the same color, which is also that of the Revers. . . . It is usually not wise to discuss matters of costume with people who dress like this, -- politics or religion being far safer topicks.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Listen to me, Defecates-with-Pigeons. Long before any of you came here, we dream'd of you. All the people, even Nations far to the South and the West, dreamt you before ever we saw you,— we believ'd that you came from some other World, or the Sky. You had Powers and we respected them. Yet you never dream'd of us, and when at last you saw us, wish'd only to destroy us. Then the killing started,— some of you, some of us,— but not nearly as many as we'd been expecting. You could not be the Giants of long ago, who would simply have wip'd us away, and for less. Instead, you sold us your Powers,— your Rifles,— as if encouraging us to shoot at you,— and so we did, tho' not hitting as many of you, as you were expecting. Now you begin to believe that we have come from elsewhere, possessing Powers you do not— Those of us who knew how, have fled into Refuge in your Dreams, at last. Tho' we now pursue real lives no different at their Hearts from yours, we are also your Dreams.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“It turns out to be the new Planet, which, a decade and a half later, will be known first as the Georgian, and then as Herschel, after its official Discoverer, and more lately as Uranus.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Once the solar parallax is known,' they told me, 'once the necessary Degrees are measur'd, and the size and weight and shape of the Earth are calculated inescapably at last, all this will vanish. We will have to seek another Space.' No one explain'd what that meant, however ...? 'Perhaps some of us will try living upon thy own Surface. I am not sure that everyone can adjust from a concave space to a convex one. Here have we been sheltered, nearly everywhere we look is no Sky, but only more Earth. -- How many of us, I wonder, could live the other way, the way you People do, so exposed to the Outer Darkness? Those terrible Lights, great and small? And wherever you may stand, given the Convexity, each of you is slight pointed away from everybody else, all the time, out into that Void that most of you seldom notice. Here in the Earth Concave, everyone is pointed at everyone else, -- ev'rybody's axes converge, -- forc'd at least thus to acknowledge one another,-- an entirely different set of rules for how to behave.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“To rule forever," continues the Chinaman, later, "it is necessary only to create, among the people one would rule, what we call...Bad History. Nothing will produce Bad History more directly nor brutally, than drawing a Line, in particular a Right Line, the very Shape of Contempt, through the midst of a People,-- to create thus a Distinction betwixt 'em,-- 'tis the first stroke.-- All else will follow as if predestin'd, unto War and Devastation.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“What Machine is it that bears us along so relentlessly? We go rattling thro' another Day,- another Year,- as thro' an empty Town without a Name, in the Midnight...we have but Memories of some Pause at the Pleasure-Spas of our younger Day, the Maidens, the Cards, the Claret,- we seek to extend our stay, but now a silent Functionary in dark Livery indicates it is time to re-board the Coach, and resume the Journey. Long before the Destination, moreover, shall this Machine come abruptly to a Stop...gather'd dense with Fear, shall we open the Door to confer with the Driver, to discover that there is no Driver...no Horses,...only the Machine, fading as we stand, and a Prairie of desperate Immensity...”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“The Business of the World is Trade and Death, and you must engage with that unpleasantness, as the price of your not-at-all-assur'd Moment of Purity.— Fool.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Some of us are Outlaws, and some Trespassers upon the very World.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“I mean only that in our Times, 'tis not a rare Dispute," Maskelyne assures him. "Reason, or any Vocation to it,-- the Pursuit of the Sciences,-- these are the hope of the Young, the new Music their Families cannot follow, occasionally not even listen to.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Nothing he had brought to it of his nearest comparison, Raby with its thatch'd and benevolent romance of serfdom, had at all prepar'd him for the iron Criminality of the Cape,-- the publick Executions and Whippings, the open'd flesh, the welling blood, the beefy contented faces of those whites.... Yet is Dixon certain, as certain as the lightness he feels now, lightness premonitory of Flying, that far worse happen'd here, to these poor People, as the blood flew and the Children cried,-- that at the end no one understood what they said as they died.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“When they happen across an Adventurer from Mexico, and the ancient City he has discover'd beneath the Earth, where thousands of Mummies occupy the Streets in attitudes of Living Business, embalm'd with Gold divided so finely it flows like Gum.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Where may one breathe?” demands one Continental Macaroni, in a yellow waistcoat, “— in New-York, Taverns have rooms where Smoke is prohibited.” “Tho’ clearly,” replies the itinerant Stove-Salesman Mr. Whitpot, drawing vigorously at his Pipe, “what’s needed is a No-Idiots Area.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“The Telescope, the Flaxions, the inventions of Logarithms and the frenzy of multiplication, often for its own sake, that follow'd have for Emerson all been steps of an unarguable approach to God, a growing clarity,— Gravity, the Pulse of time, the finite speed of Light present themselves to him as aspects of God's character. It's like becoming friendly with an erratic, powerful, potentially, dangerous member of the Aristocracy.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“Yet is Dixon certain, as certain as the lightness he feels now, lightness premonitory of Flying, that far worse happen’d here, to these poor People, as the blood flew and the Children cried, - that at the end no one understood what they said as they died.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“What happens to men sometimes,' his father wants to tell Charlie, 'is that one day all at once they'll understand how much they love their children, as absolutely as a child gives away its own love, and the terrible terms that come with that,— and it proves too much to bear, and they'll not want it, any of it, and they'll back away in fear.”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


“It took me till I was lying among the Rats and Vermin, upon the freezing edge of a Future invisible, to understand that my name had never been my own,— rather belonging, all this time, to the Authorities, who forbade me to change it, or withhold it, as ’twere a Ring upon the Collar of a Beast, ever waiting for the Lead to be fasten’d on. . . .”
― Thomas Pynchon, quote from Mason & Dixon


About the author

Thomas Pynchon
Born place: in Glen Cove, Long Island, New York, The United States
Born date May 8, 1937
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