California Chenin Blanc

Drinking Dos Equis back in 2018, I found myself pretty hazy on the narrative details of Vineland. The reread I prescribed myself then has unfortunately yet to occur. Hopefully 2023 is the year!

Today’s relevant passage finds Weed Atman, who sounds more or less familiar, talking with someone called Rex, who is who knows who. They’re having a nice mathematical argument (are theorems invented or discovered sitting around “like planets”). Suddenly we slip sideways into a subjunctive (thanks Alan) might-have-been-to-be world:

Neither one could know how few and fortunate would be any who’d be able to meet in years later than these and smile, and relax beneath some single low oak out on an impossible hillside, with sunlight, and the voices of children, “And we actually thought we were having it out over these points of doctrine,” as some fine-looking young teener appears now from nowhere with a picnic spread, as they all sit and eat cracked crab and sourdough bread and drink some chilly gold-green California Chenin Blanc, and laugh, and pour more wine, “really obscure arguments, typewriters rattling through the windows all over campus, all night long, phone lines humming, amazing amounts of energetic youthful running around, and all for what?”

Vineland, p. 232.

This dreamy sunlit future hillside is pretty clearly not to be. The Chenin Blanc glints and glows gold-green with an ideal California prosperity and peace not really at home in Weed’s soon to be concluded life. (This brief flash into the subjunctive really strikes me as classically Pynchonian; it’s got me keen for that reread).

My Chenin Blanc, happily, is less subjunctive and more of a present reality. It’s a Little Frances 2019 with grapes from Clasksburg. It’s oaky, a little buttery, with plenty of apricot and peach, plus a hint of crisp pear. Good hillside low oak sheltered picnic drinking stuff.

2 responses to “California Chenin Blanc”

  1. I think a reread of Vineland would be well worth the effort. It may be my favorite Pynchon, probably because although it takes a while to latch onto what’s going on, it’s actually pretty accessible, with a (relatively) small number of central characters you feel you need to care about (plus ten thousand hilarious bit roles, of course.) A character or two from “Crying of 49” wander through the set. And the later when he wrote Against the Day, he created a few characters who I think must be the parents or grandparents of some of the crowd in Vineland. And yes, the lovely “subjunctive interlude” with the wine and the picnic (the food at the picnic sounds as good as the wine) is sandwiched in a general Fall of Man situation, from 1960s idealism to 1970s cynicism and cruel manipulation and all around human shittiness.

    • Eric, they should put this on the back of the book. I will make it happen this year! That undercurrent of yearning for a less shitty history is one of my favourite threads in Pynchon, and it seems like it runs strong in Vineland.

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