04 January 2008


489
...Despite the growing presence of electric street illumination, London in resolute municipal creep out of the Realm of Gas, he had begun to discover a structure to the darkness, dating from quite ancient times, perhaps well before there was any city at all--in place all along, and little more ratified by the extreme and unmerciful whiteness replacing the glare-free tones and composite shadows of the old illumination, with its multiplied chances of error. Even venturing out in the daylight, he found himself usually moving from one shadow to another, among quotidian frights which could only become unbearably visible with the passing of lamplighting-time into the lofty electric night.
The purposeful life did not keep him, for some while in fact, from trying to locate somewhere in Great Britain a source of Cyclomite, proceeding, desperately, from such opiated catarrh preparations as Collis Brown's Mixture on to cocainized brain tonics, cigarettes soaked in absinthe, xylene in unventilated rooms, and so on, each proving inadequate, often pathetically so, as a substitute for the reality-modifying explosive he had enjoyed back in his former or Stateside existence.
He had no shame about enlisting the aid of Neville and Nigel, always these days, it seemed, down from University. Each of them was reputed to have at least a thousand pounds a year, which it seemed they spent mostly on drugs and hats. "Here," Nigel greeted him, "do try a spot of 'pinky,' it's ever so much fun, really."
"Condy's fluid," explained Neville--"permanganate disinfectant, which one then mixes with methylated spirits--"
"Got the recipe from an Aussie we met whilst in the nick one Regatta weekend. Came to develop quite a taste for it after a while, though health aspects naturally did occur to us, so we're careful only to allow ourselves one bottle per year."
"Admire your restraint, boys."
"Yes, and tonight's the night, Lewis!" Abruptly producing a rather large bottle filled with a queer purple that Lew could swear was glowing.

--Thomas Pynchon

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