(urth) Tang and Napoleon
stephenhoy at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 29 09:23:56 PDT 2009
I recently picked up Peace for the first time, and now that I've
completed a first read of this delightfully complex horror story.
I'm mulling it over a thing or two. One thing we know about
Peace, which we can learn either from the evidence in the novel
or from urth-l archives, that Julius Smart's Cassionsville
factory produces an acrid golden nectar marketed under the name
of Tang. As I was reading, I noticed how frequently we run into
'tang' throughout Peace.
- the blade of a Boy Scout knife
- the sound of a bell at the bottom of the ocean (twice 'tang')
- china left by Olivia in the cave with the skull
- Olivia breading a Pekingese to restore the lion-dogs of the
- the porcelain pillow aka the Golden Millet Dream (written in
the Tang dynasty)
I'm sure I'm missing quite a few others. One additional tang I
found with a dictionary search,
- the title PEACE = tang in Welsh.
One other reminder...Olivia, Peacock, and Weer finding a skull in
a mid-cliff cave:
She squeezed my hand, and after a moment whispered in my ear that
she had left her little dish with the hen on top in the cave.
"For me. Because I had olives in it--do you see, Den? And
besides, it's china."
I pointed out that it was milk glass.
"The bottom," she said firmly as Professor Peacock took his
seat, "was china."
- Peace p 59
I can't figure out whose skull lies inside the cave, but Olivia's
words alerted me that something from the Golden Age of China lies
at the bottom of Peace. The novel turns on the Golden Millet
Dream, and that's more than sufficient reason for an author to
offer variations on the Tang theme throughout the novel. Perhaps
that's all there is to it.
On another topic, in speaking of the Dresden figure of Napoleon,
Weer cites Ludwig's 1924 bio as a source for his understanding of
the pose. Nowhere in Ludwig will you find a direct discussion of
portraiture, nor is there a copy of David's Napoleon in His
Study, the likely model for the Dresden figurine. However, Ludwig
quotes a verbal portrait given by Madame de Stael, in which she
states that Napoleon is at his best when he adopts a contemptuous
air. Ludwig later elaborates this view of Napoleon, citing "the
three fountains of his soul: contempt for mankind, understanding
of the masses, and the critical aloofness of the foreigner who
has chosen a new fatherland." Reminds me of Julius T. Smart.
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