Pynchon on Grace

Greenpoint, Brooklyn on a Sunday in January

From Against the Day:

One mild and ordinary work-morning in Chicago, Lew happened to find himself on a public conveyance, head and eyes inclined nowhere in particular, when he entered, all too briefly, a condition he had no memory of having sought, which he later came to think of as grace. Despite the sorry history of rapid transit in this city, the corporate neglect and high likelihood of collision, injury, and death, the weekday-morning overture blared along as usual. Men went on grooming mustaches with gray gloved fingers. A rolled umbrella dented a bowler hat, words were exchanged. Girl amanuenses in little Leghorn straw hats and striped shirtwaists with huge shoulders that took up more room in the car than angels’ wings dreamed with contrary feelings of what awaited them on upper floors of brand-new steel-frame “skyscrapers.” The horses stepped along in their own time and space. Passengers snorted, scratched, and read the newspaper, sometimes all at once, while others imagined that they could get back to some kind of vertical sleep. Lew found himself surrounded by a luminosity new to him, not even observed in dreams, not easily attributable to the smoke-infested sun beginning to light Chicago.

He understood that things were exactly what they were. It seemed more than he could bear.

p. 42

Never sleeping, clamorous as a nonstop feast day, Inconvenience, once a vehicle of sky-pilgrimage, has transformed into its own destination, where any wish that can be made is at least addressed, if not always granted. For every wish to come true would mean that in the known Creation, good unsought and uncompensated would have evolved somehow, to come at least more accessible to us. No one aboard Inconvenience has yet observed any sign of this. They know–Miles is certain–it is there, like an approaching rainstorm, but invisible. Soon they will see the pressure-gauge begin to fall. They will feel the turn in the wind. They will put on smoked goggles for the glory of what is coming to part the sky. They fly toward grace.

p. 1085