The Moon in Moon Palace

The moon occurs in many places in the novel. This is a chronological list of all the references to the moon in the novel It was the summer that men first walked on the moon. (p. 7, l. 1) When I moved in with him in February of 1958, he was giving lessons to beginning clarinet students and playing for Howie Dunn’s Moonlight Moods, a small combo that made the usual rounds of weddings, confirmations, and graduation parties. (p. 11, ll. 50–54) That was the year of Early Wynn and the go-go Sox, of Wally Moon and his moon-shot home runs. (p. 14, ll. 26–27) They called themselves the Moon Men now, and most of their songs were original numbers. (p. 18, ll. 2–3) I was looking down at Broadway, the smallest, most abbreviated portion of Broadway, and the remarkable thing was that the entire area of what I could see was filled up by a neon sign, a vivid torch of pink and blue letters that spelled out the words MOON PALACE. (p. 23, ll. 54–58) MOON PALACE. I immediately thought of Uncle Victor and his band, and in that first, irrational moment, my fears lost their hold on me. I had never experienced anything so sudden and absolute. A bare and grubby room had been transformed into a site of inwardness, an intersection point of strange omens and mysterious, arbitrary events. I went on staring at the Moon Palace sign, and little by little I understood that I had come to the right place, that this small apartment was indeed where I was meant to live. (p. 23, ll. 62ff.) The moon would block the sun, and at that point I would vanish. I would be dead broke, a flotsam of flesh and bone without a farthing to my name. (p. 28, ll. 5–8) As chance would have it, I took the last ones up to Chandler on the same day the astronauts landed on the moon. I received a little more than nine dollars from the sale, and as I walked back down Broadway afterward, I decided to stop in at Quinn’s Bar and Grill, a small local hangout that stood on the southeast corner of 108th Street. The weather was extremely hot that day, and there didn’t seem to be any harm in splurging on a couple of ten-cent beers. I sat on a stool at the bar next to three or four of the regulars, enjoying the dim lights and the coolness of the air conditioning. The big color television set was on, glowing eerily over the bottles of rye and bourbon, and that was how I happened to witness the event. I saw the two padded figures take their first steps in that airless world, bouncing like toys over the landscape, driving a golf cart through the dust, planting a flag in the eye of what had once been the goddess of love and lunacy. Radiant Diana, I thought, image of all that is dark within us. Then the president spoke. In a solemn, deadpan voice, he declared this to be the greatest event since the creation of man. The old-timers at the bar laughed when they heard this, and I believe I managed to crack a smile or two myself. But for all the absurdity of that remark, there was one thing no one could challenge: since the day he was expelled from Paradise, Adam had never been this far from home. (p. 38, ll. 11–12) Every now and then, I would plant myself between the two windows, and watch the Moon Palace sign. Even that was enjoyable, and it always seemed to generate a series of interesting thoughts. Those thoughts are somewhat obscure to me now – clusters of wild associations, a rambling circuit of reveries – but at the time I felt they were terribly significant. Perhaps the word moon had changed for me after I saw men wandering around its surface. Perhaps I was struck by the coincidence of having met a man named Neil Armstrong in Boise, Idaho, and then watching a man by the same name fly off into outer space. Perhaps I was simply delirious with hunger, and the lights of the sign had transfixed me. I can’t be sure of any of it, but the fact was that the words Moon Palace began to haunt my mind with all the mastery and fascination of an oracle. Everything was mixed up in it at once: Uncle Victor
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and China, rocket ships and music, Marco Polo and the American West. I would look out at the sign and start to think about electricity. That would lead me to the blackout during my freshman year, which in turn would lead me to the baseball games played at Wrigley Field, which would then lead me back to Uncle Victor and the memorial candles burning on my windowsill. One thought kept giving way to another, spiraling into ever larger masses of connectedness. The idea of voyaging into the unknown, for example, and the parallels between Columbus and the astronauts. The discovery of America as a failure to reach China; Chinese food and my empty stomach; thought, as in food for thought, and the head as a palace of dreams. I would think: the Apollo Project; Apollo, the god of music; Uncle Victor and the Moon Men traveling out West. I would think: the West; the war against the Indians; the war in Vietnam, once called Indochina. I would think: weapons, bombs, explosions; nuclear clouds in the deserts of Utah and Nevada; and then I would ask myself – why does the American West look so much like the landscape of the moon? It went on and on like that, and the more I opened myself to these secret correspondences, the closer I felt to understanding some fundamental truth about the world. I was going mad, perhaps, but I nevertheless felt a tremendous power surging through me, a gnostic joy that penetrated deep into the heart of things. Then, very suddenly, as suddenly as I had gained this power, I lost it. I had been living inside my thoughts for three or four days, and one morning I woke up and found that I was somewhere else: back in the world of fragments, back in the world of hunger and bare white walls. I struggled to recapture the equilibrium of the previous days, but I couldn’t do it. The world was pressing down on me again, and I could barely catch my breath. (p. 39, ll. 46ff.) Someone started talking about the moon landing, and then someone else declared that it had never really happened. […] I calmly asserted that not only had last month’s moon landing been genuine, it was by no means the first time it had happened. Men had been going to the moon for hundreds of years … (p. 44, ll. 26ff.) Struggling to get a grip on my emotions, I went out and splurged on a meal at the Moon Palace (p. 50, ll. 3–4) You send people to the moon, something’s gotta give. (p. 53, ll. 45–46) There was no moon in the sky that night, not a single star. Before I remembered to take the knife out of my pocket, I was fast asleep. (p. 61, ll. 54–55) another moon landing (p. 68, l. 9) Once, I remember, I saw the Moon Palace sign in front of me, more vivid than it had ever been in life. The pink and blue neon letters were so large that the whole sky was filled with their brightness. Then, suddenly, the letters disappeared, and only the two os from the word Moon were left. I saw myself dangling from one of them, struggling to hang on like an acrobat who had botched a dangerous stunt. Then I was slithering around it like a tiny worm, and then I wasn’t there anymore. The two os had turned into eyes, gigantic human eyes that were looking down at me with scorn and impatience. They kept on staring at me, and after a while I became convinced that they were the eyes of God. (p. 74, ll. 60ff.) Once, I remember, I saw the Moon Palace sign in front of me, more vivid than it had ever been in life. (p. 75, ll. 61–63) Zimmer collected the money from his friend a few days later, and that night Kitty and I joined him for a meal at the Moon Palace (p. 100, ll. 15–16) The sun is the past, the earth is the present, the moon is the future (p. 100, ll. 32–33) (of language going from the brain to the mouth) In actual terms, it was no more than two or three inches, but considering how many accidents and losses could occur along the way, it might just as well have been a journey from the earth to the moon. (p. 124, ll. 17–20)
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for Moonlight – the highest price ever paid for the work of a living American artist (p. 134, ll. 22–24) Think about as little as you can – nothing, if possible – and if that’s too much to ask, then think about your eyes and the extraordinary power you possess to see the world. Imagine what would happen to you if you couldn’t see it. Imagine yourself looking at something under the various lights that make the world visible to us: sunlight, moonlight, electric light, candlelight, neon light. (p. 136, ll. 8–14) Moonlight the painting (cf. p. 138, ll. 36 – p. 141, l. 48) After I looked at five or six of them, they gradually began to separate themselves from their surroundings, and I was no longer able to see them as moons. They became holes in the canvas, apertures of whiteness looking out onto another world. Blakelock’s eye, perhaps. A blank circle suspended in space, gazing down at things that were no longer there. (p. 142, ll. 19–24) A man can’t know where he is on the earth except in relation to the moon or a star. (p. 155, ll. 58–60) There was no moon that night, and the sky was brilliant with stars. Every once in a while, he could hear the muffled remnant of a laugh, but that was the extent of it. Then, periodically, the Greshams started coming out of the cave (p. 179, ll. 43–47) Did you know that Harriot was the first man to look at the moon through a telescope? (p. 194, ll. 5–6) “You’re a dreamer, boy,” he said. “Your mind is on the moon, and from the looks of things, it’s never going to be anywhere else. You have no ambitions, you don’t give a damn about money, and you’re too much of a philosopher to have any feeling for art. What am I going to do with you? You need someone to look after you, to make sure you have food in your belly and a bit of cash in your pocket. Once I’m gone, you’ll be right back where you started.” “I admit it’s strange, but I think I might be suited for it. Libraries aren’t in the real world, after all. They’re places apart, sanctuaries of pure thought. In that way, I can go on living on the moon for the rest of my life.” (p. 215, ll. 66ff.) Then the moon came up from behind the hills. It was a full moon, as round and yellow as a burning stone. I kept my eyes on it as it rose into the night sky, not turning away until it had found its place in the darkness. (p. 302, ll. 11–14) I went out to dinner with Kitty at the Moon Palace, and afterward we took in one of the movies on the double bill at the Thalia (I remember it as Ashes and Diamonds, but I could be wrong). Normally, I would have taken Kitty back to her dormitory at that point, but I had a bad feeling about Effing (p. 219, ll. 45–49) I took the little volume home with me and started to read it. Several pages into the text, I came across the same sentence that I had found in my fortune cookie at the Moon Palace almost a year before. “The sun is the past, the earth is the present, the moon is the future.” I still had the slip of paper in my wallet, and it jolted me to learn that these words had been written by Tesla, the same man who had been so important to Effing. The synchronicity of these events seemed fraught with significance, but it was difficult for me to grasp precisely how. It was as though I could hear my destiny calling out to me, but each time I tried to listen to it, it turned out to be talking in a language I didn’t understand. Had some worker in a Chinese fortune cookie factory been reading Tesla’s book? It seemed implausible, and yet even if he had, why was I the person at our table who had chosen the cookie with that particular message in it? I couldn’t help feeling unsettled by what had happened. (p. 231, ll. 52–66)

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He possessed a great stone of a head, Barber found, a mythological head, and as he stood there looking at himself in the mirror, it seemed right to him that the vast globe of his body should now have a moon to go with it. (p. 240, ll. 35) He secretly loved it when the young girls mooned around him (p. 242, ll. 35–36) Barber was particularly fond of the two Blakelocks in the dining room (a moonlight canvas on the eastern wall and a view of an Indian encampment on the southern) (p. 250, ll. 26–28) Long ago, according to the legends they told him, their ancestors had lived on the moon. (p. 252, ll. 31–32) For nowhere in the world, Kepler thought, does the earth look more like the moon than it does here. (p. 255, ll. 56–57) Without uttering another word, he wraps himself in his ceremonial garments and fasts for three days, at which point his spirit flies out of his body and travels to the moon, the place where the souls of the Humans dwell after death. (p. 257, ll. 65ff.) He [Jocomin] takes on the name of Jack Moon (p. 258, l. 10) A full moon is poised dramatically in the sky for the last scene. (p. 259, l. 57) he suddenly sees a coyote standing with its silhouette against the moon. (p. 259, ll. 61–62) One day, however, I drove farther afield than usual, going past Monument Valley to the Navaho trading post at Oljeto. The word meant “moon in the water,” which was enough to attract me in itself, but someone in Bluff had told me that the people who ran the trading post, a Mr. and Mrs. Smith, knew as much about the history of the country as anyone else for miles around. (p. 299, ll. 54–60) Then the moon came up from behind the hills. It was a full moon, as round and yellow as a burning stone. I kept my eyes on it as it rose into the night sky, not turning away until it had found its place in the darkness. (p. 302, ll. 11–14)

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