Thomas Pynchon’s recent novel, Against the Day (2006), opens with a visit by the boy aeronaut adventurers, The Chums of Chance, to the 1893 Chicago Exposition. This episode seems designed to reference one of the central events in Henry Adams’s The Education of Henry Adams (1907), Adams’s scientifi c awakening at the Exposition upon witnessing the power of the dynamo.1 Yet given Pynchon’s sly mimicry-the Chums recalling Adams’s “boyish” wonder about science, their policy of noninvolvement with the civilizations they observe echoing Adams’s self-proclaimed stance of worldly detachment-the dynamo is curiously absent. Instead Pynchon focuses on their aerial view of the Chicago stockyards:

[I]t was as if the Chums, who out on adventures past, had often witnessed the vast herds of cattle adrift in everchanging cloudlike patterns across the Western plains, here saw that unshaped freedom being rationalized into movement only in straight lines and at right angles and a progressive reduction of choices, until the fi nal turn through the fi nal gate that led to the killing fl oor.2