Diagramming Babel (Part 7)

(Originally Posted Wednesday, September 26, 2007)


Diagram 7. I’ve finally gotten Will out of the subway system and into Babel’s aboveground society. Not very high up, mind you. He’s just another immigrant, trying to hustle his way into the Babylonian Dream. And, briefly, the writing pauses, while I try to figure out how to make it work again.

The text reads, top to bottom:

Will

Preamble

BABEL

Fox Nat Esme

Political Police

DRAGON
REVELATION!

REVELATION!

Start Lowly:

The Lower East Side
Immigrants
Multi-Languaged

Half the day was spent running a 3-card Monte scam. The other half he was let out on his own to learn the basics of the city
[and city life]

He learned in . . . etc.
He learned that without money all the city was closed to him

Annotations:

The fox is off to the side and circled, because she hasn’t made an appearance yet (save in a story that Nat told on the train).

Note that “les poulettes” — the Political Police — have reappeared, and that once again I had to black out a name to preserve a secret. Also that Alcyone still doesn’t have a name and is simply represented by a female sign, which is also circled and to the side, indicating that while she’s doing something relevant to the plot she doesn’t make an actual appearance yet.

I began Will in the Lower East Side because Babel is in some sense “really” New York City, and traditionally that’s where immigrants started out from.

Down at the bottom, Will and Nat are running a three-card Monte scam. The “he learned” jotting eventually became the following paragraph:

He had learned a great deal in the past twelve months. Not just the petty scams and cons by which he and Nat scrounged a living, but the ways of the city as well. He’d learned that in Babel “What the fuck do you want?” meant “Hello,” that “I’m going to have to run you in” meant “Give me ten dollars and I’ll look the other way,” and that “I love you” meant “Take off your trousers and lie down on the bed so I can grab your wallet and run.”

Which looks simple, but until I was able to formulate it, I wasn’t able to move beyond those few opening pages. Will had to learn the basics of Babel, and so did I.

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