I’m still working my way through Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day: my lack of time for sustained reading works against my comprehension of whatever overall plot there might be – but I’m certainly enjoying the bizarre little set-pieces Pynchon’s so fond of – and in fact, they’re crazed and manic enough that I sometimes imagine an alternate history, in which Pynchon was born ten or twenty years earlier and ended up working as a writer for classic Warner Brothers cartoons of the ’40s and ’50s. Such as this one:
“Wow! A Season Ticket, Elmer!” (1953)
Elmer Fudd finds out that he’s inherited season tickets to the San Francisco 49ers’ games from his late, wealthy Uncle Pierce, a famous bow-hunter – even though Fudd had not previously suspected he was even related to Pierce. Although Pierce’s will assigns his 49ers’ tickets to Elmer, and his executor (Penelope Pussycat) has mailed the tickets to Elmer, Bugs Bunny – in a series of escalating gambits, at first farcical but increasingly elaborate and diabolical – repeatedly prevents Fudd from getting the tickets while delaying, derailing, and defrauding the postal system. Elmer grows more frustrated and begins to doubt the tickets ever existed – a doubt that gradually spreads to encompass Uncle Pierce, the 49ers football team, Bugs Bunny, and even himself.
The cartoon’s final scenes show Elmer opening his mailbox, in which an envelope care of Pierce’s estate finally appears. As Elmer is about to pick up the envelope, an enormous white-gloved hand (it is, of course, Bugs Bunny’s), gripping a “real” pencil eraser, suddenly appears and rubs out the envelope. Bugs pops his head through the “paper” of the animation, uttering his trademark “What’s up, Doc?” line, and erases first Fudd, then the paper itself, then most of himself – except for his hand that grips the eraser, which then reaches out and appears to erase the viewer’s TV screen. This, by the way, is the only Looney Tunes not to close with the famous “The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down” theme and Porky Pig’s “Th-th-th-that’s all folks!”: instead, the screen goes black for a full ten seconds.
Audience reaction was almost unanimously negative. The episode was never rerun, and it has remained unseen to this day, its mere existence sometimes considered only a rumor.