The plaque shown above appears on p387. It marks not only the spot where Arquimedes de Sobreiro fell nine stories and died in 1625, but it also is the location where Sola finds S after his disappearance and purgatorial stint in the Winter City.
The plaque has the curious characteristic of every portion of the time (two-digits at a time) of Sobreiro’s death being a perfect square: 01/09/1625.
Time squared? Times Square?
There are a number of compelling reasons beyond the play on numbers that indicate that Times Square in NYC may be rendezvous point communicated secretly in Ship of Theseus between FXC and VMS.
- The building that S meets Sola in, and where Sobreiro lived and died, is nine stories tall and has a portico (pp. 386-387). The first building that stood where One Times Square now stands is the Pabst Hotel. It was nine stories tall and had a controversial portico that faced numerous legal battles before its destruction.
- Jennifer Hayward circles one of the “S” symbols in the plaque and writes “And in Filomela’s cave, too.” Earlier in Ship of Theseus, when S leapt from the cave holding hands with Corbeau and the agents began firing pistols at them, he imagined he could hear “corks flying on a New Year’s Eve” (p 197). Sobreiro means, literally, “cork” and the most popular spot in America on New Year’s Eve is and was Times Square, not far from where FXC maintained her office on E 33rd Street at Winged Shoes Press (see Fn10, p446).
- Times Square had the nickname The Great White Way . The Winter City could easily have that nickname as well. Everything was blanketed in white. It also has the nickname The Center of the Universe, which has lots of connotations within “S” as well.
- Every year, beginning in 1907, One Times Square has hosted the now famous ball drop at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The ball that is dropped is a form of time ball used to visually notify ships and others of the exact time. One of the first and most famous time balls is the one at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, located on the prime meridian and the home of the standard Greenwich Mean Time. One of the observatory’s designer’s was Robert Hooke, who was instrumental in standardizing time and using it as a method of calculating precise longitude for nautical navigation. Robert Hooke also is the person who coined the word cell in the biological sense when he looked through an early microscope at a piece of cork and noticed the tiny compartments.
- In the S book-hunt-and-giveaway (known as S.earch – December 16-20, 2014), the first book was hidden at The Exley – a bar in Brooklyn. The bar is named after author Frederick Exley, who died before completing his spy novel titled Mean Greenwich Time. The second book’s first clue was “You’ll find it in the city of 1 4 9 16” which referred to the City of Squares: Boston – specifically Cambridge. Here Doug Dorst seems to be calling our attention to Greenwich Mean Time and to the use of perfect square numbers as a hint to a location.
- On p122, Jen solves one of FXC’s ciphers to VMS. The deciphered text is AVOID GRAND CENTRAL. KEY STOLEN. ASSUME BAG GONE. I FAILED. The implication behind this message is that it would be completely normal for Straka to be in New York City, after his supposed death in Havana. While FXC has lost the key to an important safe box of some kind that contained an important bag, she is telling Straka that while you are in NYC, avoid Grand Central. The implication is, then, if they wanted to meet in some way, it would have to be somewhere else in the city. After all, FXC has an office on E. 33rd street (as close as just 9 blocks away) from the southern end of Times Square.
- Times Square on a New Year’s Eve or any other date secretly communicated between FXC and VMS would be a perfect place to meet. The crowd would hide Straka and he would be able to approach FXC without being identified.
- The most intriguing connection is this: The time ball in Greenwich could only be seen from so far away. Communicating the time over a distance required better technology. The invention and development of the telegraph has many allusions in S. Sending time signals across telegraph, initially by wire and then by radio, was crucial to helping know accurate time. Calais, France, was an instrumental part of this development. It was the location of the first underwater telegraph signal (from Dover) and was used as a time signal – thus replacing the time ball. It all goes back to Calais.J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst have called “S” a lover letter to the written word. The written word is communicating over a distance. Is communicating time over a distance a metaphor for this?
Is the fact that communicating time over a distance helped establish an accurate calculation of longitude which then led to the GPS system and the world map as we know it part of the metaphor? And why we have an EOTVOS wheel with GPS coordinates?
The world knows his name says the foreword.
Comments? Do you think this plaque and meetup in the winter city that shows Sola meeting “S” as a clue to where FXC meets VMS?