A couple of points from Brian Boyd's latest Annotations to Ada (Part 2, Chapter 2) which I thought is worth following up.
338.17-18: to disregard the technological details: In Lance, the narrator launches a similar invective: “Not for me is the rocket racket. Not for me are the artificial little satellites that the earth is promised; landing starstrips for spaceships (“spacers”)—one, two, three, four, and then thousands of strong castles in the air each complete with cookhouse and keep, set up by terrestrial nations in a frenzy of competitive confusion, phony gravitation, and savagely flapping flags.” “Another thing I have not the slightest use for is the special-equipment business—the airtight suit, the oxygen apparatus—suchlike contraptions.” (SoVN 632)
338.20-339.01: mechanicalism and that sort of stuff had remained limited to the scratch of a prep-school blackboard: Here, apparently a contemptuous equivalent of “mechanics” (BB); or in my opinion, the introductory Physics courses taught in such “prep-schools” that are divided into realms of say Classical Mechanics (Newtonian), Electrodynamics (Maxwell), Thermodynamics (Boltzmann et. al), Wave Mechanics and Optics (Young, Fermat, et. al), etc.
339.04-09: what his greatest forerunners (Counterstone, for example) had imagined in the way of a manned capsule’s propulsion, . . . increasing, under the influence of a Counterstonian type of intermediate environment between sibling galaxies, to several trillions of light-years per second: VN plays on “Einstein” as ein Stein, “one stone,” evoking a kind of counting stone or abacus, ironically, to allude to a physicist whose work required the deployment of complex mathematics; or a stone counterweight to Einstein (BB). However, the ‘whole manned capsule propulsion’, and the ‘influence of environment between sibling galaxies’ seems a precise reference, a source which I have not been able to locate yet. It seems to me, within the scope of SF and Good Physics, the action of “gravitational assist”, but that too is tentative. Also, the whole business of 'Therasa-the-minikin-sweetheart' after her intergalactic voyage, brings to mind the length contraction phenomena from Special Relativity, which Van Veen will gleefully parody in Pt. 4 (543.07-28), The Texture of Time.
339.23-24: the three cosmologists, Xertigny, Yates and Zotov: Apart from BB’s succinct elucidation, see the use of X, Y, Z publishers from the Lolita afterword, On a Book entitled Lolita. In a different context, it is to be noted that while drawing a common triangle, we usually use ABC or XYZ as the vertices, which when corresponding to the places enumerated by BB*, almost makes a transatlantic triangle on the flat map of our Terra.
343.10: similar blurbs boosting The Possessed by Miss Love and The Puffer by Mr Dukes: BB’s note on Saul Bellow can be further supplemented by something from that VN remarks on another occasion. He writes: “Finally, and privately, the blurb from Saul Bellow, should never have appeared on the jacket of a book about me. Is it too late to eliminate that exhaust puff?” (SL 434). He would later show much chagrin when this private comment was published, writing curtly: “My remarks …. and Bellow were not for print” (SL 510).
345.13-15: As a boy of fifteen. . . he had studied with a poet’s passion the time-tables of three great American transcontinental trains: Apart from the previous mentions in VN’s works that BB notes, this “passion” is referenced most lyrically in one of my favourite short stories, Time and Ebb (in some ways a satellite to Ada): “I am also old enough to remember the coach trains: as a babe I worshipped them; as a boy I turned away to improved editions of speed. With their haggard windows and dim lights, they still lumber sometimes through my dreams. Their hue might have passed for the ripeness of distance, for a blending succession of conquered miles, had it not surrendered its plum-bloom to the action of coal dust so as to match the walls of workshops and slums which preceded a city as inevitably as a rule of grammar and a blot precede the acquisition of conventional knowledge. . . Old men resembling the hoary ferryman of still more ancient fairy tales chanted out their intermittent “nextations” and checked the tickets of the travellers, among whom there were sure to be, if the journey was reasonably long, a great number of sprawling, dead-tired soldiers and one live, drunken soldier, tremendously peripatetic and with only his pallor to connect him with death.”
*In brief, BB annotates them as: 1) Xertigny is a small village in the Vosges Department of NE France 2) Yates County in upper New York State and 3) Zotov is a modest mountain peak in Rostov Oblast’, Russia.