- Please keep these annotations SPOILER-FREE by not revealing information from later pages in the novel.
Page numbers refer to editions with 385 pages, where the story begins on page 3. Not sure if there are other editions with variant pagination. Please let us know otherwise.
Read Vineland's original book jacket flap here.
"less than harmonic convergence"
The Harmonic Convergence was a planetary alignment occurring in 1987 that was heralded by New Age astrologers as ushering-in an age of peace, rather than war, as a prelude to the Mayan "end of history" in 2012.
Nice prolepsis going on in this opening sentence which subtly telegraphs Vineland themes. The pacific experience of drifting awake and Zoyd would definitely be drifting in filtered sunlight one summer morning is contrasted by the foreshadowings of threats creeping figs (a highly invasive plant) connecting to federal prosecutor Brock Vond who is referred to throughout as a "creep" and a "megacreep," notably on pp. 108, 141 and 189. And those "squadrons of blue jays stomping around..." blue jays are scavengers and considered "adaptable, aggressive and omnivorous"; they also have a reputation as raiders of other birds' nests, stealing eggs, chicks . In Vineland these blue jays will morph into squadrons of "private vigilantes" in blue planes, on p. 221. And, natch, there's that ominous Orwellian year of 1984. Of course, the reference to a "vine" in the novel's opening sentence, even if it's creeping, is appropo. Finally, the color blue figures prominently in Vineland, and particularly Frenesi's blue eyes. Read more about the color blue in Vineland...
It's also worth noting how this book begins, as does Gravity's Rainbow, with a protagonist waking from a portentous dream, with light percolating in.
Zen + Void = Zoyd...
Rhymes with void, shares Z with Zuniga. Zoyd's last name perhaps references Wheeler Hall at University of California at Berkeley, at the epicenter of student unrest in the 60s.
The suffix -oid is like -ish; think humanoid, freakazoid, etc. So Zoyd is Z-ish. What comes to mind about Z? It's the last letter of the alphabet, so Zoyd is near the bottom. "Boyd" might be a good name for the heroic, hard-charging hero of an adventure or detective story, but not Zoyd. What else? Getting Z's means sleeping, so perhaps Zoyd is sleepy. Z is the first letter of zero, and the one-zero dichotomy shows up often in Vineland. Finally, remember Z for Zorro and the leftish 1960's political film Z
The blue jay [Cyanocitta cristata] does not range west of the Rocky Mountains. The birds Zoyd hears are Stellar's jays [C. stellari], with dark heads and a more uniformly blue body.
"mental disability check"
This instantly identifies Zoyd as a sixties character with a sixties scam. In the late sixties, Bay Area actor/writer Peter Coyote (b. 1941) wrote and performed a then-popular song called "ATD" celebrating the coolness of getting onto ATD (Aid to the Totally Disabled) for feigned mental problems to avoid having to work at some evil-collaborative (i.e., straight) job. The trick, of course, was convincing your caseworker that you were a nut. Zoyd's annual window-dive is a comic version of a now-classic ritual-scam turned into a media circus (as are most remains of the sixties). Given the importance of the Tube in Vineland, it's no accident that what was originally a private act of financial desperation has become a filler on TV news (complete with a fake window). Of course, as it turns out, this particular scam is not Zoyd's idea.
Zoyd's daughter would likely be Prairie Wheeler, thus her name might connect to the Tibetan Prayer Wheel, a mechanical device used as an equivalent to the recitation of a mantra. The prayer wheel consists of a hollow metal cylinder, often beautifully embossed, mounted on a rod and containing a consecrated paper bearing a mantra. Each turn of the wheel by hand is considered equivalent to orally reciting the prayer. Variants to the handheld prayer wheel are large cylinders that can be set in motion by hand or attached to windmills or waterwheels and thus kept in continuous motion.
Note that Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is up around where the fictional town of Vineland is supposed to exist.
"country music was playing out of somebody's truck radio"
Good Mendocino atmosphere throughout; clearly, Pynchon has been there.
An actual cereal that made its first appears in 1971, along with another monster-themed offering from General Mills, Franken Berry. Wikipedia
Plant genus including Thapsia garganica; roots used medicinally as a purgative, diuretic, and emetic. Contact with the sap can cause intense itching and blisters.
86 = to remove, take out, discard. During Prohibition, a popular NY speakeasy called Chumley's had an entrance at 86 Bedford Street. Customers generally used a more discreet entrance accessed through a neighboring courtyard, and this was the entrance used by the police when staging a raid. When warned of an impending raid, the bartender would shout, "86, everybody!", meaning that patrons should quickly exit through the safer, public entrance.
A chocolate flavoring for milk mix that was developed in the U.S. by 1948. It was introduced in Europe in 1950 as Nesquik and that name was adapted in the U.S. in 1999.
A phallic name, for sure. And cucumbers are one of Humboldt County's major crops, right up there with marijuana.
"the Log Jam in Del Norte"
And another phallic club name playing off the county's logging industry.
Del Norte County in Northern California - so Pynchon has sharply indicated both the date and the location of the action.
"elegant little...chain saw, about the size of a Mini-Mac"
Mini-Mac = the Mac-10 machine pistol of US make. Zoyd's lady-like chainsaw goes well with his drag costume, and the effeminate clientele (drinking "kiwi mimosas.") It also makes a nice almost-rhyme with Sheriff Willis Chunko's gold-handled chainsaw on page 373.
"Six Rivers Conference"
To the south of the eerie and mysterious Seventh River? (See p. 49.)
Six Rivers National Forest is a U.S. National Forest located in the northwestern corner of California, with a U.S. Mail address in Eureka, CA. The Six Rivers Youth Football Conference is also headquartered in Eureka.
"nacreous pretty saw"
Referring to the mother-of-pearl grips on "Cheryl's" chainsaw. And yet another phallic reference, "nacreous" being a common adjective to describe a male's ejaculate.
"hotshot PI lawyers"
PI = Normally short for personal injury, but here perhaps purchase of information, as noted on p. 24.
- The context definitely suggests Personal Injury, not Purchase of Information. "these are all folks now who like to sue..." and PI lawsuits are what they're bringing.
"George Lucas and all his crew"
The forest sequences of the Star Wars sequel were shot in the area.
The act of passing or jumping through a window. Defenestration is the act of throwing something or someone out of a window.
...say there Lemay!
General "Bomb them back to the Stone Age!" Curtis Lemay ?
His partner, Van Meter, was calling from the Cucumber Lounge...
The name is likely a tip of the hat to Solomon Lee Van Meter, Jr. (1888-1937) who's brilliant idea was to invent a parachute that was strapped onto the pilot instead of attached to the plane itself, as early parachutes were. He also invented the quick-release mechanism called the ripcord. His patents were granted in 1916. From the Aviation Museum of Kentucky website
Or mebbe to Homer Van Meter, gunman and right hand man for John Dillinger, filmically portrayed by the likes of Elisha Cook, Jr., (1957) and Harry Dean Stanton (1973). The best line from the Wikipedia page linked above has it that "There are conflicting accounts of Van Meter's personality, although all agree that he was an inveterate clown and prankster."
Or perhaps Van Morrison, a singer popular in the sixties (and beyond).
There is no Vineland County on the California map. Pynchon appears to have created Vineland County from parts of Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte Counties. However, on page 43 of Inherent Vice, Pynchon writes "Scott had been playing with a local group known as the Corvairs, till half of them decided to join the northward migration of those years up to Humboldt, Vineland, and Del Norte". This leaves out Mendocino, which was part of the "hippie migration", and best fits the name Vineland, since it's the only one of the three that's been a major grape producer in the past. Jump to page 317 for more evidence that Vineland lies on the border between Humboldt and Del Norte Counties.
Vineland was actually a farming community in real history that was located in Santa Clara County, near Los Gatos, Calif. in the later half of the 19th century. I came across this studying old voter registration records. While Pynchon's fictional town and county seem to be further north, this general area of Calif. is central in the book.
"cop vehicles...playing the 'Jeopardy' theme on their sirens."
The first of many TV show / theme song references, this one to the popular game show Jeopardy! which began airing on March 30, 1964. Listen on YouTube.
"unrelenting...bickering...[caused by] unquiet ghosts"
A pre-hint of the Thanatoids?
"one of those gotta-shit throbs of fear."
An apt description, if you've ever felt it. Pynchon seems big on these visceral fear reactions; see also p. 45 ("intestinal pangs of fear"), p. 116 ("stone bowelflash"), p. 207 ("a throb of fear went right up his asshole"), p. 299 ("rectal spasms of fear,") and elsewhere.
Zoyd’s longtime pursuer, DEA field agent Hector Zuñiga
To hector is to harass. Pynchon often alludes to opera in his work, and in Georges Bizet's French opéra comique, Carmen (1875), there is the character Zuniga (without the tilde), an officer who arrests the beautiful gypsy Carmen after she is involved in a fight with another woman at the cigarette factory where they work. Synopsis
"Dream on, Zoyd."
Pynchon seems to be using the authorial voice with slightly higher profile than previously, speaking directly to characters (and readers) with comments like this.
"Hector stood over by the toilets pretending to play a Zaxxon machine..."
Zaxxon is a 1982 arcade game developed by Ikegami Tsushinki and released by Sega. The game gives the player the experience of flying a fighter craft through a fortress while shooting at enemy entities (missiles, enemy gunfire, etc.). Wikipedia
The name may be a play on "rave on," but it's also been suggested that it might derive from huevon, a Spanish word meaning egg, but also referring to a testicle -- hence someone with "big balls." (Pynchon did live in Mexico for a while...) In any case, Wayvone is also a remittance man, someone who gets paid a small but regular amount of money to stay out of trouble in some far-away place. Pynchon seems fond of the type -- there are several in V. and Gravity's Rainbow, and the latter even has a remittance horse (named Snake). Is it pronounced "wavy one"?
In Chicano slang, a lazy man ["heavy balls" making activity difficult or distasteful].
Cerruti suits have been around since the 1950s, a symbol of prestige and excellence in men's suits. Italian designer Nino Cerruti (b. 1930) is the creator of the line, which continues to this day (as does Mr. Cerruti). In the 1980s, Wayvone's look was fashionable with the greed-is-good Wall Street crowd.
The expensive foreign suit and shoes (inappropriate for rural Northern California), the Italian designer, the oblique reference to his father's City occupation, his perhaps-Italian name (way-voh-nee, rhyming with cojone or maybe Capone, a Capone-of-the-Waves i.e. a California Capone?) all stereotype him as a Mafioso.
Meaning Zoyd has more-or-less resisted Zuniga's attempt to "turn" him into an informer/betrayer. The sexual metaphor prefigures many references to Frenesi's pussy (which she blames for driving her far beyond this stage).
"Wheel of Fortune"
Wheel of Fortune is an American Tube game show, hosted by Pat Sajak and Vanna White. It is the longest-running syndicated game show in American television history.