- 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.
"When had Brock ever possessed her?"
See comments on page 274.
"...his partner Roscoe..."
Roscoe = slang for pistol.
Also, a racetrack tout friend of the detectives on the TV detective show 77 Sunset Strip.
Roscoe Boulevard is a street in Los Angeles.
U.S. term for a legislator or congressman. Solon was one of the seven sages of Athens, and is best know for inventing a class system based on wealth instead of lineage.
See the Wikipedia article.
"the chain-link perimeters of Allenwood, Pa."
Allenwood Federal Correction Complex includes FCI Allenwood Low, #4 on Forbes Magazine's "Ten Best Places to Go To Prison" list. Once considered a "country club prison," Allenwood Low has become "a bit more austere" in recent years.
"children longing for discipline"
Vond's genius lies in seeing this desire in the kids of the Sixties. Is this Pynchon's view? It certainly seems true of Frenesi.
Roscoe is referring to Internal Affairs, the police division that investigates crimes by policemen. So Roscoe, a "bad cop", was fired from the police and subsequently hired by Brock Vond.
"Jeez I know I'm bad but--"
Reference to the Shangri-Las' 60s rock 'n' roll song "Give Him A Great Big Kiss." The full line goes, "He's good bad, but he's not evil." Lyrics...; Video of performance...
"some of 'ems in it for real...They'll get remanded someplace else ... in the mainstream, that's where we fish"
So Brock Vond is a fisher of men. Consistent with his Rapture analogy (cf. page 248), he is only interested in those he can convert; he throws the others back.
"I'm counting on that other 90%..."
This certainly sounds like Pynchon, the disillusioned hippie. Pynchon likes to put his own political ideas in the mouths of his villains. Consider Scarsdale Vibe's comments on class struggle in Against the Day.
"less voluble Tonto"
Brock and Roscoe as Lone Ranger and Tonto. The Lone Ranger was a television series starring Clayton Moore (though with John Hart as the Lone Ranger from 1952-1954) and Jay Silverheels as Tonto, which ran from 1949 to 1957.
"Feel like we've been in a Movie of the Week!"
L-like The Brock Vond Story, starring Robert Redford?
"supernatural luck...aura...pure white light...immune to gunfire"
This is Brock's aura of invincibility, that paralyzes his opponents by convincing them that all resistance is futile. Of course, Pynchon is making a broader point about the State. The aura returns on page 376.
Detailed exposition of the Italian criminologist's theories show Brock's (or, more precisely, Pynchon's) fascination with them. "...crude in method and long superseded, although it seemed reasonable to Brock." Or any other fascist with a bent toward genocide. Most of this stuff probably comes from the 1911 translation of Cesare Lombroso's Criminal Man, or the 1911 biography by H.G. Kurella.
"a set of big S's"
Double lightning S's were the symbol of the Nazi SS, as any reader of Gravity's Rainbow knows. In light of the "scene" just ending, Vond's S's could also stand for "Super Sadist". The segment begins on page 268 with Brock Vond reminiscing that he had only possessed Frenesi for a minute and a half. This is a curious statement, given the amount of sex they have had together. It makes more sense after the fetishistic BDSM scene, since it appears that Vond views "possession" to be domination, rather than copulation. It jibes with a symbolism in which Vond has been placed in opposition to life.
"the Madwoman in the Attic"
Brock's female side. This is the name of a major concept in post-Freudian feminist psychology, as well as the title of the Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar book of feminist criticism concerning 19th Century novels. Published in 1979, their book examines Victorian literature from a feminist perspective. They drew their title from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, in which Rochester's mad wife Bertha stays locked in the attic. Vond's dream foreshadows other criminal/erotic dream-women (such as Frenesi) coming in "from steep overhead angles" (p. 276). They sound like harpies or vampires, coming to rape Vond. As we shall see, Vond later approaches Prairie from the same direction.
"In dreams he could not control..."
Brock's dream is a scene from Psycho. Brock plays the hapless detective Arbogast and Brock's anima plays Arbogast's killer, Norman Bates. In some interpretations of Psycho, Norman Bates' murders are symbolic rapes arising from an Oedipal fear of sex. This connects him with Brock Vond, who prefers domination to sex.
"like a skier on an unfamiliar black-diamond slope"
The black diamond symbol marks an "expert" (i.e., very difficult) skiing slope. Hearing of Frenesi's escape from PREP, Brock freaks out, feeling himself to be in a dangerous situation beyond his abilities.
Although he certainly was upset by Frenesi's escape, the line refers to the "descent" of his career. His project at College of the Surf was a public relations disaster and he was removed from the case. He goes from public hero to public villain. Where previously he "projected a charm that appeared to transcend politics..." (page 275), now he is considered a child molester. Times are changing (cf. page 279), and Brock's aura of rationality and invincibility, just as the Nixon Administration's after the Kent State Massacre, is fading in the public eye.
"Frenesi had been making it as easy for him as she could..."
She really does love Vond, it seems. Or his uniform, his sadistic charms, his authority.
He's a prosecuting attorney, so he doesn't wear a uniform. The other two reasons are on the mark. Also, he's her escape ticket from mundane life to a world that is secret, exclusive and exciting.
"sky-blue Rayleigh scattering"
Typical Pynchon science shot. The frequency-differential scattering of light waves, as described by Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919), is indeed what makes the sky appear blue.
Artists and Repertoire. In record companies, the "Head of A&R" (originally "A&R man") decides which artists to sign, and what they'll record. A powerful position.
A very old joke indeed. As noted previously, "head" is sixties doper slang for a user of (usually soft) drugs.
"the eye-catching production values of LSD"
Nice line, but to set it up Pynchon has to run these Mellow acid-head variations. It's a pretty idealized trip. Pynchon does Dr. Tim.
The look from infant Prairie to papa Zoyd that would, more than once in years to come, "help him through those times when the Klingons are closing, and the helm won't answer, and the warp engine's out of control."
Very nice use of the Star Trek metaphor to lock in the time frame during which Zoyd needed help, and also a powerful image to describe times of distress. See also the adventures of Cutter John, the wheelchair-bound character in the "Bloom County" comic strip, who's famed for Star Trek fantasies enjoyed with Opus, Bill the Cat and other animal stars of that strip.
"...Frenesi was depressed"
Frenesi's deep sadness upon having her baby is so common it even has a name: "post-partum depression."
"Lobster Trick Movie"
Well, this might be Annie Hall, but basically we're totally lost. Can it be some obscure Navy reference? A helmsman putting in his "trick" at the wheel? Or is this some kinda SoCal TV thing?
A "lobster trick" is journalistic slang for the midnight-to-sunrise shift at a newspaper. The word "trick" indeed comes from your maritime citation. The word "lobster" meant someone stupid as a lobster. You'd be stupid to work those hours! Annie Hall is impossible, since it was released in 1977 and couldn't have been on TV when Prairie was a baby.
"the sleek raptors that decorate fascist architecture"
Like the eagles of the 3rd Reich, and the USA.
"She understood, from all the silver and light she'd known and been, brought back to the world like silver recalled grain by grain from the Invisible to form images of what then went on to grow old, go away, get broken or contaminated."
A remarkable extended metaphor about film (in which blacks are created by grains of silver appearing "from the Invisible" during development) as a sort of liberation from time.
Time trapped in a photograph is an important metaphor in Against the Day, as in Vineland. Cf. page 115
"Hubbell...cracking apart the first white-flame carbons of the evening into sky-drilling beams of pure arc light."
Nice writing, and sets up the soon-to-come "photon projectors" nicely. To light a carbon-arc spotlight you turn on the power and then bring two carbon rods together. A bright, sizzling spark is lit, and as you move the carbons a few millimeters apart that spark stretches into a dazzling arc suitable for drilling up into the sky.
Sad, accurate, believable story pinned down by Pynchon's usual cascade of obscure, effective historic details and dialogue. Once again, Pynchon draws on his Navy experience to give Electrician’s Mate Third Class Hubbel Gates a verisimilitudinous background.
"...drop a Brute 450 on you just as easy as a tree..."
The Brute is a heavy carbon-arc studio light made by the Mole-Richardson company. Obviously, Hub is tired of hearing about the heroic but schlemiel-like main event in the life of Sasha's dad. (See p. 75).
"hit literally with a bolt from the sky"
This colorful telling is based on a real event. On 7 October, 1945, outside Warner Bros. Studios, at least 40 strikers were casualties of this and other gambits, including being blasted with studio fire hoses.
See note on IA, page 82.
"Conference of Studio Unions"
The CSU was a coalition of filmmaking unions, notably the Painters' and Carpenters', formed by Herb Sorrell in 1941. The CSU was the spiritual successor of the SUC (Studio Unemployment Conference), the CMPAC (Conference of Motion Picture Arts and Crafts) and the UTSG (United Studio Technician’s Guild)—all of which were formed for similar reasons (to retake local control from the mob and sweetheart unions). And all of which were ruthlessly destroyed in the course of unsuccessful strikes. From Wikipedia:
- Hollywood Black Friday is the name given, in the history of organized labor in the United States, to October 5, 1945. On that date, a six month strike by the set decorators represented by the Conference of Studio Unions (CSU) boiled over into a bloody riot at the gates of Warner Brothers' studios in Burbank, California. The strikes helped the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 and led to the eventual break up of the CSU and reorganization of the then rival IATSE leadership.
hatred of what is new.
This concept was defined on page 272-273, where it was attributed to the racist criminologist Lombroso and reflected Brock Vond's thinking, but sounded suspiciously like Pynchon. By the end of this page, it's definitely Pynchon lecturing the reader.
Brewer was International Representative of the IA in 1941. Although he was the successor to small-time mobster Willie Bioff, Brewer was not, apparently, mob-connected—but he carried on the tradition of collusion with the producers, insuring "international" (as opposed to local) control of the Hollywood unions.
"Ronald Reagan of the Screen Actors Guild"
Obviously, much has been written about Ronald Reagan, but some readers may not be aware that before becoming Governor of California, and then President of the United States, Reagan was a high-ranking officer of SAG—which was, initially, a fairly progressive union. In the 1930s SAG stood in solidarity with the liberal, locally-based Hollywood unions that were opposed to IA and its mob management. However, the mob quickly discovered that accusing the rival unions of communist influence was an effective tactic—especially since the charge was not entirely untrue. As World War II drew to a close, and the "red scare" began, the screen actors' union began a turn towards the IA. In July, 1947, Reagan (then Vice President of SAG) negotiated a temporary truce between the studios and the CSU—known as the Peace Treaty of Beverly Hills. Unfortunately, just as things were starting to calm down, the Central Committee of the Communist Party stepped into the situation, calling for more control—which alienated even friendly progressives like Reagan. Eventually, under pressure from Reagan (who was now President) SAG officially voted to condemn the CSU actions as "communist inspired," and led all the other neutral unions into the IATSE camp. This was, apparently, the beginning of Reagan’s conviction that Communism was a conspiracy bent on destroying the American way.
A sudden explosion of bebop tunes and wartime details powers this brief but effective time-machine day-trip.
"...Hub with a uke...[both] singing bop tunes..."
In Pynchon's universe, musicians are always good guys.
Guys playing with their testicles in their pants pocket.
So it turns out that Hub, Frenesi's father, "went over" too, and (like his daughter) for the love of a Brute. This Brute, however, is a big Mole-Richardson arc light, not a lawman.
"sold off my only real fortune -- my precious anger -- for a lot of god-damn shadows."
Meaning film, of course, but remember too that in the binary scheme of life light and shadows are ones and zeros.
Recall that the Thanatoids, inert poltergeists, also dissipate their desire for revenge on the living by watching the Tube.
"Young Gaffer...I'd've called you my Best Girl."
A play on "Best Boy," a film term referring to the gaffer's first assistant.
"...this turn against Sasha her once-connected self would remain a puzzle she would never quite solve..."
It's not that mysterious. Vond has forced a wedge (his erect penis, perhaps; see following note) between Frenesi and her mother, her leftism, her own female identity. It's a form of expulsion from Paradise, and ties in very neatly with Sister Rochelle's feminist Eden fable on p. 166.
Vond reenters Frenesi's life, and the chapter ends with a powerful (if appropriately cheerless and depressing) simile in which Vond's erect penis is the joystick of the video game in a forbidden arcade that never shuts.
Game time is falsely deathless. The State lured Frenesi by promising to remove her from ordinary mortal life and history, but the State lied.