- Please keep these annotations SPOILER-FREE by not revealing information from later pages in the novel.
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"Soon toasters and toaster ovens, wood fires, RV kitchen microwaves--just-made coffee""
This bit, as well as the bar-b-queing later in the chapter, is a signature Pynchon passage; in spite of all the chaos and conflict in whichever book, humanity is anchored by big, communal feeds. See the infamous Banana Breakfast in "Gravity's Rainbow", the State Picnic (p. 1047) in "Against the Day." It's a great opportunity for Pynchon to make his lists, and while some critics have complained that his characters lack humanity, these picnics/parties are usually so evocative and warm it extends to and encompasses the individuals involved.
"branching invisible fractals of smell"
The fractal is a fairly recent (and fashionable) mathematical concept. The property that makes a thing fractal is that it looks the same at any scale -- self-similarity over scale. For this to be true, the fractal object must be made of pieces that look like tiny versions of the whole, and these pieces must be made of similar looking, littler pieces...on to infinity. (The notion of "complications that might go on forever," p. 381, is very Pynchonesque.) Computer graphics programs based on this principle can create complexities that increase as long as you care to wait. Pynchon's use of "fractal" here draws a great word-picture of crinkly, cartoon-like aroma waves tickling noses of all sizes. He's obviously been keeping up with his reading. Wikipedia on Fractals...
Spanish for "the shadows." The Shadows were an early-60s/pre-FabFour British instrumental quartet who were also the backing group for Cliff Richard. They are apparently still working to this day.
players of crazy eights card game.
"...portable TV sets bootlegged onto the cable..."
Even the leftist/purist Traverse/Beckers are addicted to the Tube. Maybe that's how come they let Vond and his fascists take over.
"Tokkata & Fuji"
A pun on Toccata and Fugue. Toccata (from Italian toccare, "to touch") is a virtuoso piece of classical music for a keyboard instrument or plucked string instrument featuring sections of virtuosic passagework, with or without imitative or fugal interludes, generally emphasizing the dexterity of the performer. A fugue is a type of contrapuntal composition or technique of composition for a fixed number of parts, normally referred to as "voices", irrespective of whether the work is vocal or instrumental.
"What was a Thanatoid, at the end of the long dread day, but memory?"
The answer at last. Sort of.
"Bach's 'Wachet Auf': one of the best tunes ever to come out of Europe"
It's Resurrection Day! And weirdly enough, this does wake up the Thanatoids. Wachet Auf (German: "Sleepers Awake") is a cantata written in 1731 by Johann Sebastian Bach.
"the peculiar band between 6200 and 7000 KHZ"
Why peculiar? The FCC has designated the frequencies 6200-7000 KHz for "various fixed and mobile services; maritime and aeronautical." Pirate radio (unlicensed broadcasting of FM radio, AM radio, or shortwave signals over a significant coverage area that could be picked up by listeners. ) broadcasts between the shortwave frequencies of 6300 and 7000 KHZ. From Wikipedia:
- In the USA pirate radio is frequently, but not always associated with anarchism which considers governmental spectrum regulatory schemes as favoring the interests of large corporations. Therefore, some anarchists consider pirate radio transmissions to be a challenge to that authority.
"The Noir Center Mall"
The shops are puns on famous film noir titles: "Bubble Indemnity" = Double Indemnity; "Lounge Good Buy" = The Long Goodbye; "Mall Tease Flacon" = The Maltese Falcon; "The Lady 'n' the Lox" = Lady In the Lake.
"Che, you're rilly evil"
The relationship between Prairie and Che echoes that of Frenesi and DL.
Brent Musburger (b. 1939) (the name is misspelled in Vineland) is a TV sportscaster, most famous throughout the 1970s and '80s as the face and voice of CBS Sports. His signature phrase was "YOU are looking LIVE!!! at...(insert city or venue name here)" This was always delivered with maximum enthusiasm, no matter the event. When CBS let him go it created something of a media splash; he quickly resurfaced at ABC. He relates to the next line, and Pynchon's theme about people who are observers rather than makers of reality.
What's the joke here? Maybelline eye makeup? Or the chase element in Chuck Berry's song? Probably all of the above, plus a Pynchonian takeoff on Muzak (the "oboe-and-string rendition.") Although a good rockin' tune, Berry's "Maybelline" doesn't have much of a melody, so the idea of an instrumental version, particularly for oboe and strings, seems absurd. See also "New Age mindbarf" on p. 330. [ Lyrics to Maybelline... ]
Another cool name.
"New Age mindbarf"
Pynchon's opinion of the New Age Movement which trended toward the spiritual, the organic and the Politically Correct, and spawned mostly trite philosophies and trite music.
"It's like they's programmed for it or somethin'"
Fleur's comment on why gentlemen prefer black and red underwear on "bad girls" is reminiscent of Pirate Prentiss' involuntary, ejaculatory response to a certain photo, delivered to him via V2, in Gravity's Rainbow.
"Night and Blood"
Echoes of Katje and Pudding in Gravity's Rainbow - p.232-233: "She waits for him...white body and black uniform-of-the-night.... Lipstick...prevails like blood.... She is naked now, except for a long sable cape and black boots with court heels. Her only jewelry is a silver ring with an artificial ruby...an arrogant gout of blood..."
"...Juvenile Hall badasses..."
"...conical black heaps smoked, glowed, flared here and there into visible fire..."
The scene in which Vond burns the 24fps footage is quite horrible -- and extremely important. By destroying 24fps' records of the Sixties, he clears the way for his rewritten fascist version. With no evidence to prove him wrong, who would dare to argue with "official" history?
"a restored Vicky"
Victorian house. The San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding areas has many Victorian-era homes.
"not only dropping but also picking up, dribbling and scoring three-pointers..."
Total basketball metaphor for Hector's name dropping.
"Ernie Triggerman, and his partner, Sid Liftoff"
More cool names.
Spanish for "biscuits, cookies."
Etui = a four letter word made of odd letters, therefore useful to crossword constructors, and meaning "small case." Pynchon does crossword puzzles? Maybe he just loves words.
"arranged for Sid to work off the beef...[by making] an antidrug movie..."
This plea-bargain echoes a real deal cut by Godfather producer Robert Evans to avoid doing hard time on a cocaine bust. Evans made several anti-drug spots for TV, as promised, but apparently (according to subsequent courtroom testimony) he kept on using the stuff anyway.
Yet another cool name.
"sudden monster surge of toilet flushing...and...cold air"
A new Pynchonian fable: Dope paranoia results in Hollywood fog bank.
Actor Larry Talbot played the starring role in The Wolfman films of the 1940s.
"Sounds real natural to me."
A math joke. 2.71828 is "e," the root of the series of "natural" logarithms.
half of 86'd. (See "octogenarihexation" on p. 186.) Being 43'd is like being a little pregnant.
Song: "Es Posible."
Music-biz schtick at the end makes it even funnier. Also hilarious: the pre-Castro Cuban theme park, Holiday For Fascists.
fading slowly and smoothly, as if via a volume slider on a recording studio control board.
"Tubal fantasies...pushing their propaganda message that cops-are-only-human...turning agents of government repression into sympathetic heroes. Nobody thought it was peculiar anymore, no more than the routine violations of constitutional rights...now absorbed into...American expectations."
Good points, all, but isn't it a bit out of character for Frenesi the Betrayer, the biggest cop lover in the novel, to be fronting these thoughts for Pynchon? What's happening here, we think, is that Pynchon is starting to set up Frenesi for her rehabilitation as part of the big Happy Ending.
"the Meese Police"
Reagan's DOJ (Department of Justice) head, Edwin Meese.
"Since '81, kids were coming in all on their own askin about careers..."
Too true, too sad, and it undercuts the Happy Ending rather seriously (at least as a pointer to the real world.)
"in the movie of his life story"
A not-quite-made-up film.
Vond is "waitin' for somethin'."
OK, but what? Reluctantly we must point out that none of Pynchon's many explanations bear close examination. (See footnote to the plot synopsis, Chapter 4.)
"the pink slip to his heart"
A pink slip is a title of ownership for a car. Before the days of automobile titles, the portion of a California car registration that conveyed ownership was colored pink. Hence the brag in the Beach Boys' "Little Deuce Coupe" about "I got the pink slip, daddy!" (meaning, "I'm holding the paperwork required to stake the LDC on a streetlight drag race, so whatchu waitin' for, dude?")
"Pretend there's a frame around [your parents], pretend they're a show you're watching..."
Once again, TV is America's common reference point.
"'Uh-oh,' said Frenesi."
Frenesi refuses to cross the airport picket line. This is a bit on the too-little-too-late side for a professional class-traitor, but it's also quite believable.
"the bowl haircut, etc."
Another reference to The Three Stooges ... Moe's bowl haircut.
"all 'em deeply personal li'l ones and zeros got changed to somebody else's"
Roy Ibble, Flash's former handler, explains the computer file deletions, and carries on Pynchon's binary metaphor.
"Please, no more..."
Ibble crumbles in the face of Flash's anger. This is the only the first in a series of auspicious (but highly improbable) turns of the plot. The Hollywood Happy Ending is beginning.
Short for Reagan's Readiness Exercise 1984, a plan by the United States federal government to test their ability to detain large numbers of American citizens in case of massive civil unrest or national emergency.
Another low Pynchon pun ("middle-America") referring to the popular brand of menstrual medicine.
"...the destined losers whose only redemption would have to come through their usefulness to the State law-enforcement apparatus, which was calling itself 'America,' though somebody must have known better."
This describes Frenesi and Flash, though it could also describe the larger preterite population of the novel. "...law enforcement apparatus...calling itself America..." underscores Pynchon's cold fury at the process via which Frenesi/America falls for the lies of the fascists.
Triglyph = three (you-name-em) letters, like ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.
Panaflex was an innovative 35mm studio camera, made by Panavision, Inc. It's the world standard, used for everything from wide-screen epics to deodorant commercials. It makes a nice contrast with all the "underground" Arris and Auricons.
"The Bryant Gumbel Story"
TV personality of the same generation as Brent Musburger. Gumbel began as a sportscaster, then became a "Today Show" host, and is now doing sports on HBO.
"...one slip of the tongue..."
Arguably the worst joke in any of Pynchon's novels. Gross!
"How to get an Italian Woman Pregnant."
Two versions of this joke:
- Q: How do you get an Italian woman pregnant? A: And they say the Italians are stupid!
- Q: How do you get an Italian woman pregnant? A: Fuck her.
"Starting with a small used trailer..."
This brief flashback telling the story of Zoyd's house includes a typically Pynchon-esque fable about "prehistoric" (and mythical) 5/8-inch plumbing fittings.
"full scale kvetchathon"
kvetch = Yiddish for complaint. Hence, a kvetchathon is a marathon bitch session among Van Meter's legendarily bickering family.
The parts required to convert legal, semi-automatic rifles to full (and illegal) automatic operation are often available in kit form. The kits themselves are not illegal, but they become illegal if installed in non-registered weapons.
One who holds that moral law is not binding on Christians. Therefore, as mentioned below, "They believe whatever they do, it's cool with Jesus..." Perhaps Antinomianism is the really extreme flavor of preterite and elect doctrine. So extreme, in fact, that in most circles it's a heresy.
A cycle race over rough terrain, often desert. Wikipedia
"May your life be full of lawyers"
Supposedly, the "heavy-dutiest" Mexican curse.
Zoyd's lawyer's voice "suggested Saturday morning more than prime time"
That is, it reminded one of a cartoon character. Lessee, would it be a Smurf or a chipmunk?
"What about 'innocent until proven guilty'?" "That was another planet, think they used to call it America, long time ago, before the gutting of the Fourth Amendment. You were automatically guilty the minute they found that marijuana growing on your land."
Pynchon is obviously deeply pissed by this shit (as well he might be); it makes a powerful point in his argument that Big Brother and the Fascists have won. "Another planet" echoes the allegorical conversation between Zoyd and Vond on p. 300.
"Y-You mean...life isn't Vegas?"
A very funny line, though (in context) rather ominous as well.
"the Grand Canyon"
A lot of detail is packed into a few sentences. Looks like Pynchon has been there, too.
Actor Tex Weiner was on General Hospital with Sally Kirkland. General Hospital is the longest-running ABC Daytime American soap opera broadcast on the American Broadcasting Company television network
"...fooled once again by the uniform..."
So Frenesi comes by her weakness for sadistic uniformed cops genetically, via Sasha? Or is this something about how opposites need and create each other?
"Weww -- it's oow rubbish i'n'i'?"
Well, it's all rubbish, isn't it? Pynchon's fabulous ear again.
"off the scale"
Techno rap, meaning too great to measure, pins the meter, etc.
"Did they scream?"
A cheap, if effective, trick: Pynchon switches POV (narrators) in mid-scene, giving the tale to producer Sid, and twists the knife by making him playfully reluctant to part with details, so Zuniga has to beg.
"Too bad we can't use it."
Christ! Have we been watching Zuniga's damn movie all this time? Directed by Frenesi???
"Kissing a young pale melon, under a golden pregnant lallapalooza of a moon."
Sasha's dream is sweet and surreal, but it seems insufficiently motivated. Would she really forgive Frenesi so easily?
Cool name for a rock band -- and another TV reference. (See note, p. 226.)
Song: "Like a Meat Loaf."
Great song! Also the Return of the Thanatoid Lunch Meat. Also an echo of Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues."
The Thanatoids are "acting rowdier than DL or Takeshi had ever seen them."
The only reverberation of the big flap that sent the karmic adjustment duo racing off for Shade Creek in the last episode. The Happy Ending rolls on.
"...just a couple o' clicks..."
Clicks = kilometers.
Bardo is the after-death realm in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The trick is to avoid rebirth, but most people fuck up and let themselves be trapped in a new life. Weed tells of looking for a just-fertilized egg in which to be reborn, "seeking out men and women in the act of sex...in a...smoke-tarnished district of sex shows and porno theaters." The Mitchell Brothers atmosphere is cute. In Tibet a lama keeps whispering the instructions in your dead ear so you don't make these little boo-boos ("couldn't find 'em, time ran out"). Pynchon implies that it's those with "too much still on [their minds]," i.e., unfinished business, that can't quite get permanently dead.
"But what if I am the payback? If your account is zeroed out at last?"
Weed's response to Prairie's offer is a little inconclusive, but note the zero.
"Thanatoids dream, though not always when we think we do--"
Weed's dream is extremely powerful and the image is quite writerly. Is the coroner he's looking for "to reveal to the world at last my murder, my murderers" really Pynchon? Are the "companions" who keep trying to find this coroner the readers of Vineland? Faithful hippies? Those who refuse to buy the rewritten version of the Sixties? All of the above? Prairie says it's DL & Takeshi, Weed thinks maybe it's his parents. It might even be the Pisk sisters.
"It was all for love... It was political... A rebel cop... The orders of a repressive regime..."
Pynchon seems aware that his readers (the "companions") may be confused.
Prairie and Weed "soon to become an item"
This is the real happy ending, suggesting that young kids may seek out the truth about the Sixties. (And not just the clothes!)
"Prairie would show him secrets of pachinko..."
But how did she learn them? From DL? Pachinko is a Japanese gaming device used for amusement and prizes and is related to pinball machines. Although originally strictly mechanical, modern pachinko machines are a cross between a pinball machine and a video slot machine.
"the Traverse-Becker wingding"
Nice image, suggesting the continuity of the Left although making it a picnic is surely some dark irony. (At least it's not a dinner party.)
again, players of crazy eights.
"the Mother situation"
Nice cinematic touch, superimposing Frenesi and the Mother of Doom (the Queen of Spades).
"with Sasha was a woman about forty, who had been a girl in a movie..."
The reunion of Prairie and Frenesi, which has motivated Prairie, and haunted Frenesi, throughout most of the book, is tossed off distressingly quickly, but with at least this one great line.
"Commere lemme check those dimples, yes there, they are..."
Sasha's agonizing grandma act is way out of character. We hope! Still, "it's her way of trying to help" (p. 368).
You'd think Pynchon would devote a little more ink to the reunion of Frenesi and Prairie, but in fact Frenesi seems to be in the process of fading out here (much as Vond will do in a few pages).
"pasta dishes and grilled tofu contributed by younger elements"
Hello, Becker/Traverse yuppies!
"Secret retributions are always restoring the level..."
This marvelous quote from Emerson is deeply optimistic, and goes a long way toward buying off the Happy Ending. Contrasts nicely with Lombroso's "misoneism," the negative feedback loop by which society resists change.
"Ask Crocker 'Bud' Scantling"
The Happy Ending continues, as we learn of Crocker 'Bud' Scantling's karmic payoff under the wheels of a chip truck.
A lux is a unit of luminosity equal to 1 candela sterradian per square meter. Drop that into your next bar room argument.
"Take care of your dead, or they'll take care of you."
Confirmation of what the Thanatoids really are (see p. 325). Also a nice restatement of Santayana's famous quote about "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it (or retake the course)."
The title of this made-up half-hour sitcom (a black version of Star Trek) is a reference both to Bones' habitual conversational opening to Captain James Kirk, and to Afro-American slang in which "Jim" is an all-purpose (and generally negative, being short for "Jim Crow") form of address. This is also another digital gag (white becoming black = zero becoming one).
"Zoyd and Flash went off looking for beer"
Flash surfaces. No point, really, except for the overall reconciliation Pynchon is forcing on the book.
Robert Musil was an Austrian novelist (1880-1942), whose Proustian style was marked by subtle psychological analysis. His works include Young Torles and The Man Without Qualities.
"...talking back to the tube..."
The Beckers and Traverses are politically hip, shown by their talking back, and their suspicion that the "prefascist twilight" is really just "the light...coming from millions of Tubes all showing the same bright colored shadows..." TV as the true opiate of the masses -- or, as the NY commies used to say, "de messes."
Zoyd feels sorry for Flash, the "unfortunate sucker" who's still with Frenesi; he sees "the need behind the desperado lamps" (eyes). Nice phrase, nice rendition of the healing power of time and distance, and a sweet way to take leave of Zoyd, who seems to have found some peaceful place to rest at least for the moment.
"Minute the tube got hold of you folks, that was it..."
The kid (who speaks for Pynchon, of course) is right. It's funny how so few of us saw the future, fought the Tube. McLuhan was right too, but we only thought we knew what he was talking about.
Sheriff Willis Chunko's celebrated anti-pot weapon takes us full circle from/to Zoyd's ladylike purse-sized model in Chapter 1.
"monster Mopars dialed and eager"
Mopar = the parts division of Chrysler Motors = (here) engines. Dialed = souped up. This is at least the second "dialed" reference in Vineland. It's hot-rod talk, and means more or less the same as the now old-fashioned "blue-printed." The dials refer to a machinist's dial indicators, used to bring once-stock engines into more-than-perfect condition and tune.
"Quaquaversal" is a geological term meaning "turned or pointing in every direction." It's a good description for a wiry beard.
"...go find [Vond] and cancel his series for him..."
Another TV referent.
"found it easier now to make out...her own...face"
Now that Prairie has met Frenesi she can see her own face more clearly in Zoyd's. That is, she's not Vond's daughter. More Happy Ending.
"...down out of [the helicopter], hooked by harness and cable to the mother ship above, came Brock Vond..." Is Vond's deus ex machina appearance to Prairie a dream? It could be; she was asleep. Then again, "Brock, whom his colleagues were calling 'Death From Slightly Above,' had been out [practicing]." And remember the Madwoman In the Attic (p. 274).
"more recaps on this subject than Mark C. Bloome"
Bloome was the owner of a chain of popular tire stores in southern California, the Mark C. Bloome Tire Company.
"The original plan had been to go in..., come down vertical, grab her, and winch back up and out--"
Why does Vond want to abduct Prairie? Lust? Pure evil? This is never adequately explained. There's a bit of chat in Chapter 14 discussing Vond's interest in Prairie, but it's not developed any further.
"The key is rapture."
Earlier Vond explained the disappearance of the CotS students the same way. (See note, p. 248.)
"Her tits, master--"
Roscoe becomes Dwight Frye, Vampire Vond's Renfield. ("Rats, master, you promised me rats...")
Vond glows "unusually white."
More evidence that he's a vampire. (A-and remember, he sleeps with his eyes open!)
"Some white male far away must have wakened from a dream."
Reagan? Meese? Nixon? The white male God of the Calvinists?
"Brock...now being winched back up..."
Film running backward through the projector. The image is great, but there's something troublesome here. If the novel represents the real world (as we must assume it does, or it would be no more than an empty divertissement), what "real" event in 1984 informs Vond's withdrawal and defeat?
"Asshole, they're all together, one surgical strike..."
Vond is ready to wipe out everyone Frenesi, Flash, Zoyd, Justin, maybe even Prairie just as (presumably) he wiped their computer files earlier.
"...[Vond] was gone, following his penis--"
A reprise of the lyrics from "Like a Meat Loaf" (#Page 363|p. 363]]): "Well we followed our dicks just a couple o' clicks...")
Alexi appears in the clearing, carrying "an old acoustic guitar with Cyrillic stenciling on it, as if he'd been prepared to use it as a weapon."
Like American political folkie Woody Guthrie's guitar, on which the folksinger wrote "This machine kills fascists."
"The Movie at Nine"
Pynchon gets into a great male-folksy description of a basketball movie the most developed of any of his synthetic made-for-TV flicks. An elect white team (the Celtics) Vs. a preterite black team (the Lakers). Obviously Pynchon is a Lakers fan. It's a story of great courage, and it sets up Vato and Blood for their "rescue" of the newly Thanatoidized Vond. Vond's car disappears (the way thanatoid vehicles do), and we get a Yurok tale by Vato, implying that by coming to Vineland Brock got too close to the land of the dead (Shade Creek). Maybe that's what woke the Thanatoids up? But by then, V&B Tow is conducting Vond across the River Styxx.
"Time to lock and load, Blood."
Lock and load = ArmySpeak for "saddle up." Specifically, it means lock on the safety of your firearm and load a live round into the chamber, leaving the weapon armed and ready to fire but safe to carry. (The standard 'Nam response was "Cocked and locked!" meaning "Ready when you are.")
"It had been an unusual sort of car..."
Vond's chopper turns into an (underpowered) car, which then disappears itself. Vond's power is fading out and he is too. Cool image, but same problem as above. Did Vond (that is, the totalitarian power freaks he fronts for) fade out in 1984? And if not, isn't it a cheat that he does so in the novel?
That is, without amphetamines.
"...she and Takeshi finally renegotiated the no-sex clause..."
Happy Ending continues. "Whooee!" says DL.
"a fractal halo of complications"Typical Pynchon light-and-color show -- and the second use of the "fractal" buzzword. (It occurs on page 323, as well.) Are neural networks next?
"an ivory fescue"
Fescue = a teacher's pointer of high quality.
"When the Earth was still a paradise, long, long ago..."
Sister Rochelle's allegory about Hell and Earth may explain a bit about Thanatoids, if you wish to read it that way.
This paragraph reads like Pynchon checked his outline, noticed two loose ends (the Kahuna hijack and the monster-stomped laboratory) and tied them up as quickly and crudely as possible. Sloppy work.
"despite every Karmic Adjustment resource brought to bear so far"
This provides another motivation for DL & Takeshi's "business" venture.
"the night of no white diamonds or even chicken crank"
Chicken crank = the speed Takeshi has been trying to score in the form of chicken feed. There are a number of other references to Takeshi's habitual speed use, not the least of which is his epic journey eastward to the SKA and Puncutron.
"the foreign magician and his blond tomato assistant"
Takeshi and DL, of course.
"Russian Johnny B. Goode"
No happy-ending complete without Chuck Berry! Or does he mean "Back In the USSR?" "Johnny B. Goode" is a seminal 1958 rock and roll song by Chuck Berry, ranked by Rolling Stone as the seventh greatest song ever on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Lyrics...
"You can come back...take me any place..."
Prairie longs for Vond to come back and abuse her. It must be her genetic predilection for the uniform. Or, perhaps the desire to find out what was heavy enough to make her mom split. It's a bit sick, but maybe Pynchon knows his characters (and the human character) better than we do. ("Every woman adores a fascist / The boot in the face, the brute / Brute heart of a brute like you." "Daddy," Sylvia Plath) In any case, Pynchon "saves" it by having Desmond return. When it comes to preterite, what can out-pret a girl's dog?