- 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.
"Fresson process studio photograph"
Photographic printing process that uses coal to produce paper prints with a unique luminosity and grain. Fresson printing produces an image that is characteristically diffused and subtle, reminiscent of the "pointillism" of Impressionist painting. The image is extremely stable; Fresson printing is considered the most archival of any color procedure in use today.
"If you want real ninja product..."
The whole sequence about hiring an assassin is pure cyberpunk schtick.
"The Vibrating Palm"
This may be a subtle reference to the old joke-store "buzzer" or "shocker" -- and resonates nicely with the rubber scampi on the previous page. The Vibrating Palm is an actual - though romanticized - technique in Asian martial arts (see Touch of Death).
"legendary in the dopers' community"
Olympic Boulevard, in Los Angeles, is a major arterial road stretching from 4th Street on the western end of Santa Monica to East Los Angeles -- farther than Wilshire Boulevard and most other streets. Why is the gas station toilet legendary? And why would DL care anyway? All she needs to do is change into her disguise.
In his 2009 psychedelic noir novel Inherent Vice, Pynchon mentions another legendary restroom near Los Angeles:
- "the notorious Oscar's, right across the border from Tijuana, where the toilets were seething round the clock with junkies new and old who'd just scored in Mexico, put the product inside rubber balloons and swallowed them, then crossed back into the U.S. to vomit them back up again." (p.37)
Because this restroom is right across the border, it's not the "legendary" toilet on Olympic Boulevard.
980 AM in Los Angeles. Went to an all news/talk format in March, 1968.
Just another roadside attraction--life-size plaster dinosaurs on I-10 at Cabazon, California, about ten miles west of Palm Springs.
Nice description and a precursor to the color of Frenesi's eyes.
"beige hose, white underwear..."
Pynchon's description of DL's Clark Kent outfits is surprisingly accurate, especially for a male. It's like giving the O-O (see note, p. 79) to a nice Midwestern girl, circa 1960.
"She wasn't sure right away that being sold into white slavery would turn out to be at all beneficial as a career step..."
The kidnap-and-auction sequence is good, fast-moving storytelling: breathless, tense, gripping, light on flashy effects. This is also familiar cyberpunk territory, especially the interview with Wayvone.
Another botanical character name.
"older gentlemen with fingertip deficiencies..."
Yakuza who have screwed up, and demonstrated their remorse by cutting off a fingertip.
"Ufa, mi tratt' a pesci in faccia..."
Literally, "Oof, you've thrown a fish in my face!" It's an ominous Sicilian warning meaning, "You've insulted me most unpleasantly, treated me in the worst possible way!"
"I knew it!"
Prairie breaking into the seamless narrative is almost a Brechtian alienation effect. By now the story is moving so strongly that we've totally forgotten the "as-told-to" frame.
"How could [Frenesi] have ever gone near somebody like this Brock guy?"
Good question. Pynchon never really answers it -- unless we accept the idea of Frenesi embodying America's fatal fascination with authority.
Reminiscent of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick.
"Ninja Death Touch calculator"
This joke strikes another false note. The entire sub-plot revolving around the Vibrating Palm is broad comedy, of course, but this smart-ass gag is severely out-of-scale.
"might as well stay home -- watch a Run Run Shaw movie!"
Hong-Kong-based Run-Run Shaw produced the popular (and violent) Bruce Lee karate flicks, also lots of action-packed swords and sorcery adventures (like the ones that clearly inspired a lot of the DL and Takeshi sub-plot).
"yellow headlamps of the tech squads..."
The scene in the Footprint is reminiscent of the monolith excavation on the moon in 2001. Also, most of the Japanese dialogue is phrased in Pynchon's unique, sounds-just-like-a-movie style.
Hai! Pynchon usually ends the Japanese characters' lines with exclamation points, so they sound like actors screaming at each other in poorly dubbed Japanese movies. Hai! Or people on meth?
"...the shadowy world conglomerate Chipco..."
This imaginary entity (an echo, perhaps of the sinister YoYoDyne Corporation in The Crying of Lot 49) is presumably some Intel-like company whose microprocessor chips are sold world wide. No doubt the chips are designed to keep a covert watch on everything, and report back to Chipco -- similar to Byron the Bulb and his fellow gridmates in Gravity's Rainbow.
Godzilla's size is pretty well known, and this (as we shall see) sauroid footprint is too large to be that of the big G. However, Godzilla is a product of Japanese movie model technology of the fifties, so who knows what the eighties might bring?
In the Godzilla poster to the right, the face on the lower left is Takashi Shimura, Takeshi's namesake (cf. page 65 notes), who plays the scientist sent to investigate Godzilla-sightings in the movie.
"Wawazume Life & Non-Life"
Is this a joke? And what kind? Maybe they insure things other than lives. Maybe Thanatoids get "non-life" insurance. Or it could just be a satirically "tactful" Japanese way of referring to death.
It's a joke. They also insure property and liability (zume sounds like "sue me").
"Eastern bloc...South African"
If you turn "RSA", Republic of South Africa, upside down it looks like Cyrillic writing. A political joke.
Hardly. Turned upside down you would get jibberish. If you look at "RSA" in a mirror you would get a (slight) Cyrillic effect. Anyway, Pynchon knows enough Russian (see GR) not to have made this mistake. It is not a political joke, but a geographic joke, if anything.
"By the time...gods of the sky."
Note that this immensely long and complicated sentence takes up more than half the page!
A frivolous cocktail with a pleasant flavor and a lethal punch: the signature drink of the bar at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, a British colony taken by the Japanese in WWII. Conceivably, Minoru might have been stationed there, and picked up a liking for this tourist syrup.
"Chuck, the world's most invisible robot"
Like the fastest draw in the West. Want to see it again?
"some planet-wide struggle had been going on for years"
More Pynchonian paranoia.
"the Himalayan caper"
Story is written in mock Le Carre shorthand. Here (as elsewhere) Pynchon penetrates to the essence of a genre and gives us a few masterly strokes that evoke the same effect as an entire novel by a lesser writer.
For many years, Semtex has been the plastic explosive of choice for sophisticated aircraft bombers and other terrorists.
"pirate ships of the stratosphere"
Presumably, they mount attacks like the one on the Kahuna flight.
lit. "Mr. Socks!"
"We called you the Kid."
As in, "I never did the Kenosha Kid?" (See Gravity's Rainbow, p. 60.)
"disco music coming out the club doors"
"The Yak Doc Workshop"
This may be a riff on Doc Yak, a comic book character.
Or Yakusa Documents.
"Takeshi...saw Vond...and thought...it was himself..."
Vond and Takeshi look alike. Does this, as they say, signify? Takeshi as anti-Vond? It's hard to imagine a dark Japanese and a light Caucasian looking alike, but anyway, there's one for each of the tomatoes: an adjuster (insurance or karma, ma'am?) for DL, and a badass for Frenesi.
I guess that's the joke.
Or, this was simply the visual effect of Vond's vampiric hypnotic stare. Takeshi thought he was seeing himself for that instant, even though Vond may not look anything like him.
Japanese for foreigner, stranger, outsider.
"Found a cab"
Once again Prairie startles us by breaking into the gripping flashback narrative, but this time the present-tense Takeshi breaks in with her, having just arrived at the SKA retreat. Very cinematic. Takeshi moves instantaneously from past to present, a double-exposure match-dissolve effect.
The first of several references to The Three Stooges, a nothing-if-not-preterite comedy trio specializing in crude, cruel slapstick.
"fingering its smooth rigid contours"
The mock-porno is cute.
"I couldn't see shit."
DL mistakes Takeshi for Vond because of her fuzzy contact lenses. This mistaken-identity riff is worthy of Shakespeare at his most far-fetched and funny.
Flash! Pynchon's ear fails! This just isn't as close to the Valspeak expression of disgust as we expect from our boy. The transliteration needs a little more "u" or something.
Totally disagree with above, for what it's worth. "Eeoo" is perfect, as "oo" automatically brings about "too" sound. Also looks much better than anything with a "u" would.
"Takeshi with a softoff..."
Opposite of a hardon.
"Fuckin' Vond. He's the Roadrunner."
Yes, he is.
see page 107
Father Edward Joseph Flanagan (July 13, 1886 in Ballymoe, County Roscommon, Ireland; † May 15, 1948 in Berlin, Germany) was a priest of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. He was the founder of what is arguably the most famous orphanage — Boys Town. The campus is not just an orphanage, but now a center for troubled youth. WIKI
Doctor of Medicine?
Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Cf. page 176
Also, in S&M slang, a male dominant.
"Ninjette Coffee Mess"
Navspeak. In the military, particularly the Navy, coffee mess is a little area where the coffee maker, cups, etc. are kept.
"dry cleaning" More Jive Japlish.
A highly toxic chemical often used for cleaning movie film.
A company doctor (def).
"Not a bar, Fumimota-san."
Silly joke, nicely placed.
The etymology of this new tranquilizer is clearly from the bacchanalian ejaculation (and crossword puzzle word) "evoe!"
A nasty pun, based on the black insult, "Yo' mama!" Let your guard down for a second, and the guy slips in one of these every time.
Orgasm and atomic detonation meet in one of Pynchon's most awful/wonderful puns (nuke = nookey).
sleep ... shave
Meth-logic. Also a parody of the movie situation where a character must stay awake to live.
The classic film-noir DOA, where a man is given a slow-acting poison and must find his own murderer, is also relevant to this chapter.
Since Takeshi lives without fear, this makes him a perfect samurai, and echoes the idea on p. 29 about how a samurai is always prepared to die.
"Just Like a William Powell"
Echoes "Like a Meat Loaf" (p. 363), and, of course, Dylan's "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues."
Movie references in the song:
Also, Flatfoot Floogie refers to the 1938 Slim Gaillard song Flatfoot Floogie with a Floy, Floy (original recording on YouTube). The use of "real McCoy" may be entirely innocent, or a reference to the television show The Real McCoys.
"Which reminds me, about your PX bill..."
If you had any doubts about the samurai/ninjette subplot being for laughs, this page should convince you.
An imaginary therapeutic device whose name suggests an infernal combination of eastern medicine (acupuncture) and high-energy western technology (cyclotron). There's a bit of "punk" in there, too.
"Detractors included...managed to keep."
A silly sentence, written in painful mock-German syntax for no discernible reason.
"Taiwanese Healthy Brain Aerobics"
More foolishness, this time mixed with music. The selection of tapes for Puncutron listening includes The All-Regimental Bagpipes play Prime Time Favorites (the Tube again!), and perhaps Pynchon's best judgmental title: The Chipmunks Sing Marvin Hamlisch.
Jaime Sommers is the Bionic Woman.
Eve and her sister, Lilith
According to an ancient legend, Lilith was not Eve's sister but was Adam's first wife. But Lilith haunts many different fables, traditions, stories in many different cultures.
Lilith is the eponym for Lilith Fair, a music festival (1997-1999) of only female artists.
Rochelle is using "sister" in the feminist sense, as in "Sisters are doing it for themselves".
This is also interesting in the context that this is one of the only stories the reader gets in regard to what secrets/stories/philosophies are possibly taught at the Kunoichi Retreat. What seems clear is that over the years, they are more interested in making money than spiritually healing folks, so this is a nice tidbit, probably used to hook women into this Ninjette Retreat, and facilitate a mainline into their pocketbooks. Here used in a comical, and opposite way, re: Takeshi/DL.
Actually, the Kunoichi Retreat is a parody of the many Zen retreats in Northern California, such as the Green Gulch Farm. People pay to stay there and do manual farming labor to chill-out. In Pynchon's parody, the retreat is feminist and faintly BDSM. As Pynchon points out on page 107, they had to seek "cash flow" in order to avoid the financial fate of their predecessors, but there's no indication that they've given up their principles (whatever they are) entirely. See also page 107.
"...men convinced us that we were the natural administrators of this thing 'morality'..."
Sister Rochelle's feminist Eden parable suggests an interesting modern scenario: Frenesi = Eve, DL = Lilith, Vond = Serpent. This would help explain Frenesi/America's irresistible attraction for the authoritarian Vond.
Oscar Goldman is the Bionic Woman's boss.
"The Ordeal of the Thousand Broadway Show Tunes"
"YOUR MAMA EATS, how can we resist?"
Preterite communications personified.
"Like Death, Only Different."
While this is a nice definition of the "oid" suffix, it begs the question of exactly what Thanatoid's are.
"But we watch a lot of Tube"
Thanatoids watch lots of TV, trying to advance further into the condition of death. This makes them Reaganite kids? Couch potatoes? Embittered hippies? Everyone in America? Anyway, advancing further into the condition of death is only a restatement of the law of entropy, which may mean that everyone in the universe is a Thanatoid.
People watching television in a darkened room look dead. They are immobile, and their faces have a blue tinge from the light of the TV screen.
At first Pynchon makes it sound like a lifestyle, similar to Goths. The name of a public Goth dance party in Berkeley was "Not Dead Yet". But gradually he makes himself clearer...
"checking the edges of the frame."
Does this mean Takeshi's in a film? Or is Pynchon just grabbing a handy cinema term?
"go the opposite way! Back to life!"
This anti-entropic movement makes Takeshi a great hero, a symbol of intelligence (the only truly anti-entropic entity), the life force. Cf. page 148
(as in Shade Creek) = ghost.
One can become invisible in the shadows.
"thick fluids in flexible containers"
"The Woodbine Motel"
Harks back, perchance, to the 1870's, the Union Pacific railroad scandal, and the Credit Mobilier. When one party was asked, under oath, where the money was, he replied that it had "gone where the woodbine twineth."
Pynchon, just as Fisk in the above quote, is most likely referring to the song Gone Where the Woodbine Twineth, an elegy for dead Civil War soldiers. It was written by Apsley Street, a pseudonym of Septimus Winner, a 19th Century songwriter who was arrested for treason. Also, let's not forget the scary episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour called Where the Woodbine Twineth.
"The Zero Inn"
Very thanatoid, preterite and Zoyd-like. Also another zero.
Also, "zero in" = to acquire a target, to adjust one's aim.
Thanatoids are "victims of karmic imbalances unanswered blows, unredeemed suffering..."
So are the Thanatoids victims of the Seventies? Or another version of the preterites in Gravity's Rainbow? Maybe they're just over-determined ghosts of some sort. This description is similar to the kind of thing that psychics talk about when they're trying to make your poltergeists go away; it's the unresolved baggage that keeps the ghosties on the move, and out of wherever they belong. Remember, too, that Shade Creek is "a psychic jumping-off town" where the Thanatoids wait "for the data necessary to pursue their needs and aims (i.e., ghostlike revenge) among the still living..." (p. 171)
"... they're ghosts."
Here Pynchon flat-out tells you what the Thanatoids are.
"Although the streets were irregular and steeply pitched..."
The description is an attempt to capture the effect of an M.C. Escher drawing or perhaps the Expressionist sets in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari .
Thanatoids are injured by "what was done to them."
Here they seem like left-over hippies, Vietnam vets, America's victims. Preterites who want revenge.
"The amount of memory on a chip doubles every year and a half!"
Sounds like a variant on Moore's Law, that the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law
"In traditional karmic adjustment ..."
The Thanatoids are a combination of Christian purgatory (where souls wait before proceeding to heaven), and European folkloric poltergeists (which haunt a particular location where they have been wronged, until they see that their injury is avenged). Takeshi offers these Western ghosts the Eastern idea of karma, roughly, supernatural justice over multiple reincarnations. But this is America, so Takeshi's hustle is to offer Modern Karmic Adjustment, which speeds-up the process by avoiding the cycles of birth-death-reincarnation. If this fails, there's always the reincarnation route.
Since this is all a parody of California Zen and the Human Potential Movement, the question is do the Thanatoids actually need to be avenged, or only to feel avenged, i.e. to be at peace, in order to advance to the next level of Death? Does watching television dramas where revenge is achieved and justice triumphs dissipate their righteous anger, lead to inaction, and further their advance into Death?
Well, yes, it's a nice progression from insurance adjustment, but what does Takeshi actually do? Prairie is still wondering on page 192, and DL never lets on. In any case, it looks like these Thanatoids are dead California yuppies; a resource to be exploited by preterite tradesmen.
Offered only as speculation: Perhaps Takeshi and DL take real-world, physical action against those by whom their Thanatoid clients were wronged, thus "clearing the books." Considering DL's ninjette training, this could include inflicting major trauma or even death. Don't believe it, myself.
"interesting work with airplanes"
So, during World War II Takeshi was a kamikaze hence the same Takeshi who's in Gravity's Rainbow! (See Viking edition, page 690) This brings up an interesting, though peripheral issue: As a Kamikaze, Takeshi flew a Zero. A-and there's a reference on page 672 (of GR) to "Zeros bearing comrades away," reminding us of those human lives as binary code in God's PC. As noted, there are lots of other "zero" reverences (that's a pun, not a typo) in Vineland.
Japanese for "Thanks a lot!" or "You're welcome."
"Interpersonal Programming and the Problem Towee"
Pynchon definitely has an attitude on this kind of California stuff. He also seems to have a grudge against Mercedes drivers.
"Sounds like the team I bet on last week."
Vato gets to make the bad pun this time. This is a great montage of the growing relationship between Vato, Blood, Takeshi, and DL.
"Vato wanted it to be a sitcom."
Another example of how deeply TV has invaded our thoughts.
"a cement lounge deep within the Long Binh complex"
So Vato and Blood either worked at, or were incarcerated in, the Long Binh military prison. Cf. page 87.
"less light on it than the space I'm in"
Here Vato and Blood are having an "argument about light" - see p. 201
Also, it's a paranoid flashback from past combat in Vietnam.
86'd = thrown out, usually in reference to a drinking establishment. Is it a coincidence that this occurs on page 186? See also 43'd, p.342...
The native American Yurok tribe lives along the lower 36 miles of the Klamath River, and along the California coast from Wilson Creek to Trinidad Bay. This may provide a clue to the location of Vineland County. Being Indians, the Yuroks are, naturally, preterite in the Pynchon universe. The woge (note lower case) seem to be Yurok thanatoids, therefore ultra-preterite.
Woge is a German word translated as surge, wave, or billows. The tale about the woges here is similar to those of Germanic mythology, & Celtic mythology, in regard to fairy folk, etc.
Woge or wo-ge' is a word in the Yurok language referring to a mythic race of intelligent pre-human beings. They were supplanted by the coming of humans, but somehow remain in spirit. They are invoked in the constitution of the Yurok tribe. See here for more information on the woge in Yurok mythology.
Listen to Bernard Herrmann's music from Psycho on YouTube.
"A Toyota in the treetops"
Is this a tip of the hat to the boat in the tree in Marquez's famous novel of magic realism, One Hundred Years of Solitude?
As surreal as it may seem, in California cars frequently drive off of mountain roads and fall into canyons. They are pulled out using teams of tow trucks. But they usually crush the trees beneath.
"...vanish unaccountably between Shade Creek and the V & B pound, as Thanatoid units...had been known to do..."
Vanishing Thanatoid cars may push the envelope of fantasy a bit too far. And yet, and yet... They wind up in the tops of trees, you see. It's kind of like 'toon cars: 'toons can drive real cars, real people can drive 'toon cars. Plus, it sets up (much later) the disappearance of Vond's ride in Chapter 15.
A totally abrupt scene-change to Takeshi's, a literary jump cut.
"Sate..." is italicized, as if Japanese [Takeshi speaking]. Sate is an introductory interjection, like "well", "now", or "then" in an English sentence.
Another great name. Weed = marijuana. And Weed is a city in Northern California. Also perhaps, an echo of Steven Weed, abandoned boyfriend of heiress Patty Hearst, which raises a very faint reverberation of Frenesi as Patty-in-reverse. Atman = Hindu for breath, the principle of life, the World Soul.
Cf page 206 for more on Weed's name.
"Prairie was hearing this, in her turn, from DL..."
Prairie breaks into the narrative, bouncing us unexpectedly back to the present. These abrupt break-ins by Prairie are fun.
"Variety Loaves...not, as once supposed, safely dead but no, only, queerly, sleeping..."
Thanatoid lunch meat!
"... the theme from Ghostbusters (1984)"
Listen on YouTube
"Me gotta go"
A line from Richard Berry's "Louie Louie", made famous by the Kingsmen.
Historic Napa Valley winery, WEBSITE
Folding Fin Aircraft Rocket Launcher, a rather nasty device attached to Apache helicopters around about the time Pynchon was writing Vineland.
"Kick Out the Jambs"
Definitely a reference to the the MC 5 tune "Kick Out the Jams." But is "jambs" a typo or a pun?
Definitely a pun, and a genius one. Thoughts of ninjas, or FBI, or whoever, kicking doors in. Also, apt that the MC5 were affiliated with the far left, anti-establishment, counterculture, etc.
Listen on YouTube.
The JAMs, or Justified Ancients of Mummu, are one of the anarchist factions in Robert Anton Wilson's Illuninatus! Trilogy (1975). On pp. 127-8 [Dell Trade Paperback edition], the JAMs are expelled from the Illuminati by a faction founded by Cecil Rhodes, who carry signs reading "Kick out the JAMs!" On p. 123 is the line "D.E.A.T.H.--Don't Ever Antagonize The Horn. Does Pynchon know?"