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xml:lang="en" lang="en" dir="ltr"> Chapter 12 - Thomas Pynchon Wiki | Vineland

Chapter 12

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.

Page 218

"up over the passes and out long desert arterials, out past the seed and feed houses and country music bars and Mexican joints with Happy Hours featuring 99 cent margaritas out of a hose, under the smog, the dribbling rain, the toxic lens of sky..."
Mr. Pynchon, meet Mr. Chandler.

"At first Weed went around feeling like a political defector."
Pun intended.

"chartreuse"
An apple-green colour.

Page 219

"What an evening"
Thanatoid Roast '84 is the "tenth annual get-together" -- which means there have been thanatoids since '75. So what happened in 1974-1975? Patty Hearst kidnapped by SLA. Nixon is impeached over Watergate, and resigns. Motion picture ratings system created. US Bicentenial celebration. Vietnam War ends; last 1,000 Americans evacuated from South Vietnam.

They were around before 1975, but you're on to something. See page 320.

Page 220

"CAMP"
CAMP Logo

Camp, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, is a multiagency law-enforcement taskforce set up by California to eradicate illegal marijuana cultivation and trafficking in the state. Although it is state-created, it includes representatives from state, federal, and local law enforcement agencies.

"Willis Chunko"
Nice name.

Page 221

"Pale blue unmarked little planes appeared, on days of VFR unlimited nearly invisible against the sky, flown by a private vigilante squadron of student antidrug activists..."
Cf. p.3 ("squadron of blue jays stomping around on the roof...").

"Kommandant Karl Bopp"
Another great name.

"pacified territory"
Growers discuss CAMP progress in Vietnam-like terms.

Page 222

"All right, you parrots, listen up!"
Parrot sale and shared dreams: Magic realism, gorgeous and surreal; tropical colors and flashy imagery.

Page 223

"can't shit, can't get a hardon"
The Thanatoid Roast rendered from Van Meter's POV; his paranoia is expressed in terms familiar from Gravity's Rainbow.

This passage doesn't concern the atmosphere of the Thanatoid Roast; it describes Van Meter's frustration in failing to lucidly dream his way into the same alternate reality that the children (claim to) perceive. Constipation and impotence are maladies of old age. Van Meter has lost his link to the dreams of the "younger generation" that have been shaped by the parrot media background. Perhaps that's why he's been reduced to playing Thanatoid gigs.

Page 224

"They're ev'ry...Place that ya go..."
In theme and structure, this is awfully close to the song "Government Spies," in Gilbert Shelton's Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers #3 [A Year Passes Like Nothing] Rip Off Press, 1973.

Page 225

"old-time Combo-Ork arrangements"
There's that lingo again.

"rallentando"
A typically obscure Pynchon word, this musical term means exactly the same as ritardando: played with decreasing pace. Perfect for the Thanatoid gig.

Page 226

"Larry Elasmo"
Cool name. Plasticman? Elasmos is Greek for beaten metal (hence elastic) plate. An elasmobranch is a fish, such as a shark, with a cartilage (not bone) skeleton and tooth-like scales.

But what the fuck is he doing at the Thanatoid Roast? Pynchon is pushing the outside of the coincidence envelope.

Elasmo sequence. Mr. Pynchon, meet Mr. Kafka. This all seems boosted right out of The Trial. Here's Weed, another rebellious American child (like Frenesi), submitting to, or fascinated with, authority. "Because the Doctor says so..." turn your body over to coaches, boys with hardons. Go to the Draft Board Center and sit on the group W bench. Even rational, mathematical, radical Weed does what the dentist tells him to, even if it is manifestly senseless.

Among other questions worth asking: Who authorized Elasmo to issue these compulsory forms that require people to come to his office? And by what mysterious process does Weed's merely waiting around cause him to become confused and dispirited? Maybe the idea is simply to take Weed out of the picture at intervals, so Vond and Frenesi can talk and fuck. There's some hint (from Vond if not from Pynchon) that Weed is collaborating with Vond. If so, we'd expect at least a short scene showing that collaboration. The Elasmo sequence stands in the right position, and serves the same function -- but there's no hint whatsoever of Vond. Pretty weird.

"Dr Elasmo's video image had swept, had pixeldanced in"
Image/raster TV techotalk. Pixels = the tiny dots that make up the Tube image.

Another possible explanation of the whole Dr. Larry's World of Discomfort sequence is implied by the passage "Somehow, in Weed's deathstunned memory, Dr. Elasmo's video image had swept, had pixeldanced in, to cover, mercifully, for something else..." Since his commercials were so ubiquitous on TV at the time, is it possible that Weed was doing something else, meeting someone in a bureaucratic building in the city-- meetings that left him feeling stunned, guilty, and sick at heart-- and he has recast and shot these memories as meetings with the faux-celebrity of Dr. Larry Elasmo?

Plasticman indeed.

Page 227

"Dr. Larry Elasmo, or a person wearing, like a coverall and veil, his ubiquitous screen image grainy, flickering at the edges..."
So not only is the real Elasmo tracking Weed, his TV image is doing it too!

Page 228

"Ilse, the hygienist..."
Naturally, the dental hygienist in Larry's World of Discomfort is none other than Ilse, the high-heeled Nazi heroine of sixties S&M porno flicks, e.g., Ilse, She-Wolf of the SS.

Page 230

"...adjusted the pulsing vacuum to meet his own quickening rhythm..."
The scene of Rex adjusting Bruno's carburetors while masturbating in the intakes clearly harks back to certain intimate moments involving Rachel and her MG's gearshift lever in V.

"Trash the Xanthocroid"
(See note, p. 197.)

Page 231

Elliot X

Extremely close to being an anagram for Malcolm X's real last name, Little. Just switch a t for an o? WIKI

Also, some believe the name "Elliot" is derived from the French "Elias" which comes from "Elijah" - which would also factor in a reference to Elijah Muhammad WIKI

UHURU
"Uhuru" is Swahili for "freedom."

Page 232

"land of the May Events"

Rex is heading to France. May Events refers to the revolts in France in May of 1968. Possibly Rex feels these events going on are more pure in protest/outcome than what is going on with Weed, Frenesi, PR3, etc. especially now that he's feeling high on sacrifice, what with giving up Bruno and all. WIKI

See epigraph of Inherent Vice.

"Neither one could know how few and fortunate would be any who'd be able to meet in years later than these and smile, relax beneath some single low oak out on an impossible hillside, with sunlight, and the voice of children... drink some chilly gold-green California Chenin Blanc, and laugh, and pour more wine"

Flashsideways (or some-even-stranger-ways) to an imaginary, 4th-dimensional picnic in which Rex, Weed, and Prairie "negotiate an agreeable version of history." This is an important little scene, since it's where the details of the murder are made explicit at last. Or are they? Note the "nearly" in "he nearly blew me away," which seems to suggest that maybe Weed is merely wounded? (It's just Pynchonian smoke; Weed really is killed.) This scene appears to be Rex's fantasy -- except how does he know about Prairie?

I dont think this is necessarily Rex's vision, but Pynchon's foreshadowing (and an alternate version) of the family reunion, kindof a "what if" Weed and Rex had made it, what would they have said, looking back? Obviously, Rex nor Weed will make it to this dreamy "Wineland" (traditional translation of Vineland: see Vinland). See page 246 where it specifically refers back to this scene.

It is also possible that this is actually a dream sequence from Prairie's mind after taking in all of the stories and 24fps film (much like she and DL's convo break up the narrative). See pg. 325.

Page 233

"Weed had found himself a classical pigeon"
The "flashsideways" ends with Pynchon switching from present tense to (mostly) past tense.

Page 234

The Invaders

Science fiction TV show about alien invasion that aired on ABC for two seasons in 1967-1968. WIKI The "aliens infiltrating human institutions", paranoia, etc. seems apt here.

chocolate-covered banana

Howie enjoys one here, but also a favorite of Bigfoot Bjornson in Inherent Vice.

Page 235

Amerikan

From Wiki: In the 1960s and early 1970s in the United States, leftists, particularly the Yippies, sometimes used Amerika rather than "America" in referring to the United States. It is still used as a political statement today. It is likely that this was originally an allusion to the German spelling of America, and intended to be suggestive of Nazism, a hypothesis that the Oxford English Dictionary supports.

Note that Franz Kafka's unfinished, first novel, was spelled this way, titled by Max Brod, published posthumously. Amerika

Page 236

"...he reached for the Tube, popped it on, fastened himself to the screen and began to feed."
A great William Burroughs-style science-fictional, Tube/addictive image.

"It's takin his soul, man"
Certain primitive (and not so primitive) tribes believe that when someone takes your photograph it steals your soul. Or maybe Howie means the Tube. But of course Brock has said that Weed's soul is exactly what he wants.

"Culito Canyon"
Spanish for "Little Ass Canyon."

Page 237

"...might make the Guinness Book someday..."
The Guinness Book of Records, published regularly by the Irish brewery/distillery company, chronicles current achievements in urban sports like phone booth stuffing.

Page 238

"Famous worms of song"
A play on "The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout," sung to Mozart/Haydn/whoever's requiem. A famous childhood song, right up there with "Great green gobs of greasy grimy monkeymeat" (It's Gopher guts...see the alliteration.) "Hitler he had just one big ball" and the tragic ballad "Found a Peanut." This is kind of a heavy Pynchon hit on Frenesi's knowledge of Weed's impending doom.

Page 239

Note the asterisk at the top of the page. How come? Pynchon hasn't needed no steenking asterisks before! Can those worms have thrown him so far off balance that he can't carry on without typographic help? (Actually, there is one earlier asterisk occurrence, at the bottom of page 8. Go figure.)

"ND-1 filters"
ND = Neutral Density; the suffix digit tells how many f stops it reduces incoming light (or outgoing baby-blue intensity) without changing color values.

"Nixonian reaction...continued to...compromise...what may only in some fading memories ever have been a people's miracle, an army of loving friends..."
Pynchon seems bitter over the ease with which the government (and its media, and its money) destroyed the ideal/idyll.

Page 240

"'therapy sessions,' Brock called them..."
Brock seems connected with Elasmo. Does this mean that Weed has really turned? Or that Weed's sessions with the tooth-yanker are just Vond's "reality adjustments," in which Weed is somehow osmosified to believe in Brock's version of reality (in which only power counts, and resistance is futile)?

As discussed on page 226, Elasmo is the Freudian-style dream transformation of Brock Vond in Thanatoid Weed's "deathstunned memory". Pynchon, so far, hasn't described how Weed was "turned".

"Smith"
Smith and Wesson, the largest manufacturer of handguns in the United States.

Page 241

"24-frame-per-second truth"
Hi, Jean-Luc Godard!

Page 242

"frogwork"
Frogs are the knots in which ornate cords (like the ones on doormen's uniform coats) are tied. Similar to Buddhist "priest cords" sometimes used as hangings. Here, frogwork is an evocative metaphor for the intricate shadow cast by the tangle of overhead cables and trolley wires — and a very apt one, you'll agree, if you've ever seen the rat's nest of wiring suspended above the street in San Francisco or San Diego.

Page 243

targeted to the barrio
targeted to the 'hood

Page 244

"the Arri and...a wind-up Bolex"
Two small, light, quiet, highly portable 16mm movie cameras. The Arriflex's electric motor is powered by a battery pack; the Bolex is (like Pynchon says) spring-driven.


"Howie'd kill them again"
Surely should be "Howie'd kick them again".

No. Howie would kick-on the lights, Weed would chicken-out, Howie would kill the lights, then presumably Frenesi would work on Weed some more, then the cycle would repeat.

Page 245

"a battered old Auricon"
The Auricon is another 16mm camera, also battery (or AC) powered, with the handy capability to record live sound right on the film.

Page 246

"the shirt cloth still burning around the blackly erupted exit, pale flames guttering out..."
Sounds great, but while we're no forensic experts we'd guess that burns would be characteristic of the entry hole of a gunshot wound, not the exit.

He would not after all be lucky enough to sit under that oak under that dreamed hillside someday with a miraculously saved Weed Atman, in some 1980s world of the future

Here Rex's actions have changed his "possible" future (see page 232). Now neither Rex nor Weed will be a part of the exodus to Vineland (or Wineland). Also see page 325.

Page 247

"a Mole-Richardson Series 700 generator ... legendary Eclairs ... Miller heads, Fastaxes ... Norwood Binary light meters"
All deluxe loot from the CotS Film Arts Dept. The "legendary" Eclairs (there you go again, Mr. Pynchon!) are innovative French 16mm cameras, quieter (and producing a steadier image) than the Arri, Bolex or Auricon cameras mentioned above. The Miller fluid head goes on top of a camera tripod and allows very smooth pans.

"Blue Cheer concert"
Blue Cheer was a popular "acid-rock" band of the time, named after one of underground chemist Owsley Stanley's most popular (and potent) releases of LSD tablets. The tabs got their name because, in the charming flower-power style of the time, Owsley would dye each new release a different color — and the blue tinge of this batch reminded users of a well-known laundry detergent.

Watch Blue Cheer on YouTube.


"7242"
16mm Ektachrome EF reversal film, a medium fast (125 ASA) workhorse stock.

Page 248

"...a handful of persons [were] unaccounted for. In those days it was unthinkable that any North American agency would kill its own civilians and then lie about it.... Vond referred to it humorously as 'rapture.'"
Rapture is a Biblical reference to the Day of Judgment, when the dead and the living will be taken to Heaven. Vond uses the term again, later, to describe winching Prairie up "into the sky" and abducting her (p. 376). Pynchon may have picked up the term from Job, Robert Heinlein's last great fantasy novel.

Evangelical Bumper Sticker
In the doctrine of Rapture only the Christian believers will be abducted by God. For evangelicals, Rapture of the Saved occurs before the time of Tribulation. Hence the bumper sticker, "In Case of Rapture This Car Will Be Unmanned". People more like Pynchon's audience used "Beam Me Up, Scotty". Vond believes that, like Frenesi, children of the 1960's secretly long for discipline (cf. page 269) so his rapture analogy is apt.

"Fawning, gazing upward at the zipper of his fly, media toadies..."
Here we see the "official" media, directed by the government, rewriting the Sixties on the spot. The only reporter to challenge Vond is dragged away.

"field-gray trucks"
Feldgrau, that popular old Wehrmacht color!

Page 249

"tenebrous cool light"
tenebrous = dark, gloomy.

"Federal Emergency Evacuation Route (FEER)"
What a quintessentially Pynchonian idea, and what a powerful image, and what a great acronym!

Page 250

"ruins from Camelot"
Little left from the Kennedy presidency.

"the flagship of the 24fps motor pool, a '57 Chevy Nomad"
Cool wheels, but not mentioned in the semi-extensive description of the 24fps vehicle collection on p. 194.

Page 251

"Virgil Ploce"
Great name. And count on Pynchon to choose an anti-communist with an exploding cigar! Rumors about this supposedly-CIA-backed anti-Castro plot emerged after the Bay of Pigs invasion. It's never been established whether the gambit was actually put into practice.

Virgil Place is a street in Los Angeles.

Page 252

"primer cord"
Pynchon makes a common error in this reference; he may only have heard it said, never seen it in writing. This stuff is actually called "Primacord" (a copyrighted name of the Ensign-Bickford Company). It's useful stuff, serving not only as a primer, but as a conveniently cord-shaped explosive substance.

"the sudden light from behind, the unbearable sight in the mirror"
An atomic explosion.

"the hour of the rat"
In Chinese astrology, the hour of the rat is the two-hour period from 11pm - 1am. The same concept was used in ancient Japanese timekeeping.

"Be groovy or B movie"
Takeoff on "Be there or be square".

Page 253

"...becoming its harsh woven shadow..."
Frenesi = light; DL = shadow; together = film. Also, of course, ones and zeros.

Page 254

Poster for Z

"Hasta la proxima, querida mia"
Spanish: "Until next time, my dear." The letter "Z" is, of course, the trademark of Zorro. This steamy scene seems virtually pointless; maybe Pynchon got horny while he was writing. "Perhaps...not unscented" indeed! (See also p. 118, with the smell of DL's "pussy excitation.")

The letter "Z" also stands for Ζει, he lives, which was scrawled on Greek walls in the 1960's to show that the spirit of resistance still lived. This was popularized worldwide in 1969 by the political film Z.

It pays to remember that one of the main motifs in this book is the unreality of television -gratuitous sex scenes are very much a part of that. The section is intended to be satirical.

Page 255

"the subroutine Yukai na...a low-order limbic pleasure cycle that would loop over and over"
Interesting use of computer programming lingo in the martial arts world.

More cyberpunk shtick.

"the rodent hour"
Given the refs to Daffy and Bugs in the previous sentence, this might refer to the Mickey Mouse Club show on the Tube, but was that one hour or one half hour??

No, go back to Page 252 "They arrived ... well before dawn, the hour of the rat ...". DL is indeed sneaking into the prison camp like a rat stealing some cheese.

"one hatchway after another, leading to smaller and smaller volumes."

Echoes the structure of the shelter system in Mordecai Roshwald's chilling doomsday novel Level 7 [1959].

Page 257

Quilbasazos
Arguably Spanish for "Keilbasas"--Eastern European sausages. Possibly Punta Banda in the real world.

Page 258

"A llover"
What a great meal! A llover is Spanish for, "It's about to rain," but it also refers to the fact that it's "all over" for the outdoor desayuno. Pynchon puns again.

Page 259

"powder to the people"
Ouch! Punning on the slogan "Power to the People" which was a rallying cry of the Black Panthers, as well as a song by John Lennon.

"Feel like we were running around like little kids with toy weapons, like the camera really was some kind of gun, gave us that kind of power. Shit. How could we lose track like that, about what was real?"
Frenesi has totally bought Vond's line about the powerlessness of film vs. a gun. (And that's how they got her. And us.)

And yet:
"You don't die for no motherfuckin' shadows" page 202
"...sold off my only real fortune - my precious anger - for a lot of got-damn shadows" page 291

"who'd we save"
Yet another preterite reference, and one that harks back to Hector's speech on p. 28.

A Purple Grateful Dead Bear

"Purple Owsley"
Another run of Owsley's high-grade color-coded LSD. Cf. p. 247

The same Owsley "Bear" Stanley also worked as soundman for the band Grateful Dead, and was one of the inspirations for their dancing bear logo.

Page 260

"You know what happens when my pussy's runnin' the show."
If this is Frenesi's only motivation for the series of betrayals (including her betrayal of herself) that lie at the heart of Vineland, it's a thin reed on which to build a book. Unless we buy into Sister Rochelle's Eden parable in which Vond represents the snaky seductiveness of authority, and Frenesi stands for a postwar America that's eager to surrender its freedom. Indeed, Frenesi's enjoyment of bondage and discipline games, which free her of responsibility, makes a strong connection with all the S&M sequences in the book (see next note).

These are Frenesi's rationalizations to DL, not Pynchon's explanations for her behavior. Note: "... getting things wrong on purpose, and more and more wrong as it went falling to pieces" and "blaming external drug molecules for each of her failures ...". There is some truth to her excuses, but, as Pynchon indicates, not the whole truth.

"behind the Thorazine curtain"
Pynchon on a sadism kick. He does seem to have a weakness for this stuff, as many sequences in Gravity's Rainbow will attest.

"5 mg Stelazine plus 50 of Thorazine"
Thorazine and Stelazine are antihallucinatory specifics, usually used to treat schizophrenics.

Page 261

Las Suegras
"The Mothers-in-law." There is a Las Suegras Vineyard off I-15 near Temecula, CA, but no town of that name.

"1,000-watt Mickey-Mole spot"
An open face (lensless) focusing studio light from the Mole-Richardson company. It rhymes, too.

Page 263

"out in the zodiac..."
Vond is a Scorpio. What else?

"idiolalia"
Pynchon loves these esoteric terms. It means a private language. Here starts the paranoia about 24fps'rs disappearing — which echoes people disappearing from the computer (p. 85), and the Kahuna airplane (p. 65).

It also echoes the disappearing people in Nineteen Eighty-Four and Philip K. Dick's novel UBIK. Cf. page 111.

Page 264

"Reagan's got it for when he invades Nicaragua,"
DL's prediction of Reagan's invasion of Nicaragua never came true; the closest Reagan ever came was Iran-Contra. Cf. page 353

Page 265

"Why would he come after us?"
Good question.

"The whole Reagan program..."
Yeah! Go, Pynchon, go!

Page 266

Vond is "after Frenesi...to use her for some task."
OK, what task?

Perhaps to get Prairie, the future. Cf. page 50. Remember that this part of the story is taking place in the Reagan Era, not the Nixon Era. Pynchon's take on the Reagan Era was that the nightmare was beginning all over again.

"So the big bad Ninjamobile swept along on the great Ventura [Freeway]...above the heads of TV watchers, lovers under the overpasses, movies at malls letting out, bright gas-station oases in pure fluorescent spill...down the corridors of the surface streets, in nocturnal smog, the adobe air, the smell of distant fireworks, the spilled, the broken world."
What a great paragraph! Yes, the cat can write -- rhyming verse and all: "flirters, deserters, wimps and pimps"


Chapter 1
pp. 3-13
Chapter 2
pp. 14-21
Chapter 3
pp. 22-34
Chapter 4
pp. 35-55
Chapter 5
pp. 56-67
Chapter 6
pp. 68-91
Chapter 7
pp. 92-106
Chapter 8
pp. 107-129
Chapter 9
pp. 130-191
Chapter 10
pp. 192-203
Chapter 11
pp. 204-217
Chapter 12
pp. 218-267
Chapter 13
pp. 268-293
Chapter 14
pp. 294-322
Chapter 15
pp. 323-385
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