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xml:lang="en" lang="en" dir="ltr"> Chapter 15 - Thomas Pynchon Wiki | Vineland

Chapter 15

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 323

"pasture... meadows"
Traditionally Vinland was translated as "wine-land", then in more recent times as "pasture-, meadow-land". This kinda seems like a "booyah" moment in the novel, as the first visions/possible version of the family reunion (see pages 232 & 246) have to do with an "impossible hillside" and a "wineland", whereas now when we begin the reality version, it is actually a "pasture-, meadow-land".

"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"
Julia Set, a Fractal

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...

"Los Sombras"
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.

Page 324

"Octomaniacs"
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.

Page 325

"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.

"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 associated Biblical text refers not to Resurrection Day, but to the Second Coming of Christ, i.e. the day of reckoning or Last Judgement. This is the final chapter of Vineland.

"What was a Thanatoid, at the end of the long dread day, but memory?"
The answer at last. Sort of.

Possibly trapped in the memories of what "could have been"?

Or, memory of the feeling you would never die? See Zoyd & Mucho's convo on pg. 313.

"timing adapted to the rigors of a disco percussion track"
Listen to a cheesy electronic rendition of "Wachet Auf" on YouTube.

"able to make the bluest Thanatoid believe, however briefly, in resurrection, they woke, the Thanatoids woke"

It seems that this is where the "possibility of the future" and "memory" collide into reality, which brings Weed's death as the focal point? Is it now that Weed (once one of their own) and his death has atoned the Thanatoids? Now that the "real" reunion has begun in real space-time? See pgs 246 & 232-233. What if we see Rex and Weed's dialogue on 232-233 as some celluloid, Tubal alternate version of what "could have happened"? Possibly a dream that Prairie had after hearing the facts and seeing the 24fps films? A dream that somehow these "sleepers" had access to???? But once the dream is "over" (reality happens) they can awake? My mind just exploded.

"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. [1]) 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.

"false cities of gold"
Pynchon playfully compares these mythical malls to the seven cities of Cibola, which kept Coronado on the run so long.

Page 326

"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.

Inside the Bradbury Building
"Bradbury Building"

In addition to film noir, the famous Bradbury Building appears in the cyberpunk film Blade Runner and is mentioned in Gravity's Rainbow. Built in 1893, the building, which contains a central courtyard with skylight, indeed resembles a shopping mall, although it's actually still an office building.

Page 327

"Che, you're rilly evil"
The relationship between Prairie and Che echoes that of Frenesi and DL.

"Brent Musberger"
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.

Page 328

"Maybellene"
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 "Maybellene" 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 Maybellene... ] [ Listen on YouTube ]

Page 329

"agoramania"
shopping frenzy.

From what I can find, it means a mania or craving for public/open spaces.

"some with runny noses..."
Another "hidden poem."

Page 330

"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.

Page 331

"Times she liked to flirt, times she was out to hurt,..."
Minipoem.

Page 332

"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..."

Page 333

"Inpo mode"
Inpo is the Ninjitsu Art of Hiding.

"Juvenile Hall badasses"
More 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?

Page 334

"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.

Page 337

"Miraculous Medal"
The Miraculous Medal makes an appearance in Gravity's Rainbow and in V.

"Ernie Triggerman, and his partner, Sid Liftoff"
More cool names.

These are probably a parody of James Nicholson and Samuel Arkoff, founders of American International Pictures, which produced teen-oriented low-budget movies throughout the 1950's, 60's and 70's.

"bizcochos"
Spanish for "biscuits, cookies."

"lizard-skin etui"
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.

Page 338

"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.

1811's
Federal civil service code for a criminal investigator.

"Roy Ibble"
Yet another cool name.

Page 339

"sudden monster surge of toilet flushing...and...cold air"
A new Pynchonian fable: Dope paranoia results in Hollywood fog bank.

"when he saw the screen go blank... 'From now on, I'm watching you.'"
This section - which carries over to pg. 340 - screams of Big Brother and George Orwell's 1984, which we are again reminded in this section, is the current year in the novel. Cf. page 353

Page 340

"Larry Talbot"
Lawrence Talbot, played by Lon Chaney Jr., was the cursed man who changed into the Wolfman in the Universal Studios Wolfman films of the 1940s.

"childhood religion... Soto Zen"
Soto Zen is one of two major Zen Buddhist traditions in Japan. It emphasizes daily practice of meditative "wall-gazing".

Page 341

"but the warmer temperature brings out more of the flavor, don't you think."

Pretty funny since Bud Light is like one of the most unflavorful beers of all time. Yes, a lot of complex beers (esp. darker beers, Belgian beers, etc.) are better enjoyed at warmer temps, but definitely not Bud Light!

Page 342

"Sounds real natural to me."
A math joke. 2.71828 is "e," the root of the series of "natural" logarithms.

"43'd"
half of 86'd. (See "octogenarihexation" on p. 186.) Being 43'd is like being a little pregnant.

Page 343

Song: "Es Posible."
Music-biz schtick at the end makes it even funnier. Also hilarious: the pre-Castro Cuban theme park, Holiday For Fascists.

Page 344

"board fading"
fading slowly and smoothly, as if via a volume slider on a recording studio control board.

Page 345

"her 59 cents on the male dollar..."
Female/male income inequality.

"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.

Page 346

"the Meese Police"
Reagan's DOJ (Department of Justice) head, Edwin Meese.

Page 347

"Mad Dog Vond"
Echoes Humphrey Bogart as Mad Dog Roy Earle in High Sierra. But Vond really is crazy.

"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.)

Page 348

"in the movie of his life story"
A not-quite-made-up film.

Page 349

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.)

Cf. page 353 for a possible explanation of what Vond is waiting for.

Page 350

"Perez Prado"
Cuban bandleader, "King of the Mambo."

"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?")

Page 351

"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.

Page 352

The Three Stooges
"the bowl haircut, etc."

Another reference to The Three Stooges ... Moe's bowl haircut. Cf. page 149

"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.

Page 353

"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.

"REX-84"
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.

Applying "paranoid logic" to the information in the above-mentioned Wikipedia article, let us suppose that Oliver North, one of the designers of the REX 84 readiness exercise, intended that it be used, exercise in name only, in conjunction with a US invasion of Nicaragua to oust the Sandinista government, which he opposed in the Iran-Contra Affair. This corresponds with DL's prediction on page 264-265 and Hector's intuition on page 339-340. Furthermore, let's pretend that REX 84 takes place at the time described in the novel, late summer of 1984, instead of the spring of 1984, as Wikipedia states. This will go a long way in explaining some of the action in the 1984 parts of the novel.

Page 354

"...Midol America..."
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.

Page 355

"Triglyph Productions"
Triglyph = three (you-name-em) letters, like ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.

"Panaflex"
Panaflex 35mm Movie Camera

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.

Page 356

"...one slip of the tongue..."
Arguably the worst joke in any of Pynchon's novels. Gross!

"How to get an Italian Woman Pregnant."
Three 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.
Q: How do you get an Italian woman pregnant? A: Come in her shoes and the flies will do the rest!


"I'm a Cop" (Billy Barf and the Vomitones)
Their "3-note blues" is a classic:

Fuck you, mister,
Fuck your sister,
Fuck your brother,
Fuck your mother,
Fuck your pop —
Hey! I’m a cop!

Yeah, fuck you, yuppie,
Fuck your puppy,

Fuck your baby,
Fuck your lady,
Yes I can,
Hey! I’m the Man!

Page 358

"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.

"kit conversions"
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.

Page 359

"Antinomian"
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.

"Mrs. Grundy"
A character from Thomas Morton’s play 'Speed the Plough' (1798). She is the personification of the tyranny of conventional propriety and is mentioned by various authors from Dickens to Joyce.

"motocross"
A cycle race over rough terrain, often desert. Wikipedia

"May your life be full of lawyers"
Supposedly, the "heavy-dutiest" Mexican curse.

Page 360

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.

Page 361

"Musso and Frank's"
The Musso & Frank Grill is a famous old-time Hollywood restaurant, established in 1919.

"the Grand Canyon"
A lot of detail is packed into a few sentences. Looks like Pynchon has been there, too.

"Tex Wiener"
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.

Page 362

"off the scale"
Techno rap, meaning too great to measure, pins the meter, etc.

"Naugahyde"
An artificial material designed to resemble leather, made from fabric coated with rubber or vinyl resin.

"red-and-gold-flocked"
Flocking is powdered wool or cloth sprinkled onto material (here, wallpaper) producing a raised pattern.

"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 lollapalooza of a moon."
Sasha's dream is sweet and surreal, but it seems insufficiently motivated. Would she really forgive Frenesi so easily?

Page 363

"Holocaust Pixels."
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.

Page 364

"...just a couple o' clicks..."
Clicks = kilometers.

"Bardo"
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.

Page 365

"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.

Page 366

"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.

"Sometimes I think it could be my parents"
Recall (page 206 notes) that Weed is based partly on Pynchon himself. Vineland's dedication is "For my mother and father". So this passage could be Pynchon speaking of or to his own parents.

"higher justice"
God, karma, Karmic Adjusters, or Emersonism (cf. page 369), as opposed to the Department of Justice.

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. Cf. page 122.

Page 367

"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.)

"Octomaniacs"
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).

Page 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).

Page 369

"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.

It also provides a counter to the Orwellian (in Pynchon's view) Department of Justice that sponsors Brock Vond and CAMP, as well as a counterpoint to the Eastern idea of karma.

"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.

Page 370

"Lux Unlimited"
A lux is a unit of luminosity equal to 1 candela sterradian per square meter. Drop that into your next bar room argument.

Lux is Latin for light. "Fiat Lux", or "Let there be light", is the motto of the University of California.

"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)."

"Say, Jim"
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).

It also reflects the cultural change in mass entertainment that happened between the sixties and the eighties.

"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"
Robert Musil was an Austrian novelist (1880-1942), whose Proustian style was marked by subtle psychological analysis. His works include Young Torless and The Man Without Qualities.

Young Torless mixes homoerotic sadism with philosophical discussions of imaginary numbers, so it is relevant to Against the Day. The Man Without Qualities is a thinly disguised portrait of Walter Rathenau, who is invoked several times in Gravity's Rainbow. So Pynchon is poking fun at himself.

Page 371

"...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."

Page 372

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.

Page 373

"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.

"gold-handled chainsaw"
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.

Page 374

"speeding after moonset"
Like in Thunder Road [1958], the great Robert Mitchum bootlegging thriller.

"quaquaversal beard"
"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.

Page 375

"...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).

Pynchon tells you it's not a dream: "The beat ... woke her" and on the next page "she came fully awake".

"Death From Slightly Above"
"Mors Ab Alto" or "Death from Above" is the motto of the US 7th Strategic Bomber Wing (Wikipedia). In the late 1960's and early 1970's they were famous for the "carpet bombing" of Vietnam. Brock Vond flies somewhat lower.

"Huey slicks"
UH-1 Huey Slick

The UH-1 Iroquois helicopter was first designated HU-1 (for "Helicopter, Utility" in backwards Army nomenclature) which led to its nickname "Huey". Although Hueys have been used in a wide variety of roles worldwide, they are closely associated with the Vietnam War, where they were heavily employed. The "slick" version of the Huey lacked external weapons pods, and was mainly used for evacuation and troop transport.

"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.

Page 376

"The key is rapture."
Earlier Vond explained the disappearance of the CotS students the same way. (See note, p. 248.) Also, it is Frenesi's rapture (or "frenzy") over being dominated that enables Vond to have his way with her.

The Rapture occurs along with the Second Coming of Christ, telegraphed to the Thanatoids on page 325.

"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!)

Vampires, although deathly pale, don't glow white. They are afraid of light. But Angels ...

This is Vond's aura of invincibility, as seen on page 272. He has powered-up his primary weapon.

...can't be my father...Preparation H.
Preparation H

She isn't Frenesi's clone, she has Zoyd's blood in her too. Vond paralyzes her for a second, but she can't be dominated as easily as Frenesi. In the Rapture, only believers are hoisted to heaven. Prairie doesn't believe in Vond's invincibility. And of course, Pynchon breaks the spell with another ass joke.

"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?

Here is a guess. Suppose REX 84 is taken to be a roundup of dissenters prior to a possible invasion of Nicaragua (cf. pg. 353 notes). It's late summer 1984 in the novel, so let's guess the Traverse-Becker picnic is always held on Labor Day, falling on September 3 in 1984. On September 4, 1984 the Sandinista Front won the Nicaraguan election, considered fair by most international observers. An invasion was no longer possible.

Page 377

"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" (p. 364): "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.

For more on the political/sociological subtext of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, see Wikipedia. The game depicted is probably game 7 of the 1984 NBA Finals. Since the game took place on June 12, Pynchon sticks to Vineland's themes and its late-summer timeline by including the game as a made-for-TV movie.

Pynchon uses Lakers games to anchor his timeline in Inherent Vice.

Page 378

"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?

Page 379

"As he drove, Vato told an old Yurok story ..."
Vato's story and Brock Vond's ultimate fate are adaptations of a passage (read it here) from Yurok Myths(1976) by A.L. Kroeber. The passage is Kroeber's transcription of a story told to him sometime between 1901 and 1907 by Captain Spott, ferry owner and leader (head man) of the Yurok village Rekwoi.

Page 380

"You look a lot different ..."
The Yurok myth explains why the bones of a corpse remain after the body vanishes. Pynchon intensifies the castration symbolism.

"crankless"
That is, without amphetamines.

Page 381

"...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?

Page 382

"an inkjet printer moved along the the meridians of his naked skin"
Here, the Puncutron seems like Kafka's torture/execution machine from In the Penal Colony, but in reverse.

In acupuncture, meridians are channels in the body through which life-energy flows.

A template for instructing the "teen novices, all in white gi with trainee armbands" in acupuncture was being rendered unto Takeshi's body.

"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.

Or perhaps an optimistic view of the end of the Cold War in the Third World, as seen by Pynchon in 1990.

Page 383

closer to its own chthonian fires
Reference to H.P. Lovecraft's work, most specifically the creature Cthulhu. WIKI

"Baby Eros...faceless predators"
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.

Doesn't seem like sloppy work to me, mainly just seems to be saying that no matter how whack or crazy things seem, unexplainable, random coming at them, in the end, it is love that somehow makes sense of it.

"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.

Page 384

"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... YouTube

"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?


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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