- 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.
"Sylvester and Tweety"
The famous animated cartoon characters (a cat and a canary, natch) are used to described the comic/violent relationship between Zoyd and Zuniga. This also works as effective shorthand to encourage the reader to read the book as a cartoon. At least for now.
shortly after Reagan was elected governor of California
Ronald Reagan was first elected governor in 1966 and took office in 1967.
sharing a house in Gordita Beach
"Gordita Beach" is, according to the article "Thomas Pynchon and the South Bay", a fictionalized Manhattan Beach where Pynchon is believed to have lived in 1969-1970 while working on Gravity's Rainbow. The article states: "Pynchon doesn't refer to Manhattan Beach by name. Rather, he uses the name Gordita Beach to refer to his one-time home." And Gordita Beach is the home of Doc Sportello in Pynchon's 2009 novel Inherent Vice. The surf band the Corvairs, elements of which Zoyd lives with, are also present in Inherent Vice.
It would have been unfortunate to have had your band named the Corvairs in 1967. The Chevrolet Corvair was the only American mass-produced car to ever have a rear-mounted engine like a VW. In 1965, Ralph Nader published Unsafe at Any Speed, which showed that General Motors had ignored safety concerns and used a design prone to roll-overs. Sales tanked and GM eventually cancelled the entire line in 1969. Although some automobile aficionados cursed Ralph Nader, for most Americans the Corvair became a sick joke and a symbol of corporate callousness.
Possibly inspired by a NYC radio jingle of the late forties and early fifties that went "Melrose five, five-three-hundred, Melrose five, five-three-hundred...".
Also, Melrose Avenue is a famous street in Los Angeles, containing Paramount Pictures and other well-known spots.
"musician Scott Oof"
Another inspired name. Scott Oof, as essentially the same character, is in Pynchon's 2009 novel Inherent Vice which takes place about 10 or 15 years before the events in Vineland. Scott is the protagonist Doc Sportello's cousin.
"What I'm really here about..."
This is an old "head" joke. ["Head" = sixties slang for weed-head, or "soft" drug-user.] The cop raps at the door and says "I'm here about drugs," and the doper says, "Thank God! We're all out!" It's right up there with the one where the cop says, "Your papers, please!" and the head whips out his Zig-Zags.
That fatal five-spot was not the last Purchase-of-Information disbursement in the neighborhood.
Cf. p. 7
"some grandiose pilot project bankrolled with inexhaustible taxpayer millions"
Typically Pynchonian paranoid reference.
Hector's PI money
PI = Purchase-of-Information. See above.
In most mysteries, PI stands for Private Investigator, so Pynchon is making a cynical joke.
Mid-level US Government job rating. Entry level is GS-4; the President is, like, GS-25.
"hummed a tune..."
Distraction drives Hector to humming "Meet the Flintstones," the second TV theme song so far.
The first we learn of Frenesi's demotion/demolition, her "disappearance from the computer," her figurative conversion from a one to a zero. (See note on Pynchon's central binary metaphor, p. 71, et al..)
Likely pronounced "free 'n' easy"...
Salman Rushdie points out that Frenesi is an anagram of free and sin. Read his review [here].
"shot the old Hermosa Pier durin a lightnin storm"
LA pier extending 1000 feet out from Hermosa Beach, built 1913. To "shoot the pier" is to ride a surfboard under it, hopefully avoiding the pilings. To do so during a lightning storm, presumably at night, is suicidal bravado.
"When the State withers away, Hector"
From Friedrich Engels, of course, in whose expectation the State is not abolished, it withers away.
In the style of actor Clint (Dirty Harry) Eastwood.
"I won't aks you to grow up, but...aks yourself, OK, Who was saved? That's all, rill easy..."
Great rap from Hector, demonstrating Pynchon's flawless ear for dialect and accent. "Who was saved?" ties into the preterite theme.
"the samurai condition"
The notion of a samurai "always being prepared to die" will be echoed on page 161 when Takeshi is shown to be technically dead, hence living without fear of death, hence always prepared to die. Which makes him a perfect samurai. Or Thanatoid.
"maybe it goes beyond your ex-old lady..."
Pynchon introduces the paranoid conspiracy element he (and we) love so much. Nothing is what it seems; there's always some mystery behind everything.
As far as we can tell, this is a made-up word. But it's well-made, and means just what it says: The study, or contemplation, of soup or meat broth, from the ancient greek words "ζωμός", meaning soup, and "σκέψις", meaning thought/contemplation. Pynchon seems to enjoy making up words. Now and then you run across another "skepsis" word. Two of our advisors spotted "omphaloskepsis" (navel-gazing) in the beginning chapters of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum.
"not like th' old Weatherpeople or nothin..."
The Weather Underground was an American radical left organization. Originally called Weatherman, the group became known colloquially as the Weathermen although its full name, as given in official communiques, was the Weather Underground Organization or WUO. Weatherman first organized in 1969 as a faction of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) composed for the most part of the national office leadership of SDS and their supporters. Their goal was to create a clandestine revolutionary party for the violent overthrow of the US government. WIKI
"Nothin' meaner than an old hippie that's gone sour."
"Check's in the mayo"
A brilliant throw-away Feghoot. In the fifties, a science fiction writer named Grendel Briarton wrote a series of short, funny pieces for Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine titled, "Through Time and Space With Ferdinand Feghoot." They all worked the same way: establishing a silly and complicated story line for the sole purpose of setting up a painfully outrageous pun. Pynchon is addicted to the form; one of the best Feghoots ever written is the "Forty million Frenchmen" gag ("for DeMille young Frenchmen...") on page 559 of Gravity's Rainbow.
"National Endowment for Video Education and Rehabilitation"
Dr. Deeply's Tubal detox operation (NEVER) is clearly a gag on Betty Ford's "Just Say No" Drug Abuse Clinic. This is also the first statement of a central theme: America's national addiction isn't to drugs, it's to the Tube.
"Hector...hasn't quite been himself, signed himself in with us for some therapy..."
Another reference to the vicious addictiveness of TV.