- 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.
"camper shell whose unusual design gave the vehicle some cornering problems"
It's called a "housetruck". The one to the right is larger than Trent's.
An overlapping, like leaves, fish scales, or certain geological strata.
"depraved yuppie food preferences"
Go get 'em, TP!
"RC and Moonpie"
Names taken from Big Bill Liston's 1951 hillbilly hit, "Gimme an RC Cola and a Moonpie." The MoonPie was the original marshmallow sandwhich. RC Cola was first marketed in 1905 in Plano, Texas. Back then you could buy an RC Cola and MoonPie for 10 cents, and some consider the favorite fast-food lunch of the 1950s, at least in the South. More on that MoonPie...
A nice conceit, typically Pynchonian: kamikaze rednecks racing through the tule fog.
"behind a 409"
This would be a 60s Chevy with a 409 cu. in. engine, made famous by the Beach Boy's hit "(She's real fine my) 409". The 1960s saw an arms race regarding engine size, with the Chevrolet 409 topping the Ford 406 cu. in. in 1961, and Chrysler topping Chevrolet with the 426 Ramcharger. More on the Chevy 409...
Tule fog, named after California tule grass, is a thick fog endemic to California's Central Valley. It has led to many spectacular chain-reaction automobile collisions, some involving dozens of cars.
"white presences, full of blindness and sudden highway death..."
Echoes the "white visitation" of Gravity's Rainbow, as well as Melville's whiteness of the whale. Also a pungent evocation of graveworms: There's more death in this phrase than meets the eye, foreshadowing the Thanatoids.
"...all at once, there in the road, a critter in a movie..."
A Japanese horror movie, no doubt! (See note, p. 65.)
Dale, a left-handed Californian (two strikes against) guitar player, was dubbed "King of the Surf Guitar" in the 1950s – and there's some truth to his claim that he invented surf music. He made a surprise reappearance in a commercial for the Nissan Armada in 2004 and 2005. Dick's website
When it isn't obscured by smog or fog, the sky in California appears intensely blue due to low humidity. This is particularly striking to someone born on the East Coast (like Pynchon). Frenesi, a California Girl, has this sky internalized, visible in her eyes. In addition, blue eyes are "Nordic" characteristics, with all the symbolic baggage this carries in Pynchon's work.
"Can love save anyone?"
"Save" is Calvinist/Christian terminology -- another reference to the binary distinction between elect and preterite, one and zero.
The navigator on Star Trek
"The Steam Donkey"
A bar named after the logger's mechanical badass winch.
"...she rilly freaked when she found out she was pregnant"
As we'll see in the final chapter, Vond's last escapade is mostly an attempt to abduct Prairie. So the paranoid reader might ask: Is Frenesi merely a convenient mechanism to set up all of the important stuff in the book? Or is she simply Patty Hearst in reverse?
She's the MacGuffin.
"...time to go to commercials..."
Zoyd remembers expecting life to be like TV -- a dangerous side-effect of TV addiction. The passage goes on to note that Zoyd was "Sent...gaga by those mythical days of high drama..."
"Le Bucheron Affame"
Probably The Starving Logger, but possibly The Starving French Goat Cheese.
Humboldt County + Jambalaya (with tofu etouffe, yet!).
"After a short recorded program of themes from famous TV shows..."
The telephone "hold" circuit at NEVER plays TV themes, which is like calling Alcoholics Anonymous and getting a medley of "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer" and "Hey Bartender." But of course, the "VE does stand for "Video Education"...
'Ti = Creole/Cajun shorthand for petit = little, hence Ti Bruce = Little Bruce. Can chef 'Ti Bruce be a gag on Bay Area chef and sausage-maker "Big Bruce" Aidells? Seems unlikely...but you never know.
"Little Charlie and the Nightcats singing 'TV Crazy'"
Real band, real song.
"Rick & Chick's Born Again"
Autobody shop with a similar ideal as "Resurrection of the Body" in Inherent Vice.
Presumably, an off-the-cuff creation of a believable cover story concerning some vehicle's provenance.
"the slowest fast food in the region"
Hilarious riff on trendy California health-food pizza.
"The Marquis de Sod."
"those old split 30's during the vampire shift"
TV ad lingo, referring to 15-second TV spots (splitting a 30-second commercial break) often on in the wee hours. Vampire shift is a Pynchon usage, we think; more common is "graveyard shift."
"A lawn savant..."
An amazing goof on "La Marseillaise" ("allons enfants...")
"more liens than the tower of Pisa...more garnishes than a California burger"
Bad, bad puns. Bad, bad Pynchon.
"Pat Sajak in The Frank Gorshin Story"
Gorshin was a hollow-eyed comedian and TV celeb from the late fifties, sort of a cross between Dan Duryea and Richard Widmark. He was probably best known as The Riddler on the Batman TV show.
Bodhi Dharma Pizza
Ginsberg, Kerouac, and many of the other beat writers were deep into Zen Buddhism, including the famous zen koan that asks Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East? Some of that trickled down to the hippies, their (sort of) spiritual descendents.
Another badass "V." Pynchon has a long-standing history of bad guys whose names start with "V." In this case, as we will see, the V stands for Vampire as well as Villain.
Rock von BD?.
Extending the Buddhist riff on "Bodhi Dharma Pizza" on p. 49: Eightfold because pizza is always cut into 8 slices, which reminds Pynchon of the eightfold path of classic Buddhism. Also, pizza is round, like those beautiful symbols of that eightfold path. And we’re all stoned.
"all those long-ago political wars"
Presumably referring to the decades of class struggle that form the subtextual background for this novel – from the (IWW) Wobblies at the turn of the 20th Century and the general labor strikes of the 1930s through the freedom rider/Black Panther/ hippie/yippie activism of the '50s, '60s and '70s, and on into the battle for existence carried on by progressive people against ever-increasing attacks by the legions of corporate evil headed by Nixon and Reagan in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s.
i.e., have a banana. Groucho Marx meets Swami Satchidananda at R. Crumb's?
"like a time machine departing for the future..."