Chapter 8

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 107

"a sort of Esalen Institute for lady asskickers [...] the Sisterhood of Kunoichi Attentives"
Kunoichi are female ninjas, and serious asskickers:

Real-life kunoichi were trained differently than male ninja. Their training focused more on disguise, poisons, and using their gender to an advantage. While they were trained in close combat, they were only to make use of this knowledge when they were caught. They would usually disguise themselves as geisha, prostitutes, entertainers, fortunetellers, and the like to get very close to the enemy. Generally, they would seduce the soon-to-be victim and when they get close enough, they would poison them.
Kunoichi would hide weapons in their disguise, like poisoned needles in their hair and dirks up their sleeves. They also often would turn a previously harmless item into a weapon. For example, they would learn how to break bones with their wooden shoes, put a hidden blade on their fan, or they would use an umbrella as a momentary shield.
Their favored weapon was the neko-te. Neko-te are iron fingernails that would be fastened to the hand by leather straps. They were usually dipped in poison, and the favorite place to slice were the eyes.

Also, a nice satire on Esalen-type self-realization outfits. The acronym, SKA, is perhaps a nod to Jamaican pre-reggae pop music from the early 60s, like Prince Buster, and the Ska-talites.

"Las Hermanas de Nuestra Senora de los Pepinares"
"The Sisters of Our Lady of the Cucumber Patches"

See also "cucumber brandy" at the end of the paragraph. The possible reasons for the popularity of cucumbers in a non-sanctioned convent should be apparent to all but the most improbably pure-minded.

Page 109

"Can you cook?"
The Head Ninjette's first words to Prairie are not sexist, but a desperate plea made in hope of repairing the sisterhood's food karma, which is badly out of balance. Prairie actually does the job, largely via corny, middle-American preterite classics like spinach casserole and bologna glazed with grape jelly!

Page 111

"Cream of mushroom soup"
Andy Warhol Print (1968)

Universal Binding Ingredient. Great gag, maybe even a true insight (Campbell's cream of mushroom soup being the central, and not-so-secret, ingredient of the ubiquitous, and often despised, "family dish" tuna noodle casserole). All stated in Pynchonian mock-technoese.

UBI is Pynchon's hat-tip to Philip K. Dick, an American science fiction writer and author of the novel UBIK. UBIK is the name of successively different household products, each advertised to solve a different everyday problem and used by the protagonist to stop the deterioration of the universe. Eventually it is revealed that the protagonist is in suspended animation and the products are being sent from the real world to help him. The final chapter takes place in the real world. On the final page a character in the real world discovers a UBIK-style coin from the author (i.e. God). This type of double-twist is typical of Dick.

"memorizing the shadows"
Nice touch. Making use of the shadows is a ninja specialty -- supposedly, simulates invisibility to the rest of the world.

Page 112

"gaga little twits...lookin' for spiritual powers on the cheap. Thinking we'll take 'em through the spiritual car wash, soap away all that road dirt ... everybody hangin' around the Orange Julius next door go 'Wow!'..."
Terrific, angry description/destruction of get-wise-quick spiritual scams.

her watch, a multicolored plastic model
A Swatch, perhaps?

Page 113

"Ohm mah way..."
As a gaffer [film-set electrician], Grampa Hub is given to electrical puns, in this case the unit of resistance.

"casseroles beginning to redline"
A clever application of racing slang (redline = engine about to blow up from revving too fast) to cooking (casserole about to burn).

Page 114


Second of the Pacifica Foundation's listener-sponsored FM radio stations; began broadcasting 1959. At least until the late Seventies, these totally noncommercial stations provided eclectic music, alternatively sourced news, literary readings, and a unique peacenik/hippie ambiance on shoestring budgets with mostly volunteer labor. Patty Hearst's famous tape was delivered to and first aired by KPFA in Berkeley.

From Black Panther / San Francisco State On Strike by sf newsreel

fps = frames per second. Motion picture film is projected at 24 frames per second. The radical filmmaking group seems to be based on a real "revolutionary film collective," sf newsreel -- right down to the lower case letters. It's also a subtle echo of Jean-Luc Godard's famous dictum that "Cinema is truth 24 times a second."

Not sure about "sf newsreel" (all lowercase). There is Newsreel ("Off the Pigs" and other films about the Black Panther Party), founded in 1967 in New York, and it's affiliated collective [California Newsreel, founded in 1968. Newsreel states:
In the 67 the FBI started the Counter-intelligence program to try to destroy African Americans, especially the Black Panther Party and the New Left. We worked with Third World groups. We produced various films that these groups could use to tell their stories and to use in organizing in their own communities and workplaces, hopefully serving as catalysis for social change. [1]
Nope, sf newsreel once existed. Here is a link to get two of their films. Although they're in California Newsreel's collection, notice that the films were produced by sf newsreel. The girl in the photo is Angela Davis.

"peripheral whiteness...of her mother's ghost..."
Lovely writing. The ensuing discussions of computer ghostliness may or may not have a bearing on the "what is a Thanatoid" question. In addition, consider Pynchon's previous connections with whiteness (note for page 37).

Page 115

"...a sound chip playing the hook from the Everly's..."
The computer notices that Prairie is drifting, and plays the riff from the 50s-60s act, the Everly Brothers' "Wake Up Little Susie." Cool! Where can we buy this utility?

Listen to "Wake Up Little Susie" on YouTube.

Computer says, "Why good night yourself..."
This sudden, right-angle turn into whimsy is a rare false note. In a way it's a relief to know that Pynchon, like Lawrence of Arabia [1962] "isn't perfect."

"Back down in the computer library, in storage, quiescent ones and zeros scattered among millions of others, the two women...continued on their way across the low-lit campus, persisting, recoverable..."
This gorgeous bit of writing provides a sensational transition between Prairie's computer research and the continuation of the flashback. It also leads into one of the flashiest sequences in the book (i.e., one with particularly flashy writing) — and continues the binary metaphor initiated two chapters previous.

Pynchon here introduces the idea of time recoverably trapped in a photograph (a major theme in Against the Day). The recovery is first done via Prairie's imagination (echoing her father's imaginings). Then it is continued "in some definable space" via authorial assertion.

"double-cross whites"
amphetamine tabs marked by a cross.

Page 116

"Tetas y Chetas"
Probably something like "tits and ass" in Chicano slang.

"ECO stock"
Ektachrome Commercial, a very slow (32 ASA), very fine grain 16mm film stock that was bread and butter for educational and industrial filmmakers. Experimental filmmakers liked it too; it was easy to derange, producing weird images. No longer available.

"...she could still begin to smell them, the aftershave, the gunmetal in the sun..."
Street-scene and riot are precisely drawn. These details don't come from a Baedecker. One can't help thinking that Pynchon must have been there. This sequence is beautifully written, and highly sensual thanks to Pynchon's employment of a profusion of smells (including, as the capper, on p. 118, the smell of DL's "pussy excitation.")

"the basic stone bowelflash..."
Another example of the anal fear reactions Pynchon seems big on in this work. See also pages 10, 45, 207, 299.

"Che Zed"
DL's Czech CZ motorcycle.

Page 117

"drops of separating ketchup and fat..."
Self-satire? We suspect it might be, as indicated by the concluding em-dash as Pynchon restrains himself and makes a conscious (and public) decision to end his detailed description of the flying drops and continue the narrative. ("Sorry, folks!")

In both the original 1990 first edition hardcover (Little, Brown) and in the 2000 Vintage edition there is no "Sorry, folks!", just [dash]"It's the Revolution, girl - can't you feel it?"

Page 118

"world-class burgers, jukebox solidarity..."

"the Army now or Huntsville later"

Huntsville has been the headquarters of the Texas prison system since the days of the Republic.

Page 120

"so it couldn't've been Kansas anymore."
This reference to The Wizard of Oz (in which Dorothy says, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto,") is especially clever given DL's not-so-distant departure from Leavenworth, Kansas. Pynchon used this currently fashionable phrase in Gravity's Rainbow, as well.

Page 121

"...cutting Moody's orders for Japan..."
This Japanese episode includes a number of gentle take-offs on William Gibson, the cyberpunk novelist who borrowed a lot of his schtick from Pynchon. Gibson often writes about Japanese punks and small-time underworld types.

Page 122

"spheriphagous tulips"
1970's Pachinko Machine

ball-catchers in a pachinko game. Spheriphagous = sphere-eating.

"You eat soba?"
soba = Japanese noodles. Noburu's first words to DL really mean, "Can you handle some Japanese identity?"

"You buyin'?"
DL's reply is impeccably cool.

"Shodan potential"
Shodan = a high degree, or black belt, in the martial arts.

"Inoshiro Sensei"
DL's martial arts teacher. Perhaps a nod to Ishiro Honda (1911-1993), the director of Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, et al.

Jive Japlish (like Faque French) for "ass kicker."

Page 123

In Japanese, Mizu shōbai or the water-trade is a euphemism for the night-time live entertainment industry, often sex-oriented.

"like vacationing on another planet and losing her traveler's checks."
This description of DL's puberty and adolescence is fine writing, and a telling insight.

"the modernized crash course"
Sensei offers DL the cyberpunk version of the full martial arts program — the technique without the spirituality.

Page 124

"on through suppertime, primetime..."
In the authoritarian world ("the truancy squad was now in her face") TV shapes even the rhythms of the day.


"a personalized coffee mug wired permanently to his right index finger"
A precisely captured image of a Navy lifer, retired in place. Pynchon must have seen many of these in his short experience in the service.

Page 126

man in a suit and homburg hat

mobster look
Al Capone in a homburg hat

Yakuza retainer; button man; bodyguard. (Gunsel? This page calls them apprentice gunmen, with a literal meaning of "child status.")

"one more view of Edo."
Sounds like a line from a famous haiku, or the title of a painting. Edo is, of course, the old name for Tokyo. Likely a reference to Japanese printmaker Utagawa Hiroshige's "One Hundred Famous Views of Edo" (1855-1858).

one of the major Yakuza (Japanese organized crime) families.

"Relax! Only testing you!"
Here Inoshiro Sensei becomes a cross between Toshiro Mifune and Mr. Natural.

obligation. Very important in Japanese (and particularly Yakuza) culture; note that Takeshi's musical cards are called "giri-chits."

Page 127

"original purity...subverted...once eternal techniques now only one-shot and disposable..."

"This is for all the rest of us down here with the insects, the ones who don't quite get to make warrior, to get it right...this is our equalizer, our edge...because we have ancestors and descendants too..."

A moving restatement of Pynchon's concern for the preterites, as well as an excellent discourse on the difference between a samurai (the eternal purity of the warrior) and Inoshiro's version of ninjitsu (the one-shot pragmatism of the assassin, martial arts without Zen).

"The Nosepicking of Death"
Funny list of martial moves. Gojira no Chimpira = The Gangster of Godzilla.

"Chimpira" is Yakuza slang for a low-level or wannabe gangster, derived from a word for penis--in effect, "prick'. To fit the "truly unspeakable" description of this ninja move, I suggest the translation "Godzilla Penis."

Page 128

"...better just hand [your body] over to those who are qualified, doctors, and lab technicians and by extension coaches, employers, boys with hardons, so forth..."
Pynchon's attitude towards authority is pretty well spelled out in DL's feminist monologue on schoolrooms.

"She and Prairie were out taking a break..."
Fabulously smooth cross-fade out of flashbacks back to DL and Prairie talking at SKA.

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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