Monday, February 28, 2005


It's been too long since I've done one of these. At one point I started to write a major post, but realized that my thoughts weren't settled or coherent enough. So instead I'll just point to things I've come across that struck me as interesting.

One more metaphor that I can't resist quoting: "the suspended storm of a green treetop" (p. 440, Bantam edition).

On the other hand, I don't understand the paragraph on p. 584 about the "Bicycle Rider in the Sky" at all. What is Pynchon thinking here? The Rider is mentioned again on p. 594, but the second mention doesn't make things any clearer.

My abandoned major post would have been about the way that the second half of the book seems to be "deconstructing" the first half. (Yes, I know that technically this is a misuse of the word; but I can't think of a better word to express what "deconstruction" has loosely come to mean.) One manifestation of this is that paranoia, which had earlier been presented as a way to the truth, is increasingly presented as untrue. There's an early example of this on p. 410, with Tchitcherine's belief "in his moments of sickest personal grandeur" that the only purpose of Rapallo (a treaty of friendship signed between Germany and Russia in the 1920s) was to enable him to discover Enzian's existence. A more extended example of this is Enzian's paranoid vision on pp. 606-8. Of course, my assertion that these instances of paranoia are untrue (within the book) is a matter of judgment. I think so, both because Tchitcherine's and Enzian's beliefs here are just too far-fetched, even given what we've seen in the rest of the book, and because they don't cohere with what's been presented as true elsewhere in the book. Another instance of this "deconstruction" is the way Enzian's thoughts, on pp. 611-2, parody the idea of interpreting a "text." Interpretation has been central, both to Slothrop's quest in the first half of the book, and to our reading of GR itself.

On p. 614 von Goll predicts home movies. One thing that the ongoing "deconstruction" doesn't change is Pynchon's antipathy towards films, which is clear both in the scenes with von Goll and in those with Greta Erdman. But I can't say I understand this; I keep thinking "what makes films so bad, anyway?"

On pp. 618-9 we have the nightmarish scene where Slothrop is forced to confront Bianca's dead body. This scene is reminiscent of Pokler's discovery of what really went on in Dora. But unlike Pokler, Slothrop doesn't come to any realization of his own responsibility: another step in Pynchon's campaign to demonstrate Slothrop's moral unworthiness.

Almost immediately, we get another poem, not song: a sonnet, yet. Unlike the previous poem, which was written by Pointsman, there's no indication which of the book's characters, if any, wrote this poem, or by whom it is being spoken. More importantly, who is it about? The allusion is to Tannhauser, whom Slothrop was compared to earlier; and the final couplet--

No song, no lust, no memory, no guilt:
No pentacle, no cups, no holy Fool. . . . [ellipsis Pynchon's]

--seems to allude to Slothrop's loss of "temporal bandwidth." (593) But on the other hand, unlike the poem's speaker, Slothrop did leave a "sick Lisaura's fate behind"; nor does he share the speaker's masochism. This latter trait may be borrowed from Brigadier Pudding, whose death is reported in the next paragraph. Considered as poetry, I don't know how well the sonnet holds up as a whole, but there are some nice lines: the final couplet quoted above, and lines 7-8. But line 12 puzzles me: "Here, underneath my last and splintering wind". Wind is clearly an important symbol for Pynchon. In the first glimpse of the "other side" we see, the spirit at the seance talks about "the wind" (34), and the mysterious superhero Sundial came from "across the wind." (550) But, as with much in this portion of the book, I don't understand its significance.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?