Pynchon Notes

Articles

No. 54-55, Spring-Fall

Site-Specific: Pynchon/Germany-A Multiplicity of Critical Eigenvalues
The self does not undergo modifications, it is itself a modification. --Gilles Deleuze (DR 79) Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. --Wernher von Braun (qtd. in Pynchon, GR 1) This issue of Pynchon Notes collects...
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Atonalism, Nietzsche and Gravity's Rainbow: Pynchon's Use of German Music History and Culture
Henry-Louis de la Grange, a scholar of Gustav Mahler's life and works, tells us that an "early plan of the Fourth Symphony, put together some time before that symphony was composed ... contained a 'Scherzo in D major' entitled 'Die Welt ohne Schwere'...
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Hard Science and the Paranormal in Gravity's Rainbow: Precognition Machines, Cockroaches, and Not That Helmut Schmidt
Among the things that strike first-time readers as strange, unique and most certainly fictitious in Gravity's Rainbow (hereafter GR) are the ways Pynchon links hard science and the paranormal, or what Steven Weisenburger refers to as "[t]he points...
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Relocation/dislocation: Rocketman in Berlin
One of the many attributes which make Pynchon's fiction so fascinating to the scholar, the book-lover and the novice is the enormous variety of subjects it touches and draws on--something for everyone. A life-long practicing astrologer, I sense that...
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Pynchon and Three Contemporary German Novelists
In the 1990s, several literary critics, authors and editors complained that German prose fiction had become too theoretical and experimental. (1) These proponents of what was variously termed new realism, Neue Lesbarkeit (new readability) or new narrativity...
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The Life We All Really Live: German References as Metaphors in Gravity's Rainbow
Why would Pynchon, a North American author whose works are all, arguably, first and foremost about North America, use Western Europe (and Germany in particular) near and just after the end of the Second World War as the setting for a novel? To a considerable...
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Something to Compare It to Then: Rereading Terror in Coincidences between Pynchon's Germany and America's 9/11
"Why is your equation only for angels, Roger? Why can't we do something, down here? Couldn't there be an equation for us too, something to help us find a safer place?" --Thomas Pynchon (GR 54) On September 11, 2001, I was lecturing on "bomb culture"...
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The Transcription of Electronic Music in the Crying of Lot 49
Even if Pynchon refers in The Crying of Lot 49 to electronic music only marginally, one may ask from a musicologist's perspective what motivates the contextualization of this phenomenon. In chapter 3, Oedipa and Metzger visit a bar called The Scope,...
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Pynchon and Electro-Mysticism
The novels of Pynchon are often discussed amongst literary experts as a prime example of so-called postmodernism. If Thomas Pynchon didn't already exist in secrecy, he would simply have to be invented, in order to verify postmodernism, just as Georg...
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Encountering the Other at Home: Representations of Dora in Pynchon and Mirbach
One of the many obscure passages in part 4 of Gravity's Rainbow mentions an unnamed "spokesman for the Counterforce" who confesses "in an interview with the Wall Street Journal" (738) how he "tasted [his] first blood" (739) in a complex tunnel system....
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The Mittelwerke: Site-Para-Site-Non-Site
What is it about the middle that makes it such an unreliable place? Is it that, when standing exactly midway between two points, one can regard the overall distance as both half-traveled and half-untraveled? Apparently, the fuzzy logic of the middle...
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Gravity's Rainbow as Metaphoric Narrative: Film, Fairy Tale and Fantasy in Pynchon's Germany
It may be that universal history is the history of the different intonations given a handful of metaphors. --Jorge Luis Borges, "The Fearful Sphere of Pascal" What, then, is Truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms....
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The Leibniz Connection: Nazi Symbolism, Calculus and Leibnizian Worldmaking in Gravity's Rainbow
Modern history is a conglomeration of dichotomies and dualistic confrontations. When occidental culture moved through the long phase of seemingly static medieval repetitions and cycles, gradually but thoroughly preparing its own Judaeo-Christian background...
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Ilse/lies: Nietzsche And/in Pynchon
Nietzsche and Pynchon have, as has been said recently of Nietzsche and Emerson, an "elective affinity" (Stack). This affinity is especially close on questions of truth and knowledge, and closest in Nietzsche's later philosophy and Pynchon's Gravity's...
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A Weird Death: The Schwarzkommando and the Symbolic Challenge in Gravity's Rainbow
Toward the end of Gravity's Rainbow, in a passage closely related to the "scattering" or transformation of Tyrone Slothrop, we find this strange and rigorous maxim: "'the object of life is to make sure you die a weird death. To make sure that however...
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History, Utopia and Transcendence in the Space-Time of against the Day
I Of all American contemporary writers, Thomas Pynchon has been the most consistently cosmopolitan. Even when his novels seem to be primarily concerned with the United States (or with a mythological "America"), as they evidently are in The Crying...
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A Note on Propitiating Leprechauns in the Crying of Lot 49
For a friend of mine Doorbell rings. Lady opens the door, a milkman stands there. Milkman: Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake baker's man. Good morning, madam, I'm a psychiatrist. Lady: You look like a milkman to me. Milkman: Good. (ticks form on his...
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On an Unpublished Introduction to Gravity's Rainbow
The Fall 1995 catalogue of the publisher Alfred A. Knopf included the following item (at the foot of page 73) in its list of new titles in the Everyman's Library series: Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow. Introduction by Edward Mendelson. ... Fiction...
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Plus Ca Change
The Postmodern Adventure: Science, Technology, and Cultural Studies at the Third Millennium, by Steven Best and Douglas Kellner. New York: Guilford, 2001. 313 pp. $38; pb $19.95. At the most recent fin de siecle a whole host of critical publications...
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Aspects of Mason & Dixon
Triangulating Thomas Pynchon's Eighteenth-Century World: Theory, Structure, and Paranoia in Mason & Dixon, by Manfred Kopp. Essen: Blaue Eule, 2004. 300 pp. 39 EUR. Manfred Kopp's Triangulating Thomas Pynchon's Eighteenth-Century World presents...
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Metahistoricizing Pynchon: A Case for Dr. Smith(?)
Pynchon and History: Metahistorical Rhetoric and Postmodern Narrative Form in the Novels of Thomas Pynchon, by Shawn Smith. New York: Routledge, 2005. 248 pp. $75. Shawn Smith's purpose in Pynchon and History is to show "that Pynchon's approach...
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Pynchon Is Not a Narratologist
Narratologies of Gravity's Rainbow, by Samuli Hagg. Joensuu: U of Joensuu Pub., 2005. 205 pp. 20 Eur. Narratologies of Gravity's Rainbow provides a sophisticated but ultimately unsatisfying confrontation of Pynchon's most interesting novel with...
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The Pleasures of the Text in the Information Age
A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel, by Steven Weisenburger. 2nd ed., rev. and exp. Athens: U of Georgia P, 2006. 412 pp. $59.95; pb $22.95. Before the 1973 publication of Gravity's Rainbow, it was already clear...
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Other Books Received
Alfano, Giancarlo and Mattia Carratello, eds. La Dissoluzione Onesta: Scritti su Thomas Pynchon. Napoli: Cronopio, 2003. 246 pp. 17 EUR. Review by William F. Day forthcoming. Burn, Stephen J. and Peter Dempsey, eds. Intersections: Essays on Richard...
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Notes
The Narrated Gravity's Rainbow The final presentation at the Antwerp conference during International Pynchon Week in June 1998 was The Narrated Gravity's Rainbow--a critical reading/performance of Pynchon's novel by Project Vox Libris. Their reading...
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Bibliography (-2008)
We invite readers to contribute bibliographic information about books, chapters, essays, articles, reviews, interviews, translations, newspaper and magazine stories, dissertations, fragments, oddments, stray comments, conference papers, bibliographies,...
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No. 52-53, Spring-Fall

Pynchon's Alternative Ethics of Writing in V.: The Problem of Authorship in the "Confessions of Fausto Maijstral"
I wondered if the disassembly of the Bad Priest might not go on, and on, into evening. Surely her arms and breasts could be detached; the skin of her legs be peeled away to reveal some intricate understructure of silver openwork. Perhaps the trunk...
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The Crying of Lot 49 and C. S. Peirce's Theory of Self-Organization
The possible relevance of the unusual names Oedipa, Thum and Taxis, and Pierce Inverarity to themes in The Crying of Lot 49 has intrigued Pynchon critics since the novel's publication. Oedipa's name, many agree, points to her role as a solver of riddles,...
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Anarchist Miracles: Distributed Communities, Nodal Subjects and the Crying of Lot 49
Throughout his works, but especially in Gravity's Rainbow and Vineland, Pynchon is concerned with the ability of individuals and groups to resist forces of domination and control. In Gravity's Rainbow, the preterite must struggle against those who...
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Prurient Ethics: Representing Multiple Subjectivity in Gravity's Rainbow
To discuss subjectivity in relation to ethics is difficult because such a focus necessarily invokes ideas of difference, and difference as a theoretical term has many definitions in a variety of critical conversations. On the one hand, poststructuralism--the...
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Remarks on Following Gravity's Rainbow
The comments below are excerpted and slightly revised from an interview conducted by Joanne Drayton and published in Brit Bunkley: Critical Illusions, catalogue for the exhibition Following Gravity's Rainbow, Pelorus Trust Mediagallery, New Zealand...
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The Formation of the Rocket-Nation: Abstract Systems in Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow begins with the sound of a rocket that blasts London near the end of the Second World War, and ends with the scene of a Los Angeles theater on which a rocket is falling in the middle of the Cold War. Rockets do not respect national...
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Bending the Parabola, Breaking the Circle: The Idea of a Cusp in Gravity's Rainbow
Among the images from mathematics appearing throughout Gravity's Rainbow, two particular curves dominate. One, of course, is the titular parabola, which, as Steven Weisenburger points out, symbolizes "disease, dementia, and destruction" (10). The second...
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The Harmless Yank Hobby: Maps, Games, Missiles and Sundry Paranoias in Time out of Joint and Gravity's Rainbow
At this climactic moment, when he could bear the preternatural joy no longer, he threw a small switch. With a deafening bellow, a magnificent billow of orange flame spurted out of the rocket. Every throat in Heldon joined with Feric's in a wordless...
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Rationalizing Community: Victims, Institutions and Analogies for America in Mason & Dixon
"Why haven't we heard a Tale about America?" --Thomas Pynchon (M&D 7) 1: Redeeming Silences "History is hard to know," Hunter S. Thompson laments, "because of all the hired bullshit" (67). Hired history, Thomas Pynchon laments, rationalizes...
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The Anarchist Miracle and Magic in Mason & Dixon
From early in Pynchon's career, the magical and the miraculous have been central themes. In The Crying of Lot 49, Jesus Arrabal defines a miracle as "'another world's intrusion into this one'" (120), a phrase Oedipa Maas echoes when she wonders "[i]f...
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Pynchon's Age of Reason: Mason & Dixon and America's Rise of Rational Discourse
Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable...
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Surprise Birthday Party for Thomas Pynchon
No chief yeoman tried "to urinate in the gas tank of a '54 Packard Patrician" parked outside the bar, but on 8 May, 1975, patrons inside Riordan's waterfront tavern in San Francisco experienced an invasion of unfamiliar characters carrying books by...
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Bibliography (-2005)
We invite readers to contribute bibliographic information about books, chapters, essays, articles, reviews, interviews, translations, newspaper and magazine stories, dissertations, fragments, oddments, stray comments, conference papers, bibliographies,...
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No. 50-51, Spring-Fall

Introduction: Into the Zone 2000
The idea was born in 1998, at the conference "Gravity's Rainbow: The First 25 Years," in Antwerp: to tour the zone, following Slothrop's footsteps and visiting some of the places mentioned in Gravity's Rainbow. It took two years to realize, but in...
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Max Sachsa's Bad Karma in Enzian's Bathtub: A Bus Ride through Gravity's Rainbow's Textscape
Given the narrow employment prospects in present-day German academia, one is always on the lookout for professional alternatives. During the days of our trip "Into the Zone 2000," I wondered whether bus driver could be such an alternative for me, and...
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The Curtain between the Images
The artist Susanne Weirich recently exhibited a poetic machine which promises to prophecy or to herald good fortune: The Fortune-Telling Machine (1995). (1) In my film Prufstand 7 [Test Stand 7], (2) a creature appears that similarly wishes to herald...
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Gravity's Rainbow: "A Historical Novel of a Whole New Sort"
Much depends on the reader. When, shortly before his death, Tony Tanner described Gravity's Rainbow as "a historical novel of a whole new sort," on his mind may have been not only the subject matter but also the interactions between history and fiction...
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From Potsdam to Putzi's: Can Slothrop Get There in Time? and, in Time for What?
Inexplicably, the afternoon has been going on for longer than it should. Daylight has been declining for too many hours. (GR 489) Time is always an issue in narrative literature. The conventional story, composed of character actions within a causal...
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A V and a Naught Spell Infinity
1 One of the most obvious and exhausted aspects of Pynchon's works is surely the significance of the V-words in his first novel. Moreover, critics were quick to comment on the fact that the name of the major symbol in Gravity's Rainbow, the rocket,...
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Unreadable Stares: Imperial Narratives and the Colonial Gaze in Gravity's Rainbow
The colonial situation--that is, the relation, especially the power dynamics, between the colonizer and the colonized--plays an important part in much of Pynchon's writing. In the early short story "Mortality and Mercy in Vienna," an Ojibwa Indian,...
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"Catching the War": Jessica Swanlake's Brief Liberation
"The greatness of war is the greatness of death and danger; it presents overriding circumstances which remove altogether for the time being the motives of selfish people--the immediate prospect of advantage over others. These people realise at once...
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The Decline of the Baedeker Country: The Representation of Geographical and Cultural Identity in Pynchon's Novels
Inger H. Dalsgaard's mindful "investigation of Pynchon's Spenglerian vision" (97) shows how "[i]n both The Decline of the West and Gravity's Rainbow, prospects of deliverance are radically constricted," concluding that "[o]nly the sense that Pynchon's...
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The "Cold Sophie" of Gravity's Rainbow
Part 3 of Gravity's Rainbow begins with a set of references to the Eis-Heiligen, or "ice-saints," so called ironically because their feast days often coincide with the last frost days in a late spring. Unlike standard saints, their interventions for...
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Bibliography (-2004)
We invite readers to contribute bibliographic information about books, chapters, essays, articles, reviews, interviews, translations, newspaper and magazine stories, dissertations, fragments, oddments, stray comments, conference papers, bibliographies,...
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No. 46-49, Spring

N Tropes for Entropy in Pynchon's Early Works
1 When Pynchon republished all but one of his short stories in Slow Learner, he severely criticized most of his early texts. Among the stories which find no grace in the eyes of their author is "Entropy." The reason Pynchon gives for his "bleakness...
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Intertextualism: The Case of Pynchon and Patrick White
But Stan Parker was silent, because he did not have anything to say. He sat ... inside the rain, and waited for his first sight of the great river. Till there it was at last. Ah, they all said ... becoming silent. The great yellow mass, pricked...
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Re-Stenciling Lesbian Fetishism in Pynchon's V
V. is an important text for anyone interested in recent attempts to theorize female fetishism. "V. in Love," the last overtly "Stencilized" of the novel's historical chapters, tells the story of the abortive love affair between a fifteen-year-old dancer,...
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Abusing Surrealism: Pynchon's V. and Breton's Nadja
In his introduction to Slow Learner, Pynchon mentions two aesthetic movements which influenced his own writing: that of the Beats, and Surrealism. While he says the effect of the Beat writers was "exciting, liberating, and strongly positive" (7), he...
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A Proliferation of Bad Shit: Informational Entropy, Politics and the Crying of Lot 49
As things developed, she was to have all manner of revelations. Hardly about Pierce Inverarity, or herself; but about what remained yet had somehow, before this, stayed away. --Thomas Pynchon (CL 20) Many reviewers of The Crying of Lot 49 in...
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The Three Equations in Gravity's Rainbow
Pynchon's references to mathematics and science attracted early notice among the first critics confronting the unsettling complexities of Gravity's Rainbow. Lance Ozier explicated the mathematical concepts underlying the Pointsman/Mexico dualism (AA)...
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The Rebellion of the Coprophages
Pynchon's famously encyclopedic narratives are so heteroglossic that we should be surprised if they did not include a range of eating and drinking motifs. Pynchon's creative and puzzling onomastics illustrate the point: Meatball Mulligan, Slab, Bloody...
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Mason and Dixon: Pynchon's Bickering Heroes
Many of Pynchon's characters are given to bickering. In Vineland, Van Meter engages with the other members of his "commune" in "energetic" and "relentless ... bickering raised to the level of ceremony" (9). Vato and Blood, the "towaway teammates" (177),...
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Other Books Received
Abbas, Niran, ed. Thomas Pynchon: Reading from the Margins. Madison, N J: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2003. 256 pp. $43.50. Review by Douglas Keesey forthcoming. Best, Steven and Douglas Kellner. The Postmodern Adventure: Science, Technology, and...
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Bibliography (-2003)
We invite readers to contribute bibliographic information about books, chapters, essays, articles, reviews, interviews, translations, newspaper and magazine stories, dissertations, fragments, oddments, stray comments, conference papers, bibliographies,...
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A Trove of New Works by Thomas Pynchon? Bomarc Service News Rediscovered
Early in 1960, after having graduated from Cornell and while writing V., Thomas Pynchon moved to Seattle and began working for the Boeing Airplane Company. What Pynchon did while working at Boeing has puzzled scholars almost from the moment of the...
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Notes on Shatsk as a Gogol Figure
In his brief essay "The Origin of Pynchon's Tchitcherine," Steven Weisenburger catalogues many of the extensive similarities between that character and Pavel Chichikov, protagonist of Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls, even arguing that "[p]arts of Gravity's...
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Jokes and Puns in Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity's Rainbow contains so many jokes and puns that a typology might make a helpful doctoral dissertation. Here, only two of the best-known examples will serve as models: "The Disgusting English Candy Drill" (114-20) and "For De Mille, young fur-henchmen...
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Pynchon, Grimm and Swinish Duality: A Note on the Pig Image in Gravity's Rainbow
The pig appears again and again, in many contexts, throughout Gravity's Rainbow. A number of studies have explored the way the pig image functions in the novel, but many of them are flawed by attempts to impose a single reading of the image. Not that...
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No. 44-45, Spring-Fall

A Couple-Three Bonzos: "Introduction," Slow Learner and 1984
In 1984, teachers, critics and other Pynchon enthusiasts, myself included, greeted Little, Brown's publication of Slow Learner with unbridled joy. No longer would we have to scrounge for these hard-to-find stories in back issues of Cornell Writer and...
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Traces of Blood and the Matter of a Paraclete's Coming: The Menstrual Economy of Pynchon's V
Oh man, I want some young blood, Drink it, gargle it, use it for a moufwash. Hey, young blood, what's happening tonight.... --Thomas Pynchon, V. (300) Damn men and their politics. --Thomas Pynchon, V. (90) The 1990 printing of the Perennial...
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Bely and Pynchon: Anatomists of History
Some imaginative grounds for invidious comment there was. The maintenance of secrecy in the matter, the confining of all knowledge of it for a time to the place where the homicide occurred, the quarter-deck cabin; in these particulars lurked some resemblance...
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Subliminal Cues: Psychoanalysis and Entropy in Pynchon's Novels
I In one of Robert Gernhardt's humorous sketches, a man calls on Sigmund Freud to consult him and tells him about a strange dream. In this dream, his id expressed libidinal urges which the superego tried to repress and the ego finally sublimated....
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"Hi! My Name Is Arnold Snarb!": Homosexuality in the Crying of Lot 49
The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) has evoked a wealth of critical attention, but this attention has overlooked its frequent references to male homosexuality. J. Kerry Grant, for example, in his Companion to The Crying of Lot 49, ignores all but a couple...
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Echoes of Narcissus: Classical Mythology and Postmodern Pessimism in the Crying of Lot 49
The Crying of Lot 49 ends on a seemingly hopeful note. Lot 49 may reveal the existence of an energy source beyond the cultural and existential inertia Oedipa Maas has discovered since she left Kinneret for San Narciso to execute her late lover's will....
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The Linking Feature: Degenerative Systems in Pynchon and Spengler
Man has a tropism for order. Keys in one pocket, change in another. Mandolins are tuned G D A E. The physical world has a tropism for disorder, entropy. Man against nature ... the battle of the centuries. Keys yearn to mix with change. Mandolins strive...
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The Vagueness of Difference: You, the Reader and the Dream of Gravity's Rainbow
Is there anything To be serious about beyond this otherness That gets included in the most ordinary Forms of daily activity, changing everything Slightly and profoundly, and tearing the matter Of creation, any creation, not just artistic creation Out...
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Wells and Pynchon, Men of Science
1 H. G. Wells and Thomas Pynchon were both educated in science, (1) but subsequently followed careers in creative writing. However, science, and particularly the impact on society of developments in science and technology, remained a major concern...
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"His Kipling Period": Bakhtinian Reflections on Annotation, Heteroglossia and Terrorism in the Pynchon Trade
Upperclassman: Do you like Kipling? Coed: I don't know, I've never kippled. While not a dismal science, annotation is at best an inexact one--especially when applied to a text as polymathically perverse as Gravity's Rainbow. Like other readers,...
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Response to Carol Schaechterle Loranger
If the Companion's annotation of GR 13:30-31 so "effectively closes off the passage by marking it as monologic character description," then our fellow "inky drudge" wouldn't have annotated the annotation, right? Wrong: because this essay hunts bigger...
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Response to Steven Weisenburger's Response
To be taken to task for a turn of phrase by someone whose work I've long admired leaves me feeling a little bit like the kitten who's lost her mitten and so shall have no pie. I regret that the opening of my essay left Steven Weisenburger facing both...
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History, Refusal and the Strategic-Essentialist Politics of Pynchon's Vineland
After a while her thoughts started falling into place. The injustices she had seen in the streets and fields, so many, too many times gone unanswered--she began to see them more directly, not as world history or anything too theoretical, but as humans,...
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A Bibliography of Pynchon Scholarship in Japan
The following bibliography covers mostly the previous decade or so of publications concerning Thomas Pynchon by scholars in Japan. The earliest publication listed is from 1983; * one or two are from 1985-1986, and several are from 1987. Since 1987,...
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Bibliography (-2000)
We invite readers to contribute bibliographic information about books, chapters, essays, articles, reviews, interviews, translations, newspaper and magazine stories, dissertations, fragments, oddments, stray comments, conference papers, bibliographies,...
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