Gravity’s Rainbow, 150-200pp., Matt’s Take

Gravity's Rainbow
Gravity’s Rainbow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And with this one, we go into what is, for me, brand new territory. The Leni Pökler flashback (more on that in a bit) is about where I lost the plot (pardon the pun) and ended up putting it down and reading something else to rest my brain a bit. And by the time I picked it back up, it was better to just start again from the beginning. So, I did! Hooray!

I think for me, sometimes I have the biggest part wrapping my head around the Psi Section bits — I’m pretty much Not Into That in real life, and while I know that a) This isn’t real and b) It’s a comment on how the Nazis DID use (or, rather “use”) Psi Section-type stuff, I think there’s still a little bit in my brain that rebels on it and doesn’t quite want to process it all the way. I believe I’m getting better on that, but I still need to smack myself around a little when it comes to that, at least as it pertains to Gravity’s Rainbow.

But this first part to this section does include some really interesting bits that I like, mainly Gavin Trefoil, who is able to change his skin tone by thought — from an albino pale to a dark, African look — which was very useful in the previous bit when they were making the false German rocket-testing film with most of the White Visitation’s people going around in blackface. See, since Gavin can make himself change skin tone, he was particularly useful…. as a variable light reflector.

This same episode also has the aside/dialogue between neurons illustrating Spectro’s theory that the cerebral cortex is the membrane that goes between the inside and outside world. It’s an amusing bit of theater and metaphor that also blends into the Outside as the cortex itself can, as by the end, it’s hard to tell if it’s all happening in this imaginary play, or if it’s actually Ronald Cherrycoke and Nora Dodson-Truck as the younger and elder operatives… Pynchon is a master of seamlessly changing perspectives, and even if you’re paying very strong attention, it typically means you’ve gotta go back and re-read a page or two to make sure you’re on the right track.

Next up is the introduction of Leni Pökler and the introduction of the phrase “AN ARMY OF LOVERS CAN BE BEATEN” (yes, it’s where the band took their name). Her husband-in-name-only, Franz, hasn’t really been introduced much yet (or, at least, I don’t think he has — if you haven’t noticed, there’re a LOT of characters…), but he’s gone off to work on the V-2, while Leni is left alone and has joined the resistance, though, it seems for her it’s less about being a part of The Resistance, and more about resisting her husband; Leni seems, perhaps not the most anti-semetic person, but not exactly trustful of Jews. She’s also having an affair with Peter Sachsa, one of the Psi Section folks referred to as Carroll Eventyr’s “control”. I admit, I’m not quite sure what that means, really — I’m thinking “control” as in an experimental control, although Sachsa also does readings and psychic sittings and whatnot as well, so I’m a little hazy on this part. But anyway, though — it’s not just an affair for Leni, but also a rejection of Western Science that Franz loves/represents for Mysticism, which Sachsa loves/represents. Both men are similar and seemingly treat Leni at a distance and keep her at arm’s length, but they just are from different sides of the fence, sort of like Roger Mexico versus folks like Edwin Treacle in the immediately previous episode — except I don’t think Jessica Swanlake is particularly in the middle of such a thing — I rather gather that she’s, while marginally interested, doesn’t seem to have an opinion much either way.

To close the first book, the final two episodes are on the Christmas holiday. Pointsman gets his present, mainly sending Slothrop off to France for study and further manipulation in hopes of using him in the war effort, and, in the last episode, the Hansel and Gretel theme recurs again. This time, as a play Roger and Jessica see — though, as with Blicero, rockets aren’t far off — as a rocket lands near the theater. And, like with Blicero’s games of gender confusion, Hansel, in the production, is a tall girl in a cage, much like Katje’s occasional standing in for Gottfried, and the Witch is near the oven, waiting to be pushed in…

And then Book 2 starts, Un Perm’ au Casino Hermann Goering, or “A Furlough at the Hermann Goering Casino”, according to Wikipedia. I sure don’t know French, so I’m going to have to take their word for it, but it makes sense as a translation. Given the use of French, you can probably tell that this is going to follow Slothrop’s French Vacation, along side Teddy Bloat (from the first sections of the first book) and Tantivy Mucker-Maffick, Slothrop’s officemate who stares at the Sexual Conquest/Rocket Landing map (without realizing the second bit of that). And, as I wished for, we get an octopus update. It turns out that Grigory’s film habits have come into play — mainly, Katje appears on the beach, being attacked by him, and it’s up to Slothrop to save her with a convenient crab “found” by Bloat.

Having done his job, Grigory goes back to his cage off-shore with Dr. Porkyevitch, who fears for his future now that he’s outlived his usefulness to Pointsman… he’s a Russian exile, who isn’t sure if he’ll keep that status for long, or rather, if Pointsman will let him. But we might find out more about that later — I don’t know, if we do, I haven’t hit that part yet. But basically Slothrop’s indisposed currently, having fun with Katje, and as much as I love octopuses, they don’t exactly sell books. (Except for books about octopuses, like photo books on marine life and that sort of thing.)

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