Gravity's Rainbow, 100-150pp., Matt's Take

This is the part of the novel where I stalled out last time — or, rather, just a bit farther. At this point, I was reading, enjoying the combinations of the words and sentences, but not really comphrending anything. This time, I’m doing much better — I believe that since this project is helping me pace myself (and also requiring me to make a deeper attempt at actual comphrension, since basically these would be even less interesting if they were just “PRETTY WORDS HAPPENED AND THEN THERE WAS SOME WEIRD STUFF”), I’m making more headway, and of course, getting more enjoyment from the novel.

There’re, of course, lots of books about Gravity’s Rainbow that could help out. I’m not reading any of them — just Wikipedia’s list o’ episodes to help keep things straight in my mind. There’re spoilers there, but not much — most episodes get a sentence or two, and that’s it, glossing over great swaths of stuff, since each bit is insanely dense. I know Ben’s got one of those volumes himself, but I don’t know if he’s going to use it for this project. (He also has the book volume of Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbowalt, which, albeit awesome, I don’t think would be much help.) If anything, my secondary cheatsheet would be his posts, whenever he starts.

So, anyway, book. BOOK.

This bit starts with the second half of the Katje introduction, where she’s on her way to The White Visitation to be involved in experiments — and the use of the secret film being taken of her in the first part of this episode is revealed, mainly to show to Gregori the octopus. Why, exactly, will be revealed later, but at least Gregori is becoming more important, rather than an offering to Pointsman. And I am ALWAYS for more octopuses in books.

Anyway, though, after that we get back to Slothrop coming out of his hallucination from the toilet, ending in the bits with Crutchfield and Whappo (his “little pard”/sexual partner). I’ve been struggling with whether or not Crutchfield has a corresponding character in the real narrative — his sexual appetites make me wonder if it might be Blicero, but while Crutchfield is vaguely sinister, he’s not really full-on like Blicero. I suppose he could be some sort of representation of the sexual stimulus the V-2 provides — the weird sexual stimulus that forces him to find a mate a few days before rockets go off. And speaking of said mating ritual, he’s discovered (or, rather, re-discovered) Darlene, a nurse at St. Veronica’s Hospital, a few blocks off from The White Visitation. This is one of my favorite bits so far as well, just because the thrust of it is on how awful English candy is. Oddly enough, the English candy I’ve had isn’t bad at all, although I’ve never had any of the sweets that he’s eating — which do sound absolutely dreadful. The marmalade-mayonnaisey one in particular.

I’m curious — do candies like these exist? I mean, I know that he’s exaggerating with the claim of mayo filling in one, but… well, other than that, are these real? Admittedly, too — I don’t know if they’re real anymore, given the candies are from WWII and around then (and the narrator of the novel even mentions that post-war, some if not all are nigh-impossible to find if one were deranged enough to want to), but still. One has to wonder if it’s an English Taste thing or what exactly the allure of these candies would be.

I do realize that so far, this is a relatively surface reading, all candy and octopuses, but first things first, and besides candy and octopuses are some of my favorite things. But that doesn’t mention the questionable timeline of the explosion; at the end of this section, it sounds almost as if the rocket has come while Slothrop is still with Darlene, causing him to become aroused again and have a tremendous orgasm — yet later, we find out that the explosion was 2 days afterward and Slothrop’s already on his way to France. Did he spend two days with Darlene and the “two days” mark was from his first mating with her — but if that’s the case, how would everyone else find out if he couldn’t leave to mark his map? Or was this merely in his head due to being sexually tied to the moment Beyond The Zero?

The next section is rather bittersweet — Roger and Jessica go into a church near Christmastime, and it’s just a collection of vignettes that tend to flow, between affairs and Christmas and the Jamacian fellow in the choir and the images his voice conjures up almost to a literal extent, and while that’s vivid, perhaps the best part is the explanation of wartime toys. It’s a quiet, real piece on how the people who aren’t in the military side of the war (but, being in London, still targets) deal with the violence around them. The longing for the season’s newest toy and the revelation that it’s merely made of recycled Spam tins — sometimes to be joined with other toys that are not even recycled Spam tins but old, in-tact ones imagined to be tanks or trucks, with the children not particularly minding as they know — even then, where sometimes children being in their own world, that things are tough. It’s a very sad, touching, but above all, human moment that’s quite beautiful.

Then there’s Pointsman’s dream — a lovely piece written in the second person until he wakes up with the news that Kevin Spectro’s been killed in the rocket blast nearby to the White Visitation (as predicted/predestined by Slothrop’s latest tryst). We get a pretty good look at Pointsman’s psyche as well. In a way, it seems that Pointsman is set up, at least to some degree, as the Allied Blicero. Both are morally, ahem, questionable, and both have death-fantasies based in myth; Blicero’s Hansel & Gretel story to Pointsman’s Minotaur. The difference between them — and this could be a function of knowing which side of the war their on and the, by this point, seemingly inevitable, outcome, being late 1944 — is while Blicero’s is inevitable and unavoidable, Pointsman’s ready to put up a fight; a fight he may lose, but a fight none-the-less. And while Blicero’s waiting for the person to push him in the oven, Pointsman’s fearing the person who may stand in his way between facing the Minotaur. Is this the difference between Blicero and Pointsman’s psychological makeups, or just their subconscious knowledge of the eventual outcome — that Pointsman’s got a chance, while Blicero’s downfall is basically inevitable — or, rather, more immediately so, as we’ll all die.

And what’s Gregori doing now? We need an octopus update.