women and Slothrop

I notice that Slothrop's constant sexual encounters make me take him less seriously as a character. This is not just because it makes him, as my friends and I like to say, a "man whore".

Slothrop's relationship to Katje was set up as "special". That is, he seemed to really care about her and Pynchon spent more time talking about them. Slothrop even talks about missing her. Yet he goes on to have sex with anything (female and human) that moves. So this means he has a complete disconnect between sex and emotional attachment, or he really doesn't care that much. I think it's amusing that, for someone so paranoid, he doesn't really hesitate to have sex...well, I guess since it seems meaningless to him in the long run, it does make sense.

I find it curious that Greta (I think I'm reading ahead, so ignore this if we haven't read it) seems to be in the same sort of role that had been Katje's (in relation to Slothrop). That is, Greta seems like she might be there for a while, like Katje. Greta's desire for BDSM also makes me think about one sexual encounter between Slothrop and Katje, when he sort of forced himself on her and called her "cunt" etc.

I know a lot of people will probably disagree with me on this, but I continue to find the sex excessive in this book. I think I feel that way because so much of the sex is rather meaningless to the characters. It might be there just because Pynchon wanted to push the line or something...but I find that just silly.

I'm not sure if "silly" is the word I would use to describe the sexual relationships in this novel... if anything, some of the descriptions could be called "graphic", "intense" or "explicit", but I'm not even sure Slothrop's relationship with Katje is the best example of that. They may not be a cute Roger/Jessica pair, but at least Slothrop's not consuming Katje's excrement (poor Pudding).

Yes, Slothrop sleeps with many, maaany women. He's sexual. He's horny. He's human. But it's interesting to note that his mind continually returns to Katje, even after they were apart. That, and I don't have my book with me, but my mind is returning to the moment when Slothrop discovered Katje was some sort of spy. When it seemed he was going to be angry (or even violent) with her, they ended up having very passionate sex. I might not be rooting for them as a couple (No "Shucks, those crazy kids, I hope they make it!" sentiment here), but the way Katje affects men is an interesting dynamic to focus on in itself.

I think with the exception of Katje though, silly (or comical which is what I was thinking when I was reading) would be fair in describing a lot of the sex scenes. I feel that most, even though they are very graphic, are not particularly erotic. I point to his time with Geli. In addition to being a total tool for the information she is potentially offering him, he is also constantly thinking of absurd ways in which he will be screwed over by the arrival of Tchitcherine. "Tchitcherine lands in a parachute and fells Slothrop with one judo chop. Tchitcherine drives a Stalin tank right into the room, and blasts Slothrop with a 76 mm shell." (298) Furthermore, the image of him struggling to put on his clothes as he tries to dash out the door really paints him as a bumbling idiot worthy of the title "silly man." And lets not forget how he gets ATTACKED by an owl while having sex because Geli conditioned it to. Short of a man in socks with no pants, I don't think sex can get much funnier than a bird attacking someone while they are at it. I know I laughed.

When there are points of excess in the novel, it's an over-the-top kind of parodic way - case in point the scene with Geli mentioned above. I think moments like this say less about senseless gratuitousness or Pynchon trying "push limits," than about what we bring to the text as readers. So much of the book is caricatural, why should we expect sexual relationships to be any different? And yet we do: we want to make sense of the sex/romance according to traditional categories like "functional" or "serious." But these aren't, nor have they ever been, Pynchon's categories. Texts take whatever form the reader gives them (especially in the case of Pynchon); instead of relegating all the unpalatability to an autonomous text (e.g. "I don't like the relationships in this book"), maybe it would be more fruitful to think about where we are coming from as readers that inspire such readings.

I'm not sure readers are defining what Pynchon writes. I'm not sure one can blame readers for the book being not so accessible. Especially in that our class is not the "average" person, as we have been blessed with education and some ability. I think it's understandable that cirtics declared "unreadable" and that it is infamous for being simply hard to read. Now...I wonder if people would feel differently if it were shorter, or less difficult to comphrehend. I think I would still declare the sex scenes excessive.

The reader is not responsible to like a text. They are responsible to give it a fair chance. Frankly, Pynchon doesn't seem to care whether or not we like the book. That's good. But I think it's fair to find something excessive, especially when it's not just "Oh, they are too explicit", but rather, "they are keeping me from connecting to the book" or "they seem to detract from what I gleam to be the message of the book."

There is value in knowing that I come to the book with a different perspective than other people...thus what I find useless another person finds useful. But I believe it is completely rational, and useful, to say "this doesn't work for me". This does not imply that Pynchion *should* write something that works for me. But I *should* not swallow recurring negative reactions to the written word....after all, art is art. You put it out there, and people can react however they want.

It's also possible that Pynchon, writing an encyclopedic novel that is supposed to encompass all of the culture of a society, was using all the gratuitous sex scenes and other 'icky' topics (like the crawling down the toilet episode) to highlight something about the world. Maybe the question we should be asking is what he was trying to prove with it all: that we are too open about sex? or that we are too prude when it comes to reading about it? Pynchon put too much time and research into other aspects of this book to include such large amounts of sex if he didn't mean something by it.