Voyeurism and Complicity

I echo what appears to be general sentiment: the first 150 pages were slow going, at times exasperating, but also rewarding in a gestalt sort of way. I, too, was reminded of Catch 22 –Pynchon's versatility really comes through during moments of wry comic relief, which provided welcome opportunities to catch my breath from the stylistically- and content-heavy prose (my favorite little pocket of humor was definitely the scene where Slothrop is being force-fed "unspeakably awful" candy).

I was intrigued by the prevalence of the second-person voice; it seemed to implicate the reader somehow in the events of the story's universe, prohibiting the kind of safe retrospective complacency with which one could easily read Gravity's Rainbow. Pynchon periodically asks questions like "Is the baby smiling, or is it just gas? Which do you want it to be?" which give the distinct impression of the author directly interrogating the reader (133). Moments like this force cathexis, problematizing the possibility of remaining detached from, say, Roger Mexico's bemusement about the limitations of statistics/rationalism for understanding the world. Did anyone else get this sense from the second-person structure? The theme of voyeurism also seemed to contribute to the overall sense of reader's complicity. After the description of Slothrop and Darlene's sexual encounter (right after the candy scene), Pynchon off-handedly asks, "And who's that, through the crack in the orange shade, breathing carefully? Watching?" (122). This question – regardless of whether it was intended to refer to a peeping tom inside the story or not – wakes us from our voyeuristic lull, offering a jarring reminder that by reading we are, in fact, watching without being watched; and, furthermore, that this occupation applies not only to sex scenes but across the board. In other words, reading is always voyeurism. But Pynchon clearly wants us to read; I understand him as simply hoping to inspire a little critical self-consciousness about the seer-seen imbalance between reader and novel, and for us to not let the (necessarily) voyeuristic mode of engagement with the text cloud our compulsion to engage actively with the difficult questions it evokes. It reminded me, in this sense, of the David Lynch film Blue Velvet, which plays with the notion of voyeurism in similar, self-consciousness-inducing sort of way.

Sometimes it's a bit too voyeuristic for comfort. The article we read talked about the discomfort, but the book can make the reader feel downright awkward.

I also thought that the candy bit was really funny. The descriptions were very violent...it was as if the candy was as bad as the bombs. :-)

Yes, I was particularly fascinated by the idea of relating candy to war, and filling the confections with things like gin. Candy is such a traditionally child-like, innocent and sweet indulgence, and to turn the consumption of candy into a "drill" seems very absurd. It made me think of a later passage in that I found in one of the rather disjointed stream-of-consciousness chapters: "The children are always dreaming, but the Empire has no place for dreams and it's Adults Only"(135).