The Lion Demands Absolutes


The section where Pokler talks about the lion really reminded me of the whole thing with Pointsman, zeros and ones, and this idea that the world is black and white. Pynchon writes, "'...A lion in each of you. He is either tamed-by too much mathematics, by details of design, by corporate procedures-or he stays wild, an eternal predator. The lion does not know subtleties and half-solutions. He does not accept sharing as a basis for anything! He takes, he holds! He is not a Bolshevik or a Jew. You will never hear relativity from the lion. He wants the absolute. Life and death. Win and lose. not truces or arrangements, but the joy of the leap, the roar, the blood.'"(587)

Lor d of the Flies, Pigs, and Zits

When I read the section where Slothrop dresses up like a pig, I immediately thought of Golding's Lord of the Flies. I don't know if Pynchon meant to allude to that book, but it's just something that I happened to take notice of. Slothrop, I felt, represented that little fat kid, Piggy, from Lord of the Flies. The children "prod his stomach," declare him the "fattest man in the world," and ultimately ask him to wear a pig costume (578). I was half expecting them to hunt him down and stick his head on a pole or something!

This section also made me wonder, "Why a PIG?" I don't have a companion, so I don't know if this is already something that is explained, but it just struck me as odd that Pynchon would go pig-crazy. The talking female pig that grows more and more attractive in Slothrop's eyes was entertaining in a weird beastiality kind of way...

The Internet is no help

Overall, the companion is really helpful in reading Gravity's Rainbow. The basic plot points are there if you get a little lost, which is nice. But there are definitely parts of this book where I am looking at the plot and wondering "Why?" or "How did that happen?", and most of the time, I can't find the answers to those questions in the companion. The answers may be in the book itself somewhere, but flipping back through 600 pages to search for a possible explanation of probably trivial actions doesn't really work too well, I've discovered.

So I tried the old Internet approach, looking the book up on Sparknotes and Pinkmonkey, hoping to get some basic things about a couple of episodes that are beyond me solved. Neither site has this book. They have everything from the Odyssey to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but not this. The only internet summaries I could find that went by episode were all from one source, and simply consisted of quotes from the book...which wasn't helping me in the first place.

This little piggie went to the market....

A continuation to Kodiak Sasha's post:

There's an important bit about the pigs on page 564-5 that I'm not really exactly sure what to make of in light of Slothrop taking up the pig suit.

Man in the Western World abides by the rules of the system, but in the colonies where he is free from the system, he may follow his natural impulses alone. "Christian Europe was death" (322) in the same way that the text constantly reminds us that the system fueling the war and its aftermath depends on death. To lose sight of death and indulge life in the colonies is to free oneself from that system.

Parallels between Greta/Bianca, Leni/Ilse

I noticed in class that the handout talked about the parallels between Ilse and Bianca. I thought this was very interesting because I actually had difficulty telling the two different stories apart at first. For a while, I thought that Greta was Leni under a different name, and if you think it about it, that notion was not too far-fetched at the time! Besides the obvious, (that the women have young, overly mature and promiscuious daughters who have very inappropriate, intimate sex with older men with strange fantasies), there are many parallels drawn between Greta and Leni (or their daughters) in this book. Also, Greta was essentially a porn star and Leni has transformed into the prostitute "Solange". There is also that weird conception coincedence as Slothrop muses, "Ilse, fathered on Greta's silver and passive image, Bianca, conceived during the filming of the very scene that was in his thoughts as Pokler pumped in the fatal charge of sperm-- how could they not be the same child" (586)? This is an important question. Why are there these coincedences? Why were they fathered with the same image in mind? Why are they both young, sexually-charged female characters with clear father complexes? Why are the sex scenes with both of these characters so powerful to both partners? In the past, Slothrop has inseminated and then moved on. After his brief moment of passion with Bianca, he cannot get her from his mind for the rest of the reading!! Pokler, though clearly overwrought dealing with paranoia and his issues of being a parent, seems to be strangely fulfilled after his sex with his daughter. Why does Pynchon make these girls so oddly similar and so terribly captivating?

"Which victory? which war?"

I'm going to try out my close reading skills (that I'm not particularly confident about) here with a passage that particularly stuck me in the last section we read:

"Perfume, smoke, alcohol, and sweat glide though the house in turbulences too gentle to feel or see. It's a floating celebration no one's thought to adjourn: a victory party so permanent, so easy at gathering newcomer and old regular to itself, that who can say for sure which victory? which war?"(613).

It's interesting that of the four things that Pynchon mentions at the beginning of this excerpt, perfume and smoke are what I think of as vaporous. I suppose that perfume can be a liquid before sprayed, but in a party setting, I'd consider it a vapor drifting off a woman. Alcohol and sweat are, in "natural" form I suppose, liquids, although both can take on vaporous qualities. All of these things that are gliding through the house are thus mutable. But none of them can be felt or seen-- thus can they be smelled?

Oink Oink

The lengthy descriptions of Slothrop in the pig costume and later Osbie Feel's tattoo (page 651) reminded me of the discussion we had about animals and colonialism on Jan. 31st in class, where Herreros, then the Europeans are animals...

I went back and looked at the text on page 322 to see which animals are referenced, if any. It reads:

"...Oh, no. Colonies are much, much more. Colonies are the outhouses of the European soul, where a fellow can let his pants down and relax, enjoy the smell of his own shit. Where can he fall on his slender prey roaring as loud as he feels like, and guzzle her blood with open joy. Eh? Where he can just WALLOW AND RUT and let himself go in a softness..." (caps mine).

back to the one-zero idea

I know the idea of ones and zeros has been talked about before in both class and in the blog, though the only instance I can think of off the top of my head is regarding Roger Mexico being the in-between to Poinstman's ones and zeros. On page 410 the idea comes up again, this time relating to personal peace. "We live lives that are waveforms constantly changing with time, now positive, now negative. Only at moments of great serenity is it possible to find the pure, the informationless state of signal zero." There are several very interesting things about this quote, one of which is the continuation of the one-zero theme. Also, I find it really strange that he would say that serenity=informationless, like ignorance is bliss. It's also funny because Pynchon goes on to say "Closest to zero among them all, perhaps, was the African Enzian"...I'm not entirely sure what the significance is of Enzian being "at peace" but I feel like there must be something.

class notes

I've totally fallen down on the note-posting job of late, but, at long last, here they are. I'm posting as attachments to this entry the notes that I've taken in class up through today. Please let me know if you have questions or issues...

A reply to a reply turned into a blog

I agree (with surgiomcsurgexc) that sometimes Pynchon seems to be criticizing American's through Slothrop. Similarly, I wondered what Pynchon was trying to say about the Japanese. A couple pages after the quote you cited, there is also one about a Japanese man: "He does notice that the only person not connected...seemed to be the Jap liaison man, who's been sitting alone, one deck up, watching. Not masturbating or anything, just watching, watching the river, the night...well, they're pretty inscrutable, you know, those Japs." (475)

I thought it was interesting that this Japanese man was not included in the mass audience arousal, especially when I thought about it in relation to WWII and Japan's history of violence, rape, and brutality during the war. The Japanese invasion of China was accompanied by atrocious acts against the Chinese people. Men were tortured and killed, but women were tortured, raped, mutilated beyond recognition, and then either left to suffer alive (humiliated, with their honor ripped away) or killed, as well. In my history seminar last semester, we discussed the Japanese culture/society and how it was very rigid and structured, which may be one of the reasons why so many Japanese soldiers, when exposed to the war environment, became so ruthless and insensitive. This, I feel, not only relates to how war affects people (which someone else has already mentioned in their blog about the children), but also why this "Jap liaison man" may be so unaffected by the hyper-crazy-group-sex scene. (Keep in mind, I think it relates, but I don't really know how or to what extent.)

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