Vineland 141-191

August 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

p. 141 Prairie asks about her mother,

“How could she’ve ever gone near somebody like this Brock guy?”

“I never could figure it either, kid. He was everything we were supposed to be against.”

I think this is one of the central questions of the novel. Leaving aside the possibility that maybe Vond isn’t so different to them, or that their own ideological stance is not as defined or principled as they might think ( an idea raised by the phrase ‘supposed to be against’), the reasons for Frenesi’s defection are never made explicit. Though the powerful-man-in-uniform hypothesis gets floated, another possibility is that after her experiences with the guerilla film crew, she could notĀ  doubt the eventual outcome of the struggle between the forces of authority, and those who wanted an alternative. This need not be anything so crude as simply wanting to be on the winning side. If she stopped believing in the counter-culture’s ability to provide a viable alternative (a means of escape if you will), then perhaps she thought there was only one other option, to join the ranks of the self-designated elect.

For DL, Frenesi’s betrayal is enough to make her doubt reality itself.

She’d wonder if this was all supposed to be some penance, to sit, caught inside the image of the one she’d loved, been betrayed by just sit… Was it a koan she was meant to consider in depth, or was she finally lost in a great edge-to-edge delusion, having only read about Frenesi Gates once in some dentist’s waiting room or standing in line at the checkout, whereupon something had just snappped and she’d gone on to make up the whole thing?

There’s a sense that this abstract possibility might almost be preferable.

p. 155 Sister Rochelle criticises DL for her lack of focus

“All we see’s somebody running because if she stops running she’ll fall, and nothing beyond.”

To some extent, DL is almost the mirror of Frenesi. Though she dreams (p. 133-134) of escaping into a universe where she can lead a normal, Clark Kent existence, it is Frenesi who stops running, in a sense, gives up on trying to escape, and by stopping, enters a version of suburban normality, with a husband and child. In the end it is, in some ways, as much a fiction, and as fragile, as any other attempt at escape.

p. 166 Sister Rochelle’s version of the Creation story.

This is important, so listen up. It takes place in the Garden of Eden. Back then, long ago, there were no men at all. Paradise was female. Eve and her sister, Lilith, were alone in the Garden. A character named Adam was put into the story later, to help make men look more legitimate, but in fact the first man was not Adam- it was the Serpent.

Morality and notions of good and evil are then described as just another ‘confidence game’. Apart from the notion that these are just ways of controlling people, this may also be a reference to the fact that in Calvinism it is crucial to feel confident that one is part of the elect- anything less is a sign of insufficient faith.

p. 170 ‘Thanatoid’ means ‘like death, only different.’ Thanatoids have few possessions, and live in communities, and ‘watch a lot of Tube.’ Thanatoids are said to have learned

to limit themselves, as they already did in other areas, only to emotions helpful in setting right whatever was keeping them from advancing futher into the condition of death. Among these the most common by far was resentment, constrained as they were by history and by rules of imbalance and restoration to feel little else beyond their needs for revenge.

p.172 DL and Takeshi get in on the ‘karmic adjustment’ business. The list of Thanatoid complaints is enough to make them a synedoche of the entire nation.

They heard of land titles and water rights, goon squads, and vigilantes, landlords, lawyers and developers always described in images of thick fluids in flexible containers.

p.173

They were victims, he explained, of karmic imbalances- unanswered blows, unredeemed suffering, escapes by the guilty

When they look out the window, there is a parallel to Zoyd watching himself on TV on page 14.

Although the streets were irregular and steeply pitched, the entryways and setbacks and forking corners, all angles ordinarily hidden, in fact, were somehow clearly visible from up here at this one window.

p. 174 The suggestion that everyone bears some level of responsibility for the ills of the present.

“And by fixing each beef, that’ll bring back the lost limbs, erase the scars, get people’s dick to working again, that it?”

“No, and we don’t restore youth, either! Why- you don’t have enough else- to feel guilty about?”

Even karmic adjustment, and the healing of resentments, the bestowing of forgiveness, is a form of commodity exchange.

Everything had moved as slowly as the cycles of birth and death, but this proved to be too slow for enough people to begin, eventually, to provide a market niche. There arose a system of deferment, of borrowing against karmic futures. Death, in Modern Karmic Adjustment, got removed from the process.

p.180 A wonderful sentence about the sins of the past.

with the past as well, and the crimes behind the world, the thousand bloody arroyos in the hinterlands of time that stretched somberly inland from the honky tonk coast of Now.

p. 186-187 has the myth of the woge

p.191 Prairie has a TV-influenced fantasy, wishing they could be

only some family in a family car, with no problems that couldn’t be solved in half an hour of wisecracks and commercials, on their way to a fun weekend at some beach.

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