Vineland 268-322

p.268 Though Brock has been painted fairly blackly thus far, the opening of this section immediately humanises him, and makes him seem far less powerful (and this reminds me of David Letzler‘s  talk on the subject of ’round’ characters in Gravity’s Rainbow at IPW 2010).

When had Brock ever posessed her? There might have been about a minute and a half, just after the events at College of the Surf, the death of Weed Atman, and the fall of PR3, though he was no longer sure.

There is also an explanation for why some become college snitches, which again draws on the idea of an escape back to childhood, or at least adolescence.

Another selling point for hiring on would turn out to be this casual granting of the wish implied in the classical postcollegiate Dream of Autumn Return, to one more semester, one more course credit required, another chance to be back in school again… the FBI could even put you on the time machine if that’s what you wanted.

There is then a further explanation for Frenesi (and many others) defection:

Brock Vond’s genius was to have seen in the activities of the sixties left not threats to order but unacknowledged desires for it. While the Tube was proclaiming youth revolution against parents of all kinds and most viewers were accepting this story, Brock saw the deep- if he’d allowed himself to feel it, the sometimes touching -need only to stay children forever, safe inside some extended national Family.

This last phrase about the ‘national Family’ puts a different, if logical slant, on the idea of a return to childhood- that there will need to be parents, or guardians to watch over the kids. If we accept that this is filtered through Vond, then it is slightly at odds with Vond’s disparaging remarks about parenthood on p. 300. All of it, however, may be secondary to his pursuit of Frenesi, which again humanises Vond further.

p. 271 ‘Feel like we been in aMovie of the Week!’ says Roscoe, Brock Vond’s partner, in yet another example of TV being used as a frame of reference to define reality.

p. 283 ‘Childhood’, in Vineland, is not a stable metaphor, signalling, on the one hand, innocence, but at other times, naivete.

Stunned by the great Childward surge, critical abilities lapsed.

p. 285 Not just a paragraph about moments of transcendence, but one with a shift in person.

And these acid adventures, they came in those days and they went, some we gave away and forgot, others sad to say turned out to be fugitive or false- but with luck one or two would get saved to go back to at certain later moments in life.

Though the book does have a narratorial voice, whose sympathies appear to be with Zoyd and his ilk, this ‘we’ is the closest the novel comes to the personal.

p. 287 Frenesi’s Fall from ‘Angel’ status.

Taken down, she understood, from all the silver and light she’d known and been, brought back to the world like silver recalled grain by grain from Invisible to form images of what then went on to grow old, go away, get broken or contaminated. She had been priviledged live outside of Time, to enter and leave at will, looting and manipulating, weightless, invisible. Now Time had claimed her again, put her under house arrest, taken her passport away. Only an animal with a full set of pain receptors after all.

As well as its celestial aspects, the talk of ‘silver recalled grain by grain’ suggests the photographic process.

p. 289 “Taking ‘free’ as far as you can usually leads to ‘dead'” Frenesi’s dad tells her.

p. 290 Pynchon possibly overdoing the child comparisons, with Hub’s face ‘suddenly a kid’s again’, and then, in the next sentence, him and Sasha are said to have started off such ‘happy-go-lucky-kids.

p.293 Long, claustrophobic sentence that uses the metaphor of Frenesi playing an arcade game whose joystick (ahem) is represented by Brock Vond’s penis which she uses to

steer amongst the hazards and obstacles, the swooping monsters and alien projectiles of each game she would come, year by year to stand before… playing for nothing but the score itself, the row of numbers, a chance of entering her initials among those of other strangers for a brief time, no longer the time the world observed but game time, underground time, time that could take her nowhere outside its own tight and falsely deathless perimeter.

‘Falsely deathless’ is a brutal reminder of what lies at the end of a mediated life, whether through TV or within games. It cannot be avoided. And however long she plays, all she can achieve is a meaningless score.

p. 300 Vond presents normality as the escape, not the counter culture. It is thus convention that is the aberration, according to this.

A woman, say, trying to be an average, invisible tract-house mom, anchoring herself to the planet with some innocent hubby, then a baby, to keep from flying away back to who she really is, her responsibilities, hm?

p. 306 What fantasies, and nostalgia are for, perhaps.

Where’d he ever have been without fantasies like that to help bridge him across the bad moments when they came?

p. 314 Zoyd and Mucho reminisce about how acid let them understand they ‘were never going to die’. Mucho then says,

They just let us forget. Give us too much to process, fill up every minute, keep us distracted, it’s what the Tube is for. And though it kills me to say it, it’s what rock and roll is becoming- just another way to claim our attention, so that beautiful certainty we had starts to fade, and after a while they have us convinced all over again that we really are going to die.

Though the idea of the TV being a method of control sounds like something we might want to ascribe to Pynchon, not least because TV is usually portrayed in his novels in a negative fashion (e.g. a TV box is mistaken for heroin in Inherent Vice), the fact that Mucho, who argues this, also believes that the proper use of acid will prevent death, tends to undermine this view. As Brian McHale argues (in Constructing Postmodernism) rather than Vineland being a ‘jeremiad’ against the corrupting influence of TV, it is more an exploration of how it saturates our lives, our vocabulary, and most importantly, acts a mirror to the ontological plurality (the multiple, competing forms of reality) of the postmodern world. 

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