Vineland 218-267

p. 218 Further criticism of TV’s effects on our sense of time, space and mortality. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is said to inform us that the ‘soul newly in transition’

finds no difference between the weirdness of life and the weirdness of death, an enhancing factor in Takeshi’s opinion being television, which with its history of picking away at the topic with doctor shows, war shows, cop shows, murder shows, had trivialized the big D itself. If mediated lives, he figured, why not mediated deaths?

p. 220 Zoyd describes Holytail, the ‘last refuge for pot growers in North California’ as ‘a community living on borrowed time’.While a reference to the precariousness of their situation, there is also the suggestion of a debt being called in.

p. 223 A paragraph that links childhood in with the ability to find transcendence, thus tying up the metaphors of childhood, naievete, innocence, and escapism that have appeared thus far.

In Van Meter’s tiny house behind the Cucumber Lounge, the kids, perhaps under the influence of the house parrot, Luis, figured out a way to meet, lucidly dreaming, in the same part of the great southern forest. Or so they told Van Meter. They tried to teach him how to do it, but he never got further than the edge of the jungle- if that’s what it was. How cynical would a man have to be not to trust these glowing souls, just in from flying all night at canopy level, all shiny-eyed, open, happy to share it with him? Van Meter had been searching all his life for transcendent chances exactly like this one the kids took for granted, but whenever he got close it was like can’t shit, can’t get a hard on, the more he worried the less likely it was to happen.

Even from the second sentence Van Meter is distrustful (‘Or so they told…), despite the fact that he ‘had been searching all his life for transcendent chances’. As for the question of ‘how cynical would a man have to be not to trust these glowing souls?’, the fact that he is, that we are, despite all we might hope for  in the way of release, or escape, could lead us to the idea that the greatest Fall we suffer is from childhood, and that this is what most of us, whether hippies or not, are searching for, but cannot accept even when we find it, or something that at least resembles it.

p. 226 May possibly mirror the cut to an advertising break.

Because Thanatoids relate in a different way to time, there was no compression towards the ends of sentences, which meant they always ended by surprise.

p. 229-230  Rex’s approach to resistance aims for a denial of all forms of pleasure, to transcend all appetites, whose culmination is death.

Rex himself saw the revolution as a kind of progressive abstinence… As the enemies attention grew more concentrated, you gave up your privacy, freedom of movement, access to money, with the looming promise finally of jail and the final forms of abstinence from any life at all free of pain.

p. 232 Rex offers a recapitulation of Weber’s ideas in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.

“You’re up against the True Faith here, some heavy dudes, talking crusades, retribution, closed ideological minds passing on the Christian Capitalist Faith intact, mentor to protege, generation to generation, living inside their power, convinced they’re immune to all the history the rest of us have to suffer.

But Pynchon usually undermines most forms of duality- so the fact that they are supposedly evil, is no guarantee of ‘us being good.

“They are bad, bad’s they come, but that still doesn’t make us good, not 100%, Weed.”

p. 236 TV described as a drug, or at least a form of sustenance.

Embarassed, he reached for the Tube, popped it on, fastened himself to the screen and began to feed.

p. 236 Frenesi describes make believe as ‘her dangerous vice’, one of the few moments where a character shows some insight.


Beginning the night she and Rex had publicly hung the snitch jacket on Weed, Frenesi understood that she had taken at least one irreversible step to the side of her life, and that now, as if on some unfamiliar drug, she was walking all around next to herself, haunting herself, attending a movie of it all.

Here Frenesi is trying to distance herself from her own life, with its betrayals, by pretending it is a movie, and thus not real.

If the step was irreversible, then she ought to be all right now, safe in a world-next-to-the-world that not many would know how to get to, where she could kick back and watch the unfolding drama.

On the one hand, this seems problematic- that there isn’t this safe place where she can avoid the consequences of her actions (in her case, betrayal and accessory to murder). But within there is also the possibility of redemption- that the step is not irreversible, that one can go back, at least in memory, and seek some measure of atonement. And arguably this is something Frenesi achieves by the end of the novel.

p. 239 Suggestion that everyone is complicit to some degree with the ills of the system, the abuse of power, the erosion of liberty.

No one, Frenesi was finding out, no matter how honorable their lives so far, could be considered safely above it, wherever “above” was supposed to be.

p. 248 Brock Vond, when talking about the disappearance of many protestors, makes a joke about murder being a form of transcendence.

Taken one by one, after all, given the drop out data and the migratory preferences of the time, each case could be accounted for without appealing to anything more sinister than a desire for safety. At his news conference Brock Vond referred to it humorously as “rapture”.

He goes on to say that they have ‘gone underground’, that they have sought ‘rapture below’.

p. 252-253 DL’s sense of karma while doing the ‘bookkeeping on this caper’.

If the motive itself was tainted, then the acts, no matter how beautifully or successfully executed, were false, untrue to her calling, to herself, and someday there would be a payback.

p.256 Frenesi’s Dream of the Gentle Flood. In this a California beach town is partially, gently submerged, in such a manner that no one dies, and life can regroup on the higher slopes. She dreams of hearing a song about

divers, who would come, not now but soon, and descend into the Flood and bring back up for us “whatever has been taken”, the voice promised, “whatever has been lost….”

Yet another fantasy that dolphins, aliens or some other entity will come and ‘save’ us. Here there is also a temporal displacement, in that the Flood is arguably what she is actually wishing for, but within this future state, there is also her present desire of wanting ‘whatever has been taken’. Perhaps also worth noting the difference between ‘taken’ and ‘lost’ (why else virtually repeat the phrase?). ‘Taken’ makes her sound more like a victim; ‘lost’ allows for her playing a more active role, and perhaps comes closer to the truth.

p. 258 More talk of bookkeeping.

Those framable pieces of the time, which had demanded, when the bookkeeping was done, damn near everything.

p. 259 Repetition of question on p. 29. Frenesi asks DL

So what difference did we make? Who’d we save? The minute the guns came out, all that art-of-the-cinema handjob was over.

But given the context in which she asks this (having just betrayed Weed) her motivations for being skeptical of the achievements of their guerilla film unit are perhaps doubtful. But denigrating it she also lessens the import of her betrayal.

p. 260-261 Repetition of the idea of Frenesi as an angel who has fallen

She waited, guttering with a small meek defiance, standing at the window and trembling, moonlight from a high angle pouring over her naked back, casting on it shadows of her shoulder blades, like healed stumps of wings ritually amputated long ago, for some transgression of the Angel’s Code.

But the fact that the moonlight is coming ‘from a high angle’ should make us, as reader’s (or in a sense, eavesdroppers), wary of the romanticising power of such depictions.

And all this is taking place as oral narration, Prairie hearing it from DL, so when the phone rings, and DL stops talking,

Prairie, reentering non movie space, felt like the basketball after a Lakers game- alive, resilient, still pressurized with spirit yet with a distinct memory of having been, for a few hours, expertly bounced.

Because what a movie, or a novel does, is move you around between different places and times, often without your knowledge. All art being manipulation, the only question to what end.

p. 264 Mention of place of detention that were ‘not fun or sitcom prison camps’- as with death, such places are now trivialised.

Too long in the library #5

A fairly disapproving comment on postmodernism (from Arthur Kroker’s essay in The Postmodern Scene: Excremental Culture and Hyper-Aesthetics New York, St Martin’s Press, 1986).

We don’t have to wonder; we know just for the “fun of it.” We write just for the fun of it, just as we think, make love, parody and praise… we are having a nice day, maybe a thousand nice days. The postmodern scene is a panic site, just for the fun of it. And beneath the forgetting, there is only the scribbling of another [Georges] Bataille, another vomitting of flavourless blood, another heterogenity of excess to mark the upturned orb of the pineal eye. The solar anus is parodic of postmodernism, but again, just for the fun of it.

I was pretty much with him, until the ‘flavourless blood’. I think it is not entirely irrelevant to mention that Kroker was also one of the editors of the volume in which this appeared.

I was hoping Kroker had coined the term ‘solar anus’ but Bataille beat him to it. Here, in closing, is the sun itself.

Vineland 192-217

p.192 Description of a movie-lot converted to housing.

Space devoted to make-believe had, it was thought, been reclaimed by the serious activities of the World of Reality.

Lest we miss the capitals of ‘World of Reality’, and the slight irony of ‘serious activities’, this idea is further undercut by the tentativeness of ‘it was thought’. We are thus invited to think that rather than there being a shift from ‘make-believe’ to ‘Reality’, all that is happening instead is the substitution of one form of fantasy for another. It seems to me that this could be read in (at least) two ways, the first being that there is no reality, only constructions, which in a way is liberating, as it means there is no ‘Reality’ to escape from. The second is a more critical view of our endless attempts at delusion.

p. 194 Television schedules are used as a point of temporal orientation.

It was just before prime-time

Again, as with the cinematic vocabulary, and Zoyd’s shift in perspective in memory, Pynchon is suggesting that our ways of perceiving time and space, or at least how we talk about them (which isn’t automatically the same thing) have been heavily influenced by TV.

p. 195 24fps idealism (and naivete) regarding the power of the image to reveal the ‘truth’.

They particularly believed in the ability of close ups to reveal and devastate. When power corrupts, it keeps a log of its progress, written into that most sensitive memory device, the human face. Who could withstand the light? What viewer could believe in the war, the system, the countless lies about American freedom, looking into the mug shots of the bought and sold? Hearing the synchronized voices repeat the same formulas, evasive, affectless, cut off from whatever they had once been by promises of what they would never get to collect on?

Though meant as a series of rhetorical questions, they do, however, invite skeptical answers. Because there’s no indication that TV or film has made viewers less trusting, less willing to believe ‘the countless lies’. The end of the passage’s reference to ‘what they would never get to collect on’ is interesting, as there may be something hopeful in this idea that there is something beyond the reach of the ‘they’ of the passage. However, it is equally possible that this is just further wishful thinking.

p.202 Frenesi’s love of the TV.

Did she really believe that as long as she had it inside her Tubeshaped frame, soaking up liberated halogen rays, nothing out there could harm her?

Obviously not, judging by the fact she goes over to Brock Vond.

p. 207 Rex’s view of the Vietnamese revolutionaries:

These men and women, few of whose names he would ever know, had become for him a romantic lost tribe with a failed cause, likely to remain unfound in earthly form but perhaps available the way Jesus was to those who “found” him- like a prophetic voice, like a rescue mission from elsewhere which had briefly entered real history, promising to change it, raising specific hopes that might then get written down, become programs, generate earthly sequences of cause and effect. If such an abstraction could have found residence in this mortal world, then- of the essence to Rex- one might again.

This idea of an external, mythic agency that offers deliverance (‘like a rescue mission’) will return in Inherent Vice, in the form of Lemuria (see previous entries). It also appears in The Crying of Lot 49, on p. 85.

Catching a TWA flight to Miami was an uncoordinated boy who planned to slip at night into aquariums and open negotiations with the dolphins, who would succeed man.

p. 216 Some explanation for why Frenesi changes sides, allegedly in despair at the direction she sees things going. If there’s no escape, one can at least survive.

She understood as clearly as she could allow herself to what Brock wanted her to do, understood at last, dismally, that she might even do it- not for him, unhappy fucker, but because she had lost too much control, time was rushing all around her, these were rapids, and as far ahead as she could see it looked like Brock’s stretch of the river, another stage, like sex, children, surgery, further into adulthood perilous and real, into the secret that life is soldiering, that soldiering includes death, that those soldiered for, not yet and often never in on the secret, are always, at every age, children.

The idea that those we struggle, or ‘soldier’ for, are children, can be taken literally, but also, given the earlier comparisons of hippies to children, it can also be taken as referring to anyone in a state of innocence (or from another point of view, ignorance). As for the talk of them being children ‘always, at every age’, this supports the second reading- a state of perpetual childishness (which we can envy or disparage). ‘Every age’ also has a suggestion of this being true in different historical periods.

However, there is also way to read this. I think one of the traps in Pynchon is confusing authorial voice with that of the character. This is, after all, being filtered through Frenesi, for whom the idea that her betrayal is in some sense to benefit not just others, but the ‘innocent’ is probably a fairly appealing notion, in that it at least partially justifies (and thus redeems) her actions. Whilst she might think it a ‘secret’ that ‘life is soldiering’, if so, it is one that is extremely poorly kept.

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