Tuesday, September 24, 2002

He links John F. Kennedy and Malcolm X at one point in Gravity’s Rainbow, “Eventually Jack and Malcolm both got murdered” (688). In another section of Rainbow he creates for us a realm of assassins, a resort, a resting place where they can reduce the terrible stress they live with daily. The characters in this place treat each other kindly, participating in exercises to rid themselves of the guilt, the shame, the self-loathing, the sense of personal responsibility that comes with their professional calling. To sugarcoat the brutality Pynchon uses humor. The resort of assassins is actually a quite funny scene, filled with applications to everyday bureaucratic life, the observations of a Thurberesque voyager in Dante’s Inferno. Pynchon writes:

“The worst part’s the shame,” Sir Stephen tells him. “Getting through that. Then your next step–well, I talk like an old hand, but that’s really only as far as I’ve come, up through the shame. At the moment I’m involved with the ‘Nature of Freedom’ drill you know, wondering if any action of mine is truly my own, or if I always do only what They want me to do [. . . ]’ (541)
“Have I been assigned here?”
“Yes. Are you beginning to see why?”
“‘I’m afraid I am.’ With everything else, these are, after all, people who kill each other […] ‘then I defected for nothing, didn’t I? I mean, if I haven’t really defected at all . . .’ (542)
“[…] No one has ever left the Firm alive, no one in history–and no one ever will.”
“Think of it as a handicap, Prentice, like any other, like missing a limb or having malaria . . . one can still live . . . one learns to get round it, it becomes part of the day– […]
“You don’t, you really don’t trust me?”
“Of course not […] Would you–really–trust any of us?” (543)

Under the black humor, under the parody of manners, Pynchon is evoking a genuine dread that there have been times in history, and the present seems to be one, when cadres of coordinated assassins act in the everyday scheme of things.

...from a must-read article on Pynchon, Pynchon’s Inferno, by Charles Hollander.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

"Perhaps being an ex-delegate from the Committee of Idiopathic Archetypes, and a sucker for that pushing 30 line [463], my first thought was a Virgo from 1915. As if wanting to make matters too easy for me, I immediately noticed in the ephemeris an incredibly suitable chart for September 4, 1915, 6:51 a.m. EST: The Fool, Rocketman, Schwarzvater, avuncular Pig, the Hanged Man upside down etc.; they were all present in this chart. But no, it had to be discarded – too early to be an Infant in 1920 or a Harvard boy in 1939. Nice try, Tom – with that pushing 30 I mean . . . but it is a common colloquialism in the US to say “pushing” after passing the age of 25 (or 35, 45, 55 etc.).

"The second conclusion, September 8, 1919, 7:17 a.m. EWT, was even more difficult to discard – took me over two weeks to shred it. Oh, was it ever a remarkable chart: a bizarre Rocketman syndrome along the royalty/anarchy axis with willing women everywhere, in its overview the unusual sea-saw figure (the main astrological binary figure), Schwarzvater somewhat weakened but Übervater Laszlo Jamf looming hauntingly behind the scenes, drugs/jazz/movies/nature as a keynote, yet still the useless Hanged Man, Fool Tarot. In this chart Venus was also in the Twelfth House, retrograde in Virgo, a position which occurs only every eighth year, fully explaining his amorous ambiguities and inner search for grace!

"What finally caused me to put this chart aside were two major statements in Gravity’s Rainbow – the Roseland Ballroom scene in 1939, where, unless illegally, Slothrop could not have been vomiting beer in the Men’s Room as the drinking age in the US is 21, and in August 1945 those past Slothrops, ten thousand of them. Translated into time, ten thousand Slothrops equals 27 years, 4 months and 16 days! Counting backwards from August 1945, “say averaging one a day,” this would place his birthday around the Spring Equinox of 1918!! However, from his father’s statement [699], we are told Tyrone is a double Virgo and from the narrative that Wernher von Braun and Dr. Livingstone were born around this point – each on their own side of the Equinox, as a matter of fact. So I found myself caught up in just another one of those conjectural chronological confusions so typical in the works of Thomas Pynchon, and this intriguingly fascinating chart ended up in the wastepaper basket.

"After months of trail and error, comparing charts to dates, going through the process of elimination, and seriously hoping to avoid “the-mediocrity-in-the-lives-of-his-chroniclers‘” prophecy of Slothrop’s infamous Tarot [738], I have come to a professional astrological conclusion that Tyrone Slothrop was born on Saturday (the day of Destiny ), August 31, 1918, 7:15 a.m. EWT in Mingeborough, Berkshire County, MA., USA.

The Nativity of Tyrone Slothrop , horoscope chart by fellow pynchonoid, Douglas Kløvedal Lannark. (Thanks to Otto Sell for bringing this to the attention of Pynchon-L and making it available on the Web.)