Illustrated Additions and Corrections to Steven Weisenburgers
A Gravitys Rainbow Companion
Part 2: Un Perm' au casino Hermann Goering
V182.04 Im some kind of a Van Johnson
Johnsons film was titled Thirty Seconds over Tokyo (not "Minutes"), but there are more likely references at work, given the context of Bloat and Tantivy comparing British love life to Slothrop's. In at least two 1944 films, Between Two Women and Two Girls and a Sailor, Johnson had to cope with multiple romances.
V185.22 prewar Comets and Hamptons
The Hampton sailboat had nothing to do with New Hampshire, as Weisenburger suggests; it was created for the Hampton Yacht Club in Hampton, Virginia. The Hampton is also known as the HOD ("Hampton One-Design") and was created by Vincent "Pappy" Serio in 1934. This may be the origin of the name of Pynchon's character "Pappy Hod," the sailor who first appeared in V. and is referred to later in Gravity's Rainbow (V715 and V748), although Pynchon uses the name for other connotations. See Weisenburger's note at V715.02.
V192.15-16 humming "You Can Do a Lot of Things at the Seaside That You Cant
Do in Town"
This pre-World War I British music hall tune was composed by Mark Sheridan. It appears as the "B" side of his recording of the early WWI song "Belgium Put the Kibosh on the Kaiser."
V201.5 Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence did not command regular troops in the Mediterranean Theatre, as described by Weisenburger, but led Arab partisan operations against the Turks during the war. The subalterns snide remarks to Slothrop echo the scene in David Lean's 1962 Lawrence of Arabia when Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) first appears at British headquarters in Cairo wearing Arab clothing.
It is no wonder that Weisenburger cannot find a Bois de Boulogne in Monaco: The reference is actually to a turn-of-the-century music hall tune, "The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo," by Fred Gilbert. The persona of the song is a man who has recently returned to Paris after a streak of luck at the tables. The chorus:
As I walk along the Bois de Boulogne
With an independent air,
You can hear the girls declare,
"There goes a millionaire!"
You can hear them sigh and wish to die,
You can see them wink the other eye
At the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.
The song crops up in several films, notably in Orson Welles The Magnificent
Ambersons (1942). The songs meter is also echoed in the "Vulgar Song"
at V213.20-30 and the song at V244.13-16. The song was made very popular by
performer Charles Coborn, who was still making appearances at music halls until his death
in 1945. Audio clips of Coborn performing are available at: http://www.rfwilmut.clara.net/musichll/musich.html.
V206.37 A Plasticman comic
Plastic Mans history is a bit different than that given by Weisenburger. The hero first appeared in Police Comics in January 1941. He had his own title starting in 1943 under the Quality Comics label, which ended in 1956. The character was picked up and revived by National Periodicals ("DC" Comics) in 1966, but the new magazine lasted only for ten issues. Since then, some of the original Plastic Man stories have been reprinted from time to time, and the character has appeared in other DC publications. Plastic Mans costume was mainly red, but also contained yellow and black. His name should be two words, not one as in GR.
*V213.21 The Queen of Transylvan-ia
Transylvania is, of course, the mountainous region of Romania that is legendary home to Dracula.
V214.04-05 Lady of Spain
The song, composed in 1931 by Tolchard Evans, Stanley Demerell and Bob Hargreaves, has become a cliché of accordion music.
V220.31 Schutzmann Joche
The constables last name, with an umlaut, would approximate another expression of disgust ("yuck-ey").
V222.37 the bridge music
A cinematic reference; the kind of musical accompaniment in which familiar tunes echoed the theme of particular scenes (especially during montage sequences spanning periods of time) was a common feature of classic Hollywood films (for example, the scores of Max Steiner). In this context, the music is background to a montage of scenes of Slothrop and Katje working together.
*V225.32 a single clarinet
The instrument, with its evocation of "clowns and circuses," suggests Kurt Weill's score for Brecht's Three-Penny Opera but also Nino Rotas scores for several Fellini films, notably 8 ½ (1963No wonder Slothrop "lacks the European reflexes" to it!)
V232.16 a Malacca cane
Although Weisenburger cites Fu Manchu stories as a source for this item, it is more clearly being used simply to inflict pain in the ritual between Katje and the Brigadier. Malacca canes are thick, with a knob at one end. They are sometimes used in sado-masochistic settings such as the one here.
V239.18-19 demonsyes, including Maxwells
Pynchon introduced Maxwells Demon in The Crying of Lot 49, where John Nefastis shows a supposedly working version of this theoretical entity to Oedipa. See the discussion of the Demon and the problem of entropy at:
V240.41 like Cary Grant
Though he was a naturalized American, Grants accent was hardly "quasi-British," as Weisenburger describes it. He was born Archibald Leach in Bristol, England in 1904.
The term, used to describe Parisian thugs, was coined in 1902 by journalist Victor Morris. The word is also used in reference to the famous "Apache dance," where an Apache flings his woman about the floor.
*V246.35 Blodgett Waxwing
Waxwings last name may come from Pale Fire by Pynchons Cornell teacher Vladimir Nabokov. The novel takes the form of a long poem with annotations by a mad scholar. The poem begins, "I was the shadow of the waxwing slain/ By the false azure in the windowpane." Blodgett is the "real" last name of the heroine in all three versions of the film A Star Is Born. The waxwing is also of interest because of its striking appearance: Its black "mask" is appropriate for someone in Blodgett's line of work.
V247.06 Bob Steele
Steeles westerns were produced by Nalline Slothrops pal, Joseph Kennedy, Sr.
From the Greek for "Lover of God."
*V248.40-41 a business card, embossed with a chess knight
On the television show Have Gun Will Travel, which debuted in 1957, the gunslinger-for-hire Paladin (Richard Boone) gave out business cards embossed with a chess knight.
V252.14 last Tuesdays London Times
Pynchon may have substituted Meet Me in St. Louis for Under the Clock for a couple of reasons. Under the Clock would be unfamiliar to American readers, since the original American title was simply The Clock. Second, Meet Me in St. Louis has the same star and director (Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli) but is much better known. Considering what Slothrop is up to with the popcorn box, there is also the question of who is going to meet what in St. Louis.
V253.17 a flopping Sydney Greenstreet Panama hat
Greenstreet in Casablanca wears a fez, but he does wears such a Panama hat in other films, such as Between Two Worlds, in which he plays an agent who judges the final destination of souls who have been passengers on a ship escorting them from life to the afterlife. Also, in Casablanca, Greenstreets character is not a merchant (although he engages in black market activities, like Waxwing and von Goll) but runs a café that is a rival to Rick Blaines.
V254.38 Borsalini, cork-soled comic book shoes
The Borsalino hat is often associated with gangsters. A 1970 French semi-comic gangster film, directed by Jacques Deray and costarring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon, was titled Borsalino. The shoes mentioned are similar to those worn by Walt Disney characters, such as Mickey Mouse and Goofy, also by characters in 1960s "underground" comics, especially those by Robert Crumb.
V257.35 Hotel Nimbus
One of the many references to shadows, nimbuses, eclipses, and so forth occurring throughout the book and reaching their climax in the passage "Listening to the Toilet," V694-697.
*V261.41-262.01 a black Rolls-Royce
The kind of car driven by Maria Casares as Death in Jean Cocteaus Orpheus (1949).
V263.44 with Peron on his way
Weisenburger intimates that Squalidozzis remark is anachronistic because Peron was under arrest at the time (April 1945). In fact, though, Peron was rising rapidly to power when he was arrested on October 9. When the descamisados and other Peron supporters were rallied by his wife-to-be Eva ("Evita") Duarte, he was released eight days later on October 17 and went on to become the dictatorial president of the country.
*V264.36-37 Saturday-afternoon western movies dedicated to Property
Many of the "B" westerns shown at Saturday matinees were set during the range wars. These conflicts between the farmers who were fencing in their land and the ranchers who wanted to drive their herds through were usually resolved in favor of the former.
V266.07 Spencer Tracy
The allusion is not to Tracy himself, who never went to Africa for Stanley and Livingstone (although a number of exterior shots were taken on location), but to his character, the explorer, journalist and imperialist Henry Stanley. (Stanleys own biography is cleaned up considerably for this film.) The point is that Slothrops only knowledge of Africa is through the movies.
*V266.38 Café LEclipse
See note above at V257.35.
*V267.29 Hey Reinhardt
A professor I knew who had graduated from Harvard claimed that this was a cry used by Harvard students, similar to the carnival cry "Hey Rube." The "d" in the name is Pynchons addition. Web correspondent Stanley Chin notes the following jazz connection with this cry:
"This is also the explanation given in liner notes I've read to the Count Basie tune "Harvard Blues," to explain a particularly cryptic line (the lyrics are not so transparent elsewhere, either) that goes something like "Reinhart, Reinhart, I'm a natural guy" See e.g. I Like Jazz: The Essence of Count Basie (Columbia Legacy 47918), or the Chronological Count Basie and his orchestra 1941 (Qualiton Classics 652), where the vocals are by Jimmy Rushing."
Harvards motto is Veritas (Truth). Vanitas (Vanity), which plays on that word, also serves as the motto of the venerable humor magazine the Harvard Lampoon, which conducted initiation rituals similar to the one suggested here.
V268.18-19 sprigs of hemlock in their hats
The reason for the reference to hemlock is simple. Hemlock forests were once abundant in the Berkshires, but were drastically reduced to meet the needs of the regions paper mills. This element too was suggested by The Berkshire Hills.
*V270.16 Floyd Perdoo
From the French "perdue": "lost."
V272.19 young Sigmund Freud
Refers to Freuds rejection of the "seduction theory." Freud originally believed that many of his women patients suffered from neurotic behavior due to sexual abuse as children. He came to reject that belief as improbable and began to hypothesize the workings of the unconscious as a result. See Edwin Treacles musings at V277.03-05.
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