Illustrated Additions and Corrections to Steven Weisenburgers
A Gravitys Rainbow Companion
Part 4: The Counterforce
(Episode 4:1)V622.30-31 that dreamy Dick Powell song
V625.10 gnaedige Frau:
Correspondent Igor Zabel adds: the literal meaning of the usual polite form of address of a lady of a high rank ("merciful" or "benevolent Madam") has got a new value here.
V626.02 Chapter 81 work
This obscure reference comes (again) from The Berkshire Hills. As the authors note: " . . . the one occupation which survives all depressions in the small Berkshire villages is road work. Regardless of bad financial conditions, citizens sidetrack other appropriations to continue voting to raise and appropriate the sum of --- dollars for Chapter 81 highways . . . " (TBH 214). "Chapter 81 work is for road improvement, during which a scraper removes sod and dirt from ditches and shoulders, followed by workers who clean out the ditches and replace culverts and drains" (TBH 216).
*V637.10 the Statue of Liberty
Site of the final chase scene in Alfred Hitchcocks Saboteur (1942).
V637.37-38 Dick Whittington
According to popular legend, Whittington was one of the preterite who made good, a penniless boy who was about to leave London when he heard the citys bells calling, "Turn back, Dick Whittington, Lord Mayor of London!"
*V640.30 Eddie Pensiero
The name is actually an old pun, taken from "La Donna e Mobile," the most famous aria in Verdis Rigoletto. The main verse reads:
La donna e mobile
Quai piuma al vento,
E di pensiero. [emphasis added]
Woman is fickle
As a feather in the wind,
She changes her tune
And her thoughts.
*V642.05-06 Its really a train of imperceptible light and dark.
The glow of the light bulb only appears to be steady, like the flow of light broken by the shutter in a movie projector.
V645.12 Buddy at the last minute decided to go see Dracula
See note at V591.18.
Correspondent Igor Zabel comments: "I believe that Prof. Weisenburger's explanation is correct; the form of the name, however, probably refers also to Wagner's Ring where Fafner is an important figure and actually appears in two of the four operas, in the Rhinegold (as a giant) and in Siegfried (transformed into a dragon). I think that the Ring (together with other Wagner's operas) is an important reference for the whole book."
*V670.38 a Dragon Lady pageboy with bangs
Refers to the hairstyle of the Oriental arch-villainess of the comic strip Terry and the Pirates, created by Milton Caniff and continued by George Wunder, although as originally drawn by Caniff, she did not have bangs.
*V674.10 a City of the Future
Evokes, again, the opening images of Langs Metropolis. See V482.25.
Another of Nallines transliterations: "Jose," for Joseph.
V684.31-32 William Bendix
An appropriate supporting role for Bendix would be his part in Hitchcocks Lifeboat (1944), in which he plays a lindy-hopping sailor whose leg has to be amputated.
V685.21-22 "My Prelude to a Kiss," "Tenement Symphony"
The former song (actually titled just "Prelude to a Kiss") is a 1945 composition by Duke Ellington with Irving Gordon and Irving Mills; the latter was composed by Hal Borne, with words by Sid Kullen and Roy Golden, and sung by Tony Martin in the 1941 Marx Brothers movie The Big Store.
*V685.26 sexcrime fantasy
The term "sexcrime" was invented as a Newspeak word by George Orwell in 1984. It refers to sex used for pleasure instead of simple procreation, an offense in the totalitarian state of the book.
*V685.28 MY DOPERS CADENZA
The New World Dictionary defines "cadenza" as "an elaborate, often improvised musical passage by played by an unaccompanied instrument in a concerto, usually near the end of the first movement."
V688.36-37 Fay Wray . . . in her screentest scene with Robert Armstrong
Ann Darrows (Fay Wray) screentest is only peripherally "erotic mugging." She is instructed by Carl Denham (played by Armstrong) to look up and react in fear (in anticipation of her first actual view of King Kong, of whom she knows nothing yet). She is so caught up in her performance that she actually faints. It is this scene that Jessica mimics with Roger earlier in the novel.
V689.26 a round black iron anarchist bomb
Another reference to the Porky Pig cartoon "The Blow-Out." The Mad Bomber puts such a device, along with a lot of other explosives, into an alarm clock rigged to explode.
V691.34-35 Paranoid . . . For The Day!
The TV game show Queen for a Day debuted as a radio show in 1945 with host Jack Bailey.
V695.25-28 Dungannon, Virginia . . . or Ellis, Kansas.
Weisenburgers usual attention to geographical detail fails here. He does not find these towns on the borders of time zones in 1988 because the zones had been changed, shifting to the west, in the previous decades. All of the towns Pynchon names were on the borders of time zones in 1945 (and Murdo and Apalachicola still are). Kenosha itself borders Lake Michigan through which the Eastern-Central Time Zone border runs.
V701.01 Drunkards Three
The title echoes Sergeants 3, a 1962 film starring Frank Sinatra and other Rat Pack members. It is a remake of Gunga Din set in the west, with Sammy Davis, Jr. in the Sam Jaffe role.
V702.15 recalling Tchaikovsky
Wimpes recollection of the composer is prompted by one of the stories concerning his rather mysterious death: that Tchaikovsky had drunk a glass of unboiled water during a cholera epidemic. While another story had the composer committing suicide because of the supposedly unfavorable reception of his 6th ("Pathetique") Symphony, it is now generally believed that he actually was forced to take poison to avoid the exposure of his love affair with a male member of the imperial family--or maybe it was just kidney failure! Whatever the actual case, Pynchon's reference might have been prompted by Ken Russell's film The Music Lovers (1971), with Richard Chamberlain as Tchaikovsky and which makes pointed reference to the contaminated water story.
The name is another pseudo-German phonetic rendering of an expression of disgust.
Correspondent Igor Zabel comments: "is a human baby, suckling, as it is also clear from the description of the picture."
*V709.15 Crime Does Not Pay Comics
Formerly Silver Streak Comics (see above), published by Lev Gleason, the title changed with issue # 22 in 1942. The Comic Book Price Guide remarks that it was the first crime comic book and the first comic to be aimed at adult readers. Its influence, with lurid covers and violent stories, contributed to the wave of official disapproval that fell on the comics industry in the early 1950s. See note above at V586.38-39.
V709.18 Is this Noel Coward or some shit?
Rogers antipathy to Cowards comedies of manners echoes the comments about Blithe Spirit in the Advent passage at V134 and passim. Pynchons own antipathy to the composer, writer and actor goes all the way back to "Lowlands," one of his first published stories.
V712.04 song from the movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Not the 1932 Fredric March version but the 1941 Victor Fleming remake starring Spencer Tracy. In this version Ingrid Bergman plays a barmaid who sings, "You Should See Me Dance the Polka." The song itself was composed around 1887 by George Grossmith, star of Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas at the Savoy Theater. The lyrics to the song include: "You should see me dance the Polka, / You should see me cover the ground, / You should see my coat- tails flying, / As I jump my partner round; / When the band commences playing, / My feet begin to go, / For a rollicking romping Polka / Is the jolliest fun I know." In the film, Tracy hums the song just before his first transformation into Mr. Hyde.
Not just a month on the French Revolutionary calendar, the name here signifies the defeat of the radical elements in the revolutionary leadership. On Thermidor 8, Year II of the Revolution (July 27, 1794), Robbespierre, Saint-Just, and their followers were arrested. These leaders of the radical faction, which had promoted the Reign of Terror but also advocated redistribution of wealth and power for the lower classes, were executed the next day, bringing the Reign of Terror to a close. In one of his newspaper articles later, Pynchon would speak of the Nixon years as a "Thermidorian reaction" to the 1960s.
Correspondent Igor Zabel notes, "it is a Serbian male name. The Herreros bear German, but also Slavic names, like Djuro, Vlasta (Czech female name, popular also e.g. in Slovenia), Ljubica (a common female name in South Slavic languages), Mieczislav (Polish male name)."
*V738.19 Mickey Wuxtry-Wuxtry
The last name is the archetypal newsboys cry: "Wuxtry! Wuxtry! [Extra! Extra!] Read all about it!" The spelling was commonly used in the 1940s: Jack Kirbys Boy Commandos, or The Newsboy Legion; a painting by Albert Abramovitz (at the Harn Museum of Art); and articles in Time and Newsweek, among others.
V742.29 The Fool
In the March 21, 1969 Time cover story on astrology and the occult (see note at V31.28), the following reference to this otherwise-obscure group occurs: "A California rock group called The Fool has recorded several zodiacal songs-not only because they believe only in astrology, but because they feel generally tuned in to the entire occult world (the Fool is the card in the fortunetelling Tarot deck that stands for Man)" [sic] (48).
*V750.11-13 on his camera dolly, whooping with joy,
barrel-assing down the long corridors at Nymphenberg
The palace, near Munich, was the birthplace of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and also provided some of the sets for Alain Resnais Last Year at Marienbad (along with Ludwig's own Herrenchiemsee), one of several anachronistic references to postwar modernist films in the book, especially here towards the end. As viewers know, Resnais' film features long tracking shots down the corridors of these sets. (See also the reference to the "Bengt Ekarot / Maria Casares Film Festival" at V755.3-4. As Weisenburger notes, both actors played the role of Death, in Bergmans The Seventh Seal and Cocteaus Orpheus, respectively.) See note at V394.22.
V752.01-03 Philip Marlow [sic] . . . Bradbury Building
Philip Marlowe did have his office in in the Bradbury Building in one film adaptation of Chandlers works: Marlowe (1969), based on The Little Sister, starring James Garner. The Bradbury, long neglected and probably best known as a major setting in Ridley Scotts Blade Runner (1982), has been restored and recognized as one of the most remarkable pieces of architecture in Los Angeles.
V752.04 Submariner and his multi-lingual gang will run into battery trouble
Some corrections to Weisenburgers notes: Timely Comics, Atlas Comics, and Marvel Comics were all variant titles for the same company, known only by the last name since the 1950s. Sub-Mariner (pronounced "Sub-MARE-iner") was first created by Bill Everett for a one-time black-and-white giveaway comic called Motion Pictures Funnies Weekly. The character made his first full appearance in issue # 1 of Marvel Comics (published under the Timely Comics label). Prince Namor (not "Namore") was and remains an unusual hero, since he often has battled mankind and human/humanoid superheroes. As Prince of Atlantis, he was at first pledged to the destruction of humanity. By the time America entered World War II, he had become part of various teams working to defeat the Axis powers. He rarely, if ever, wore a cape. Pynchons use of the character here is puzzling for several reasons. First, the super-powered Atlantean had no need for a battery-powered vehicle since he could breathe and swim underwater at high speeds (see picture on linked cover). Second, despite his teamups with other groups during the war, he does not seem ever to have been part of a "multi-lingual crew." It may be that Pynchon never actually read the comic book. (His other superhero referencesincluding Superman, Batman, and Wonder Womanare mostly to heroes from Marvels publishing arch-rival, the DC publishing group.) Pynchon may, like many of the comics readers, have pronounced the heros name "Subma-REEN-er" and assumed that he actually commanded an underwater vehicle. He may have confused this character further with Blackhawk, the flying ace who did command a "multi-lingual crew" (including American, English, Dutch, Swedish, Free French, Polish, and a horrible, racist portrayal of a Chinese cook)!
V752.07 The Lone Ranger will storm in . . .
The Lone Ranger began as a locally-produced program on Detroit radio station WXYZ (which also produced Sergeant Preston of the Yukon and The Green Hornet). It began its television life (with Clayton Moore in the title role) in 1949 on the ABC network. The real name of the Ranger was John Reid. Dan (Jr.) was his nephew, son of John's murdered brother. Dan was featured in a number of radio and TV episodes (and would eventually be the father of Britt Reid, the secret identity of the urban vigilante The Green Hornet!). Here, the Ranger and Tonto are too late to save the nephew. See note above at V376.36
*V752.10 Tonto, God willing, will put on his ghost shirt . . .
A reference to the Ghost Dance movement among Native Americans in the 1870s. A Paiute known as Wovoka became a messianic figure as he preached that a dance would eventually restore American Indians to their rightful place in the world and cause the whites to disappear. Part of the movement involved the weaving and wearing of "ghost shirts," which it was believed would give the wearer immunity from soldiers bullets. White fear of these beliefs ultimately contributed to the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 and the end of both the Ghost Dance movement and Native American resistance to white "manifest destiny." The reference to "cold fire" and the role of the shirt in relation to this passage remain unclear. Also see reference at V697.37.
*V752.14 Yes, Jimmy
Superman is speaking to his good pal, Daily Planet cub reporter Jimmy Olsen.
*V752.14 here, where everybody else walks around suntanned, and red-eyed from one
irritant or another
In a shift to the present, "here" is sunny, polluted Los Angeles.
V755.06 an inverted "peace sign"
Nixon co-opted the "V" peace sign from the beginning of his 1968 Presidential campaign all the way through to his departure by helicopter from the White House after being forced to resign because of the Watergate scandal.
*V756.39-40 a mysteriously-canvased trailer rig and a liquid hydrogen tanker
Trucks probably carrying, respectively, a shrouded nuclear missile and its fuel.
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