- Please keep these annotations SPOILER-FREE by not revealing information from later pages in the novel.
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a: 9, b: 1 - Oedipa
Oedipus was the mythical king of Thebes who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother. Wikipedia Oedipus the King, aka Oedipus Rex, is a Greek tragedy written by Sophocles and first performed in 428 BC. Many critics, including Aristotle, consider it the greatest tragedy ever written. Wikipedia
- Whether Oedipa has anything to do with Oedipus is an open question. Some critics find zero connection and note that the name indicates that names are only words, and not necessarily full of meaning (mysteries without answers being a theme in CoL49). Others have teased various interpretations from Sophocles' play to connect its protagonist to Pynchon's. So far, no single explanation is remotely concrete or thoroughly convincing.
- Oedipa's name is probably pronounced in the American fashion, ED-i-pa, not British fashion, EED-i-pa, because Mucho uses the short form "Oed," which almost has to be ED.
- A further comic level in the name Oedipa: It looks like a feminization of Oedipus, which is a Latin name derived from the Greek Oidipous. While -pus has the look of a word-ending that might alternate between masculine and feminine forms, like proper names Julius/Julia or adjectives sanctus/sanctum/sancta, in fact it stands in for Greek -pous, meaning "foot," a form that doesn't alternate. (All feet are the same gender no matter who's wearing them.) Whoever coined the name Oedipa pretended to know a little more than they really did.
Additionally, there is the Freudian concept of the Oedipal Complex. Basically, a son loves his mother (in an unconscious sexual way) and is jealous of his father and wants to kill him and have his mom all to himself. The daughter version of this is called the Electra Complex. In the Electra Complex the daughter is upset that she has no penis and is jealous of her father's penis and becomes angry at him ("penis envy").
a: 10, b: 1 - Mazatlán
City in the mexican state of Sinaloa, located on the Pacific coast of Mexico, east from the southernmost tip of the Baja California peninsula. It is worth mentioning that a large wave of German immigrants arrived in the mid 1800s, developing Mazatlán into a thriving commercial seaport. Additionally, Mazatlán played a role in the California gold rush, with people traveling by boat from Mazatlán to San Francisco. Pynchon is placed in Mexico (at least, Mexico City) throughout the 1960s. Wikipedia
a: 10, b: 1 - Cornell University
Ivy league university located in Ithaca, New York. Pynchon began studies in engineering physics in 1953, but left after two years to serve in the U.S. Navy. In 1957, Pynchon returned with a focus in English, a BA he received in 1959. "The Small Rain", Pynchon's first published story, was printed in the Cornell Writer in May, 1959. Wikipedia: PynchonWikipedia: Cornell
a: 10, b: 1 - Bartók Concerto for Orchestra
Five-movement musical work finished in 1943 by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók (1881 - 1945), after his native exile to the United States in response to the rise of the Nazi party--Bartók is one of a number of references to the theme of "exile" in this first chapter. Interestingly enough, the fourth movement (Intermezzo interrotto) is alleged to be neither "dry" nor "disconsolate", the theory suggested by Charles Hollander that Pynchon deliberatly reversed the facts to bring attention to Bartók's status as a political exile. Wikipedia BartókWikipedia: ConcertoHollander Essay
a: 10, b: 1 - Jay Gould
(1836 – 1892) Infamous American financier (known as the "Mephistopheles of Wall Street"), who became a leading American railroad builder and speculator in the mid 19th century. In 1869, the Fisk-Gould Scandal (also known as Black Friday) spread financial panic as a result of Gould and fellow financier James Fisk's efforts to corner the gold market. Further political scandals and unfair dealings have cemented his reputation (both throughout his life and during the century after his death) as one of the most unethical of the 19th century American robber barons. It is worth note that the bust of Jay Gould is the "only ikon in the house" of Pierce Inverarity, and that Oedipa expressed the fear that it (on a shelf over the bed) would "someday topple on them". Wikipedia: GouldWikipedia: Black Friday
a: 10, b: 2 - Warpe, Wistfull, Kubitschek and McMingus
Law firm representing Pierce Inverarity.
- "Warpe" could be a potential reference to the municipality of Warpe located in the district of Nienburg, in Lower Saxony, Germany (Germany and Nazism being referenced throughly in Chapter 1). Wikipedia
- "Wistfull" may be taken, at the very least, to be a play on the word "Wistful", defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "Expectantly or yearningly eager, watchful, or intent; mournfully expectant or longing. (Chiefly in reference to the look.)". Among other instances, Oedipa is described later in this chapter as "pensive", granting credibility to this interpretation.
- "Kubitschek" is likely drawn from Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira (1902 - 1976), a Brazilian social reformer and 24th President of Brazil (1956 - 1961) who went into a self-imposed exile after a military coup d'état, which had later been claimed to have been taking as a preemptive measure to deter an "inevitable communist revolution" (the coup having been tacitly (and directly) assisted and supported by the United States government and the CIA)--this is another in a series of anecdotal references to "exile" as well as a potential comment on United States foreign policy. Wikipedia: Kubitschek1964 Brazilian Coup
- "McMingus" is a probable nod toward Jazz legend Charles Mingus (1922 - 1979), a highly acclaimed bassist, composer, bandleader, and occasional pianist, known as well for his racial activism, temper and bouts of depression--Pynchon is a lifelong Jazz fan, making this unlikely to be a coincidence. Wikipedia
a: 10, b: 2 - Kinneret-Among-The-Pines
Fictional California town. Kinneret is the modern Hebrew name for the Sea of Galilee in Israel, upon the shores of which much of ministry of Jesus occurred.
a: 10, b: 2 - settecento
Settecento is the Italian word for seven hundred, and is the standard Italian term for the 18th century (not the 17th century, but the years beginning with 17). In English, it refers to styles of that period.
a: 10, b: 2 - Vivaldi Kazoo Concerto
Kazoos appear in Gravity's Rainbow. The title isn't as outlandish as it may seem; Vivaldi's concerti are often performed on instruments they were not written for. Example: concerto for two cellos recast for bassoon trio.
a: 10, b: 2 - Boyd Beaver
The name sounds suspiciously similar to Zoyd Wheeler, the protagonist of Vineland.
a: 11, b: 2 - Wendell ("Mucho") Maas
"Mucho más" is common Spanish phrase, meaning "much more." Mucho Maas reappears in Vineland.
a: 11, b: 2 - Pachuco dialect
Pachucos were Mexican American youth who developed their own subculture during the 1930s and 1940s in the Southwestern United States. They wore distinctive clothes (such as Zoot Suits) and spoke their own dialect (Caló). Wikipedia Zoot suits appear a few times in Gravity's Rainbow.
a: 11, b: 2 - chingas and maricones
Spanish slang for "fuck" and "faggot".
a: 11, b: 3 - Lamont Cranston
One identity adopted by The Shadow, a character of pulp fiction, radio shows, and comic books. Cranston was a wealthy young man about town. Wikipedia
a: 11, b: 3 - Commissioner Weston... Professor Quackenbush
b: 4 - Mucho shaved his ... throw them further off
All of the references in this section refer to the stereotypical (often Italian) used car salesman with greased back hair, a very short mustache, and huge lapels on his suit.
American actor (1925-2001). He became a favorite actor of director Billy Wilder, starring in his films Some Like It Hot, The Apartment and others. Wilder felt Lemmon had a natural tendency toward overacting that had to be tempered; the Wilder biography Nobody's Perfect quotes the director as saying: "Lemmon, I would describe him as a ham, a fine ham, and with ham you have to trim a little fat." Wikipedia
a: ?, b: 4 - creampuff
A very well maintained used car.
a: 16, b: ? - Dr. Hilarius, her shrink or psychotherapist
Shrink is a shortened form of headshrinker, which is 50s slang. The OED cites 'shrink' in this text of 1966, as the first recorded written use of it as a slang term. Which must be why Pynchon defined it in the text.
a: 17, b: 8 - LSD-25, mescaline, psilocybin
These hallucinogenic drugs are also mentioned in Gravity's Rainbow. It remains an open question as to whether and to what extent Pynchon took or was influenced by them. ("whether"?)
a: ?, b:8 - lapses from orthodoxy
Orthodox Freudian psychotherapy involved the therapist literally trying not to impose himself at all on the patient. That's why the therapist is often shown sitting behind the patient. The goal is to be a blank canvas and have the patient paint his problems on the therapist, thereby bringing them into consciousness.
a: 18, b: 8 - Rorschach blot
The Rorschach inkblot test (Pronounced roar-shock) is a method of psychological evaluation. Psychologists use this test to try to examine the personality characteristics and emotional functioning of their patients. Wikipedia
a: 18, b: 8 - a face is symmetrical like a Rorschach blot
In the graphic novel, Watchmen, written by Alan Moore, there is a character named Rorschach who wears a mask with a Rorscach blot on the front. Moore is a self-professed Pynchon fan: he referenced V. in V for Vendetta and has mentioned Gravity's Rainbow in interview. It is possible, not to say probable, that Moore was inspired by this line.
a: 18, b: 8 - TAT picture
The TAT is popularly known as the picture interpretation technique because it uses a standard series of 31 provocative yet ambiguous pictures about which the subject must tell a story. It was developed by American psychologists in the 1930s. Wikipedia
a: 18, b: 9 - Fu-Manchu
Dr. Fu Manchu is a fictional character, an evil genius of Chinese origin, first featured in a series of novels by Birmingham author Sax Rohmer during the first half of the 20th century. Wikipedia
a: 18, b: 9 - Perry Mason
Perry Mason is a fictional defense attorney who originally appeared in detective fiction by Erle Stanley Gardner. Mason was portrayed by Raymond Burr in a television series which ran on CBS from 1957 to 1966. The typical plot involves Perry Mason unmasking the actual murderer in a final dramatic courtroom showdown. Wikipedia
a: 19, b: 9 - The Profession v. Perry Mason...
Roseman may be trying to undermine Perry Mason by arguing that the dramatic courtroom twists in the TV show are actually uncommon in the American legal system.
a: 21, b: 11 - Bornando el Manto Terrestre
Remedios Varo (1908 - 1963) was a surrealist painter. Wikipedia
Bill Brown notes that "Pynchon saw Bordando el Manto Terrestre when, as part of the first full retrospective of the painter's work, it was displayed at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City in 1964, a year after her death at the age of 55. Painted in 1961, el Manto (oil on masonite, roughly 40 by 48 inches) is the central panel in an autobiographical triptych. It is possible that Pynchon, writing Lot 49 in 1965, recalled the painting from memory or incomplete notes, and not with a reproduction of it set in front of him. He gets a lot wrong."
a:21, b:11 - she wore dark green bubble shades
This is the sixties, after all...
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