- Please keep these annotations SPOILER-FREE by not revealing information from later pages in the novel.
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Title Page: The Crying of Lot 49
Several concepts [and maybe a pun or two] are embedded in the title of Thomas Pynchon's second novel, a work that the author dismisses as the worst of his juvenilia in his introduction to 'Slow Learner'. The title suggests a property auction as auctions are 'cried' and 'Lot' usually is in reference to a plot of land. A 'lot' is also a group of things sold at an auction, these lots are numbered. Lot is also a reference to 'Lot' in the Bible, see Wikipedia/Lot:
- "In Luke 17:28-32 Jesus uses Lot's wife as a warning to those who do not watch for the signs of the Apocalypse, and in 2 Peter 2:7-8 Lot is described as a righteous man surrounded by wickedness."
Crying of course has the additional meaning of expressing sadness. The number 49 has a great deal of Christian and Occult significance. Christian numerology has 49 as the number before Pentecost. Wikipedia/Pentecost:
- ". . . .one of the prominent feasts in the Christian liturgical year, celebrated the fiftieth day after Easter Sunday (the tenth day after Ascension Thursday). Historically and symbolically related to the Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot, it commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus as described in the Book of Acts,Chapter 2. Pentecost is also called Whitsun, Whitsunday, or Whit Sunday in the United Kingdom and other English-speaking areas."
There is an implied meaning of 'revelation' in Pentecost, so 49 would be just before revelation.John Dee, astrologer to Queen Elizabeth and one of the most learned men in Renaissance England worked out his "Enochian" system of magick in order to communicate with Angels:
- "In 49 voyces, or callings: which are the Natural Keyes, to open those, not 49, but 48. (for One is not to be opened) Gates of understanding, whereby you shall have knowledge to move every Gate, and to call out as many as you please, or shall be thought necessary, which can very well, righteously, and wisely, open unto you the secrets of their Cities, and make you understand perfectly the [mysteries] contained in theTables."
The Wikipedia article on Enochian Magic notes: "the features showed are commonly found in instances of glossolalia. This could be indicative of Kelley actually receiving at least this set of texts through the well-known phenomenon of glossolalia." Pentecost is associated with glossolalia, a mode of verbal articulation that fits our author to a "T" .
John Dee deployed 'Scrying' as part of his angelic invocations, see Wikipedia/John Dee:
- "Later life: By the early 1580s, Dee was growing dissatisfied with his progress in learning the secrets of nature and with his own lack of influence and recognition. He began to turn towards the supernatural as a means to acquire knowledge. Specifically, he sought to contact angels through the use of a "scryer" or crystal-gazer, who would act as an intermediary between Dee and the angels."
Scrying is something of an Idée Fixe for Thomas Pynchon, as are Gnostic conceptions of Angelic correspondence, exemplified by Rilke's angelic invocation/poem Duino Elegies
John Dee's skills also included map-making and navigation, very important contributions that assisted England in their exploration and colonization of 'The New World.' Thomas Pynchon's direct ancestor [great-grandfather back ten generations] William Pynchon was part of the first British expeditions to the New World. William Pynchon is also distinguished as the first writer to have a book burned in the New World, an exile from the Puritans. a heretic among heretics.
But the number 49 has an additional meaning, very deeply buried in Pynchon family history. Popular Law Library, Albert Hutchinson Putney has Pynchon v. Stearns, a court case concerning estates and property rights in the legal concept generally known as the 'Waste Doctrine'. The 'Pynchons' in this case were direct descendants of William Pynchon whose establishment of Springfield had grown over the passing two hundred years, abbuting into the interests of the Stearns family who set up in Salem a few generations after William Pynchon. And for some reason, page 95, citing 'Pynchon v. Stearns', has the ominous heading: Section 49: Who May Commit Waste.
The Stearns family were, like the Pynchon Family, among the first settlers in New England, beneficiaries of John Dee's cartography, becoming a force to be reckoned with as the lands they aquired as early settlers became a center for American investment banking services and the insurance industry.
The 'S' in T. S. Eliot stands for Stearns. Charlotte Champe Stearns (1843–1929) was a social worker, a poet and the mother of T.S. Eliot.
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.
- Some suggest the Oedipus reference is to an incident earlier in the king's career, having to do, in fact, with the way he became king of Thebes. Oedipus famously solved the riddle of the Sphinx and heroically freed Thebes of her curse (cf. the deeds of young Theseus, the labors of Herakles, etc.). Sophocles' play has an older Oedipus finally figuring out the riddle of his own birth, over-confident in his own ability to figure things out. Oedipus is the riddle-solver, by definition. And doesn't it make sense to think of Oedipa as a riddle-solver? Q.E.D. Now the riddle is sometimes said to be "what walks on four feet in the morning, two feet in the afternoon, and three feet at night?" The answer is man (baby=4; man=2; old man with cane = 3), which is where this gets interesting: one of the legendary precepts engraved on the temple of Apollo at Delphi is "gnothi seauton", "know yourself". This almost certainly is taken to mean not (as we might tend to think) that we should discover ourselves as individuals, but rather that we should know our own nature, i.e. the nature of mankind, i.e. "know that you are mortal". Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx with the answer "man", but he doesn't know himself as a man, fallible and doomed--count no man blessed until he's dead, Greeks were fond of saying--not until the peak of his powers, walking on two legs, so to speak. His story doesn't end there: he wanders the earth blind after putting out his eyes (death would be too good for himself), and eventually as an old man settles on Athens as a place to die, knowing that his spirit will be a powerful force in the land of his death (see Soph., Oedipus at Colonus). This is the essence of a hero for the Greeks, a mortal who remains powerful in death, as is reflected in their practice of hero-cult offerings at grave sites (compare, say, Xtian saints' relics, bones thought to have power). As an old man, Oedipus is like a holy prophet (compare the blind sage Tieresias, or the legendary blind poet Homer), a man who sees without eyes (compare what Paul Atreides becomes in the second Dune novel). So, does Oedipa ascend to some deeper understanding by the end of the novel? Wait and see.
- 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").
RL notes that the 'punchline' of 'Oedipus Rex' is that this proto-typical gumshoe finds out that he was the criminal all along, Oedipus is the detective that swears vengance on Oedipus the criminal.
a: 9, b: 1 - Maas
Maas is the Dutch word for mesh. Her name thus introduces the leitmotif weaving/nets, and makes her one element within a larger structure. It is also the Dutch word for loophole (in the architectural and the figurative sense as well).
A-and as most women's names did in the sixties, her name derives from her husband's, Mucho, whom she married some time after her affair with Pierce Inverarity, further meshing the weaving/nets maas-up [so to speak] leitmotif, and providing a tantalizing puzzle, since "mucho mas" means "much more" in Spanish, as in, "there's much more going on here than Oedipa/we can understand".
a-and the near-likeness "mass" becomes an important word/concept in Gravity's Rainbow and, especially, Against The Day, although the associative meanings do not seem to mesh.! MKOHUT 13:42, 11 July 2007 (PDT)
Note 'Webb Traverse' in 'Against the Day' [RL, 11/30/07].
a: 9, b: 1 - kirsch
Kirschwasser, German for "cherry water", often known simply as Kirsch ("cherry"), is a clear brandy made from double distillation of the fermented juice of a small black cherry. In the past, the sour morello cherry was used, and as the cherry was originally grown all around the Black Forest in southern Germany, the drink is believed to have originated there. "Kirsch" is an essential ingredient in Swiss cheese fondue recipes. Such spirits (clear alcoholic beverages made from distilled fruit juices) are also distilled in France and French-speaking Switzerland, where they are known as eau de vie ("water of life", the same term that is the root of the words akvavit and whisky). The mention of "kirsch" in the first sentence begins a considerable sequence of references to Germany, German words or German history through Chapter 1. Wikipedia
a: 9, b: 1 - Pierce Inverarity
Pynchon & Company (an East Coast Brokerage house) fell apart in 1931, E.A. Pierce (a larger financial institution) picked up that company's holdings. Thus 'Pierce'. See "EXCHANGE SUSPENDS PYNCHON & COMPANY, New York Times April 25, 1931 and note that the details for this article are buried behind the 'pay' wall. [RL]
a: 9, b: 1 - California real estate mogul
Many of the terms and concepts in 'The Crying of Lot 49' are derived from laws concerning property and investment. The ancestors of Thomas Ruggles Pynchon [apparentlty the fifth Pynchon to be so named] had much involvement in real estate and property laws. See A Statement of Facts in Connection with the Petition of the Springfield Aquaduct By William Gelston Bates, pages 44 - 53. Also see Popular Law Library, Albert Hutchinson Putney and go to page 95. [RL]
a: 9, b: 1 - greenish dead eye of the TV tube, spoke the name of God. . . .
The New York investment and banking firm of Pynchon & company helped develop Electrical networks and the 'Entertainment Industry'. Pynchon & Company collapsed when a consortium of investors including Western Electric forced William Fox out of movies in order to control patents for the talkies. See "Upton Sinclair Presents William Fox", self published. 1933, and "The Talkies: American Cinema's Transition to Sound 1926 - 1931", Donald Crafton ISBN 0 - 520 - 22128 - 1. Note also the TV/God connection, and the notion that Television has supplanted God by the mid-sixties. [RL]
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
Well, "dry and disconsolate" are not facts but opinions, although the consensus opinion might be "facts". I think Pynchon described this work as it sounded to him (or his character).
Hollander's reference to Bartók seems somewhat superficial. Most Hungarian listeners can identify the "serenade theme" in Movement Four as the chorus of a popular irredentist song, nostalgic enough as it was written after Hungary's dismemberment in the Treaty of Trianon (1920), when Transylvania was attached to Romania (see the reference to the "Transylvanian Consulate" on the following page). So even if not "dry", it definitely sounds "disconsolate", an expression of desperate homesickness. Musicologists cannot quite pin down why Bartók chose to paraphrase such a trivial song; the most recent theory is that by giving it a Romanian rhythmic twist, he expressed his nostalgia for the multicultural Greater Hungary thad had been lost forever. (Sorry but I can only give a Hungarian link; the excerpt from the musical sheet is at the bottom of the page: Bartók's Strange Nostalgia. It was published by Rózsavölgyi & Co., not coincidentally.) I think the main theme here is intrusion rather than exile as the serenade tune is disrupted by the Shostakovichian "drunken gang".
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
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 thoroughly 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: KubitschekWikipedia: 1964 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
Pynchon's penchant for absurd, punning law firm names is continued in Gravity's Rainbow with Salitieri, Poore, Nash, De Brutus and Short...
RL notes that by 1964 E.A. Pierce consolidated forces with Merrill Lynch thus creating Merrill, Lynch, Fenner, Pierce and Smith, an investment house that deployed Television Advertisement by the mid-sixties.
a: 10, b: 2 - Metzger
Co-executor of Inverarity's will and signatory of the letter Oedipa receives in Chapter 1. Metzger is German for "butcher", and could also be a reference to Wolfgang Metzger (1899 - 1979), a german psychologist who served as one of the main representatives of Gestalt psychology, a theory that proposes that the operational principle of the brain is holistic, parallel, and analog, with self-organizing tendencies; or, that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This concept will recur later in the chapter, under the term "Triptych". Additionally, the introduction of Dr Hilarius, a German psychologist, will strengthen this association. Wikipedia: MetzgerWikipedia: Gestalt
. One might add, in the Gestalt mode, that "Metzger" can evoke "regrets", wistfully if you like: how would it feel to find yourself called on, as Oedipa is, by the ghost of an old lover?
Metzgerpost ("butcher post") was an early type of mail service in the western regions of the Holy Roman Empire, superseded by the Thurn und Taxis-dominated imperial system. They had the privilege to sound the horn...
a: 10, b: 2 - Kinneret-Among-The-Pines
Fictional California town that Oedipa Maas resides in. Yam Kinneret (Sea of Kinnereth) is the modern Hebrew name for the Sea of Galilee, Israel's largest freshwater lake. Upon the shores of Galilee, much of the ministry of Christ was said to have occurred, among which include His Sermon on the Mount, as well as the miracles of His walking on water, calming a storm, and feeding the multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish. Wikipedia
During the years Pynchon was working on 'The Crying of Lot 49, his College buddy Richard Farina lived in Carmel by the Sea [RL].
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). It is used in English mostly to refer to art-historical and architectural movements and styles of that period. Wikipedia
a: 10, b: 2 - variorum
A work containing all known varients of a text whereby all variations and emendations are set side-by-side to track textual decisions. Wikipedia
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. Cross referenced search of kazoos in the Gravity's Rainbow Wiki: 
a: 10, b: 2 - Boyd Beaver
Soloist for the Vivaldi Kazoo Concerto. "Boyd" stems from the Gaelic word for "blond", while "Beaver" is a chiefly American slang term for female genitalia, prompting the image of a blonde vagina playing a kazoo. Titter. One might also take "Boy", evoked by "Boyd", combined with the "female" beaver, and find the same gender-bending implied in Oedipa's name itself (or in a male author writing a female protagonist, or the Muse inspiring the poet). The name also bears an obvious resemblance to Zoyd Wheeler, the protagonist of Vineland, though he played the keyboard.
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 words. "Chingas" is a conjugation of the word "chingar" (slang for "to fuck"), translating "chingas" as "[you] fuck" (or, better, just a plural of "chinga"). "Maricones" refers to the term "maricón" (based on the word "marica" or "male homosexual") which is equivalent to the English insult "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
"The Shadow" first appeared on radio in 1930. The banking institution Pynchon & Company collapsed in 1931. The last words Oedipa hears from Pierce:
- "I heard that," Pierce said. "I think it's time Wendell Maas had a little visit from the Shadow."
were spoken a year before she received the letter from Warpe, Wistful, Kubitschek and McMingus.
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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