Chapter 1

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Title Page: The Crying of Lot 49
In property auctions, numbered "lots" of property or tangible objects are "cried" by an auctioneer.

  • There's a line in Ulysses that bears an odd coincidence to the title: "The lacquey by the door of Dillon's auctionrooms shook his handbell twice again and viewed himself in the chalked mirror of the cabinet. Dilly Dedalus, loitering by the curbstone, heard the beats of the bell, the cries of the auctioneer within. Four and nine. Those lovely curtains." (Ulysses, 304) Given that Gravity's Rainbow, written at the same time as CoL49, contains numerous Joyce references (mainly in the character of Sir Stephen Dodson-Truck), it's possible that this is a nod.
  • For a discussion of some other things the title may or may not allude to, see the article 7 x 7.

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. Bleakhaus
  • See also Emma Miller, "The Naming of Oedipa Maas: Feminizing the Divine Pursuit of Knowledge in Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49" (Link)
  • A number of fragments further discussing Oedipa's name are in the Discussion page.

a: 9, b: 1 - Maas
For more discussion of the name, see below.

a: 9, b: 1 - kirsch
a clear cherry brandy from Germany. Wikipedia

  • many references to Germany, German words or German history run through Chapter 1, and indeed the entire novel. Pynchon scholar David Cowart posits that "Pynchon seems to have had a German period, a post-German period, and a neo-Continental or global period. During his German phase he produced his first three novels... His next work, the long-awaited Vineland, represents a new phase in which the almost obsessive attention to German more seems to have faded." Thomas Pynchon and the Dark Passages of History (2012), at p. 59.

a: 9, b: 1 - Pierce Inverarity
Inverarity is a village in Scotland.

  • The name sounds a bit like a portmanteau of "inverse polarity" (electronic terminology appears in Pynchon's short stories and later in CoL49).
  • Perhaps worth noting that when Pynchon & Company (an actual East Coast Brokerage house owned in part by Pynchon's relations) fell apart in 1931, E.A. Pierce (a larger financial institution) picked up that company's holdings. See New York Times April 25, 1931.

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 "the Petition of the Springfield Aquaduct" (Link), pages 44 - 53. Also see "Popular Law Library" at page 95.

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.

  • Perhaps 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 apparently lived in Mexico off and on in the 1960s and 70s.

a: 10, b: 1 - Cornell University
Pynchon attended Cornell, where he studied engineering physics, 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.

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.

  • The critic Charles Hollander suggests that the fourth movement is neither "dry" nor "disconsolate," and that Pynchon deliberately reversed the facts to bring attention to Bartók's status as a political exile. Wikipedia: Bartok Concerto Hollander Essay
  • "Dry and disconsolate" are not facts but opinions, although the consensus opinion might be "facts". Pynchon may have described the movement as it sounded to him (or his character).
  • For more, see the Discussion page.

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: Gould Wikipedia: Black Friday

a: 10, b: 2 - Warpe, Wistfull, Kubitschek and McMingus

Law firm representing Pierce Inverarity.

  • "Warpe," possible 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). --Dezama125 (talk) 10:39, 1 January 2013 (PST) Please see my addition to Kubitschek below. Wikipedia
  • "Kubitschek" is possibly 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). Further possible references to "exile" as well as United States foreign policy. --Dezama125 (talk) 10:39, 1 January 2013 (PST)Also, in some pictures, Kubitschek bears a strong resemblance to Bela Lugosi, so the first two dialects Pierce does in his phone call, Transylvanian and Negro, relate to the last two names of the partners of the lawfirm representing him. The phone call may have started from the comic idea of pretending to be calling from the office of the lawfirm: "I'll pretend to be Kubitschek, then McMingus will get on the phone." Of course, this exemplifies Pierce's warped sense of humor (which Oedipa shares---see her comment immediately preceding the reference to the lawfirm, "You're so sick, Oedipa.") Wistful well describes her mood during the day after receiving the letter. Wikipedia: KubitschekWikipedia: 1964 Brazilian Coup
  • "McMingus" is a probable nod toward Jazz legend Charles Mingus (1922 - 1979). Pynchon is a lifelong Jazz fan, and references Jazz in most (all?) of his works. Wikipedia
  • Pynchon's penchant for absurd, punning law firm names is continued in Gravity's Rainbow with Salitieri, Poore, Nash, De Brutus and Short.

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".

  • 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.
  • 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.

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, College buddy Richard Farina lived in Carmel by the Sea. However, the clue that Mucho Maas worked “further along the Peninsula” points more to the regions near Palo Alto & Stanford, such as San Mateo.

a: 10, b: 2 - settecento
Italian: seven hundred. It is the standard Italian term for the 18th century (the 1700s). 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 are mentioned many time in Pynchon's novels. Gravity's Rainbow similarly references "Haydn's "Kazoo" Quartet in G-Flat Minor, Op. 76". GR, 711.

a: 10, b: 2 - Boyd Beaver
A typical Pynchonesque name that appears just this once.

  • The name bears a 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.

Maas is also Dutch for mesh and loophole (in the architectural and the figurative sense as well), which may be related to the book's treatement of webs or networks.
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)

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

The Shadow comic
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
Police Commissioner Weston was the Shadow's friend and running mate. There is a Professor Quackenbush in two Three Stooges shorts "Half-Wits Holiday" and "Pies and Guys", as well as a Dr. Hackenbush in the Marx Bros. film, A Day at the Races.

a: 13 b: 4 -I don't believe in any of it, Oed
The short form of Oedipa — "Oed" — means "boring" in German.

a: 13, 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.

Jack Lemmon and his hair in the 60s
a: 13, b: 4 - used only water, combing it like Jack Lemmon

American comedic actor (1925-2001).

a: 13, b: 4 - creampuff
A very well maintained used car.

a: 16, b: 7 - Dr. Hilarius, her shrink or psychotherapist

St. Hilarius
Pope Saint Hilarius was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 461 to 468. He was canonized as a saint after his death. As archdeacon under Pope Leo I, he fought vigorously for the rights of the Roman See and vigorously opposed the condemnation of Flavian of Constantinople at the Second Council of Ephesus in 449 to settle the question of Eutyches. According to a letter to the Empress Pulcheria, collected among the letter of Leo I, Hilarus apologizes for not delivering to her the pope's letter after the synod.

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, while LSD gets a special mention as an agent of spiritual awareness in Vineland. See notes for She Loves You on page a: 143, b: 117 of CoL49 wiki, where Mucho Maas is expressing ideas about psychedelics concordant with the writings of Aldous Huxley'. Peyote's magical potential is rendered on pages 392-394 of Against the Day, in wholy favorable terms, with the connection of divinatory powers and envisioning agents such as Hikuli displayed in a very favorable light.

It remains an open question as to whether and to what extent Pynchon took or was influenced by them. See also "Smoking Dope with Thomas Pynchon: A Sixties Memoir" (link).

a: 18, 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.

The first of the ten cards in the Rorschach inkblot test

a: 18, b: 8 - Rorschach blot
The Rorschach inkblot test is a method of psychological evaluation. Psychologists use this test to try to examine the personality characteristics and emotional functioning of their patients. Wikipedia

Rorschach, a comic book character in Watchmen

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 interviews. 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, who 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
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.

Bornando el manto terrestre, 1961

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." --Dezama125 (talk) 12:45, 1 January 2013 (PST)Brown is quoting Janet A. Kaplan, author of Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys about when Pynchon probably saw the painting. I mention that because Brown's article gets most of what he claims Pynchon got wrong wrong. (I have added italics to "a lot" here per Brown's original, so that the reader may get some sense of his wit.) I will adopt the numbering of his points in my response to them.

1. First, Brown makes the mistake of forgetting point of view, which is Oedipa's throughout. However you read what's going on in the painting, whether Oedipa gets it right is far less important than what it means to her. The Rapunzel/captive maiden trope, it is clear, preceded seeing the painting for Oedipa. She makes a connection between that idea about herself and the painting---she can't be wrong to do so. So Brown's statement that "nothing [in the painting] suggest that the girls . . . are prisoners" is hardly to the point. Having proved that "Pynchon" got it wrong, he then proceeds to adopt the idea (from Varo, by way of Kaplan) that one of the girls---though supposedly not a prisoner---"escapes." . . . Next, while Brown is right that the tower in the painting is not circular (this may be one of the few things he gets entirely right), it is not definitely octagonal. The floor pattern suggests that there are eight sides, but the fact that there are six women embroidering, and that the small tower in the foreground, which seems to be a miniature twin of the main tower, looks hexagonal, at least raise the possibility that it is six-sided. (Note also that the roofs of all the buildings in the painting follow perspectival convention and show half their sides, four-sided roofs showing two, six-sided three, and so on.) Finally, of the two embroiderers' faces visible, Brown says that they are "clearly smiling." I leave it to the reader to decide if that is right---to me one of them has a very slight smile, and one looks merely neutral, as if concentrating on her work.

2. I don't see what's wrong with the term "slit windows." It's not patent that someone in the room couldn't see out of them if the fabric of the mantle of the earth wasn't also being fed out of them. You couldn't see much, true, because they are slits, but does that mean they aren't windows? If Kaplan is referring to the slits, as Brown suggests, when she mentions "battlements," I think that is a misleading term, but I'm not sure whether the error is hers or Brown's. (Battlements are those notches in top of a medieval castle towers, whose function was to allow people to look out (!) from behind a protecting wall as well as to be able to shoot arrows at an enemy surrounding the castle.) Brown does notice the echo of the shape of the alcove in the background with that of the imaginary window that allows us to see inside the tower. Though his point that the window is "dream-like" rather than simply a visual convention may seem strained applied to the painting, the sense of receding, echoing frames is alluded to later in the book, when Oedipa meets Genghis Cohen (p. a94), and in the book it does acquire a dreamlike quality. I'm afraid, however, that much of his discussion of the windows seems as though Brown is trying to score points against Pynchon.

3. Brown doesn't see the fabric spilling out of the slits as " 'filling' any void, nor does it manage to 'contain' the whole world." Again, his reading of the image is tendentious. The black clouds that form the background of the painting surely could represent "the void"; and the fact that the embroidered fabric falls away from the tower into a spherical shape suggest that the world is being pictured. Anyway, the title refers to the "earth's mantle" (el manto terrestre)---what is the mistake in assuming that the earth is the world? (Brown's citing the other meaning of bordando---circumnavigating as well as embroidering---while worth pondering, seems to be a non sequitur.) His reading of the bodies of water as filling gaps in the embroidery done by the young women is not the only way to view the image: If they are embroidering all of the features that elaborate the plain stuff of the mantle (buildings, people, trees, etc.), the bodies of water could just as well be their work. If the young woman on the left can plot her escape by embroidering an image of herself reunited with her lover, then one has to consider whether it is merely a message she is sending to him or whether she is creating the world in which she will rejoin him, as is seen in the next panel of the triptych. (Note that the houses and trees embroidered by the young woman on the right emerge from the slit as "mere embroidery" on fabric, but that as the material flows down, they become real houses and trees.)

4. Brown is correct that Pynchon doesn't mention the other two figures in the painting, the central figure who holds a book and stirs the vessel from which flows the thread that the young women use to embroider, and the small figure playing a wind instrument in an alcove in the background. (By the way, Brown is wrong that the instrument may be a recorder. It could either be a shawm or a cornett, the first, a medieval ancestor of the oboe, the second, a kind of trumpet made of wood covered with leather.) Clearly, the other figures aren't mentioned because Oedipa identifies with the embroiderers. The text doesn't mention the ship sailing on a body of water in the distance or any number of other details; it doesn't describe the other panels of the triptych. I hope not to belabor the point, but again, what's most important to the reader is what's most important to Oedipa. Brown could be right that there is some reason why the spooky central figure isn't mentioned, but that can never be anything more than speculative. It is true that Pynchon's writing invites this kind of speculation, and naturally, as a student of Derrida, Brown is going to look for what's left out as much what's there.

All in all, however, Brown's conclusion seems both hyperbolic and wrongheaded: "None of this [the detail of the painting] is adequately captured, [and] indeed, most of it [is] changed to the opposite of what it had previously been, by Pynchon's recollection." My sense of what Derrida says is that the author's intentionality has little to do with the text; in all fairness, that ought to restrain any attempt to deride the putative inadequacy of the text's representation of the painting, even if it was as inaccurate as Brown claims.

Bubble Shades

a:21, b:11 - she wore dark green bubble shades
This is the sixties, after all...

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6
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