Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XIX

Carroll Eventyr finally gets his own section. Or part of a section seeing as how Pynchon loves to start a section from one character's point of view and then slip into the memory of another character when the first character remembers an experience they had with that new character and then that character has a memory of another character whose point of view we wind up slipping into.

That's a thing that happens, right? I'm not just a terrible reader? Am I?!

Well, that question is answered almost immediately as the point of view shifts to Nora Dodson-Truck observing Carroll in the memory of Carroll's medium powers first expressing themselves. She didn't quite catch who was coming through, nor remembered exactly what was said, but she recognized something spiritual happening because she immediately took a sidewalk artist's ochre chalk and drew a pentagram around her and Carroll.

Back to Carroll, he suspects that, perhaps, his sudden psychic powers expressed themselves as a way to keep Nora close to him (apparently they were engaged in an affair). Had he felt her slipping away and in an effort to keep her close, he called up "the control" (Peter Sascha, the voice, or spirit, on the other side that helps facilitate meetings with certain people passed on).

Carroll's drama with Nora, simply hinted at in the beginning of this short tale, careens into descriptions of the paranormal characters at The White Visitation. These general descriptions of the powers of the various people eventually focuses on Gavin Trefoil and his ability to change his skin color from albino white to a dark, purplish black. Speculation on how this could work scientifically turns into a mini-play (written by Rollo Groast to his father? Or just imagined by the narrator? Or by us, the readers?) about how the cells in the Central Nervous System react to becoming cells in the epidermis. It becomes an allegory of life and death on the human level, and the possibility of ascending to a heaven, an old home to be called back to. But which, ultimately, must remain theoretical, a dream, a fantasy, because no messages are ever sent back by those who pass on.

And now we see them, Nora and Carroll, together in their intimacy, in Nora's power, in Carroll's fear. Nora uses all those at The White Visitation as windows to something past the world we know. She tries to see something, some "Outer Radiance," but gets back nothing, time and time again. She has become empty in that search. Maybe, once, she used them for hope. But now she just uses them, cynically, to reiterate the Zero, to show her, again and again, that no matter what their powers profess to explain, she witnesses nothing. Nothing at all.

This is a complicated section featuring characters we never really learn a whole lot about. So I'm speculating wildly here with what textual evidence I'm able to comprehend!

Nora can't believe but it doesn't keep each of them from trying to convince her, to impress her with their abilities. Cherrycoke, the psychometrist, speaks of visions he sees when touching objects owned by other people. Over and over, he tells Nora things he should not know about her and yet she expresses her denials, no matter how accurate his guesses.

But Cherrycoke does get visions. His visions of St. Blaise's encounter with an angel on a bombing run the most substantial proof of his gifts. Nobody but St. Blaise and his wingman knew of this event but Cherrycoke picked up on it. St. Blaise believed it was a trick, Cherrycoke's divination of this event. But he couldn't have known from anybody else because the wingman was dead. And so Carroll Eventyr decided to reach out across the gap to this dead man, to certify what Cherrycoke had discovered.

The wingman's name is Terence Overbaby. Does anybody in academia know definitively how Pynchon picked his characters' names because this is getting ridiculous!

When Carroll tries to contact Terence, we, the readers, get a short biography of Peter Sascha, Carroll's spirit control. A medium himself, killed in 1930 by a blow from a police man, he used to do readings and séances for high ranking officials. One of them was Weissman, just back from Africa with his Herero aide (Enzian). Also at these functions, for his drugs (used in various paranormal ways, I suppose?), was Wimpe, the chemist who "befriends" Enzian's half-brother, Tchitcherine. These are connections I absolutely would not have made the first time reading this book.

During this scene at Sascha's séance, a man named Walter Asch has something happen to him. As each of the people at the event watch, they all interpret it in various ways. This theme, that we all interpret a "text" based on our own biases and experiences, we've seen previously in the way the members of The White Visitation viewed Slothrop's ability to predict rocket impacts with his hard-on. In these interpretations, we first experience a point of view through Enzian's eyes.

A new moment now, an interaction between Roger Mexico and Edward Treacle about needing to study death and the afterlife in order to understand life, since they are two sides of one conversation. Edward brings up the Herero as a culture who take it as gospel that they constantly speak with their dead.

Finally, we learn that Peter Sascha was in love with Leni Pökler, separated wife of Franz Pökler who worked on the rocket with Weissman, mother of Ilse, the young woman who would spend her life in a camp, only allowed short visits to go with her father to Zwölfkinder (if it was actually Ilse at all, of course!).

And that's it! Once again, just a lot of plot summary as I try to wrap my head around as much of this stuff as I can. Mostly so it's all in there when I need it for later sections when all of this information is referenced!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XVIII

This section begins in the middle of a dream Pointsman is having. Kind of. I guess it begins with Pointsman asking himself, "When did you enter the paradoxical phase? Because it must have happened recently. You're now sleeping through the noise of all those bombers noisily flying by! So much noise! But also so much sleep! And what are you doing instead of waking up? You're dreaming!" If Pynchon ever reads my blog, he'll probably be thinking, "Damn! That young man said it how I should have!"

Also, I'm not a young man. But I still get called a young man by really old men. It's super fucking cute.

Part way through the description of the dream, as Pointsman is leaving his house to enter the childhood village where he grew up, he begins to remember how previous dreams in this location usually go. He usually walks out of his house and turns right where he winds up in a cemetery and then begins to fly. But he can only rise so far, slowing as he goes. And then he stops. You know. The way the rocket does. I mean until it begins to fall, of course. I'm not dumb! I've known how rockets work since I was like twelve! But this time in the dream, he goes left. I suppose that's the direction where the rocket falls back to Earth? It's also known as the sinister direction. You know. Left. Which Pointsman mentions to the woman who is his wife whom he doesn't know at all because he's never had one. It's sinister time!

Other rocket imagery in the dream: a white light falling from the sky and the time of day, 6 o'clock, where the hands are straight up and down.

Pointsman awakes with a start at the tentative knocking on his door of Thomas Gwenhidwy who has come to report that Spectro has been killed in a rocket blast. That's what makes him realize he's in the paradoxical phase. He sleeps through loud noises but wakes to quiet ones. Also Gwenhidwy means a lot of different things in Welsh depending on how I put them into Google the Terrible Translator. It can mean filthy smile or white filtrate! I think it also meant something else when I put it in some weird way but I've forgotten because I did that a few days ago.

As Pointsman contemplates his mortality in the face of Spectro's death, I can't help thinking of the seven scientists who have shared The Book (five of whom are dead now) as a superhero group, probably because of names like Lamplighter and Spectro. Plus they're all being picked off in some Watchmen style plan by the smartest man in the world. It's a weird superhero group though because they're battling the Nazis and their super weapons by studying conditioning and madness and paranoia but failing at every turn. How could they succeed? What are they studying that can be used proactively against the rocket, against pure violence? Abreactions, conditioning, madness, hysteria? Like the sound of the rocket coming only after it hits, the things they study are the results, the after-effects, of the rocket's violence. Like how Roger's statistics can't save anybody, it can only offer some kind of understanding of the pattern of the rockets which seems to offer a vague hope or slight control, Pointsman and his group's studies will not save one life. But it might shine new light on how people become numb to the death all around them, how people can live with the possibility of instantaneous obliteration in the same way they've always lived without it. In a way, it's nothing new. It's just one more way to die that must be cloaked in denial and disbelief if one wants to get anything done at all during daylight hours.

Pointsman even sees himself as the Superman of the group, the lone survivor (he apparently can't imagine that the lone survivor of The Book's group might be Gwenhidwy), stepping up to accept the Nobel Prize for finally discovering the proof that it all, every single aspect of human behavior, comes down to physiology. He even imagines his final obstacle as some arch nemesis, some super villain (or Minotaur or Nazi hound or silent killer). In some way I don't totally understand because I've never had any ambition, he has his own death wrapped up in his fantasy of his final and ultimate success. Perhaps it seems more glorious to him this way, more heroic.

But he had lost that dream many years ago, beat down by routine and funding and bosses. Until now. Now, with Slothrop in his sights, he once again sees the possibility of seeing Pavlov's work completed and bringing the ultimate truth of why humans are what they are and why they do what they do to all mankind. Or maybe he just desperately needs to know why Slothrop gets hard-ons at places the rockets will fall. He probably makes a big deal about it so that the reader, realizing they still have six hundred pages left in the book, will be all, "Oh! Yeah! I want to know the answer to that too! I'm going to totally stick with this book to find out the answer which Pynchon will definitely reveal to me!" Ha ha! Idiot.

Slothrop has already been sent to the Riviera so I guess Pointsman's experiment has already started. Oh yeah. That makes sense since I am only about thirty pages away from Chapter 2.

"There's something here, too transparent and swift to get a hold on—Psi Section might speak of ectoplasms—but he knows that the time has never been better, and that the exact experimental subject is in his hands. He must seize now, or be doomed to the same stone hallways, whose termination he knows. But he must remain open—even to the possibility that the Psi people are right. "We may all be right," he puts in his journal tonight, "so may be all we have speculated, and more. Whatever we may find, there can be no doubt that he is, physiologically, historically, a monster. We must never lose control. The thought of him lost in the world of men, after the war, fills me with a deep dread I cannot extinguish. . . ."

Another possibility is that Pointsman simply fears losing the funding he's been getting because of the War. The only way to keep going after the War is to run the Slothrop Experiment! And also to bribe Pudding with poo-poo and pee-pee.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Cerebus #21 (1980)

It's almost as if Dave Sim predicted Rob Liefeld!

I don't know who you are that might be reading this without also knowing what I'm referencing in that caption but, just for you, I'll show you. And just for everybody else, a reminder of possibly the worst comic book depiction of Captain America ever. Rob Liefeld could have had the most spectacular career, without ever messing up human anatomy ever (he was not that), and this is all I would want people to remember him by:

It doesn't make sense in so, so many ways!

Rob Liefeld shouldn't be mocked for this attempt to draw Captain America. I'm assuming Rob had editors, right? And they had bosses? And Marvel had a president? That's how businesses work, right? You don't just accept shitty work from an employee or contractor, shrug your shoulders, and say, "I guess that's the best we're going to get!"

Also, I've seen a number of people compare this Liefeld art to actual pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger as some kind of defense of the picture (since it is almost certainly what Liefeld was basing the picture on). But that just makes it worse because how do you get it this wrong if you've got a model right there in front of you?! Sure, Schwarzeneger looks like he as huge man boobs and you can't believe his chest is that big. But at least his head is placed correctly on his body and his waist isn't three feet thick and his left man boob doesn't protrude six inches past his right man boob and his left shoulder isn't non-existent and, you know what? I'm tired of looking at that shit. I'm going to read Cerebus now.

Judging by Captain Cockroach on the cover, Weisshaupt appears in this issue. I didn't think he was introduced until High Society but I guess he gets a short story before then. When I first read Cerebus in my early twenties, I simply assumed Weisshaupt was a George Washington parody. It makes some sense because he's trying to organize the United Feldwar States. But now that I'm older and wiser and more enmeshed in conspiracy theories than I was back then (although even in my elementary school days, I was a huge fan of In Search Of and read any book I could get about the Bermuda Triangle or Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster), I should probably consider that he's based on Adam Weishaupt, the founder of the Illuminati. That also makes sense because, well, his name but also because Sim has just recently introduced so many secret societies and mysterious philosophies in the last few issues. Weisshaupt is just the leader of one more political and/or social movement.

What also makes sense? He's a little bit of both. I'm sure America's Founding Fathers were familiar with his writing about Illumination's belief in equality and liberty (although a very structured equality and liberty where certain people were in charge of telling everybody else the rules by which one could be most free).

The story hits pretty hard with the America theme with the intoduction of Captain Cockroach in his purple, white, and blue uniform selling United Feldwar States war bonds with his sidekick Bunky the Albino, both working for President Weisshaupt, referenced as "the father of his country." So I probably wasn't wrong in my youthful assessment. It's just now I have an old-person assessment as well with a keen ability to read into texts things that absolutely weren't meant to be there!

Cerebus runs into Captain Cockroach and Elrod working together, learns about Weisshaupt, and even though he's dying to get back to his T'gitan army so he can invade Palnu, he just can't deny his curiousity.

Cerebus has many qualities that get him into trouble but I think his need to find rational answers to the ridiculous questions he encounters is the main one.

Weisshaupt explains his plan to rule Lower Felda to Cerebus and it's a familiar plan being that every power hungry authoritarian generally runs the same play.

What's amazing is how many people fall for it every time. I guess we're way past the "breeding them for stupidiy" phase. Especially in 21st Century America.

Cerebus bids farewell to Weisshaupt but only after having some wine. The wine reacts the drugs recently introduced into Cerebus' system which means he's instantly drunk. And then instantly sober. And then instantly drunk. The bottom line is that he doesn't quite make it out of the city before he, Elrod, and Captain Cockroach are attacked by a Hsifan ninja. The issue ends with Cerebus unconscious and Elrod about to die.

I don't know how Dave Sim did it but he satirizes America nearly perfectly in this issue. Are we that transparent?! Does everybody else around the world look at us and think, "All of their political and social decisions are based on racism and profit"? "IS THAT ALL WE ARE?!" I scream rhetorically because, you know, we're just finishing up four years with the worst person in the world as president and a bunch of stupid fucking assholes who believe he did a good job.

Cerebus #21 Rating: B+. Did you know that if you hit the random button on Wikipedia's home page, you're 83% likely to get an article not just about something you've never heard of but about something you actively don't give a fuck about? That math is solid.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XVII.III

I've been avoiding this part for a few days because writing about it is going to expose my inability to comprehend any writing that refuses to insert a paragraph break at least once per page. Reading three or four pages that are also just one paragraph must be how Bilbo felt wandering through Mirkwood without any food and beset by giant spiders. I can only relate to things through references to The Hobbit. "Being fat in junior high was like discovering you were the joke dwarf who always fell in the river or couldn't be pulled up a rope or fell into a self-induced coma when there wasn't enough food and too many miles to hike by throwing yourself into a 'magic' river!" I mean, seriously, nobody believes Bombur was actually unconscious for days, right? He probably woke up after an hour or so and realized he was being carried and was all, "Oh, um, snore! I'm snoring still!"

The never ending paragraphs of the last nine pages of this section begin with Roger and Jessica passing by a church around Christmas. A bunch of soldiers are singing religious songs so that Pynchon can discuss a bunch of stuff like colonialism and more colonialism and, I don't know, religion? Toothpaste maybe? Is this when he goes off on toothpaste?!

Roger sees Jessica's reaction to the people going in for service and he surprises her by stopping and suggesting they go inside. It surprises Jessica because Roger has been such a cynic about religion and the paranormal and Christmas. But he explains to her as they walk inside, "To hear the music." Yeah, buddy. Sure. More like "Because I fucking love you and I saw the way the entire scene caught in your throat and threatened to overwhelm you with nostalgia and memory."

After that, it's all, well, Pynchon stuff. We begin with noticing only one face in the choir is black: a Jamaican corporal from Kingston. And since we (we being the narrator and the reader, discovering these things together, I suppose) have noticed him, we might as well take a quick peak at his life back on the island, right?! And from there, we can, through a passing description of the different coins he has gathered by singing on the streets, get a glimpse of how the Empire works. This island native brought to England to fight Britain's war only to wind up in an Anglican church singing songs in German. All this to sort of drive a certain point home in a bit of writing that I loved the first time I read this and I loved the second time I read this and I loved yet again in whatever numbered time this reading is:

"With the high voice of the black man riding above the others, no head falsetto here but complete, out of the honest breast, a baritone voice brought over years of woodshedding up to this range . . . he was bringing brown girls to sashay among these nervous Protestants, down the ancient paths the music had set, Big and Little Anita, Stiletto May, Plongette who loves it between her tits and will do it that way for free—not to mention the Latin, the German? in an English church? These are not heresies so much as imperial outcomes, necessary as the black man's presence, from acts of minor surrealism—which, taken in the mass, are an act of suicide, but which in its pathology, in its dreamless version of the real, the Empire commits by the thousands every day, completely unaware of what it's doing. . . ."

I love the image of the Empire committing suicide by its very nature. The idea that Britain thinks it's making the world in its own image but what it's actually doing is bringing the world to itself, incorporating the world into it, and changing itself forever. In a sense, immolating itself with diversity.

Next, we listen to the choir and must realize this is the War's evensong. Come! It is time to float, omnisciently, over the island and see what the War is doing, how it's acting, how it's transforming reality! First, let us begin with toothpaste and toothpaste containers and how they're transformed, perhaps transsubstantiated!, into weapons and vehicles of the War! And how those toothpaste tubes, how they do their duty as toothpaste tubes before doing their duty as war machines! Through one mundane item, Pynchon tracks how it connects those on the homefront with those on the battlefront. He explains the cycle so that he may shine a light on the way the War obfuscates this connection in its need to keep a stark divider between homefront and battlefront. He says of the Allied war effort, "it wants a machine of many separate parts, not oneness, but a complexity. . . . Yet who can presume to say what the War wants, so vast and aloof is it . . . so absentee."

Is Pynchon preparing the reader for the vast conspiracy to be speculated upon later? The need to hide the connections because the Corporate connections show a War that has no sides at all, really. Just a bunch of German and American and British Corporations that all have a hand in the tills of the War, and all seemingly work together in vast and mysterious ways to build the rockets which they fire not upon the enemy but, seemingly, upon themselves. The parts must be kept separate and obfuscated so that nobody knows, until it's too late, that they're all working for the same cause. Even when they fight against it, they're working for it, as Pirate finds out later.

Speaking of which, the whole Counterforce situation that arises later reminds me of the documentary Planet of the Humans which takes a deep dive into green energy and where the money comes to support it and how the definition of "green energy" gets distorted to the point that it no longer legally means what people think it means. And thus the people fighting for what they believe is green energy turns into a bunch of people fighting on the same side as fossil fuel backers and producers. Watching that documentary really helped me get a grasp on what was happening in the Counterforce section of the book.

At least I think it did! I still need to re-read it!

The paragraph decides not to end and begin a new paragraph when it begins discussing a mental patient at The White Visitation who believes he is World War II because I guess it's still discussing the same thing? What is the War? Is it possibly a vast conspiracy? Is it possibly a never ending cycle between civilian life and war casualties? Is it an insane man in a mental hospital on the cliffs overlooking the North Sea?

Pynchon allows some speculation on the mental patient: is he actually the War? Or just the person chosen to die for the War so it will live on? And what if it does live on? Where and when will it return? What terrible gifts will it bring the future generations? Will they embrace the gifts? Or will they just fart.

That was actually a pretty literal synopsis!

Oh! Oh! A new paragraph! My, that was a long one. Two pages! No way this next one can be...oh. Oh shit. Five pages?! Come on, Pynchon! You're doing my head in!

Luckily, this five pages of paragraph aren't some abstruse philosophical or conspiracy minded musing on the War. I mean, it might be! But at least on the surface, it's a description of Christmas in London near the end of the War but while the threat of the rockets still exist. We get a description of wedding dresses from weddings that never came to be. Descriptions of prisoners of war back from Indo-China staring half-starved and gawking at the women braving the possibility of rockets to find some Christmas gifts for their children. A description of Italian postal carriers who grope those women shoppers with their "dead hands." The GIs back from the front who just want their normal lives back, who want to maybe learn to identify and get to know those children. And those children! We get descriptions of the toys they were given last year, toys made from recycled Spam tins, which they take in stride having played with actual Spam tins the months and seasons before. Yet now, this year, as the War is nearing an end, the toys are once more back to normal.

Then there's a bit about the older people and how they watch as the clocks run faster due to the War's burden on the energy grid. It's a complicated bit that I'm going to need to re-read after giving my brain a short break from this incessant paragraph. See you immediately after this paragraph ends in your timeline but after a good long break in mine!

It would be cool if I knew some of the themes I should be concentrating on so that I could understand some of these passages in the context of those themes. But I feel like the theme in Gravity's Rainbow is everything and all of these sections are just Pynchon writing, "Hey, here's another weird thing I was thinking about. You should think about it too. So, you know how old people are like 'My time is short and it just feels like time keeps going faster every year?' Well, did you also know that due to the electrical load on the grids in Britain during the War, electric clocks actually did speed up? Wouldn't that have been a huge mind fuck! Being elderly during that time! Woo boy! Crazy, right? Also, remember that time people lost a week due to the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar? What if somebody actually lived through that week? What would that have been like? I wonder who was alive during that so I can use that in another book. Let me see...oh! Mason and Dixon! Perfect! From the start, those characters set up the idea of boundaries! I can jizz that kind of shit out without even having breakfast!"

So after the old people you get a scene of a foggy London street which is compared to a lone beach so—hey! why not?!—let's get a long description of the beaches and the barbed wire and the abandoned cruise ships too! And since we've moved on now, lets' move on up to the foggy downs beyond the cliffs overlooking those beaches! I mean, the reader is probably lost now anyway! What better way to imagine that sense of being lost in the writing by moving the reader all over a geographic landscape at the same time?! Eventually we'll get back to the church scene, right? And then the reader can think, "Well, I made it back to the part of this scene I remember. I suppose all that other stuff didn't really matter. What did it have to do with plot, anyway? Plot is all there is! Plot, plot, plot!"

When the narrator does welcome all back to the church, it's described as a refuge for all those tired of, exhausted by, the routine of the War.

"Come then. Leave your war awhile, paper or iron war, petrol or flesh, come in with your love, your fear of losing, your exhaustion with it. All day it's been at you, coercing, jiving, claiming your belief in so much that isn't true. Is that who you are, that vaguely criminal face on your ID card, its soul snatched by the government camera as the guillotine shutter fell—or maybe just left behind with your heart, at the Stage Door Canteen, where they're counting the night's take, the NAAFI girls, the girls named Eileen, carefully sorting into refrigerated compartments the rubbery maroon organs with their yellow garnishes of fat—oh Linda come here feel this one, put your finger down in the ventricle here, isn't it swoony, it's still going. . . . Everybody you don't suspect is in on this, everybody but you: the chaplain, the doctor, your mother hoping to hang that Gold Star, the vapid soprano last night on the Home Service programme, let's not forget Mr. Noel Coward so stylish and cute about death and the afterlife, packing them into the Duchess for the fourth year running, the lads in Hollywood telling us how grand it all is over here, how much fun, Walt Disney causing Dumbo the elephant to clutch to that feather like how many carcasses under the snow tonight among the white-painted tanks, how many hands each frozen around a Miraculous Medal, lucky piece of worn bone, half-dollar with the grinning sun peering up under Liberty's wispy gown, clutching, dumb, when the 88 fell—what do you think, it's a children's story? There aren't any. The children are away dreaming, but the Empire has no place for dreams and it's Adults Only in here tonight, here in this refuge with the lamps burning deep, in pre-Cambrian exhalation, savory as food cooking, heavy as soot. And 60 miles up the rockets hanging the measureless instant over the black North Sea before the fall, ever faster, to orange heat, Christmas star, in helpless plunge to Earth. Lower in the sky the flying bombs are out too, roaring like the Adversary, seeking whom they may devour. It's a long walk home tonight. Listen to this mock-angel singing, let your communion be at least in listening, even if they are not spokesmen for your exact hopes, your exact, darkest terror, listen."

There's that mention of Dumbo and his magic feather again! This mention of belief in something, in anything, even if that thing cannot and will not save you. They (capital 'T') need you to believe in something greater so that you believe in the cause They need you to fight for, to keep Them in power and money. It doesn't matter what this thing is. A magic feather? A lucky bone? a Miraculous Medal? A half-dollar? A sense of patriotic fervor? Christ Himself? It's all the same. It's a magic feather that enables you to ignore your fear of flying, your fear of death, so that you can perform a trick for Them.

And back to the mass, to the evensong, sung to bring all together, to smash the boundaries of self, of our own peculiar fears and anxieties, so that we might sing away, as a group, as one, all of our own individual darknesses. So that we can share in a moment of hope for something better, for salvation.

The story slips into second person, imagining the readers themselves are there that night, long ago, to get a glimpse of their salvation, to see the miracle baby, the one who will redeem us all for our greed and lust and envy, for our bombs and our wars and our unimaginable, unending need to murder the other. This tiny baby, this possible Christ, this unimaginable frail redeemer . . . how is that our only hope for salvation? And yet . . .

"But on the way home tonight, you wish you'd picked him up, held him a bit. Just held him, very close to your heart, his cheek by the hollow of your shoulder, full of sleep. As if it were you who could, somehow, save him. For the moment not caring who you're supposed to be registered as. For the moment anyway, no longer who the Caesars say you are."

In my narcissism, this reminded me of a poem I wrote in college (look at this brave act! putting some old, humiliating piece of youthful writing on the Internet! So brave!):
Being There

As the cross was set upon the ground and ready to be raised to stand up high, I thought of the coming vengeance.
As they led the 'Messiah' to his proving grounds, I laughed and scorned his hated name.
As they threw his bones upon the ground, I was the first to kick him.
And they tore off his clothes and they spit on his face and they laid him upon his wooden tomb.

And the crowd roared for a miracle, but the heavens would not open up.

As they bound his wrists upon the posts, I felt my own wrists burn.
As they tied his ankles around the base, I felt that I might fall.
As they put the crown of jagged thorns upon his human brow, I felt the sting of angry barbs encircling my own.
And the pounded the nails down into his wrists and they raised the cross to stand up high, and one of them ran him through with his spear.

And the crowd roared for a miracle, but the heavens would not open up.

As the blood flowed down his broken wrists, I thought of every man I'd fought.
As the blood ran down his gasping chest, I thought of all my words against God.
As the blood seeped down below his waist, I thought of every woman I'd known.
And he called to the Lord and the guards they all laughed and a few of the women, they cried.

And the crowd began to walk away for the heavens would not open up.

All grew quiet as he sighed his last breaths, and I suddenly knew I was wrong.
So I cried to the Lord that I should be forgiven but knew that he ignored all my words.
And I walked away to live my life so that Jesus Christ might die.

The section ends asking what have they, these men taking a break from their war lives, given to use here this night? Or, more apt, what have we taken from them?

Book Review: The Hobbit

According to my mom's note in the back of my copy of this book, I first read it when I was eight years old. I remember my sister had checked it out from the school library and I was intrigued by the pictures (the copy I own which was my parents' copy and which I actually read doesn't have pictures. I don't know what edition my sister had checked out). I'm not sure how many times I've read it since then. Maybe no other times. But I just reread it in two days so I guess it was pretty good?

I didn't read The Lord of the Rings until junior high and I remember restarting more than once. I reread Bilbo's birthday chapter a few times before I stuck with the book. And another time, I stalled partway through The Two Towers and left it for so long that I, much later, simply began again with The Fellowship of the Ring.

Apparently I had projected the parts of The Lord of the Rings I found boring and tedious onto The Hobbit as well. Turns out, there really aren't any boring and tedious parts of this book. I suppose there would be if the book were written from the perspective of one of the dwarves. How useless are those guys?! The first half of the book is simply Gandalf saving everybody every time they get in trouble. The second half of the book is Bilbo saving everybody after they get in trouble. The dwarves could have been eaten by the trolls at the beginning of their journey and nothing would have been different. Except maybe for making things easier at the end when it came time to divvy up the treasures with the humans and elves.

I suppose the dwarves were needed to call in Dain's dwarf army to give the humans and elves a chance against the goblin attack at the end. And it's not like having the dwarves die would have stopped the goblins since the dwarves weren't at fault in sparking their wrath. That was caused by Gandalf murdering their king in the dark when he could have just screamed, "Fly, you fools!"

What I'm trying to say is I understand why this book wasn't called The Dwarves. I was more upset by the death of Smaug than by the death of Thorin. If you haven't read this book yet, I'm just kidding! Nobody dies! *wink*

Is this the book that started the trend of having one fat kid in the group for comic relief?

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XVII.II

The next two sections see Jessica lying in bed with Roger as she watches short scenes play across the ceiling above their bed. There's also a recounting of a time they were out driving and Jessica stood up in the car with her top off as a lorry full of little people hooted at and ogled her. That's about it. So I should probably talk about the sections following those two sections in this entry instead of making an entirely new one. The only thing I'm worried about is that this section has that one paragraph (maybe two) that lasts for six or seven pages. I mean, how do you get your head around something like that, let alone discuss it in a blog post? Especially when you're as dumb as I am?!

The next short section is Roger's. It's full of his paranoia and morning routines in The White Visitation as he pulls one of Jessica's hairs out of his mouth. Is there anything more upsetting than pulling somebody else's hair out of your mouth? I don't mean after the wind just blew their hair into your mouth so you knew why you were pulling it out. But finding it stuck in there after who knows how long it's been since you've been around people. I'm not sure it's ever happened to me. But it feels like it's happened to me! It's making me sick and, for some reason, making me think of Ring. Pretty sure there was a moment in that (or maybe in Spiral or Loop) where somebody pulled somebody else's hair out of their mouth (probably Samara's, right?!).

Speaking of Ring, you're probably, at least, familiar with the Americanized version of the film. But have you ever read the sequel, Loop? Talk about a fucked up book. And then Spiral is just a huge fucking cheat that could be a mind fuck if I hadn't felt so absolutely cheated by its conceit. But Loop? Man, I read that book and I was all, "No way they'd ever make a movie about this!" But guess what?! I was wrong! There is a Japanese movie based on the book and it's just as fucked up! I also thought they'd never make a movie based on Stephen King's Gerald's Game and I was proven wrong on that one too. Who are the people who read a book about a woman handcuffed to a bed for 48 hours and think, "This would make an exciting film!" I guess they're the same people who read a book about a cursed video tape which switches to a cursed manuscript which causes a woman to give birth to a dead woman who has the ability to give birth to anybody if their DNA is injected into her (and also the curse will cause everybody who winds up having a baby after seeing the film based on the manuscript to give birth to another Samara). I mean, what? Fuck you, Koji Suzuki! In a good way, I mean! I really loved Ring and, even though it was fucking idiotic, Loop. But Spiral? I mean, no thanks.

You may have noticed that I don't have a lot to say about this section of Gravity's Rainbow by the way I was distracted by hair in Roger's mouth. There's probably more to talk about like how paranoid Roger becomes while away from Jessica and how he finally realizes that he's working in a place full of paranormal freaks who could, with their crazy powers, be manipulating everything in his life. He suddenly feels so out of control that he briefly considers taking a job in Germany, with the enemy, as a means to regain control of his life! Poor Roger the statistician has begun to lose it.

It's because he's so in love. He's the member of the relationship who has no power because he's more in love with Jessica than she is with him. But for Jessica, the relationship seems to be what she needs to get through the war. She's definitely staying with Beaver after the war's over. Poor Roger is already dumped and he doesn't even know it. Or maybe he does know it and that's why he's beginning to panic.

Here's how Jessica feels about the relationship:

"Tonight she'll be with Jeremy, her lieutenant, but she wants to be with Roger. Except that, really, she doesn't. Does she? She can't remember ever being so confused. When she's with Roger it's all love, but at any distance—any at all, Jack—she finds that he depresses and even frightens her. Why? On top of him in the wild nights riding up and down his cock her axis, trying herself to stay rigid enough not to turn to cream taper-wax and fall away melting to the coverlet coming there's only room for Roger, Roger, oh love to the end of breath. But out of bed, walking talking, his bitterness, his darkness, run deeper than the War, the winter: he hates England so, hates 'the System,' gripes endlessly, says he'll emigrate when the War's over, stays inside his paper cynic's cave hating himself . . . and does she want to bring him out, really? Isn't it safer with Jeremy? She tries not to allow this question in too often, but it's there. Three years with Jeremy. They might as well be married. Three years ought to count for something. Daily, small stitches and easings. She's worn old Beaver's bathrobes, brewed his tea and coffee, sought his eye across lorry-parks, day rooms and rainy mud fields when all the day's mean dismal losses could be rescued in the one look—familiar, full of trust, in a season when the word is invoked for quaintness or a minor laugh. And to rip it all out? three years? for this erratic, self-centered—boy, really. Weepers, he's supposed to be past thirty, he's years older than she. He ought to've learned something, surely? A man of experience?"

The way Jessica thinks about Roger versus the way she thinks about Jeremy is telling. Roger doesn't have much hope in the long run.

The final section of this section takes place in a church with a military choir and I'll try to discuss it next time. Those page long paragraphs are intimidating!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Gravity's Rainbow: Part XVII.I

In Victorian times, did men and women reach orgasm more quickly because every single interaction with somebody of the opposite gender had foreplay inherently baked into it? If just speaking with somebody of the opposite gender (and forgive me, the moment, for simply discussing heterosexual matters since those were major concerns of the time (these parenthetical digressions threaten to get completely out of control because I must now point out that, yes, homosexual behavior was also a concern but in a quite different way. Society's constructs had been built around the concern that men and women might fuck; the background notion that homosexuality was evil and perverse meant that people, on average, would simply assume it's not happening (or if they did assume it was happening, perhaps resort to denial before belief. Whereas if they assumed a man and woman were fucking, it would be a scandal addressed (shocking revelation: I'm not historian. I'm just a middle-aged English lit major. So anything I think I know derives from reading fictional accounts from people like George Eliot or Oscar Wilde or Chuck Dickens))) was something that needed seven different chaperones, can you imagine the sexual tension when there were only six chaperones in the room?! How many trousers were stiff from pre-ejaculate nearly coursing out of the throbbing penis of a suitor, or how many women's drawers were later handed to a chambermaid later that night, sopping and moist?

You see what I'm getting at, right? If every assumption of your society is that men and women are going to fuck if somebody looks away for even half a second then every single interaction is dripping with literal love juice. Imagine that being your existence and then you finally get to touch! Your genitals would explode from just touching fingertips! Then imagine kissing?! You'd be comatose for a week from the power of the orgasm. Just imagine how many times you had to actually fuck before the penis was all the way inside the vagina without both partners exhausted from the sexual pleasure! No wonder somebody like Don Juan would have been so fascinating. Imagine a man who could get his penis all the way inside a woman and last for three whole pumps! *SWOON*

The best part about being an idiot on the Internet is that I can speculate on stuff like this and when people say things like, "You're an idiot!", I can answer, "I know!"

Anyway, I bring this up because this section begins with a description of the first time Roger made Jessica cum (normally I like to use "come" as the verb and "cum" as the noun describing the liquid results of coming. But sometimes I just think "Stop being so intellectual about dick and vag emissions!"). He did it by just grabbing her wrist. Then later, she came twice before his penis ever entered her vagina. So it made me think, "Does this say something about Jessica or about society?" Then instead of discussing mid-20th Century sexual mores and how they might lead to a man and woman coming super fast, I decided to discuss Victorian Era orgasms because it seemed more interesting. Also it's further away from our society where men and women, by age 10 (probably), have already seen so much porn that they need to wack shit with heavy metal tools before they feel anything at all. I grew up between those two eras (70s and 80s) so I received a little bit of each. Porn was hard to come by in the 70s but with the advent of cable television, it got increasingly easier to at least see boobs. I feel bad for heterosexual women and gay men who grew up in that time because it was much, much harder to get your hands on media with erect penises in. You know how lucky you had to be to find a hardcore sex magazine in the bushes of your local elementary school?! Well, it wasn't like winning the lottery because that's where everybody hid their porn. But it was still an exhausting search sometimes!

One of the points of the passage is to let the reader know that Roger Mexico is crazy in love with Jessica Swanlake. Take this passage about his jealousy of Jessica's long-time boyfriend Beaver:

"About Beaver, or Jeremy, as he is known to his mother, Roger tries not to think any more than he has to. Of course he agonizes over technical matters. She cannot possibly—can she?—be Doing the Same Things with Jeremy. Does Jeremy ever kiss her cunt, for example? Could that prig actually—does she reach around as they're fucking a-and slide a mischievous finger, his English rose, into Jeremy's asshole? Stop, stop this (but does she suck his cock? Has he ever had his habitually insolent face between her lovely buttocks?) no use, it's youthful folly time here and you're better off up at the Tivoli watching Maria Montez and Jon Hall, or looking for leopards or peccaries in Regents Park Zoo, and wondering if it'll rain before 4:30."

One of the films of Maria Montez and Jon Hall.

The first section of this section is all Roger and his love and his pedestal built for Jessica. It's all optimism and the crush of new love and a world that only exists when the two of them are together, a world wholly outside of the war. It's also all sex and fantasy.

I'm going to split this section into multiple sections based on the page breaks because it's a long section and I'm prone to rambling.