This is partly in response to the "Maybe?" post from below, as well as a continuation of a thread from class on Monday. I don't know about the east-west / modern-postmodern parralel regarding Matt and Nick, but I think it'ss quite useful for unpacking the differences between Nick and Klara. Both moved westward from New York (allegorically, from modernity to postmodernity), but the two have reacted to the shifts in very different ways. The seeds of this theme are planted early. During their first encounter after so long, Klara wonders if life didn't "take an unreal turn at some point;" and "becasue [she's] famous," but because "it's just unreal" (73), to which Nick responds in swiftly modern judgment: "I lived responsibly in the real.
body without organs's blog
I was just looking back through the earlier sections of the book, and the following passage, where Nick asks his wife about Brian and then wishes he had done it earlier: " 'What do I detect?' 'What do you mean?' she said. 'Between you and Brian.' 'What do you mean?' she said. 'What do I detect? That's what I mean.' He makes me laugh,' she said finally ... I hear the shower rnning accross the hall and I realized I'd done it all wrong. I should have rbought up the subject standing in the doorway while she was watching TV. Then I could have been the one who walks out of the room" (117). There is something strikingly filmic about both the exchange itself and Nick's curious reaction.
This is partly in response to the "Dialectics" post below, but I think this theme is prevalent enough in Gravity's Rainbow to merit its own post. Essentially, I think Pynchon exhibits a vehemently anti-dialectical sensibility. The word "dialectic" has become associated most readily with Hegel, a 19th century German philosopher who posited that History (with a notably capital "H") progresses according to a play of opposites: the "thesis" (an idea/structure/entity) meets its "antithesis" (something that opposes it) and the two come together, according to a dual logic of negation and elevation, as the "synthesis" (the resulting higher truth that is able to comprehend both as a unified totality). Science supposedly works like this: the theory of the times holds that the earth is the center of the universe (thesis), astronomical evidence contradicts the the theory (antithesis), and a higher-level explantion results. So according to Hegel, History is explicable by way of an analogous scientific process: two opposing ideas about how to structure the world come together, wrestle in the public arena, and ultimately are subsumed by something of a higher order - a more enlightened idea of how to structure the world that takes the good aspects of both initial ideas into account.
I did, at some point. You did too. And so did Slothrop. We've all come to internalize the myths, stories, ideologies, etc., that define "who we are." For instance, we no longer need to be told what it means to "be a man" or "be a woman" - long ago we all appropriate some sense of what these categories mean, and we all perform those meanings day to day, moment to moment (even if we reject both categories, that is in itself a kind of performance). Following a thread of discussion from Wednesday's class, the first group brought up the passage on 338 when Slothrop is leaving Geli: "Slothrop feels his heart, out of control, inflate with love and rise quick as a balloon.
I think the gender slant in this novel - though, like many of you, I wouldn't go so far as to use a more loaded term like "sexism" - comes through in the questions that define Pynchon's project more than any overt misogyny (or if there is, it has to do with the historical period, not authorial bias). To take Running Silent's example from another post of Pavlov/causality as gender neutral issues, I wonder: would a female author be so preoccupied with figuring out what-it-all-means, and be so disturbed when she cannot? I'm not going to engage the constructionist aspects of question here (e.g., "well what defines gender?"), but I will offer my two-cents about the history of critical theory.
I was wondering what you all thought of the passage on pg. 212 begining " 'You were in London,' she will present whisper" and ending with "an they its children..." Did this section give anyone else pause? While the word "rainbow" has been deployed elsewhere, this seems, unless I missed something, to be the first reference to the novel's title - gravity's rainbow = some kind of connection between people + rockets (or war) + color + mathmatetical structure. The theme of the modern/rational categories being epistemologically inadequate seems to be at least one recurring point in the story, but here Pynchon seems to be indicting human feebleness to an even greater degree: "You haven't even learned the data on our side of the flight profile, the visible or trackable.
I echo what appears to be general sentiment: the first 150 pages were slow going, at times exasperating, but also rewarding in a gestalt sort of way. I, too, was reminded of Catch 22 --Pynchon's versatility really comes through during moments of wry comic relief, which provided welcome opportunities to catch my breath from the stylistically- and content-heavy prose (my favorite little pocket of humor was definitely the scene where Slothrop is being force-fed "unspeakably awful" candy).
I was intrigued by the prevalence of the second-person voice; it seemed to implicate the reader somehow in the events of the story's universe, prohibiting the kind of safe retrospective complacency with which one could easily read Gravity's Rainbow. Pynchon periodically asks questions like "Is the baby smiling, or is it just gas? Which do you want it to be?" which give the distinct impression of the author directly interrogating the reader (133). Moments like this force cathexis, problematizing the possibility of remaining detached from, say, Roger Mexico's bemusement about the limitations of statistics/rationalism for understanding the world. Did anyone else get this sense from the second-person structure? The theme of voyeurism also seemed to contribute to the overall sense of reader's complicity. After the description of Slothrop and Darlene's sexual encounter (right after the candy scene), Pynchon off-handedly asks, "And who's that, through the crack in the orange shade, breathing carefully? Watching?" (122). This question -- regardless of whether it was intended to refer to a peeping tom inside the story or not -- wakes us from our voyeuristic lull, offering a jarring reminder that by reading we are, in fact, watching without being watched; and, furthermore, that this occupation applies not only to sex scenes but across the board. In other words, reading is always voyeurism. But Pynchon clearly wants us to read; I understand him as simply hoping to inspire a little critical self-consciousness about the seer-seen imbalance between reader and novel, and for us to not let the (necessarily) voyeuristic mode of engagement with the text cloud our compulsion to engage actively with the difficult questions it evokes. It reminded me, in this sense, of the David Lynch film Blue Velvet, which plays with the notion of voyeurism in similar, self-consciousness-inducing sort of way.