All three of our novels have now dealt with the relationship between drugs and paranoia, perhaps Infinite Jest most directly. It almost seems to be an integral part of encyclopedic novel, perhaps because of the role of drugs in modern society, or perhaps even more scarily as an aspect of their prophetic nature. Reading the section about waiting for the marijuana delivery reminded me a lot of the GR section about freedom and drugs. In some ways the concept of marijuana addiction seemed like a bit of a stretch, but there is a definite sense of not being able to resist. Especially in the way we keep hearing about how he doesn't even know why he does it any more -- this seems to be almost the opposite of what GR was talking about.
Did page 404 make anyone else think of Gravity's Rainbow? DeLillo talks about "Bombheads" but says they don't walk around with "megadeath hardons", and are not all pro-bomb. I think the term "megadeath hardon" sort of sums of Gravity's Rainbow.
I also am interested in how DeLillo deals with one of Gravity's Rainbow's favorite themes, paranoia. I am thinking about how Matt gets paranoid when he gets high. I feel that scene is part of DeLillo's commentary on paranoia and how so much of our terror is self-imposed. It seems degraded when Matt's fears are caused by drugs. It seems very silly.
"What's the point of waking up in the morning if you don't try to match the enormousness of the known forces in the world with something powerful in your own life?" (323)
We've talked about it before, but more and more as we keep reading I think DeLillo seems to be saying that paranoia is a good thing, that establishing connections to things is absolutely necessary. This quote in particular says that making connections that maybe aren't there is actually necessary to have a sense of purpose in life. The connection between the 'enormous' powers of the world and the relative insignificance of your own life is probably not a real one, but still DeLillo says we need it.
I think that Underworld reveals (more clearly) an aspect of paranoia that wasn't discussed really in Gravity's Rainbow. That is, when someone is paranoid, they already know the answer to their fears, and nothing short of an affirmation of such fears will calm their hearts. I think this aspect of paranoia is really well illustrated in the discussion about the census. "'Face the issue,' he said. 'What's the issue?' 'We have a right to know how many of us there are.' 'But you do know.' 'We don't know. Because the number is too dangerous. How threatened do you feel by the real number?'"(336) As you can see, he has already made up his mind about the facts. Nothing will convince him that the census data is accurate because he will simply claim that it has been manipulated.