Synday Stories: Gravity’s Rainbow (5)
It is difficult to like a book (this one) and hate its main character (Tyrone Slothrop) and do both at the same time. But what is difficult is not impossible. The RocketMan stuff is like torture to me. It is endless, pointless and basically narcissistic as far as I can tell: an exercise in showing off unbounded imagination rather then imagination trying to break bounds. Maybe there is an incredibly super-intelligent purpose in subjecting the reader to such a masochistic experience. Maybe the point is that it prepares us to have a more forceful literary orgasm when we finally reach Mexico or Pökel. Maybe it’s even deeper than any of that, but however unfathomable it may be: I hate show-offs.
“Slothrop has the inborn gift of selecting the wrong gear for all occasions, and anyhow he’s jittery, eye in the mirror and out the back of his head aswarm with souped-up personnel carriers and squadrons of howling Thunderbolts.” Whipped I feel, over the buttocks with a rather thin cane. Did it make me enjoy the following quote more? “They want a negative birth rate. The program is racial suicide.” It did not. I would have enjoyed that anyway. Back to the whipping:“What are these persistences among a people, these traditions and offices, but traps? the sexual fetishes Christianity knows how to flash, to lure us in, meant to remind us of earliest infant love … Can his name, can “Enzian” break their power? Can his name prevail?” What is this persistence on wrong-footing the reader into fascination with the ugly just to identify it is the ugly?
Taking up the role of the detective combining analysis with instinct, I would be tempted to say that there is fear to just be outright about it and denounce the yearning for innocence as the non-original guilt. But the yearning is like a nicotine kick (or whatever other kick), even in leaving it one is spellbound by it. That’s Tyrone: he is a relapse. His presence, the cameo of the author, is a symptom of being held back into a state where the imagination needs a character imagining wild things; whereas it is clear that you don’t need characters to imagine wildly.
“Tchitcherine’s motives are not political. The little State he is building in the German vacuum is founded on a compulsive need he has given up trying to understand, a need to annihilate the Swcharzkommando and his mythical half-brother, Enzian. He comes from Nihilist stock: (..)” The temptation is to understand this, to see symbolism where there is nothing more than meaningless riffing and ranting on a preconceived Hegelian theme that pushes the author for every character to make an anti-character and for every anti-character a mold in which another character can be set. It is a neat trick and it hurts not just by the fine aspect of the cane but by the repetition of blows which are soft enough not to be hurtful each taken in isolation, soft enough to feel like some occasional caressing: “Tchitcherine has a way of getting together with undesirables, sub rosa enemies of order, counterrevolutionary odds and ends of humanity: he doesn’t plan it, it just happens, he is a giant supermolecule with so many bonds available at any given time, and in the drift of things … in the dance of things … howsoever … others latch on, and the pharmacology of the Tchicherine thus modified, its onwardly revealed side-effects, can’t necessarily be calculated ahead of time.” Yeah!
“The American vice of modular repetition, combined with what is perhaps our basic search: to find something that can kill intense pain without causing addiction.” Yearning for the impossible leads to the creation of Slothrop, Enzian, Pökler, Tchitcherine, Mexico, … Life only seems vast. In reality it is a non-reality of endless recombination in search of what can but not-be.
“And he busted me right whur I lay
And he took me back, to this cold, cold world,
‘N now m’ prison’s whurever I be …
And I dream of the days back in Doperland
And I wonder, will I ever go free?”
Not like that you won’t!
It makes me think of a Short Reader’s Guide to a Long-Winding Book that is not written and therefore need not be written at all. Shorter than 5+ installments of 800+ words. The result without the process of getting there. We will get there. Once there the way we came is irrelevant. The reverse of: “For this crew, nostalgia is like seasickness: only the hope of dying from it is keeping them alive.” Only the hope of disagreeing with the outcome is keeping us from stopping to read all this.
‘Are you very cruel?’
‘Could you be? Please. Find something to whip me with. Just a little. Just for the warmth.’ Nostalgia. The pain of a return home.
Over 800 words, finally. Time to put in a link.
Next up Pökler:
“… yes, bitch – yes, little bitch – poor helpless bitch you’re coming can’t stop yourself now I’ll whip you again whip till you bleed. …”
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