This page-by-page annotation is organized by sections, as delineated by the seven squares (sprockets) which separate each section. The page numbers for this page-by-page annotation are for the original Viking edition (760 pages). Editions by other publishers vary in pagination the newer Penguin editions are 776 pages; the Bantam edition is 886 pages.
Contributors: Please use a 760-page edition (either the original Viking edition with the orange cover or the Penguin USA edition with the blue cover and rocket diagram there are plenty on Ebay for around $10) or search the Google edition for the correct page number. Readers: To calculate the Bantam edition use this formula: Bantam page # x 1.165. Before p.50 it's about a page earlier; as you get later in the book, add a page.
Finally, profound thanks to Prof. Don Larsson for providing the foundation for this page-by-page annotation.
281.01-02 die kalte Sophie
"cold wisdom"? Correspondent Morten Peters gives a better explanation!: "-the allusion may be intended by Pynchon, but originally this is just the German traditional agricolan term for the last day of the "eisheiligen", which are normally the last days in the year that can be really cold." Igor Zabel also offers the following:
- "The days of the three "ice-men" (May 12, 13 and 14) are followed by the day of Sophia, 15 May, called "the cold Sophia" because it is considered to be the conclusion of the cold days in May. The "ice-saints" are believed to be the end of the winter period; they represent a period when, in high spring, it can get quite cold and sometimes snow may fall. It is a dangerous time for peasants since the cold period can endanger or even destroy the harvest. In 1945, these days have passed without damaging the wine grapes. We have the same tradition in Slovenia, the popular name for the "kalte Sophie" is "polulana Zofka" which means the "wet" or "peed Sophy" (since it usually rains on that day)."
281.9 the revolutionaries of May
Considering the unusual point of view as represented in the very first sentence("We are"), this may be a topical reference to May 1968 and the following Big Chill. The seemingly redundant interjection "this year" in the next sentence then signifies a shift back to narrative time. In Germany the only great vintage between the period of revolts and the publication of Gravity's Rainbow belongs to the year 1971.
A common wartime acronym is Women Airforce Service Pilots, but the context suggests a more fitting acronym of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The text here compares Herero beliefs to the beliefs of Slothrop's Protestant ancestors with their "buckled black" shoes, and views of God as present in natural phenomena.
285.37 Jim Fisk style
Before his involvement with gold markets and railroads, Fisk was a Yankee peddler working the Berkshires. There are several references to him in The Berkshire Hills (though his name is misspelled "Fiske").
287.11-12 double row of shiny bright teeth hangs in the air
Reminiscent of Alice and the Cheshire Cat:
- Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,” thought Alice; “but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!” Alice in Wonderland, Chapter 6, "Pig and Pepper"
P-47 Thunderbolt, also known as the "Jug," was one of the main United States Army Air Forces fighters of World War II, and served with other Allied air forces as well.
287.25-26 Project Hermes
US Army missile program started in 1944 to develop guided missile systems; included study of captured German V-2s; General Electric (GE) ran the contract
Derogatory term for German soldiers or Germans in general; derives from sauerkraut, a popular German food
Derogatory term for the British, originally referring to British sailors. It is believed to derive from lime juice, referring to the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy practice of supplying lime juice to British sailors to prevent scurvy.
287.37-38 Old Blood 'n' Guts handed Rommel's ass to him
Refers to American General George Patton's defeat of German forces lead by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in the North Africa campaign of WWII.
287.38-39 Ach du lieber! Mein Arsch!
German: 'Oh my goodness! My ass!'
290.8 Under my linden tree
Allusion to Middle High German lyric poet Walter von der Vogelweide's (c. 1170 - c. 1230) most famous love song "Under der linden", where the singer implied is another young girl.
290.15 Geli Tripping
Another name taken from Gilbert and Sullivan, this time from HMS Pinafore (1878). When the Female Relations of Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty, board the ship, they sing, "Gaily tripping,/ Lightly skipping,/ Flock the maidens to the shipping." (Have a listen...) The name is not without psychedelic overtones reminiscent of the Merry Pranksters. Read the lyrics...
290.16 A Soviet intelligence officer named Tchitcherine
Explaining the sources for the name, Weisenburger cites Theodore von Kármán (The Wind and Beyond. Boston: Little, 1967), and David Seed ("Pynchon's Two Tchitcherines", Pynchon Notes 5:11-12). Kármán writes the following: "Frank Tchitcherine was of Russian origin, and in fact had been related to the first minister of education in the Kerensky government. This Tchitcherine helped convince the Germans to disclose their hiding place for literally tons on research documents pertaining to the rocket and supersonic flight." It seems Von Kármán was wrong about both the date and the function. There was only one Chicherin on the Russian political scene at that time. Kerensky's minister of education was A. A. Manuilov, who was in no position to convince the Germans about anything as the two nations were at war while the Kerensky government was in office. (In fact, German rocket research began in earnest only after 1929, when Hermann Oberth published Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen.) On the other hand, Georgy Chicherin, an aristocrat by birth and a lover of German culture, was an ideal diplomatic partner for German foreign ministers Von Brockdorff-Rantzau, Rathenau, and Stresemann. "Vaslav" is obviously taken from Nijinsky's first name. There is no such Russian name as Vaslav. Originally it was Vatslav but the affricate [ts] was smoothed to [s], perhaps because it was easier for the French to pronounce.
German: shadow juice
I was voted the Sweetheart of 3/Art. Abt. (mot) 485
Contrary to what Weisenburger claims in his Companion, there was such a unit. In fact, their job was launching V2s. Under the supervision on SS-Gruppenführer Kammler, Division z. V. (zur Vergeltung) was set up for launching A4 rockets . Within the Division, Artillerie-Abteilung (motorisiert) 485 was part of Gruppe Nord, together with SS-Werfer-Batterie 500. The Abteilung (batalion) was transformed into a regiment in August 1944. While launching units 1 and 2 were in the Hague area, 3/Art. Abt. (mot) 485 was stationed in Western Germany, with targets in France and Belgium.
Have you been up to the Broken yet?
When asked if she were a witch, Geli makes reference to the Brocken, a mountain in northern Germany which Goethe describes in Faust as the center of revelry for witches on Walpurgisnacht. This may again be a reference to Pynchon’s Cornell teacher Vladimir Nabokov and his book Pale Fire. In that book Nabokov indirectly (and humorously) references the Broken when Kinbote talks of "an anthology of poets and a brocken of their wives" as a way of comparing Sybil Shade to a witch. Interestingly, Blodgett Waxwing is mentioned again less than a page later. (See 246.35 for discussion of Nabokov and "waxwing".)
294.11 Ge-li, Ge-li, Ge-li
Although often evoked by mimics, Cary Grant never actually said "Ju-dy, Ju-dy, Ju-dy." In the 1939 film Only Angels Have Wings he did say "Oh, Judy" and "Yes, Judy" to Rita Hayworth's character, and in 1938's Bringing Up Baby he says "Susan, Susan, Susan".
294.20-21 Thanx for the info, and a tip of the Scuffling hat to ya
Slothrop copies the signoff to Jimmy Hatlo’s comic strip "They’ll Do It Every Time," which was based on ideas from readers. These contributors were typically acknowledged with the words, "Thanx, and a tip of the Hatlo hat to..."
Beyond the Zero
Un Perm' au Casino Herman Goering
In the Zone
279-295, 295-314, 314-329, 329-336, 336-359, 359-371, 371-383, 383-390, 390-392, 392-397, 397-433, 433-447, 448-456, 457-468, 468-472, 473-482, 482-488, 488-491, 492-505, 505-518, 518-525, 525-532, 532-536, 537-548, 549-557, 557-563, 563-566, 567-577, 577-580, 580-591, 591-610, 610-616