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.
9.03 Miss Grable
Betty Grable actually became a pin-up favorite in 1943 (not 1944), when she had a photo series released. Although she had been featured in various films since the late 1920s, she first became a major box office attraction with the 1940 film Down Argentine Way. The poster is also an example of the motif of the turning head that recurs throughout Gravity’s Rainbow. Correspondent Hazen Bob Dixon notes that Grable was actually pregnant when the picture was taken, which is why her back was turned in the first place. The story is plausible, since Grable did give birth to a daughter (by her husband, band leader Harry James) in March 1944; however, there are other versions of how the image came to be taken.
9.05 Civvie Street
In other words, Peacetime, when military personnel will again wear civilian clothes ("civvies"). George Formby had a postwar film titled George in Civvy Street (1946). See note at 18.25.
Correspondent Igor Zabel notes that the name of the famous mountain actually means "Virgin." Matthias Bauer adds: "The name of the mountain means virgin`` in 20th century German. Translated from Kluge Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache``, 23th edition, de Gruyter, Berlin, New York, 1999: originally meaning young lady, later generalized to young (unmarried) woman. Mysticism used the word for the Virgin Mary, and the meaning shifted towards young (virgin) woman."
Jungfrau is also the German for the zodiacal sign "Virgo." Another female "V." -- which figures later in the story and in history. Note as well the oblique reference to Venus, the "planet of love". In astrology Venus is "fallen" in Virgo. Light.
9.14-19 Bartley Gobbitch, DeCoverley Pox . . . SNIPE AND SHAFT, Teddy Bloat
"Gobbitch" comes from the archaic word "gobbet," which Webster’s New World Dictionary defines as "a fragment or bit, especially of raw flesh." The names "Pox" and "Bloat" are obvious enough, but "DeCoverley" comes from Sir Roger Decoverley, the prototypical country squire created by Addison and Steele for the Spectator and named in turn for a country reel dance. Overall, the names suggest another version of the "Whole Sick Crew" of Pynchon’s V. "Snipe" (backbite, take potshots) and "shaft" (undercut, screw over) are what these men are presumably assigned to do to others in their various bureaucratic jobs and what they do in conversations at the eponymous pub.
9.14-15 Maurice "Saxophone" Reed
More is Reed?. A saxophone is a single reed instrument.
9.19 the legend SNIPE AND SHAFT [as a pub sign]
A snipe is naval slang for a member of the engineering crew on a ship. Historically, there was always tension between snipes and the deck crew. http://oldsnipe.com/SnipeBegin.html
shaft: Any sensible canal boater carries a wooden pole on the cabin top, in order to punt the boat afloat again when it runs aground, and the most suitable length just happens to be about ten feet. It will normally be about two inches in diameter, and usually made of a hard wood.
However, the working boatmen of old called it a 'shaft', never a 'pole', and the term continues amongst experienced boaters today.http://www.grannybuttons.com/granny_buttons/2004/04/define_shaft.html
9.26 Vat 69
A whiskey. A sexual pun.
Vat 69 whisky is a scotch blended whisky. In 1882 William Sanderson prepared one hundred casks of blended whiskey and hired a panel of experts to taste them. The batch from the vat with number 69 was proclaimed as the best tasting one and the famous blend got its name. The whisky was at first bottled in port wine bottles. Wikipedia
9.28 Joaquin Stick
Say it out loud--another classic Pynchon name.
10.28 C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre
It's magnificent, but it's not war. The "French observer" was Marshal Pierre Bosque.
10.41 like a rude metal double-fart
Telephones in the UK use a double-ring, sounding like bzzt-bzzt.
11.25 his batman, a Corporal Wayne
12.07 to cup and bleed
To bleed [into a cup]: To let blood from; to take or draw blood from, as by opening a vein. A medical way through the 16th Century to treat some illnesses. Notice here Pynchon presents 'anxiety' as a physical illness treated in this old-fashioned discredited way (jokingly, of course).
Blood-letting flourished under the theory of Humours [bodily fluids], the Four Temperaments and their corresponding liquid in the body:
In re previous entry: "Cupping" is the application of heated cups to the skin. As the cup, and the air within, cool, a partial vacuum is created, drawing an increased amount of blood toward the surface. A lancet may then be used to release the blood in an attempt to "balance the humours" of the body. The "[into a cup]" as used above is incorrect, or at best misleading.
In On the Temperaments Galen said an ideal temperament involved a balanced mixture of the four qualities. Galen identified four temperaments in which one of the qualities dominated. These last four, sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic, eventually became better known than the others. While the term "temperament" came to refer just to psychological dispositions, Galen used it to refer to bodily dispositions, which determined a person's susceptibility to particular diseases as well as behavioral and emotional inclinations.
Methods of treatment like blood letting, emetics and purges were aimed at expelling a harmful surplus of a humour. They remained part of mainstream Western medicine into the 16th century when William Harvey investigated the circulatory system.
12.15 P.M.S. Blackett, "You can't run a war on gusts of emotion."
P.M.S. Blackett was an English experimental physicist who contributed to a variety of scientific fields, including paleomagnetism and particle physics. As the quote above reflects, he is most widely recognized for his work with military strategy and operational research during World War II.
Here one sees yet another lovely example of Pynchon playing with names, as well as a quick look into one of the book's central dichotomies. Although it's conceivable that others might print Patrick Blackett's name as "P.M.S. Blackett" with no thought of premenstrual syndrome, given that the quote attributed to him involves staying calm and unemotional, we know better than to expect Pynchon to ignore this delicious morsel of irony.
The quote, as well as its author, provides an early glimpse into the book's central theme of war as both a sterile, bureaucratic process and a nightmarish, human ordeal. Blackett's main goal as an adviser to the British military was to make strategic decisions based solely on numbers, rather than emotions or gut feelings. Math itself is a leitmotif of Gravity's Rainbow, where the ordered and pristine world it inhabits is in stark contrast to the hell of war, clearly illustrated in the novel's title. "... A million bureaucrats are diligently plotting death and some of them even know it..." (p. 17)
13.05 he knew
We know from V. that TRP knows some of Wittgenstein's key ideas. This italicized emphasis on knowing without analysis might be a nod to the Witttenstein of On Certainty who argued that universal epistemological doubt was, simply, wrong. "The key, then, is not to claim certain knowledge of propositions like “here is a hand” but rather to recognize that these sorts of propositions lie beyond questions of knowledge or doubt."
Universal epistemolgical doubt is said to start, historically, with Descartes, a philosopher TRP seems to dislike for his 'rationality'. see Against the Day.
13.14 Genital Brain.
Both androgen and estrogen receptors have been identified in brains. Several sex-specific genes not dependent on sex steroids are expressed differently in male and female human brains. From wikipedia.
13.20 During his Kipling period, beastly Fuzzy-Wuzzies
Contrary to Weisenburger, the Fuzzy-Wuzzies were actually the Sudanese natives fighting against (not conscripted for) the British. Here, Pirate is thinking not of the novels of the arch-apologist for Empire but of such Kipling poems as "Fuzzy-Wuzzy" in which a British soldier declares his grudging admiration for the natives’ fighting spirit.
13.34 No Cary Grant . . . medicine in the punchbowls
14.07 H.A. Loaf
As in "Half a loaf is better than none"? and "There is at least one Loaf in every outfit".
14.22 committed to the Long Run as They are
QUOTATION: Long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead.
ATTRIBUTION: John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946), British economist. A Tract on Monetary Reform, ch. 3 (1923).
quantitative model of the “vortex street” wake as a double row of point vortices. An engineering term. Pynchon studied engineering.
14.30-31 It was a giant Adenoid!
Correspondent Erik Johnson adds the following in relation to the references to the Adenoid here and at 754.38: "An adenoid is an enlarged mass of lymphoid tissue at the back of the pharynx characteristically obstructing breathing--usually used in plural. I believe it's likely that Pynchon is also making reference to 'Adenoid Hynkel,' the character of the dictator (and mockery of Hitler) played by Charlie Chaplin in the film The Great Dictator.
Large protoplasmic monsters featured in a number of 1950s and 1960s SF movies, among them:
14.34 Lord Blatherard Osmo
To "blather" is to talk on foolishly (the reason for his mysterious death?). Lord Blather Hard? "Osmo" suggests "osmosis," the process by which the giant Adenoid would absorb its victims.
Sanjak and Sandjak are the most common English transliterations of the Turkish word Sancak, which literally means "banner". They were the sub-divisions of the Ottoman provinces referred to as vilayet, eyalet or pashaluk. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanjak -
Redcaps are also murderous goblins in English folklore that stain their hats red from the blood of their victims, and must keep killing so the blood on their hats doesn't dry out. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redcap
15.25 the balloon rises
Besides the barrage balloons above, "the balloon is up" is British slang for "fighting is engaged", "war has begun".
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