Pages 53-60

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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.

Page 53

53.29-30 out into the snow tracked over by foxes, rabbits, long lost dogs
With Pointsman's "One, little, Fox!" on line 3 above, another overlapping of hunters and prey.

53.30-31 Empty canals of snow thread away into trees and town whose name they still don’t know.
Echoing "places whose names he has never heard" on p. 3, or the "slopes and serifs of an un-readable legend on the lintel" at St. Veronica's on p. 47, this is a recurring Pynchonian flourish of What Is Not Said.

53.34 Late lorry motors
Lorry is the British word for a truck.

53.39-40 she does wish there were others about
See 41.28

Page 54

54.25 Poisson Distribution/Equation
"In probability theory and statistics, the Poisson distribution is a discrete probability distribution that expresses the probability of a number of events occurring in a fixed period of time if these events occur with a known average rate and independently of the time since the last event. The Poisson distribution can also be used for the number of events in other specified intervals such as distance, area or volume."[1]

For instance, if on average London received one rocket strike per square kilometer per day, the Poisson equation could be used to predict the probability of a random 1 km2 area of London receiving 0, 1, 10 or any other number of rocket strikes. Of relevance to the novel, an necessary assumption of the Poisson distribution is that events are independent: even if a given square kilometer of London has already received 100 rocket strikes today, it is still just as likely to be hit again as any other square kilometer of London.

This concept recurs on pp. 55, 56, 85, 140, 171, 270.

Poisson, though the name of an actual person, is also French for fish. Could this be an echo of PISCES?

  1. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:45, November 23, 2009

Page 55

55.01 His little bureau
A jump cut here -- not confirmed until the next paragraph -- to Roger's London workplace, and interpolated scenes of his exchanges with Pointsman

55.11 Whittaker and Watson
The co-authors (and informal name) of a book formally titled A Course of Modern Analysis. Weisenburger notwithstanding, it is a calculus text with only incidental appearance of a few statistical functions.(Read the whole thing if you want at Google Books!) Notice the very cinematic, scene-setting "slow pan," with the book and snapshot as Hollywood-heavy symbols of Roger's divided loyalty.

55.13-15 dogs wait with cheeks laid open... to fill the wax cup or graduated tube
See 44.22

Page 56

56.08 Monte Carlo Fallacy
The belief that if events have deviated from our expectations of "chance" in one direction, they are bound to deviate in the opposite direction soon, as if to compensate. The name is drawn from a famous event at the Monte Carlo Casino in 1913, when a roulette ball settled on black 26 times in a row -- and the casino grew richer as more and more patrons bet on red, anticipating a "rebound."[1]

As Roger patiently explains, no rocket is influenced by what previous rockets have done, any more than the roulette ball was influenced by what it had done on a previous spin -- or 25 previous spins -- of the wheel. The Poisson distribution depends on the assumption that events in a data set are genuinely random and independent -- i.e. that in this case, there is no systematic "skew" in how the V-2s are aimed and launched, or in the many manufacturing and environmental variables that affect their trajectory and scatter their impacts around the target point.

Page 57

57.08 ...she gives him her Fay Wray look...
Fay Wray played the heroine, Ann Darrow, in the 1933 film King Kong. So the look Jess gives Roger must've been something like this.

Lot of photos at Getty Images.

57.31 Beveridge Proposal
The Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services, known commonly as the Beveridge Report was an influential document in the founding of the Welfare State in the United Kingdom. It was chaired by William Beveridge, an economist, who identified five "Giant Evils" in society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease, and went on to propose widespread reform to the system of social welfare to address these. Highly popular with the public, the report formed the basis for the post-war reforms known as the Welfare State, which include the expansion of National Insurance and the creation of the National Health Service. [2]

Page 58

58.02 the good dog alerted by the eternal scent, the explosion... always just about to come
This begins to smell familiar, especially with "a skulk of foxes, a cowardice of curs... whispering in the yards and lanes" farther down the page.

Page 59

59.01-02 Frank Bridge Variations
The "Frank Bridge Variations" is a composition ("Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge," Opus 10, 1937) by Benjamin Britten, named after one of his teachers. It was one of Britten's first works to win international notice. Wikipedia entry...

59.03 Montrachet
Montrachet is an Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) and Grand Cru vineyard for white wine from Chardonnay in the Côte de Beaune subregion of Burgundy. It is situated across the border between the two communes of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet and produces what many consider to be the greatest dry white wine in the world. It is surrounded by four other Grand Cru vineyards all having "Montrachet" as part of their names. Montrachet itself is generally considered superior to its four Grand Cru neighbours.

59.09 "Don't be ridic, I'm serious, Roger..."
Brings to mind the Carmen Sternwood character, played by Martha Vickers, in the 1946 film production of The Big Sleep. If I remember correctly, Carmen used this "don't be ridic" phrase quite often, generally in conversation w/ Philip Marlowe/Humphrey Bogart. [3]

59.16 Edward VIII abdicated
Only months into his reign, he caused a constitutional crisis by proposing marriage to the American socialite Wallis Simpson, who had divorced her first husband and was seeking a divorce from her second. The prime ministers of the United Kingdom and the Dominions opposed the marriage, arguing that the people would never accept a divorced woman with two living ex-husbands as queen. Additionally, such a marriage would have conflicted with Edward's status as head of the Church of England, which opposed the remarriage of divorced people if their former spouses were still alive. Edward knew that the government led by British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin would resign if the marriage went ahead, which could have dragged the King into a general election and ruined irreparably his status as a politically neutral constitutional monarch. Rather than end his relationship with Mrs. Simpson, Edward abdicated. He was succeeded by his younger brother Albert, who chose the regnal name George VI. With a reign of 326 days, Edward was one of the shortest-reigning monarchs in British and Commonwealth history. He was never crowned. [4]

59.20 pinafores
Pinafores may be worn by girls as a decorative garment and by both girls and women as a protective apron. A related term is pinafore dress, which is British English for what in American English is known as a jumper dress, i.e. a sleeveless dress intended to be worn over a top or blouse. A key difference between a pinafore and a jumper dress is that the pinafore is open in the back. In informal British usage however, a pinafore dress is sometimes referred to as simply a pinafore, which can lead to confusion. [5]

Beyond the Zero

3-7, 7-16, 17-19, 20-29, 29-37, 37-42, 42-47, 47-53, 53-60, 60-71, 71-72, 72-83, 83-92, 92-113, 114-120, 120-136, 136-144, 145-154, 154-167, 167-174, 174-177

Un Perm' au Casino Herman Goering

181-189, 189-205, 205-226, 226-236, 236-244, 244-249, 249-269, 269-278

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

The Counterforce

617-626, 626-640, 640-655, 656-663, 663-673, 674-700, 700-706, 706-717, 717-724, 724-733, 733-735, 735-760

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