PARADISE FLUBBED: Pynchon & the New World Essay

PARADISE FLUBBED: Pynchon & the New World Essay

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PARADISE FLUBBED: Pynchon & the New World

When, in Gravity's Rainbow, "A screaming comes across the sky," it is the sound of a V-2 rocket arcing up and over the English Channel.But the rocket's vapor trail (which Pirate Prentice sees from kneedeep in the primordial mulch of his bananararium) points further on: over the Atlantic, on toward America, the New World, Tyrone Slothrop's "yearned-for, perhaps illusory home."

The rocket's path ends a fraction of an inch above the reader's head, the rocket suspended, poised ... A tableau representing the possibile if not quite realized Apocalypse.In his first novel, V., Pynchon explored the death-worshipping mania, the will-to-the-inorganic hubris, the sheer Gotterdamerüng gaga-ness of a Dying Europe.And the final scene from Gravity's Rainbow seems to (almost) complete that arc, to represent Europe's death rattle; a last gasp (and grasp)--as if the Old World, having given birth to the New, now wished to take that Other in a last suicidal embrace.

Don't bother, says Vineland.We'll do it ourselves, eventually.Not by introducing some new evil into this New Eden, but simply by retro-fitting America with the same brutal mannerisms, the same authoritarian conceits, the same mania for Tidying Up that destroyed Europe--all of these urges which Pynchon sees as (in Fredric Jameson's terms) "necessary preconditions" for the rise to imperialist hegemony and colonialist cruelty, and the inevitable descent into fascist insanity.

The "whiteness" of decay that looms over V. is for Pynchon inextricably connected with America's Puritanical beginnings, both genealogical and esthetic.The Crying of Lot 49 ends, in fact, with what Edward Mendelson calls a "penultimate Pentecostal" moment: the bo...


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...nd thus it might be suggested that capital 'A' fiction challenges rather than satisfies, disappoints (that word implying how much of our thinking is shaped by our lifelong desire to escape gravity's wagging finger) rather than reassures.The minimalist Triumvirate rules beneath a banner stolen from Holiday Inn:No Surprises.While what we read with greater effort offers, we sense, greater reward.To push beyond, further, aside; to hack through the jungle despite the fact that the pathway is perfectly clear, asphalted, guard-railed, signposted, edge-trimmed, icon-d, OSHA-inspected, patrolled, mapped, sanitized ....

Pynchon's fiction lives, and occasionally (all too seldom) communicates from Out There, out in the jungle, out where the distance between Sign and Signifier is a gap wide enough to break your neck, should you leap into it.Out on the Frontier, still, always.

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