Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Pynchon’

Godzilla’s point of view

He rolled a joint, lit up, and settled in in front of All-Nite Freaky Features, where Godzilligan’s Island, a movie for TV in which the Japanese monster meets the sitcom castaways, was just about to begin. Over the opening credits, Godzilla, out in search of some R&R after his latest urban-demolition binge, stumbles—literally—upon the Island, causing immediate anxiety among the survivors of the Minnow’s historic cruise.

“We just have to stay alive,” as Mary Ann explains it to Ginger, “till the Japanese Self-Defense Forces get on the case, which is usually quicker than you can say ‘kamikaze.’”

“Ka-mi—” Ginger begins, but is drowned out by a skyful of jet-fighter aircraft, which begin to fire rockets at Godzilla, who as usual is no more than mildly inconvenienced. “See?” nods Mary Ann, as the laugh track also explodes in mirth. Unnoticed in the uproar, the Professor has arrived with a peculiar-looking piece of anti-Godzilla weaponry he has been working on, featuring various analog control panels, parabolic antennas, and giant helical glass coils pulsing with an unearthly purple glow, but before he can get to demonstrate it, Gilligan, mistaking the device for the Skipper, falls out of a tree on top of it, narrowly avoiding irradiation and impalement. “I just got it calibrated!” cries the Prof in dismay. “Maybe it’s still in warranty?” wonders Gilligan.

We get a crane shot from what is supposed to be Godzilla’s point of view. He is looking down at the behavior on the Island, endearingly perplexed as always, scratching his head in a way meant to remind us of Stan Laurel. Fade to commercial.

Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice

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Prefascist Twilight

And other grandfolks could be heard arguing the perennial question of whether the United States still lingered in a prefascist twilight, or whether that darkness had fallen long stupefied years ago, and the light they thought they saw was coming only from millions of Tubes all showing the same bright-colored shadows. One by one, as other voices joined in, the names began — some shouted, some accompanied by spit, the old reliable names good for hours of contention, stomach distress, and insomnia — Hitler, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Nixon, Hoover, Mafia, CIA, Reagan, Kissinger, that collection of names and their tragic interweaving that stood not constellated above in any nightwide remotenesses of light, but below, diminished to the last unfaceable American secret, to be pressed, each time deeper, again and again beneath the meanest of random soles, one blackly fermenting leaf on the forest floor that nobody wanted to turn over, because of all that lived, virulent, waiting, just beneath.

Thomas Pynchon, Vineland

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Department Head

On the assumption that Youth understood its own market, entry-level folks who only yesterday had been content to deal lids down in the mail room were suddenly being elevated to executive rank, given stupendous budgets, and let loose, as it turned out, to sign just about anybody who could carry a tune and figure out how to walk in the door. Stunned by the great childward surge, critical abilities lapsed. Who knew the worth of any product, or could live with having failed to sign the next superstar? Crazed, heedless, the business was running on pure nerve, with million-dollar deals struck on the basis of dreams, vibes, or, in the Corvairs’ case, minor hallucination. Scott Oof had somehow hustled the band a species of recording contract with Indolent Records, an up-and-coming though bafflingly eclectic Hollywood label, and the day they came in to sign the papers, the head of A & R, not yet out of high school, having just made the mental acquaintance of some purple acid with a bat shape embossed on it, greeted them with unusual warmth, believing them, as it developed, to be visitors from another dimension who, after observing him for years, had decided to materialize as a rock and roll band and make him rich and famous. By the time they left, the Corvairs were believing it too, although they had to take the standard contract of the day just the same, further clauses being impossible to get, written as they would have had to be in some human language, a medium for the moment inaccessible to the by now audibly vibrating department head (“Department head!” he screamed, “everybody around here’s a department … head! Ha! Ha! Ha!”).

Thomas Pynchon, Vineland

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Darwinian Tipped Ear

He was a devotee of the thinking of pioneer criminologist Cesare Lombroso (1836–1909), who’d believed that the brains of criminals were short on lobes that controlled civilized values like morality and respect for the law, tending indeed to resemble animal more than human brains, and thus caused the crania that housed them to develop differently, which included the way their faces would turn out looking. Abnormally large eye sockets, prognathism, frontal submicrocephaly, Darwinian Tipped Ear, you name it, Lombroso had a list that went on, and skull data to back him up. By Brock’s time the theory had lapsed into a quaint, undeniably racist spinoff from nineteenth-century phrenology, crude in method and long superseded, although it seemed reasonable to Brock. What really got his attention was the Lombrosian concept of “misoneism.” Radicals, militants, revolutionaries, however they styled themselves, all sinned against this deep organic human principle, which Lombroso had named after the Greek for “hatred of anything new.” It operated as a feedback device to keep societies coming along safely, coherently. Any sudden attempt to change things would be answered by an immediate misoneistic backlash, not only from the State but from the people themselves – Nixon’s election in ’68 seeming to Brock a perfect example of this.

Thomas Pynchon, Vineland

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Thermometric Chill

It was tonight or never as far as Prairie was concerned. All the Variety Loaves, stacked in a distant niche of the freezer, had begun to glow, softly blue-green, like a night-light for the rest of the frozen food, not, as once supposed, safely dead but no, only, queerly, sleeping … o-or perhaps only pretending to sleep – gaahhh! Like everybody else in the kitchen, Prairie had a threshold for how long she could spend in that sinister freezer before some more than thermometric chill sent her back out into the less clearly haunted world, pulses thumping.

“OK – I need a crew in there, we’re bringin’ out all that Variety Loaf, then we’ll take a vote if it’s safe to eat,” raising her voice, “so be here, be near, or learn the meaning of fear! Ah right! Gerhard, Sister Mary Shirelle, Mrs. Lo Finto, the twins, let’s go for the glow, you guys,” and stepping in time to the music on the radio, which happened to be the theme from Ghostbusters (1984), off they went. But it wasn’t long before a dispute arose as to the morality of disturbing the microenvironment of the freezer. “Bioluminescence is life,” suggested the twins in hasty overlap, “and all life is sacred.”

“Never eat anything that glows,” pronounced Mrs. Lo Finto, an Italian mother who not only couldn’t cook but actually suffered clinical kouxinaphobia, or fear of kitchens, her assignment back here being part of her therapy. They stood in the chill of the freezer, under a marginal light bulb, with the Variety Loaf providing a turquoise fill, bickering in parallel, eventually bringing a sample out to the kitchen.

“It does not look so bad in the daylight,” Gerhard pointed out as work slowed and everyone gathered around the enigmatic foodstuff.

“That’s ’cause you can’t see it glow, dummy.”

“Tradition among the tribes of Central Asia of ingesting luminescent molds as a spiritual practice–”

“But molds have rights too!”

Thomas Pynchon, Vineland

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Babies of Wackiness

Takeshi grew instantly paranoid, assuming, for some reason, that the young man was talking about his ex-wife, the film actress Michiko Yomama, currently starring as a light-comical obstetrician in the television series „Babies of Wackiness“, a Japanese import currently and inexplicably blowing all its U.S. ratings competition. […] They’d been married, as a matter of fact, during a classical sixties acid trip, in which it became beyond clear to them both that in some other world they had been well acquainted. In this one, however, they only seemed programmed for unhappiness. One would find the other across a room and both would gaze awhile, sick with betrayal, remembering the deep and beautiful certainty beyond words, wondering why they should only have had a glimpse and where it might be now.

Thomas Pynchon, Vineland

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Mountainside Retreat

Described in Aggro World as „a sort of Esalen Institute for lady asskickers“, the mountainside retreat of the Sisterhood of Kunoichi Attentives stood on a promontory dappled in light and dark California greens above a small valley, only a couple of ridgelines from the SP tracks, final ascent being over dirt roads vexing enough to those who arrived in times of mud, and so deeply rutted when the season was dry that many an unwary seeker was brought to a high-centered pause out in this oil painting of a landscape, wheels spinning in empty air, creatures of the hillside only just interrupting grazing or predation to notice. Originally, in the days of the missions, built to house Las Hermanas de Nuestra Señora de los Pepinares — one of those ladies‘ auxiliaries that kept springing around the Jesuits in seventh-century Spain, never recognized by Rome nor even by the Society, but persisting with grace and stamina there in California for hundreds of years – the place had acquired extensions and outbuildings, got wired and rewired, plumbed and replumbed, until a series of bad investments had forced what was left of the sociality to put it up for rent and disperse to cheaper housing, though they continued to market the world-famous cucumber brandy bearing their name.

Thomas Pynchon, Vineland

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