Isn’t it nice to have a blogger who will *never* risk broaching the spoiler line because she’s at least a week behind?
Okay. Again I present you with random ramblings that don’t yet approach a theory or textual dissection of any sort. I’m just here with a reader’s really raw response (RRRR) for your late-week bemusement. By current progress I’ll finish the novel four months behind the rest of you.
Now, I’m not saying I need a parade in my honor or anything, but how about a muted nod to my early noting of Infantile Penis References (IPRs) before I even read the Kryptosam section in which invisible ink messages are only intelligible once covered in sperm.
This kind of goofball phallocentrism is what I meant when I casually stereotyped the typical male postmodern writers’ obsession with sex. And I don’t know why it so irritates me. This is not a feminist rant about objectification (excluding the galling fact that messages revealed only to those possessing sperm require a sperm-producing event by either self or other, the very demand of which means those in power need either a penis or access to a penis). There is just something methodical about the inclusion of penis observations that seems gratuitous. I know we need to talk about Slothrop’s “peculiar sensitivity to what is revealed in the sky” (31) and how Pirate felt physically in the presence of Scorpia (42) and Pointsman’s grotesque lusting after pretty children (58) and Slothrop’s subconscious fear of anal rape (75) and Captain Blicero’s sadistic staging (111). They are all important to the story and not gratuitous by themselves. But they add up to enough sexual input that we don’t need IPRs, too. Yet Pynchon gives us a masturbatory kryptosam sequence in which the human penis is so darned grandiose it holds the key to the Allied victory over the Nazis. Sperm saves the world in this novel, folks. I just can’t argue that penis references get any more juvenile or that sexual obsession gets any more exalted.
But wait…a few pages later, they do and it does. In the pinnacle of all IPRs, Slothrop is the adult legacy of actual infantile penis experimentation (99). And, his every psychological underpinning is said to, perhaps, stem from his early erections (100).
The problem, of course, is I set out to overlook the IPRs and the Gravity’s Rainbow obsequious reverence for ejaculation. And in two weeks of reading I’ve found an awfully good argument for the possibility that IPRs are the central point, not the marginalia. That this book is centered rather superciliously around rockets and penises and ejaculations as the Pillars of Civilization. That erections are the well written, funny, poignantly terrified of death end-all-be-all human existence.
[Eye roll; deep sigh; resignation to persevere through this as I did through Hemingway’s The Penis Also Penises, better known as The Sun Also Rises.]
Very few authors write compelling horrifying characters—villains who are so grotesque a readers should turn away, but who are also so human they elicit empathy. The captivating experience of reading Blicero is like taking an acting role as a sociopath. Pynchon’s writing allows us to see, at each turn, a human fear of mortality, a wounded childhood, a vulnerability that almost no other author I’ve read gives their beasts. Most successful evil characters are unredeemably disgusting, even when the author tries to reveal the wounds beneath their behavior and psychoses. Blicero seems an archetype I’ve never read before: the depraved monster who is clearly human. He is what happens when a slightly icky person has his soul mutilated by war. He is humanity—warty and flawed—turned inside out into a raunchy and nasty mound oozing bile.
Freaks me out that I don’t hate him. I mean, I don’t like him. I’m not rooting for Blicero, let me be clear. I’d shove him in the Oven myself. But Pynchon has created a cruel, sadistic, pedophilic Nazi whose point of view I can appreciate. [shudder] And I’ve read those sections twice because I was so intrigued at being co-opted into seeing Blicero’s recognizable humanity.
So now I’m off to finish last week and read this week and do some other stuff. Let me know if you’re creeped out that I’m not exceedingly creeped out by Blicero. Or if you’re quite enjoying the IPRs. Or if you want to defend Hemingway, for some twisted reason (other than the Nick Adams stories).