I’m working feverishly. I’m
throwing together any freaking thought I can manage crafting careful sentences that delve into the beauty and thoughtfulness that is Pynchon’s prose.
[I’m definitely not stalling while I finish the last few pages of this week’s reading. That would be intellectually dishonest and morally lazy. And way too predictable.]
But I really have to know, to gauge the timbre of my post:
Am I the only one going absolutely nuts every time the lazyologism “sez” appears in the text?
Because when I googled “Pynchon sez” I found this
awesome irreverent Pynchon mockery that should be in the sidebar would be wholly inappropriate to include in our studied and thoughtful approach to Gravity’s Rainbow.
So I need to know: does “sez” bug you, too? Or do I need to back off my self-assigned role as the Zombies’ resident linguistic curmudgeon?
I started circling these earlier in the book but have left off. He doesn’t use it all the time, and I wanted to see if I could figure out when he does use it and what it means. Without looking back, I think he generally uses it when we’re with Slothrop, though even then I don’t think he’s consistent about it. I want to think he uses “sez” when he’s trying to convey a particular, almost puckish, mental frame. It occurs to me that it also seems related to that old Beat-ish era (I’m also thinking of the likes of Creeley, who I don’t guess was a Beat exactly, but close enough) use of “yr” for “your,” which to me suggests a certain laid-back, could-care-less attitude that also seems encoded in something like “sez.” I’d be glad to hear any theories you may have on why Pynchon uses “sez” (and why he does it only when he does it).
I agree, Daryl, that it’s coded, and I want to figure out why. Most of the theories here so far relate to Slothrop, his state of mind, and his personality.
I’ll see what I can do on a theory. Since it’s not bugging anyone else, I’m now going to go figure out why it bugs me.
Daryl, like you, I haven’t noticed consistency with it, although I suspect there must be. But I also thought it had something to do with Slothrop’s frame of mind. Like when he’s saying Jackson all the time. He’s in to zoot suits and all that era’s hip stuff. I just tried to find a guide to slang of the era, but nothing matches up directly, so maybe I’m off on that. But it seems like he’s in a frame of mind when sez is used. And for that, Pynchon gets a pass in my book.
I love the use of Jackson, Paul, and agree that it’s a cutesy nod to his being a hep cat. But for some reason the “sez” really bugs me. So now I’m on a mission toward a coherent theory, instead of just bemoaning its existence.
I think everything in the novel is intentional, and I wasn’t irritated at Pynchon, but with the choice. He gets a pass because he wrote this thing. But the word isn’t getting a pass. Yet.
I’m not that put out by the word as spelled. It is, after all, how most of the people I know pronounce. Most writers who use it are generally poking fun at the speaker, but I suspect Pynchon is trying to sound the way a given character might view himself (in this case, folksy). There are a lot of other places where accents and such are spelled out, but they are there to signal the accent as a characteristic of the character as seen from outside. It’s not as well done as, say, Twain, but it is an attempt.
My question is why all the “A-and”s?
I thought that “A-and” was for Slothrop, but did I not just see another character do it, too?
Dennis, the colloquialisms are spelled out, as you noted, to denote a particularly important difference between speaker and listener. And I agree it’s not 1/10th as good as Twain, but it’s also not as pervasive.
As others suppose, I assumed the A-ands are a Slothrop stutter.
I don’t have the book in front of me to cite examples, but I think I’ve interpreted the “a-and” not as a stutter (as in a speech impediment) but more like a wary or skeptical uttereance, as if easing into a sentence.
I found another instance of A-And. It’s in this upcoming week’s read (so what, infinitesimal spioiler?) said my Major Marvy: “A-and they’re headin’ for Nordhausen, pal!”
I feel the “sez” conveys a particular narrative voice, a subtle reminder of the narrator. I don’t mind it, but it is not as useful as it is when Joyce uses the local dialect in Ulysses (at least not yet). And I thought the “A-and” was Slothrop’s particular stutter.
Carol, I do feel that it’s a reminder of a voice, but if the sez is a narrative voice, why is it virtually the only colloquial spelling? Joyce, Twain, and others use regionalisms to mark their characters and narrators, but Pynchon seems to be peppering sez in here without clear reason or voice, and starts only once we’re 150+ pages in. I’ve seen here many Slothrop theories for its use, but I’m not satisfied yet.
I know I saw at least one other character say it and at the time I felt is was a bit weird. I’ve been searching through part 2 to find it, because that’s where I thought I saw it, but my eyes glaze over after a while. Is anyone with the kindle version willing to do a search? Also, I tried to download my own copy from the Amazon store, but it didn’t show up. Anyone know how I can get my own kindle copy?
The narrator uses it for Rollo Groad once; I’m scanning for more references. Carol’s right that it’s all narrator, and mostly about Slothrop. And mostly when he’s being casually goofy (e.g., not when he’s raping Katje or trying to get a story out of Sir Stephen).
The Rollo reference is probably the one I am thinking of, do you have a page/line number? I see it as being part of the narrator projection of the character on to the narration, so I was taken aback a little when I saw it.
Dennis, that one bugged me, too, given the situation. My next post has the page number (I’m not near my computer right now)…it’s in the section where Pointsman is reassuring the team about funding. Totally out of place sez unless the narrator is trying to show Gross dumbing himself down to appease Pointsman.
Darn phone. Groad not Gross.
OK, I found one, though it is from Major Marvy and I think that he is as goofy as Slothrop, so it’s not out of place. (Viking 288/14) I’m still looking for the one that struck me as odd and out of place.