Too Much Fun

Part 2 of Gravity’s Rainbow opens at a seaside casino around Christmas and ends at a seaside amusement park on Whitsunday, which to the Americans among us is Pentecost, or the day that the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ’s disciples a few weeks after Easter. Both holidays would seem to be holidays of great joy, as casinos and amusement parks would seem to be places of great fun, but of course we know that Slothrop has rather a hard time at the casino, and the closing scene of part 2 just oozes the despair of a forced, joyless professional retreat.

This makes me think back to our second week’s reading and my thoughts on temptation. The fun-seekers in part 2 call to mind for me the abandoned children in the Hansel and Gretel tale who happen upon a delightful house of candy only to find it a gateway to suffering.

As we come to the end of part 2, we discover that Pointsman is hallucinating and that his hallucinations are telling him to find a way to get rid of Jessica Swanlake so that he can keep Roger Mexico’s talents on hand for his nefarious research. His impulse, in other words, is to use people as a means toward his own Faustian ends (he’s previously demonstrated a lack of concern for Slothrop’s well-being).

I had made a few very brief notes on all of this when I encountered on the pynchon-l discussion list a link to a video in which artist and writer (and apparent Pynchon friend) Jules Siegel says that Pynchon had been somehow party to the government’s experimentation with LSD on the baby boomers and that Gravity’s Rainbow is something of a confession. I suppose the pieces are there: unconscionable experimentation on people in states of altered consciousness, a mad scientist who sees people as essentially disposable, a growing entanglement between the military and industry, and of course in part 2 the explicit introduction of LSD and some vague ties between its production and the coal-tar-based substance “indole” used to make LSD (see Weisenburger on coal-tar, indole, IG Farben, and Imipolex G).

The short segment of an interview with Siegel embedded below strikes me as being the stuff of the tinfoil hat crowd, but that’s not exactly out of place within the context of Gravity’s Rainbow.