WTF: Byron the Bulb

Carol asks:

Does anyone care to comment on Byron the Bulb?  Beyond Weisenburger’s cartel explanation and my own memory of my father’s ramblings about how lightbulbs could be made to last forever if GE were not so greedy, I wonder what this is all about.

This is actually something I had thought about trying to linger on, but I tend toward laziness at the end of the long downhill slide of a book like this. I did poke around online a bit, and even in some online scholarly databases, but I tended to find weird results, Byron also being the name of a celebrated Romantic poet.

I suppose it’s easy enough to read Byron the Bulb as a little symbol or miming of the counterforce described in section four, working as do Pirate, Katje and the rest against larger forces mashed up of industry, military, science, and personal ambition. It’s also interesting to note that that Phoebus cartel was apparently a real thing (thanks to Paul for his curiosity and for reporting this fact, which it would not have occurred to me to think might be true) , which maybe lends an air of legitimacy to the whole notion of justified paranoia.

Beyond that, I’ve got nothing very, ahem, illuminating to say. Here’s hoping someone can do better in the comments.

WTF: Multiple Narrators in GR

From Christine, who puzzles in her latest post over narration, distortion, and reality, we have this WTF:

I’ve searched a lot of the companion links in the right sidebar but can’t find what I’m looking for:

Anyone found a cogent dissection of the multiple narrators of this book? I can identify three, so far, from their tone and knowledge, but I think there may be many more. In fact, I think each character might get his own (doesn’t seem that the women get their own, but, again, I’m just formulating my thoughts on this and need help.)

Have you read anything on this that you recommend?

I don’t have a great answer, but a couple of possible leads from a quick search of the Gale resources my library offers turns up these possible hits, which I have not read:

  • “Consciousness without borders: narratology in Against the Day and the works of Thomas Pynchon.” Richard Hardack. Criticism. 52.1 (Winter 2010) p91.
  • “Science, narrative, and agency in Gravity’s Rainbow.” Margaret Lynd. CRITIQUE: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 46.1 (Fall 2004) p63.

WTF for Gravity’s Rainbow, Week 2

We had two WTFs this week. Read and take a crack at them in the comments if you have any ideas or suggestions.

From Carol:

Are there underlying themes or histories, other than technical texts, that would be helpful in making sense of this? Herero language, European colonialism, the entire war in Britain…it all seems so vast and yet so specific.  And I am saying this as a Joycean.  Somehow I thought that this novel’s being set 40 years later than Ulysses would make the context easier.  Not in the least, even with the companion text.  And I am finding it difficult to just enjoy the ride for the beauty of it.  But stay I will, if only to read again to see what hindsight might bring to the table!  Any thoughts most appreciated!

And from edmondcb:

So at the end of 1.17, Pointsman recalls that Slothrop had been with Darlene, and later a rocket struck only a few blocks away (striking St. Veronica’s hospital). I had assumed that the rockets struck the EXACT location of Slothrop’s sexual encounters, but I tracked back through the book and couldn’t decipher if this was true or if they simply struck in close proximity. Helping justify the latter is the fact that Slothrop has been to Darlene/Ms. Quoad’s before, even tracked her on his map (p. 19), and that exact location was clearly not destroyed. So my assumption was probably just off, though it seems weird that exactitude is such a prominent measure in this book, as with the fact that Slothrop and Mexico’s maps have stickers on the exact same squares, etc.

To muddy the waters even more, the EXACT location the rocket struck is the ward that Slothrop was recently in, being given drugs that caused him to think of shit and history, not of sex. And as far as I know, there was no “hardon” to speak of, which we have been lead to believe would bring a rocket to that exact location.

Am I reading too much into this, or is this supposed to be a shift in the paradigm? I mean, Slothrop did get booted to France…

And the WTFs Come Rolling In!

A couple of WTFs have come in today, which was nice, as I wasn’t sure the whole WTF thing would be of interest to anybody. I think what I’d like to try doing with these is maybe a weekly roundup in which I post or summarize the WTFs, provide any answers I may have, and of course let the conversation take its course in the comments. I’ll figure tentatively on posting these on Thursdays. This gives people time to wrap up the week’s reading if they’re a little behind, to digest any posts that come early in the week, and then to track any discussion through the end of the week. So, if you’ve got any WTFs, send ’em in and look for a roundup this Thursday.