A Summary of Gravity's Rainbow
It is a Jeremiad, an encyclopaedia of cultural minutiae, an historical novel, a catalogue of operas, an anatomy of illicit perversions and mindless pleasures, a book in which you are as likely to read an equation describing the gyroscopic stabilizers of a V-2 rocket as you are to find a Porky Pig cartoon. Coprophilia and rooftop Banana gardens exist in a singularly bizarre harmony, repelling and enticing in equal measure.
To attempt to create a summary of such a work is to embark upon the fabrication of a catalogue of Linnean proportions, a delineation of the bewildering flora and fauna which populate that distinct global topography we call the Pynchon oeuvre.
But attempt it we must.
What follows is the condensed version of T.R. Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. The text you will read is an unabashed blend of quotation and amelioration, of glossing and fabrication, an essay in every sense of the word. Every attempt has been made to approximate the language, colour, and flavour, of Pynchon's masterwork. The result, while considerably shorter than the original, may, nevertheless, be pithy enough!
This complete summary is also online at The Illustrated Complete Summary of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. There, Dr. Daw repeats this summary, but includes an amazing assortment of images he created using advanced Photoshop techniques.
Book 1: Beyond the Zero
(1) A screaming comes across the sky and fills the dreams of Pirate Prentice. This is not a disentanglement from, but a progressive knotting into. He goes underground, through ruinous secret cities of the poor to Absolute Zero, under the arch of the Rocket's vapour trail. No Virgil, he is called not by Beatrice, but by his Banana Breakfast. For a split second he feels a terrible mass above his skull.
(2) Black market marshmallows slide languid into syrup, and the sweet, fragile, musaceous odour of breakfast permeates Prentice's flat. There is a giant glazed crock where bananas have been fermenting since the summer with wild honey and muscat raisins to create (yes!) Banana Mead. He would coat all the booze-corroded stomachs in England. But he is called away to a psychic battlefield and concerns over "the Eastern Question" of 1914. He must confront, in an eerie mental landscape the spells of Transylvanian Magyars and the terrible psychopomp of Lord Blatherard Osmo's giant Adenoid, a lymphatic monster which left on the cobblestones a slime-brightness of street-wake that could not have been from fog. His tropical energy will be forced to confront Northern spectres of Death.
(3) Teddy Bloat appears in General MacArthur style gold-rim prescription sunglasses, with his twin silver hairbrushes each in the shape of the flaming SHAEF sword. He uses his spy camera to photograph the strata of filth in Lt. Tyrone Slothrop's cubicle, and also his infamous Map of London. Coloured stars mark a constellation of sexual conquests, sites which will, startlingly, be pulverized by the blast of the Aggregat 4 at a not too distant date. They want to know why this happens, to be able to reduce this seeming pattern to their cause-and-effect functions and equations. For all intents and purposes, Slothrop's cock is a Rocket-dowsing tool, his erections clear examples of prescience.
(4) Slothrop is now brought centre stage, the man who once cared, honest, survivor of the great Aspinwall Hotel Fire, the scion of the first Puritan Americans to set foot in the Newfoundland. Tantitvy Mucker-Maffick notes that the extent of his isolation is almost complete. Slothrop is an Everyman; but also a No-man. The V-2 gives no warning, even to him. A bullet with fins, its vengeance-descent is silent, beyond the speed of sound. He has become obsessed with the idea of a rocket with his name written on it -- if they're really set on getting him ("They" embracing possibilities far beyond Nazi Germany. . . .). This is how it does happen during iron London afternoons, yes. The great bright hand reaching out of the cloud. . . .
(5) We are taken to an Ouspenskian circle of sitters transected into the realm of Dominus Blicero. In a place called Snoxall's, Pirate Prentice puts them in touch with Der Blecker, Der Bleicher, the Teutonic Deity of Death who will one day launch the terrible Rilkean Rocket 00000. Milton Gloaming presides, trying to develop a vocabulary of curves, certain pathologies, certain characteristic shapes. Operation Black Wing. PISCES. Dodgy intra-Allied surveillance schemes. "The White Visitation." All in a T.S. Eliot April. The tender tryst of Jessica Swanlake and Roger Mexico is described, and it seems to be strong enough to act as a charm against descending Death. They are feeling the first eerie confusion of love, but in the awful arena of Us against Them, we can only ask: is it powerful enough? Roger is devoted to his mother and Jessica, we cannot forget, is forever attached to her battery-mate, the upperclass twit named Jeremy "the Beaver."
(6) Hunched Dracula-like in his Burberry overcoat, Roger and Jessica drive to a dognapping job. He is the dour young statistician of "The White Visitation," the spider hitching together his webs of numbers. Against the flips of the Zener cards, he calculates standardized Kill Rates Per Ton for the bomber groups. Tonight's quarry will be subjected to ether, as all the others have, and sought in the holes and spaces of the War. The man and woman have met in "a cute meet," but by the time one has pulled one's nth victim out of a pile of rubble, one is ready for love. They shack up. It is marginal, hungry, chilly -- most times they're too paranoid to risk a fire -- but it's something they want to keep, so much so that to keep it they will take on more than propaganda has ever asked them for. They are in love. Fuck the war.
(7) The next great force to enter the Sphere of Influence is the neurasthenic Behaviouralist Mr Edward Pointsman, W.A., F.R.C.S. Searching for hapless canines to use in his Pavlovian schemes, he meets Roger. Jessica wishes she was away cuddling with the Beaver. Roger forgot the ether sponge and Pointsman gets a toilet-bowl stuck on his foot in a bombed out house. After this heroic work for King and Country, they return to the Hospital of St. Veronica of the True Image for Colonic and Respiratory Diseases, home of Dr Kevin Spectro, neurologist and one of the original Seven owners of the Book.
(8) The autoclave simmers its fine clutter of steel bones. In the Abreaction Ward, just off the war-neurosis area, Spectro and Pointsman talk shop. To them, the war itself is a laboratory. People are forced to make transmarginal leaps -- to where ideas of the opposite have come together and so lost their oppositeness. Pavlovian psychology must be applied to the puzzling case of Lt. Tyrone Slothrop because there are problems of causality. Imagine a missile one can hear only after it explodes. A piece of time neatly snipped out. A few feet of film run backwards. Slothrop experiences sexual excitation at the site of future rocket strikes! Hysteron proteron. His talent is extrasensory. He sees the rocket as a fiery red ball. Falling like a meteor. For tests, Pointsman receives, from Dr Porkeyvitch, the octopus with the horror-movie devilfish name of Grigori.
(9) Roger and Jessica come back again. She knows something's stalking through this city of smoke, gathering up slender girls, fair and smooth as dolls, by the handful. He calls it "Fucking madness." He has to explain to her about the V-bomb statistics, to talk about that omnipresent Rocket, the Sword of Damocles hanging above. The missiles are distributing about London just as Poisson's equation in the textbooks predicts. If ever the Antipointsman existed, Roger Mexico is the man. He is devoted to number and to method, not to table-rapping or wishful thinking. Pointsman can only possess the zero and the one. A pure Pavlovian devoted to on/off stimuli, he cannot survive anyplace in between. To Mexico belongs the domain between zero and one. Others fear the myth of the Rocket, indulging what Prentice calls "cheap nihilism." It's that damned Calvinist insanity mentality again. Payment for sins. Everything expressed in terms of cosmic exchanges. But to Mexico, everyone has an equal chance of being hit. Death has come in the pantry door with a look that says try to tickle me.
(10) In St. Veronica's, Slothrop is injected with sodium amytal. During a journey to the centre of his mind, PISCES makes him tell the tale of the Roseland Ballroom. With Yardbird Parker in the background, Slothrop goes down a toilet after his blues harp to keep his silver chances for song alive. He drops headifrst towards a stone-white cervix and into lower night. He feels the cold Lysol air on his thighs and fears that a gang of Negroes is coming in to Roger him. He escapes into a tunnel stained with hardwater minerals, his virgin asshole intact. Flushed down with shit, cold beef gelatin along his backbone, he has to keep batting micro-turds out of his eyelashes. He finds a whole world existing below, in the waste lands. A cowboy named Crutchfield the Westwardman prepares for a showdown with Toro Rojo. Crutchfield is the White Cocksman of this terre mauvais, doing it with both sexes and all animals, fantasizing about rattlesnake fangs tickling his foreskin. White fights black; North meets South; and the Word gets covered with shit. You know you never did the Kenosha Kid!
(11) Pirate must decode a message from a V-2 rocket about getting Katje Borgesius out of Holland. He is given a fetish-picture of a woman who is a dead ringer for Scorpia Mossmoon, wearing exactly the corselette of Belgian lace, the dark stockings and shoes he daydreamed about often enough, but never -- Ejaculating on the message, he sees words through the nacreous film of his seed. He has activated "Kryptosam," a proprietary form of stabilized tyrosine developed by IG Farben as part of a research contract with OKW. Its use requires a through knowledge of the addressee's psychosexual profile.
(12) "They" are not through with Slothrop yet. At "The White Visitation," the walls read ice, darkening the blood brick and terra cotta as if the house is to be preserved inside some skin of clear museum plastic, an architectural document, an old-fashioned apparatus whose use is forgotten. The scheme is called Operation Black Wing and involves the Schwarzkommando. The doctors get to watch more abreactions during these heavy days of V-bombardment than those of an earlier day were apt to see in several lifetimes. Old Brigadier Ernest Pudding is re-enlisted for psychic research. Brought up to believe in a literal Chain of Command, as clergymen of earlier centuries believed in the Chain of Being, the newer geometries confuse him. His greatest triumph, after all, had been losing only 70% of his regiment to win 40 yards of Armageddonite filth in the Ypres salient. In "The White Visitation," different versions of Homo Monstrosus -- cyclops, humanoid giraffe, centaur -- are repeated in all directions. A few token lunatics, an enormous pack of stolen dogs, cliques of spiritualists, vaudeville entertainers, wireless technicians, Coueists, Ouspenkians, Skinnerites, lobotomy enthusiasts, and Dale Carnegie zealots are amassed to give Slothrop his fateful "projective test."
(13) Statistics vs. Determinism is the order of the day when Slothrop's member is involved. Looks like Dr Jamf's been by to see your little thing today, hasn't he? And this type of meddling offends Brigadier Pudding. "Isn't it all rather shabby, Pointsman?" The hardon of Infant Albert is occasioned by the famous "Mystery Stimulus" that's fascinated generations of behavioural psychology students. It has survived in Slothrop until the war, and now the PISCES people believe his erections are causing the rockets to fall where they do, or else he has precognition. It is, in every sense, paradoxical. Roger Mexico on the other hand is spooked by how the rocket-strikes map directly onto the locations of Slothrop's sex-acts -- both governed by the same Poisson distribution! There's a feeling that cause-and-effect may have been taken as far as it will go. That for science to carry on at all, it must look for a less narrow, less . . . sterile set of assumptions. There can still be a silent extinction beyond the Zero. . . .
(14) Now out of Holland, Katje Borgesius stands before the camera to create a stimulus for the conditioning of Octopus Grigori. Osbie Feel harvests Amonita muscaria on the roof, and she is taken by the lens for a few brief unshutterings of the murky glass, charcoal-saturated, antique and weather-worn, frock, face, hair, hands, slender calves all gone to glass and glazing, for the celluloid instant poised. Inside herself, she is corruption and ashes. She belongs in a way none of them can guess, cruelly to the Oven, to der Kinderofen. Her Lord is Weissmann, Blicero, with the yellow teeth. They have a network of stained cracks, and back in his night-breath, in the dark oven of himself, always the coiled whispers of decay. She and Gottfried worship him in a Märchen, his penis a blood Monolith, a Rocket in its own right. They are whipped with the Hexeszüchtigung and await a Rilkean death, Gottfried in silk and lace, she with her Merkin of sable. The North is the myth of Death, the land of primal sterility. Brought up in a Christian ambience, this was difficult for Weissmann to understand until his own journey to the Südwest to torment the Herero with a fear of his own sins. All the while, he was clutching his copy of the Duino Elegies, just off the presses, the odour of new ink dizzying and potent. When he returned from his cruel genocides he brought Enzian to be his secret partner in building his own terrible Rocket. Likewise, Katje's own ancestor Frans Van der Groov went to Mauritius in the 17th century and wiped out the Dodo-bird because its ugliness was, in his mind, Satanic. It was the purest form of European adventuring.
(15) Slothrop indulges love-rituals of his own. To bed Darlene, he must meet Mrs Quoad and learn of the horrible "Quotidian Ague." He must also undergo the Disgusting English Candy Drill and be subjected to collections of ruddy gelatin objects. He eats a Lafitte-Rothschild wine-jelly. But then he's into the alkaloid desolation of the Marmalade Surprise, nitric acid bonbons, eucalyptus-flavoured fondants with purple gum arabic, Mills-Grenade shaped sweets chock full of cubeb cherries and camphor gum, and a gooseberry shell oozing with tapioca and powdered cloves. In the end, he's in bed with Darlene and, once again, his hardon corresponds to the white blast of a rocketfall which rattles the poor old building to its bones. Through the orange shades, someone is watching.
(16) December 23 brings us back to Roger and Jessica. It is the season of advent, and a time for Christmas carols filled with hope for all the sad preterite. Together, the lovers are like a long skin interface, flowing sweat, as close as muscle and bone can press. One, night, in the dark quilt-and-cold refuge of their bed, Roger licked Jessica to sleep like a cat. He worries about Psi-section. Suppose they can see into your mind? Near Jessica's battery, they go to church with soldiers, fliers, and local people dispossessed by the War. Gorgeous singing mingles with the warm smells of candle smoke and melting wax, of smothered farting, of hair tonic, of the burning oil itself, folding the other odours in a maternal way, more closely belonging to Earth, to deep strata, other times. And listen . . . listen: this is War's evensong, the War's canonical hour, and the night is real. Leave your war awhile, paper or iron war, petrol or flesh, come in with your love, your fear of losing, your exhaustion with it. In the church, you will be saved!
(17) Back at the Hospital, during the most sinister time of the evening, it is the paradoxical phase again, when weak stimuli get strong responses. Always waiting for something terrible to happen. Kevin Spectro calls out from an air thick with English ghosts; he is dead from a rocketfall. Nothing can really stop the Abreaction of the Lord of the Night unless the entire film runs backwards. The reality is not reversible. Poisson, the Book, the psychics -- who can really judge the Fall of Doom from above? Slothrop ought to be on the Riviera by now, warm, fed, well-fucked, but his powers are still dangerous. Pointsman sees a Nobel prize for understanding the correspondence between the rocket-strike which destroyed the ward where Slothrop had his excremental fantasy and some type of deterministic cause-and-effect mechanism. Theseus will be forced to defeat the Minotaur.
(18) Carroll Eventyr feels a victim of his freak talent, as Nora Dodson-Truck once called it, his "splendid weakness." The surrender to forces Outside is his only gift. Many odd talents are drawn to Psi-section, like Gavin Trefoil with his characteristic autochromatism. He is a human chameleon whose melanocytes are part of his central nervous system. Rollo Groast writes "The Parable of the Body Cells" about it, in elaborate homage to his childhood tales. It is the Myth of the return. Mircea Eliade. Fragments of Vessels broken at the Creation. A messenger from the Kingdom arriving at the last moment. But there is no such message, no such home -- only the millions of last moments . . . no more. Our history is an aggregate of last moments. Nora has turned her face, more than once, to the Outer Radiance, and simply seen nothing there. And so each time has taken a little more of the Zero into herself. Basher St. Blaise sees an Angel during a raid over Lübeck, droning across in front of the fiery leagues of face, the eyes, which went towering for miles, shifting to follow their flight. It is the Judgement card of Ouspensky's Tarot, all over again.
(19) We enter the story of Leni and Franz Pökler. In the Studentheim there's no heat, not much light. Does he know what it means for a woman born under the Crab, the mother of Ilse, to have all her home in a valise? Her husband, swimming his seas of fantasy, death-wish, and rocket mysticism, is just the type they want. Leni tried to explain her point of view, astrology, to Franz as Delta-t approaching zero, but he condemned it as tides, radio interference, damned little else. He was the cause-and-effect man, opposed to she who mapped onto different coordinate systems -- parallel, not series. She couldn't believe he'd once posted bills for Max Schlepzig film fantasies. On a holiday to the Rhine Falls, all around them were clouds, rainbows, drops of fire, and through a gap in the breastwork, a tiny silver egg with a flame, pure and steady, issuing from beneath. It was a static test of the rocket, and brought a reunion with old Moon-Eyes, Kurt Mondaugen. There were memories of Dr Laszlo Jamf, and wild rides in the Shnelbahnwagen. Franz became infected with Wandervögel idiocy and the Götterdämmerung mentality. They fell into the politics of the cartelized state, architecturalized by Walter Rathenau, racing towards a history even the psychic Peter Sascha couldn't see clearly enough for his Nazi overlords. Out of the ancient chemistries of Death and prehistoric species, Earth's excrement is to be purged for the ennoblement of shining steel, the polymerization of forgotten molecules. IG Farben will henceforth produce only structures which favour Death.
(20) Not surprisingly, Pointsman finds himself alone on Christmas Eve, worrying about how much of Slothrop's childhood has remained intact on his cortex, inert, encysted, unmoved by jazz, depression, fear of Black Cock, war, and the work of Dr Jamf. He thinks he may be "the Miracle Child." At the PISCES annual Christmas party, Pointsman does get lucky with Maudie Chilkes, however, in a closet full of belladonna, gauze, thistle tubes, and the scent of surgical rubber. She takes the pink Pavlovian cock in as far as it will go, chin to collarbone vertical as a sword-swallower, fumes of expensive Scotch rising flower-like. Afterwards, he discusses the incredible City Paranoiac with Thomas Gwenhidwy. If the City Paranoiac dreams, it's not accessible to us. It is a growing neoplasm flowing across the centuries, always developing, to meet exactly the changing shape of its very worst, secret fears. They are watched by Christmas bugs who once upon a time crawled in the straw at Bethlehem and listened to the crying of their infant Saviour coming to them as bursts of energy from the invisible distance.
(21) On boxing day, the English exchange presents. In Astrological skies, the sign of Pisces, the Holy Fish, is dominant. Aunt Jessica and Uncle Roger are out in the kitchen, hugging and kissing. They are with Claire, family. Roger took them to see "Hansel and Gretel" (what else?!). They are only disturbed a little when the Germans drop a rocket just down the street from the theatre. Demonic possessions in the house are not unknown. People are taken away, a process by which living souls unwittingly become demons known to the main sequence of Western magic as the Qlippoth, Shells of the Dead. It is also what the present dispensation does to decent men and women entirely on this side of the grave. Damned Beaver/Jeremy will take you like an Angel, with his joyless weasel-worded come-along:
Hark the herald angels sing:
Mrs Simpson's pinched our King. . .
Book II: Un Perm' au Casino Herman Goering
(22) King Kong was somebody's husband; but Slothrop will not wed Katje in the Casino Hermann Goering. They have filed him high on the white sea-façade, in a room to himself. No London? No Blitz? Can he get used to it? Sure. Bloat sings the vaudeville song "The Englishman's Very Shy (Fox-Trot)." But nobody like's Slothrop's Hawaiian shirt! They try to hitch up, sur la plage, with César Flébotomo's dancers, once used for recreational therapy by a Messerscmitt squadron on furlough. Slothrop is still paranoid, because a giant octopus with a malignant eye (it's Grigori!) is dragging one of the soft girls into the sea! They save her when Bloat hands Slothrop a crab to throw like a discus out into the water. It's Katje Borgesius, of course. Oh, that was no "found" crab, Ace -- no random octopus or girl, uh-uh. Slothrop's got the Magic Penis, after all. Structure and detail come later, but the conniving around him he feels instantly, in his heart. Katje speaks words he wants to hear: "Perhaps, after all, we were meant to meet. . . ."
(23) Dr Porkyevitch and His Fabulous Octopus have done their part for Pointsman, to escape a link to the Bukharin Conspiracy, last of the great Trotskyite revolutions. In the casino, Slothrop is amazed by the sight of Katje in an emerald Tiara, the rest of her rigged out in a long Medici gown of sea-green velvet. She rubs Tyrone's knee under the table and sets up a midnight assignation while he sings "The Ballad of Tantivy Mucker-maffick." Bloat is receiving messages in code from Supreme Headquarters. Slothrop can't resist Katje. They know. She is a pearly Queen of the Night, a stellar ballerina. Her back is white with moonlight, but she also has a dark ventral side. They fuck, and she quakes, her body strobing miles beneath him in cream and night-blue, flying without a sound, beating against her cheeks, black sleet, his face above her unmoved, like a rocket whose valves, under remote control, open and close at re-arranged moments. They have a seltzer fight and Tantivy steals all Slothrop's clothes and papers! He dives into even deeper pools of paranoia. Down the corridors to the Himmler-Spielsaal. "It's Nazi!" There is another enterprise here, more real, less merciful, and systematically hidden from the likes of Slothrop. His friends, old and new, every last bit of paper and clothing connecting him to what he's been have just, fucking, vanished.
(24) Slothrop plays the pig with Borgesius, and stays busy by taking a refresher course in technical German given by Sir Stephen Dodson-Truck, who speaks 33 languages. The Rocket looms. There are times when Slothrop can actually find a clutch-mechanism between him and Their iron-cased engine far away up a power train whose shape and design he can only guess at. They want something, and he suspects something really bad has happened to him in the past. He's always been snuggling up, masturbatorily, scared-elated, to the disagreeable idea that he was under someone else's control. It is a curve each of them feels unmistakably. It is the parabola. They are the children of its own black-and-white bad news. The War moves away from the Casino and leaves them all to play a drinking-game called "The Prince," and to watch vast Beings in the sunset which look like Basher-Blaise's Angel, once seen over Lübeck. Sir Stephen then mourns his lost son and Nora. It all goes terribly psychic from there. Carroll Eventyr. The death of Peter Sascha. Nora's "Ideology of the Zero." Sir Stephen disappears during the night. Are they at Brennschluss? Nothing to do but listen to a kazoo band play on the empty shore and study Professors Schiller on regenerative cooling, Wagner on combustion equations, Pauer and Beck on exhaust gases and burning efficiency?
(25) She walks in beauty, like the Night. . . . There is a poem, in the style of T. S. Eliot, dedicated to Pavlov's methods and instruments, his old garodki sticks. Oh yes, we are back at "The White Visitation," where Pointsman is hosting massive arguments about funding, hoping to get help from ICI. Webley Silvernail imagines that the animals grow to his size and dance and sing to him the "Pavlova (Beguine)"! But the real action involves the submission of Brigadier Pudding. Poor old guy, long in service, always asked for more, at an age when mucus is a constant companion, mucus in 1000 manifestations. . . . The ascent to Merkabah via Metatron is, for him, inverted in the bowels of Katje Borgesius. Old Pudding must pass through 7 antechambers to reach his goal. His sacred texts are Leopold von Sacher's Venus in Furs and Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis. Before he meets her, he must suffer his awful memories of the great War. She is Domina Nocturna, and he must undergo the terrible subjugation of a Passchendaele masochism, a descent into the filth of the Ypres salient. In what should have been the Holiest of chambers, Pudding looks at the debased Feast of God, the bottles on the table, the plates soiled with juices of meat, Hollandaise, and bits of gristle and bone, and has to consume Katje's excretions. First there is the drinking of the golden drops, and then the eating of the dark turd appearing from out of the absolute blackness between her buttocks. He masturbates for her and then receives a shot of penicillin to go with his tears.
(26) It is the Spring Equinox in the Harz near Bleicheröde, where Wernher von Braun lately broke his arm. It is the season for Domina Fortuna; Carl Orff's Carmina Burana; the great cusp, turning dreaming fishes into young rams, watersleep to firewalking. Slothrop's own image of the plot against him has grown. Proverbs for Paranoids, 1: you may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures. The Lieutenant continues to study. Roland Eventyr is stationed along one of the last parabolas -- flight paths which must never be taken -- working as one of the invisible Interdictors of the Stratosphere, now bureaucratized as hopelessly on that side as ever on this. He inhabits another order of Being -- but still suffers the same orders of control. A limit was always there to be brought to. Thus was the Rocket's terrible passage reduced to bourgeois terms. Now it appears that the War, perhaps the World itself, is nothing more than a vast conspiracy between corporations. Slothrop can feel a Beast in the sky: its visible claws and scales are being mistaken for clouds and other plausibilites . . . or else everyone has agreed to call them other names when Slothrop is listening. And he must ask: "what are the SG Documents"? Because he does not know of the Schwarzgerät and the true nature of his enslavement to Jamf's Imipolex G.
(27) It's a wild, wild life in this one! During the Spring of 1945, there is a party filled with underworld types which Slothtrop attends. Turns out that some merrymaker has earlier put 100 grams of hashish in the Hollandaise. There has been a big run on the broccoli! The story here tonight is a typical WW II romantic intrigue, just another evening at Raoul's place, involving a future opium shipment being used by Tamara as security against a loan from Italo, who in turn owes Waxwing for a Sherman tank his friend Theophile is trying to smuggle into Palestine but must raise a few thousand pounds for the purposes of bribing across the border, and so has put the tank up as collateral to borrow from Tamara, who is using par of her loan from Italo to pay him. Waxwing confirms Slothrop's suspicion that the Octopus incident was rigged, and sends him from Monaco to a hideout in Niece.
(28) Slothrop takes on a new avatar: an English war correspondent named Ian Scuffling. We learn all about Imipolex G, an aromatic heterocyclic polymer developed by Dr Lazslo Jamf for IG Farben in 1939. It is a delight to fetishists and a convenience to armed insurgents. It announces to chemists that they are free to create new Rings and to escape their enslavement to Nature forever. It is clear that companies on opposite sides of the war have co-operated in its development. Slothrop sees there is even more being zeroed in on him from out there than he'd thought, even during his most paranoid spells. Proverbs for Paranoids, 3: if they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers. The S-Gerät, The Black Device, rears its ugly head. Apaches trail Slothrop, but he escapes to Niece. Tantivy's death is revealed in The Times. The War has been reconfiguring time and space into tis own image. Europe is a groaning, clouded alembic, and Sandoz makes the best LSD! Slothrop gets busy, runs errands, becomes involved with Squalidozzi and some Argentinian anarchists, Péron, hijacks a U-boat in Mar de Plata, and receives documents about the real extent of Jamf's complicity in the conspiracy.
(29) Mr Pointsman has decided to spend Whitsun by the sea. It is peacetime again now, everyone at the facility that day mad drunk and hugging and kissing, except for the Blavatskian wing of Psi Section, who were off on a White Lotos Day pilgrimage to 19 Avenue Road, St. John's Wood. There's been no word of Slothrop for over a month, despite Speed and Perdoo's investigation of Slothrop's Don Giovanni-style sex adventures. The two gumshoes become infected with the prevailing fondness out there for mindless pleasures. The data on Slothrop are incomplete, leaving Pointsman with the burden of it all, lonely as a Führer. So, he takes his holiday with Mexico, Jessica, Joint, and Borgesius. Pinball machines are seen to writhe under the handling of fanatical servicemen and their girls. But he can't relax, and wonders what afterlife The Firm have found following V-E Day. He gets hallucinations. Everything seems to be ruled by Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem. At PISCES, for example, it is widely believed that the Schwarzkommando have been summoned, in the way demons may be gathered in, called up to the light of day and earth by the now defunct Operation Black Wing. A mere movie has been made real! The voices Pointsman hears go beyond, way beyond, the New Order. . . .
Book III: In the Zone
(30) We now enter the Zone, a liminal space which is at the fringes of everything. The sun above is in Leo, so the seasons are changing. Nordhausen, home of the rockets, puts less credence in the ice-saints than do wine-regions farther south, but even here the weather looks promising. Slothrop is there as Ian Scuffling, finding signs of Katje in a doll with human hair. He sings a Displaced Person's song and learns all of Jamf's history. Once, he worked with Lyle Bland and contracted the Slothrop Paper Company. With a rush, Tyrone remembers that smell and has an erection. It is like an instrument installed, wired by Them into his body as a colonial outpost in our raw and clamorous world, another office representing Their white Metropolis far away. . . . Slothrop's own father, Broderick, is also implicated. Oberst Enzian is then revealed as the leader of the Schwarzkommando, heading to the North to build their own rocket. Geli Tripping, the Witch, and Tchitcherine describe Weissmann's Rocket 00000 as the S-Gerät, and Slothrop makes the connection between its Imipolex G and his own infant conditioning with the same substance. It could really be the Slothrop-Gerät. Paranoids are not paranoid (Proverb 5) because they're paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.
(31) After the Interregnum, Slothrop sneaks in for a tour of the rocket-factory, the Mittelwerke supplied with concentration camp labour through tunnels from Dora, next door. Professor Glimpf presides. A popular attraction is the elegant Raumwaffe space-suit wardrobe, by the famous military couturier Heini of Berlin. Space-jockeys ride "horses" of polished meteorite with the propulsive gasses blowing like farts out their tail-ends and people dance the Waltz of the Future. The Scharzkommando have traded their native milk calabashes for plastic bowls. This is the spot where tradition sez Enzian had his Illumination, in the course of a wet dream in which he coupled with a slender white rocket and left a semen-stain which smelled of bleach. We are in the Rocket-City, a place with great symmetry designed by that Albert Speer disciple Etzel Ölsch. It is shaped like a double integral, SS, part of that not-so-rare personality disorder known as Tannhäuserism in which you always want to be taken under mountains, to closed places where everyone is in agreement about Death. But you might be part of a sigmoid fraud. Here in the Zone, categories have been blurred very badly. Major Duane Marvy comes looking for T. S., guns blazing like a Hollywood sheriff, still trying to take possession of the Penis Slothrop Thought Was His Own.
(32) SCHWARZE BESATZUNG AM RHEIN!! These are the tales of the Schwarzkommando. It is no longer just a military title. Early Rhenish missionaries brought them back to the Metropolis, that great dull Zoo, from the Südwest, as specimens of a possibly doomed race. They are a people now, Zone-Hereros in exile for two generations. There are several underground communities near Nordhausen/Bleicheröde, known collectively as the Erdschweinhöhle. Back in the Südwest , it was a powerful symbol of fertility and life; but here in the Zone its status is not so clear. The race of Hereros is becoming extinct. They are the Empty Ones, no longer hearkening to Enzian, who is merely seen as a half-breed with a half-brother named Tchitcherine. Tribal death made sense; Christian Death made none at all. Enzian's nostalgia for the Eternal Centre is countered by Josef Ombindi's equation of that place with the Final Zero. The barren Moon, a true Bleicheröde, may be the only home for them. Enzian is Weissmann's slave, his rocket an entire system won away from the Feminine Darkness and held against all entropies. The Herero may have been chosen for something even more terrible. . . .
(33) It is Walpurgisnacht on the Brocken in the Harz Mountains. Geli Tripping and Slothrop make god-shadows across the landscape in Goethe's dawn-mist. They might see the Brockengespenstphänomen. She is the Witch, and he makes love to her. The spectra wash red to indigo, tidal, immense, at all their edges. Under the clouds out there, it's as still, and lost, as Atlantis. Slothrop worries about Major Marvy, who is gnashing about the Harz sending thousands of canaries into cardiac episodes. He escapes with Geli's friend Schnorp in a beautiful coloured silk hot air balloon. A rusty old reconnaissance plane buzzes by -- a monster about to give birth to Major Marvy. But Slothrop gets him in the face with a cream pie!
(34) The Zone is in full summer. Now we are taken away to the story of Vaslav Tchitcherine, Slothrop's soviet antagonist, in the province of Kirghiztan during a time of linguistic and cultural upheaval in the 20's and 30's. A broken victim of war patched together with steel and gold, he is no relation at all to the Tchitcherine who dealt the Rapollo Treaty with Walter Ratheneau in 1922. He was sent to "bear's corner" in the remote 7 Rivers country to give the Tribesmen out there the New Turkic Alphabet. His motives are not political. They are founded on a compulsive need to annihilate the Schwarzkommando and his mythical half-brother, Enzian. Young and old Kirghiz came in from the plain, smelling of horses, sour milk, and weed-smoke, inside to stare at slates filled with chalk-marks. Agents from the Metropolis arrive, German spies reporting back to an office in Berlin. Tchitcherine had once worked with Wimpe, a Verbindungsman in the classic style, on Corporate designer drugs, Oneirine and Methoneirine, variations reported by Laszlo Jamf. Tchitcherine's fate is to see the Kirghiz Light after spending twelve hours face-up in the desert, a prehistoric city greater than Babylon lying stifled in mineral sleep a kilometre below his back. One day he will be drawn back to the Zone, where his Rocket is waiting. . . .
(35) Say hello to Die Raketmensch . . . Slothrop is in Berlin. Starving, he has a fantasy about the Schwarzkommando, and recognizes the mandala of their Holy Insignia: Klar, Entlüftung, Zündung, Vorstufe, Hauptstufe, the five positions of the launching switch in the A4 control car. But he doesn't let on to Enzian. They watch a Rocket-raising sacred to the Spring Equinox. Slothrop feels like Tannhäuser, the singing nincompoop, but the G in Gerät and Imipolex does not stand for Grail. . . . What he gets is his new name, Rocketman, from Säure Bummer, a minion of the legendary actress Greta Erdmann, a woman haunted by Central European night-whispers that blow, like the skin-curtains of Berlin, more ghostly around her fattening, wrecked beauty the closer she and Slothrop draw. He is drawn to a decadent revel where he meets Seaman Bodine of the U. S. destroyer John E. Badass, and thinks he sees King Kong hunkering down to take a shit in the street. The Potsdam Conference, deciding the proportions of post-war Germany, goes on unnoticed. . . . To Slothrop, it is just a place to deal some dope.
(36) In full Rocketman costume, Slothrop goes to The Berlin Whitehouse in Potsdam to steal hashish from President Harry Truman. The emptiness of Berlin this morning is an inverse mapping of the white and geometric capital before the destruction. The smell of corpses is everywhere -- the Tropics are reversed. Säure Bummer and Slothrop talk rocket-mechanics. Purpurstoffe required for the vehicle's turbopump has ruined the cocaine trade. Slothrop gets his picture in Life magazine, with a long stiff sausage poked in his mouth. It is a Snafu for Die Raketmensch, during the Evil Hour! He tries to escape Tchitcherine as Max Schlepzig, but is grabbed and taken away on the Wheel, clutching in terror to the dwindling white point of himself, in the first windrush of anaesthesia, hovering coyly over the pit of Death. . . . It is sodium amytal again.
(37) Aboard a hijacked German submarine named Der Aal, the Argentine anarchists lazily plan a film version of Jose Hernandez's epic poem of the Argentine pampas, "Martin Fierro." Squalidozzi has been introduced to Gerhardt von Göll, also known by his nom de pègre, "Der Springer." He has sinister connections, through Spottbillingfilm AG in Berlin (another IG Farben outfit), from whom von Göll used to get cut rates on most of his film stock, especially the peculiar and slow-moving "Emulsion J," invented by Laszlo Jamf. Somehow, it was able to render human skin transparent, revealing the face just beneath the surface. It was used extensively in von Göll's immortal Alpdrücken. He also brought the Schwarzkommando to life in the Zone from out of a film for Operation Black Wing. One day they may shoot Squalidozzi's film on the Lüneberg Heath, where Rocket 00000 will be fired.
(38) Tchitcherine likes Slothrop. After his sodium amytal session, he thinks he might lead him to Enzian. He likes people who dress up in costumes, and is interested in Slothrop's Blackwords -- the way he combines "Schwarz --" with some very strange nouns. He knows he is holding out, saving himself for something absolutely unique. There is a good chance he is actually driven by his Back-phenomenon, responding to its needs though they be hidden from him, returning, cycle after cycle, to Enzian.
(39) Awakening after his drugged sleep, Slothrop meets Margherita Erdmann, the Anti-Dietrich: not a destroyer of men, but a doll, languid and exhausted. . . . They are in the Neubablesberg studio where von Göll made dozens of vaguely pornographic horror movies. She is his creature, and Slothrop's Lisaura. But the gold, the mirrors, the miles of Baroque ornament, drove von Göll himself a little mad. Especially those long corridors. . . . He acted in films under Slothrop's new pseudonym, Max Schlepzig, so when Slothrop whips Margherita there is a confusion of identities. He becomes Max as he covers her with his cape, and she cries out for her lost child Bianca. All her chains and fetters are chiming, black skirt furled to her waist, stockings pulled up in classic cusps by the suspenders of the boned black rig she's wearing underneath. It's easy for non-fetishists to sneer about Pavlovian erotic conditioning and let it go at that, but any underwear fetishist can tell you there is much more here -- there is a cosmology !!
(40) Pökler tortures his wife Leni as if she is Margherita Erdmann. How many other men in depression era Berlin carried the same image home from Alpdrücken that night? His daughter Ilse was fathered in a paracinematic moment, and now he waits endlessly for his movie-child to return to Zwölfkinder every summer. When he first dreamt about the Rocket with some frequency, it would not be a literal rocket at all, but rather a symbol for something he thought he needed. Recruited from the amateur rocketeers of the Verien für Raumschiffahrt, he became major Weissmann's best ally. But Leni was wrong: no one was using him. Pökler was an extension of the Rocket long before it was built. When she left him, he lived with Kurt Mondaugen, young moon eyes, at the rocket-field. He was a German mystic who grew up reading Hesse, Stefan George, and Richard Wilhelm, ready to accept Hitler on the basis of Damian-metaphysics. There was also Fahringer, an aerodynamics man, who went out in the pine woods at Peenemünde with a Zen bow and a roll of pressed straw. It had all started when Mondaugen had returned from the Kalahari and whatever light had found him there. The Cathode, the Anode, and the Holy Ghost seemed about right. Closest to the Zero among them all, however, was the African Enzian, the protégée of Major Weissmann. Pökler came to fear the Rocket, hunting as a servo valve with a noisy input will, across the Zero, between his two desires, personal identity and impersonal salvation. They allowed him a version of his Ilse each Spring. At first she was a young girl who dreamt of living on the Moon, in a house in the Sea of Tranquillity, gold mountains out one window, and the wide sea out the other, the Earth green and blue in the sky. . . . Pökler was part of the legacy of Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz, his dream of 1865 having made IG Farben possible. Kekulé imagined the Benzene Ring, sacred symbol of the organic chemists, as a Serpent with its tail in its mouth. It was a mystical ourobouros which announced that man was now allowed to build molecules not found in Nature, from out of the debris of the given. When Ilse finally returns to him it is not Ilse. The culture of innocence has proven invaluable. Its many hideous uses allow incest to occur, and so Pökler's paternal plough does indeed find its way into the filial furrow. But he cannot be judged for what he did in the name of Love, despite Their game, Their palpable evil. Six years were obtained from him in that way. Time ends for him; the Perfect Rocket is still up there, still descending. Weissmann's depthless cruelty sends him to Nordhausen pretending it was his own idea. Ilse is now in the terrible Dora concentration camp next door. As payment for his work, Pökler is allowed into the camp to breathe its odours of shit, death, sweat, sickness, mildew, piss. But Ilse is a stranger to him. He had the data, but did not know her with his senses or his heart. In the end, he gives a dying woman his wedding ring.
(41) DER FEIND HÖRT ZU!! We're back in Berlin with Slothrop and Erdmann. The hash deal is to go down with Säure and Tchitcherine. Slothrop perceives that he's losing his mind. If there's something comforting about paranoia, there is still anti-paranoia, where nothing is connected to anything, a condition not many of us can bear for long. That's where Slothrop is. He thinks They have put him there for a reason. Looking for Säure's cellar, Slothrop plays Raketmensch. It is the 30th century, and he has landed in Berlin to tour the ruins, the high-desert traces of an ancient European order. When he gets to where he's going, he does so much cocaine that he gets a nasal hardon! Trudi gets sexual with him and sends a yard or two of torrid tongue up one of his nostrils. Gustav then leads a huge argument about whether Rossini was better than Beethoven, but that's stopped by news that Anton Webern is dead. Slothrop continues to have bizarre sex with Erdmann. Whipping seems to comfort her. . . . In full paranoia most of the time, Slothrop sees Enzian's KEZVH mandala in the sky, and has a three-part dream about Margherita: (i) a porn-star takes pleasure in a bitch-dog (ii) pregnancy results (iii) birth takes place and all forms of life stream forth from her womb --octopuses, reindeer, kangaroos. . . .
(42) The Rücksichtslos lists at a permanent angle of 2327'. This vessel here is a toiletship, a triumph of the German mania for subdividing. It is to the Kreigsmarine what the bathroom is to the house. Legend has it that there were gigantic troughs big enough to seat 40 or 50 aching arseholes side by side, while a constant river of salt flushing water rushed by underneath. Horst Achtfaden thinks of it under the influence of drugs administered by the Herero. He was in aerodynamics at Peenemünde. He starts to see rocket-dynamics in terms of toilet functions and flings himself disconsolately on the scarlet VD toilet way down at the very end of the row. But Fahringer is there to restore the discipline of Zen. Atman. The Rocket creates its own great wind . . . no wind without both Rocket and atmosphere . . . but inside the venturi, breath -- furious and blazing breath -- always flowing at the same, unchanging speed. The Schwarzkommando want the Schwarzgerät, but it cannot be provided.
(43) Sailing out of Bad Karma on the Anubis, Slothrop and Margherita head north to Swinemünde with a gilded, winged Jackal under the bowsprit. They are leaving the preterite behind. . . . Slothrop and Greta can summon, like dreamers, draught shallow enough to clear whatever the War has left in their way. Greta seeks her daughter Bianca. But she is spooked by a woman in Black who turns out to be nobody. It is von Göll who provides her with her opportunity. The Rocketman falls overboard, but two slender wrists in silver and sapphire save him. Miklos Thanatz takes Slothrop into the reeking depths of Nazi party decadence, and he sees Margherita and her daughter together. She's a knockout in a red chiffon gown. Thanatz has been with Blicero before the firing of the 00000, awaiting its fantastic, virile roar, its cruel, hard thrusting into the virgin robes of the sky. Bianca is mercilessly beaten by her mother on buttocks with skin so finely grained that white centimetre markings and numerals are being left in mirror-images against the red stripes of each blow. An orgy develops. Everyone is kind of aroused. Slothrop ends up coming between the tits of a Viennese girl with hair the colour of a lioness's pelt, and another girl uses an enormous glass dildo in which baby piranhas are swimming. Fog closes in and the ship sails on.
(44) In the engine room of the Anubis, Slothrop slips into the pre-pubescent Bianca Erdmann. Her face, round with baby-fat, and her enormous night-shadowed eyes come sweeping down as she kneels and settles on him excruciatingly slowly. She is his pretty horsewoman, and he feels as if he was somehow, well, inside his own cock, his arms and legs it seems woven among vessels and ducts. He is enclosed. For now. He knows she will soon be counted among the Zone's lost. The Pope's staff is always going to remain barren, like Slothrop's own unflowering cock. There is a horror in the brightest hour of the afternoon. She is the child of a movie-fantasy, with a thousand putative fathers. Her look, a deepening arrest, has already broken Slothrop's seeing heart.
(45) Slothrop meet Morituri of the Imperial Japanese Navy. He eats porridge now and has been on the wrong side for six years. His story is about Margherita and bodes ill for Bianca. She was once sick and handed over to Sigmund for a cure. At night they watch fireworks -- fountains, spark-foaming rockets, yellow starbursts high over Poland. It is an oneiric season. . . . Morituri was a tourist there, with a zoo-goer's civility. But Greta has crossed to the Other Side. Her Jewish fantasy made her home the Form of Light. She was Shekinah, Queen, the White Goddess of the Kabbalah, Israel, daughter, bride, Mother of God. But her incarnation was evil and she murdered children. A thunder-blast prompts Slothrop to think of saving Bianca. A scrap of red from the engine room of the Anubis is all he has to recall her. Miklos Thanatz is gone too. Slothrop is overcome by a glowing red mudslide of nausea.
(46) Greta has been Gretel -- and many others also. They have had incredible gifts, antigravity, dreams of prophecy . . . comatic images surround their faces, glowing in the air, in landscapes filled with strange airship passages threaded under arches and giant fins in the city mist. And she has been a cowgirl too! She sees Bianca in other children, ghostly as a double exposure. . . clearly, yes very clearly in Gottfried, the young pet of Captain Blicero. Thanatz had once whipped her in his presence in the rocket-blasted woods. Blicero was a local deity, his place a white land. It was not Germany he moved through. It was his own space. Gretel's cunt swelled with blood at the danger, at the chances for their own annihilation. In the Castle there is talk of something she recalls as the "F-Gerät." A seance allows them to hear the true ring of Polystyrene. It is filled with the artifacts of a Dimension of Plastic, great curtains of styrene or vinyl, in all colours, opaque and transparent, hung row after row from overhead, flaring like Northern Lights. It is Imipolex G -- the fabric of the future. All that is left in the end is a vast deposit of tarry waste, of black toxicity, a remnant of the Si-N which has ruined the garden.
(47) Slothrop falls. Off the boat, this time. A storm paws loudly on the glass, great wet flippers falling at random out of the night. There are international reasons for the Anubis Affair right now, and also reasons against. Slothrop has lost Bianca and knows They've been setting him up for the fall. It is an Imipolectique -- with its own peculiar potency in the Zone. He is feeling, in fact, a general loss of emotion. Stirred by what he thinks is a vision of Bianca's dark eyelashes plastered shut and face streaming in the rain, he falls into the whipped white desolation that passes for the Oder Haff that night.
(48) Rescued by Frau Gnahb, Slothrop hooks up with der Springer and embarks upon the long road to Peenemünde. Gerhardt von Göll is at his service, and reminds Slothrop that the Elite and the preterite define each other, moving though a cosmic design of light and darkness in all humility. They head for the home of the Rocket, and der Springer offers to sell the infamous S-Gerät for 10,000 -- right out of Nordhausen. Närrisch reminds them of the matter of Tchitcherine and Enzian, which can never be forgotten. In the ruins of the rocket-works, filled with charred helpless latticework and flashes of green human shapes, the numbers of the test-stations take on the significance of the Stations of the Cross. The symbolism of Rilke's Reiter, the Waite-Rider Tarot Cards, and Ouspensky's Fool, figure prominently. Major Zhadev, the Russian, apprehends von Göll , and Slothrop gets barfed on by a wayward chimp.
(49) Slothrop and Klaus Närrisch walk through a sleepy summer evening at Peenemünde. No two people have been so ill-equipped to approach a Holy Centre since Tchitcherine and Qulan set out in search of the Kirghiz Light, but Holy-Centre-Approaching is soon to be the number one Zonal pastime. Slothrop, since the Anubis voyage, has begun to thin, to scatter. It is Mondaugen's Law: "personal density is directly proportional to temporal bandwidth." They move through the fallen ruins and try to spring der Springer! The Schwarzphänomen is encountered along the way. All Slothrop can do, though, is worry about the Plan -- the S-Gerät strategy he's going out of his way to die for tonight.
(50) In the fallen Zone, Enzian tries to stop an abortion. Josef Ombindi and his people learned their vulturehood from the Christian missionaries. Washing-blue is the abortifacient of choice, a Farben chemical, no less! Separations are proceeding, and each day the mystical return Enzian predicted seems less possible. In the ashes and salt of the desolation, the Holy Text is the Rocket, and their Destiny might be to become Kabbalists, the scholar-magicians of the Zone. Understood only by the Elite, the War was never political at all. Politics was mere theatre to keep the people distracted . . . secretly, it was all being dictated instead by the needs of technology. We have to look for power sources here, and distribution networks we were never taught, the eunuchs keeping the harem of our stolen Earth for the numb joyless hardons of human sultans, human elite with no right at all to be where they are. Christian has a gasoline-induced hallucination which shows him the Leungasolin, the Moss Creature, the Water Giant. It too is the eldritch child of IG Farben. . . . Enzian resolves to use Christian to help him save the Empty Ones, to combat Ombindi's doctrine of the Final Zero. They are to have a Mission. . . .
(51) Slothrop is taken aboard Gnahb's boat on a collision course with the Anubis, past ancient Slavic temples dedicated to Svetoid, their god of fertility and war. As they arrive, girls with nude breasts beaded with rain blow kisses while the band plays a Guy Lombardo arrangement. But Slothrop has to become an Orpheus descending into the black Hell of the engine room. Someone dark and mysterious is down there, snake-sure, and he is forced into a terrible confrontation with icy little thighs in wet silk which swing against his face. No matter how he tries to escape, there is always a brush of cold nipples, the deep cleft of her buttocks, perfume and shit and the smell of brine . . . and the smell of . . . of . . . Bianca is dead. All Slothrop can do is go on into the Zone.
(52) Back to England. The motif now is clearly Tannhäuserism. The ghost of poor dead Brigadier Pudding recites a poem which begins "Where is the Pope whose staff will bloom for me?" Not here, obviously, since he has been killed by the E. coli bacteria in Katje's shit. She sits down to watch Osbie Feel's film of her pornography, with his own screen-test for "Doper's Greed" (starring Basil Rathbone ) inexplicably spliced in at the end. But after a while she understands. Maybe it's a message from a hidden friend at "The White Visitation" -- perhaps Webley Silvernail himself, who's been less than fanatically loyal to Pointsman and his lot. It is. Something in code. She makes herself ready to go with Pirate Prentice, to respond to a call to join the Counterforce.
(53) They make their descent into the underworld, a horizontal, plastic version of Dante's "Inferno," or Milton's realm of "heavy conversations." You would not think Death had undone so many. . . . They keep appearing throughout this disquieting structure, a place of many levels and new wings that generate like living tissue. Names are written on Oxyrhincus papyri -- The Gospel of Thomas, Tielhard de Chardin, Father Rapier, Rilke, St. Just, Sammy Hilbert-Spaess, Porky Pig, Leon Degrelle and the Rexists. Prentice is bothered by free women in their teens; their spirits are so contay-jus. (It's Teen Spirit, all right!) He and Katje see the terror for what it is. We die only because They want us to, and They live off our fear. Katje and Pirate become swept up in a swarm of dancing Preterition in a great empty Theatre.
(54) Slothrop gets in motion. He hitches up Tchitcherine's pants and heads out of town. Whole nationalities are on the move. It is a great frontierless streaming out here. The Zone is without borders, and a vast group of the dispossessed is carrying along the detritus of an order, a European and bourgeois order they don't know yet is destroyed forever. Slothrop, alone, dreams Tantivy Mucker-Maffick is alive and wakes up to Ludwig and his lemming. We then go back in time to 1634 or -5 to meet an ancestor named William Slothrop, lover of Indians, herder of hogs, author of the tract On Preterition. Nobody wanted to hear about the preterite, but he felt they had holiness, for without these "second sheep" there would be no Elect. At the end, Slothrop's path intersects with that of his dreaded nemesis, Major Duane Marvy.
(55) Escape depends on pretending he's a Russian. He finds out about a Malevolent Trio: Marvy, Tchitcherine, and a resurrected nightmare known as Old "Bloody" Clayton Chiclitz who dreams of generations of cannon fodder while he gobbles turkey-legs and ice cream and wipes his fingers on the pollywogs' hair. Slothrop sticks up for his ancestor's preterite, and does his best to thwart their raid on a bunch of "black devils" who are really the Schwarzkommando. He is pretty bitter about how They have taken away his identity, so he tells Andreas Orukambe everything he knows about the launching of the Schwarzgerät. Orukambe in turn explains the Earth-mysteries of the Rocket-mandala KEZVH.
(56) They escape this time, but Tchitcherine knows more than they do about the Rocket. He got to Närrisch, even though it cost him der Springer, and put three enlisted men in sick bay with deep bites and one severed artery. . . . He smells Enzian. An insight comes to him in a clearing with Chiclitz and Marvy: everything testifies purely to the shape of defeat, of operational death. A huge white finger points down, beautifully manicured. Its Fingerprint is an aerial view of the City Dactylic, that city of the future where every soul is known and there is noplace to hide. It is A Rocket Cartel, a structure cutting across every agency human and paper that ever touched it. He knows it is his personal doom never to get further than the edge of this metastructure which has revealed itself tonight, this Rocket-state whose borders he cannot cross. . . .
(57) Now we see Slothrop's last identity before it scatters. . . . On the way to Cuxhaven, the summer is in deceleration. He sees Zonal shapes he will allow to enter but won't interpret, not any more. He gets cast as PLECCCHHAZUNNGGA!! -- the Pig-hero -- wearing a German expressionist pig costume done in bright sour colours. There is a feast of beer, wine, bread, Quark sausages, and gold-brown Kartoffelpuffer. But it's all too soon busted up by cops and Russian troops. Cutting across every poor illusion of comfort the bourgeois took for real. Slothrop just wants to lie down with a beautiful girl he's met because it's every paranoid's dream to perfect methods of immobility. They travel to the legendary Zwölfkinder -- that place with the same number in its name as there are atoms in the sacred Benzene Ring. . . . Pökler is there, with his pig Frieda. Despite his reputation, he cares little for tales of the Schwarzgerät. They talk of Ilse and Bianca instead, both fathered on Greta Erdmann's silver and passive image, and also of that infamous polyimide Imipolex G. Slothrop knows that Bianca is still there -- nearly as invisible as a glass of lemonade in a twilit room.
(58) Pökler does manage to speak a little about Laszlo Jamf, but keeps getting sidetracked into talking about the movies, German films Slothrop has never even heard about. He muses on about Metropolis, the first Corporate City-state where technology was the source of power. Pökler cruises the Piscean depths of his own dreams, facing images of everyday Inflation dreariness, queues, stockbrokers, boiled potatoes in a dish. Out of this comes a burst of memory about Jamf's fundamental vision: that mortality itself can be cheated by giving life a more durable basis, by replacing the C-H bond with the totally new Si-N bond. But Jamf himself, oddly enough, did not move on! He stayed with C-H and took his lunch bucket to America.
(59) Lyle Bland's astral journeys are considered. And no-one can forget that he was one of those who conspired to sell baby Tyrone! There is talk of Masons, Rosicrucianism, and pinball. Psychological studies were the Bland specialty. His probe into the subconscious of early Depression-era America is considered a classic. The man has had his meathooks into the American day-to-day since 1919, and once sold a few of Jamf's early patents. Those like Slothrop, with the greatest interest in discovering the truth, were thrown back on dreams, psychic flashes, omens, cryptographies, drug-epistemologies, and all things dancing on a ground of terror, contradiction, and absurdity. There is even an annual Veiled Prophet ball. Bland is made a Mason like Harry Truman, the man who put his finger on Miss Enola Gay's clit to tickle 100,000 yellow folks into what will come down as a fine vapour-deposit of fat-cracklings wrinkled into the fused rubble of their city on the Inland Sea. . . . It is the grim rationalizing of the World and Bland, still an apprentice, hasn't yet given up his fondness for hallucinating. Bored with everyone's faith in Kute Korrespondences, he leaves on a psychic journey to join up with the Astral IG.
(60) At Cuxhaven surgeons are after Tyrone's testicles!! Doctors Muffage and Spontoon are on a mission. They locate Slothrop, supposedly in costume, again part of a mad swirl of the preterite which includes Seaman Bodine promoting the First International Runcible Spoon Fight between Purfle and Bladdery. Corpsman Krypton gets him good and wasted on cocaine and hides Slothrop in a garbage can behind rooms swarming with soldiers, sailors, dames, tricks, winners, losers, conjurors, dealers, dopers, voyeurs, homosexuals, fetishists, spies, and just plain folks looking for company. A network of plots will carry him to freedom. But Marvy gets tricked into wearing the pig-suit so that humourless limey voices can seek him out. Muffage and Spontoon take him away to enact the castration Pointsman wanted. They snip the vas deferens as if they are musical strings they might, a trifle moon-mad, strum into appropriate music, and then plop the testicles into a bottle as a souvenir for Ned. Back at Putzi's in the arms of Solange, Slothrop dreams of Zwölfkinder and Bianca smiling.
(61) There is a Counterforce in the Zone. Tchitcherine has arrived at the Lüneberg Heath to find Gerhardt von Göll filming scenes for his movie about Martin Fierro. Odd communities are popping up all over the Zone. One village in Mecklenburg has been taken over by an army of dogs, Dobermans and Shepherds. Nobody can get near it, and the dogs go out to make raids! Clive Mossmoon and Sir Marcus Scammony are highly concerned about Pointsman's recent failure. All they care about is the Operation. In this latest War, death was no enemy, but a collaborator. Homosexuality in high places is just a carnal afterthought now, and the real and only fucking is done on paper. . . .
Book IV: The Counterforce
(62) You could call this the saddest of times, the time of Scattering, the loss of old friends. . . . Pirate prentice is on his way to Berlin in a more or less hijacked P-47, acting agent of the Pope. Katje will be going to Nordhausen. Prentice is being haunted by her ancestor Frans van der Groov, dodo killer and soldier of fortune, flying above abandonment left behind from the Great Dying of the War. Slothrop is close to his end in the Zone, soaking his harp, the old Hohner, in a mountain stream, closer than he's ever been to being a spiritual medium even though he doesn't know it yet! There is a Rilkean prophecy:
And though Earthliness forget you,
To the stilled Earth say: I flow.
To the rushing water speak: I am.
Slothrop drifts back through the Roseland Ballroom, through all his 10,000 days. Omens grow clearer, more specific -- flights of birds, patterns in the ashes of his fire, trout guts, scraps of paper, broken brick walls. He can't even remember his own graffiti until he draws the Rocket Mandala, the crossroads where you can sit and listen to traffic from the Other Side. A delegate from The Committee on Idiopathic Archetypes comes to visit. Crosses, swastikas, Zone-mandalas, how can they not speak to Slothrop?! In fact, later in the day he becomes a crossroads, after a heavy rain he doesn't recall, and sees a very thick rainbow, a stout rainbow cock driven down out of the pubic clouds into the Earth, the green wet valleyed Earth. His chest fills and he stands crying, not a thing in his head, just feeling natural. . . .
(63) It is the time of the Counterforce. Roger Mexico highballs a pre-Hitler Horch 870-B through the burnt-purple rolling of the Lüneburg Heath. Swanlake has left him for Jeremy, "the Beaver." She's meant to go. She thinks the War is over; bit it's not. There's something still on -- Their enterprise (don't call it a "war" if it makes you nervous. . . . ). Roger moves on to join the Counterforce. Too late, he wants to try and rescue Slothrop, yet another Rocket-creature, a vampire whose sex-life actually fed on the terror of the Blitz, someone he must care more about than Jessica. With Milton Gloaming he gets mixed up in a huge task force on the IG industries -- the great struggle for Their intelligence machinery in the wake of Lyle Bland's last transmural journey. . . . Mexico is so angry at Pointsman's previous use of all their trust that he heads off to the Twelfth House on Gallaho Mews in a homicidal state of mind, to where courtyard corners are drifted with cast off official papers, the shed skin of the Beast at large. He's looking for Clive Mossmoon in a room of incandescent lemon-lime. But he finds Pointsman instead and makes the futile gesture of pissing all over everything as his cock bucks like an airship. When it's over it seems pretty anti-climactic. Prentice tells him he's just a novice paranoid. He says that for every They there ought to be a We; and that in the Counterforce there is. They are fighting a new war. Nora Dodson-Truck has become the force which the Rocket must struggle against, Gravity, a power to which the prehistoric wastes submit and by which they are transmuted into the very substance of History. The Counterforce now consists of Pirate, Katje, Roger, the Dodson-Trucks, Gloaming, Feel, and Gwenhidwy.
(64) Oh things get pretty sinister now -- in a world a Benito Cereno and parables about light-bulb conspiracies! For weeks, the US army has been sweeping Thuringia, bursting into houses in the middle of the night because a certain lycanthrophobia occupies minds at higher levels. (Let us not forget Blicero. . . .) Eddie Penseroso, an amphetamine enthusiast, is the company barber, his haircuts taking hours, and often days, and thus being instantly recognizable in the Zone. He is to work on a Colonel from Kenosha, with Slothropian blues harp music in the background and a well-travelled light-bulb hanging above his head. The Colonel worries about the detonation of a bomb as powerful as Krakatoa. It turns out that the light-bulb is the same identical Osram bulb that Franz Pökler used to sleep next to in his bunk at Nordhausen. Every n-thousandth light bulb is gonna be perfect, all the delta-q's piling up just right, so this bulb is immortal ! It is Byron the Bulb, and his story is told. He has great affection for his "mortal" fellow bulbs, and comes to love them through his endless burning hours. He also hates Them, and dreams of a million bulbs flaming out in one grand burst as a Guerilla Strike Force. But even if he avoids the Phoebus light bulb cartel's "hit man," he is doomed both to know and to be ignored, powerless to change anything. In the end, he can only shine his pain-radiance down on the Colonel's exposed jugular while Eddie Penseroso also stands there holding his scissors in a way barbers aren't supposed to. . . .
(65) Katje tells us a story, coming into town on a stolen bicycle, a distinguished emissary from a drained and captured land. She hitches up with a dancing chorus of Herero men! This she had not expected, her Zonal strategies having nothing specific to say about blackness. . . . Enzian sees her as the Golden Bitch of Blicero's last letters from Holland. But, ethnic when he least wants to be, he comes after a while to think of her as the great Kalahari painting of the White Woman. He wants to know about Weissmann, and it all comes out slowly. He confesses he loved the young Blicero, and offers to show Katje maps of the Raketen-Stadt to find out if he got as far as the Lüneburg Heath. Katje is forced to confront the very Qlippoth which Weissmann transcended, souls whose journey was so bad they most all their kindness back in the blue lightning. She will not be the Victim he will choose to end it all with. That fate will be reserved for Gottfried. And yet, after the launch of 00000 the White Man will continue. . . .
(66) You will want cause and effect. All right. Miklos Thanatz is rescued by a Polish undertaker in a rowboat from the same storm that washed Slothrop off the Anubis. Meanwhile, Thanatz gets mixed up with some 175s, homosexual camp inmates up from Dora. Leading their group is Schutzhäftlingsführer Blicero !! His name, at least, is alive. He is the Zone's worst Spectre. Like a cankered root, he is changing, growing towards winter, whiter, to the idleness of the famine. Thanatz's asshole tightens a notch at the mention of that name. Travelling for weeks with the swelling and pervasive preterite tide, he gradually remembers he rocket-firing on the Heath. Snarling purple around a yellow that's brightening, intestines of yellow shadowed in violet spilling outward, outward in a bellying curve toward us. All Rilkean colours! He knows he is as guilty as the White Man himself, and theat Gottfried and Bianca are the same. The Erdschweinhöhlers will help him through it, to understand the relationship of their 00001 to the Schwarzgerät. He is the Angel they have hoped for, and it's logical he should come now, on the day they have their rocket all assembled at last. Enzian will triumph!
(67) Slothrop flees his evil Father inside a giant factory-state, a City of the Future full of extrapolated 1930s swoop-façaded balconied skyscrapers, lean chrome caryatids with bobbed hairdos, and classy airships. The Radiant Hour has been stolen from the day's 24 by Colleagues of the Father, for sinister reasons of their own. . . . Slothrop escapes to Iceboxland, a place which shows Thermodynamic Elitism at its clearest, a Cube of Changelessness maintained by freezing back the tumultuous cycles of the day! Outside the chaos is progressing too fast to comprehend. Things are just too finely labyrinthine for the concepts of Outside and Inside to have much hegemony any more. Brains ravaged by mindless pleasures send out a suicide message in "Low Frequency Listener." Mom Slothrop writes to Ambassador Kennedy about pieces of the Heavenly City falling down. Säure Bummer is desperate for Pig Bodine to explain the phrases "ass backwards" and "know Shit from Shinola." But the vile Seaman just goes ahead and sings "My Doper's Cadenza" with his guitar ambling and pelvis wiggling style! An incident in the Transvestite's Toilet might lead to Slothrop being sodomized by a giant black ape or blown up by an anarchist's bomb. There is a moment of fun with Takeshi and Ichizo, the Komical Kamikazes. "Streets" shows us a wirephoto of a giant cock dangling downward out of a white pubic bush.
Yes. Hiroshima. The Sun was in Leo and the pale Virgin was rising in the East. . . . Listening to the Toilet, you have to know that They are trying to keep us from learning that sound is actually passing through the Soniferous Aether. Kids substitute electricity for dope, believing they can "screw" in to a clean, honest, purified Electroworld. And we learn that Imipolex G was the first plastic that was truly erectile.
(68) Soviet agents allow Tchticherine to track Enzian in the Zone just as Allied agents allowed Slothrop to lead them to the Schwarzkommando. Now he realizes he is alone, with only memories of Wimpe to sustain him. Under the influence of a Jamf drug, a celebrated molecule with "the Pökler singularity" crippling its indole ring, he hallucinates and feels true paranoia --the belief that everything is connected. He is forced to confront the old barbarisms, blood lines, and personal revenge involved in his vendetta against Enzian. He may be sent to Asia to die operationally.
(69) The dearest nation of all is one that will survive no longer than you and I. But here, everything is tending towards the North -- especially Rocket 00000. The Counterforce meets at Der Grob Säugling, 23rd Card of the Zone's Trumps Major, an inn by the edge of little blue Holstein lake in Cuxhaven. Morituri, Eventyr, and Gwenhidwy are there, and Brigadier Pudding has joined the Counterforce from the Other Side. Roger does the most spiteful thing he can think of, just to piss off Jeremy. He takes Pig Bodine to a dinner party in a Zoot-style quintuple-vented jacket with kilt-style pants that run clear down to his knees. They're on a mission to foil The Man who has a branch office in each of our brains, his corporate emblem a white albatross, each local rep with a cover know as the Ego, Their mission in this world nothing less than Bad Shit. Luckily, Bodine gets a glimpse of the future roasting of Roger's head, and the two of them thwart Their cannibalism with Brigadier Pudding's repulsive culinary pranksterism. Snot soup! Pus pudding! Menstrual marmalade! Clot casserole! Acne à la mode! Barf bouillon! They cannot stand it! The last black butler opens the last door to the outside, and escape for the Counterforce duo. And just the other side of dawning you can see his smile.
(70) Geli Tripping uses her deep folk magic to stop her murderous Tchitcherine. She is no citizen of the Hexes-Stadt -- where even Magick can be bureaucratized. . . . She wonders where Pan will carry her, out in the luminous spaces. She sees Gottfried kneel before Blicero, prior to the Launch. Tonight, it is important for both of them to be men. He tells the boy how Gravity rules all the way out to the cold spheres, and that there is always the danger of falling. . . . He speaks Rilkean language: I want to break out -- to leave this cycle of infection and death. I want to be taken in love: so taken that you and I, and death, and life, will be gathered, inseparable, into the radiance of what we would become. . . . The scene itself must be read as a card, though it has no name, and, like The Fool, no agreed assignment in the Deck.
(71) Here's Enzian ramrodding his brand new rocket through the night. It is the 00001, the second in its series. He sees a picture of "Der Raketen-Stadt." It shows the ceremonial City, fourfold as expected, architectural and human, built in a mandalic form like a Herero village. There is a scholasticism here, a Rocket-state cosmology, because the Rocket has to be many things. Some say that each will have his own personal Rocket. Enzian must struggle to keep the Hereros together, even though in his heart he only feels a kinship with the preterite, the vast humility dying in pain across the Zone that night. He will have to confront Ombindi with his rocket-ideology, Gnosticism, Kabbalism, Manicheanism, the Throne of Merkabah, and save the Empty ones from the forces of tribal Suicide.
(72) Geli again meets Tchitcherine; but he does not know her. She stops his mad quest against his half-brother with a charm, and he passes by without seeing her. He eyes are covered as she fastens the silk crotch of her underpants across the eyes of a doll. By all the Holy names of God, by the Angels Melchidael, Yahoel, Anafiel, and the great Metatron, she turns his course aside.
(73) By now the City is grown so tall that the elevators are long-haul affairs with lounges inside, intimate cubic environments moving upwards through space like bubbles through Castille soap. We come to the Lüneburg Heath at last, seeing the assembly of the 00001 as a Diaspora running backwards, the Messiah gathering in his fallen sparks. Slothrop is being broken down, a man who was his time's assembly. . . . The Grail, the Sangraal, is the bloody vehicle of passage. Bodine is one of the few people who can still see Slothrop as an integral creature any more. His fragments may have grown into personae of their own... Knowing his Tarot, we would expect to look for him among the humility, among the grey skies and preterite souls, to look for him in the hostile light of the sky, the darkness of the sea... Another state is forming in the night -- not without theatre and festivity. The Occupation of Mingeborough tells us that it might be too late to go home. The noise of the trucks is terrific. Back in Der Platz, Säure has ex-Peenemünde engineers working on an optimum hash-pipe design. Some Angel stationed very high watches over our many perversities, like the reading of Weissmann's Tarot. Blicker is the Father you will never Quite manage to kill. His card is the Tower -- that which we now know is also the Rocket. The World sees him as the scholarly young Page of Pentacles, meditating on his magic gold talisman. The last green and magenta means it's spring, and the Horse is sacrificed in a political act. The Qlippoth, shells of the dead, will use all of your love for friends who have passed across against you. You have chosen the active way. The other way is dark and female, passive, self-abandoning. Isaac under the blade. During pre-launch, a bound and silken Gottfried is thus made ready for Death. The Oven he was fattened for starts to glow. His bare limbs in their metal bondage writhe among the fuel, oxidizer, live-steam lines, thrust frame, compressed air battery, exhaust bellow, decomposer tanks, and vents -- with one of those valves, the right one, the true clitoris, routed directly into the nervous system of the 00000. Part of the vaporized oxygen is routed through his Imipolex shroud, and he wears a speaker like a pretty earring. The exact moment of his death will never be known. Superheroes come in with an accompaniment of chase music, but they are too late to help. Pointsman is left only with cause and effect and the rest of his sterile armamentarium. The Countdown is mapped onto the Sephiroths of the Kabbalists' Tree of Life, the body of God, the Hebrew alphabet, the Major Arcana of the Tarot. It springs from the Bodenplatte of the Rocket. Gottfried is strung into the Apollonian Dream, the soft smell of the plastic enfolding him in a Proustian memory he knows only too well. . . . Strangely, Richard M. Zhlubb, night-manager of the Orpheus Theatre on Melrose Ave., LA, has the same fantasy about the smothering plastic shroud, returning to the Centre with the gathered fragments of the Vessels. . . . In the clearing, Captain Blicero cries "Räumen" without the emotion which is due the situation. (There ought to be big dramatic pauses and last images of creamy buttocks knotted together in fear, shots of places where Blicero's own cock's head burst forth for the last time. . . .) Gottfried has become nothing more than an erotic category hallucinated out of a blue violence for the purposes of self-arousal. The ascent will eventually be betrayed to Gravity and descent will come, a falling like the bright Angel of Death itself. Yet, there is time, if you need the comfort, to touch the person next to you, to sing William Slothrop's hymn, centuries forgotten and out of print, accompanied by a simple and pleasant air of the period. Now everybody --
There is a Hand to turn the time,
Though thy Glass today be run,
Till the Light that hath brought the Towers low
Find the last poor pret'rite one...
Till the Riders sleep by ev'ry road
All through our crippl'd Zone,
With a face on ev'ry mountainside.
And a Soul in ev'ry stone. . . .