Whether reading a novel by Thomas Pynchon for the first time or rereading any of his five novels, one can hardly help being even for the umpteenth time amazed and fascinated by his unique historical preoccupation, treatment, and analysis of unusual subjects, topics, themes, and locations.
How many of us can truly admit knowing much if anything in 1963 about the tradition, culture, and topography of Malta; or even find Malta on an Atlas within a minute? Who was familiar with the Thurn and Taxis medieval postal monopoly in 1966? Certain people in 1973 still thought IG Farben is somebodys name! Was anyone in the 1980s really protesting against anticonstitutional executive directives? Why hardly any living Astrologer in 1997 had ever heard of the rare cosmic cycle, the Transit of Venus.
Strange topics indeed . . . love also, or as one of Pynchons favorite songs goes Love is Strange. This presentation is not about secret societies, conspiracy theories, entropy, or paranoia; but rather about love, tracing love in the novels of Thomas Pynchon. It is also about the planet Venus, "The Goddess of Love" as Pynchon often, and correctly, terms this heavenly body.
In astrology "The Goddess of Love" is associated with beauty, artisticaesthetic expression (especially music and dance), sensuality, peace and tempted by vanity, envy, flattery. Of equal importance is the agephase correspondence: although most human beings, and literary figures as well, experience love in different shades throughout the chapters of their lifetime, Venus is considered most formative during the agephase fourteen to twentyeight.
Love is certainly not the first thing that strikes ones mind when reading a novel by Thomas Pynchon. He is definitely not regarded as a romantic author, nor do I proclaim him to be one. However, on behalf of this unique celestial occasion and from my own research which found less than twenty references to love in the multitude of papers, reviews, essays, treatises on Pynchons works, I feel its appropriate to take a closer chronological look at his attitude towards love; its development in his works from his youthful twenties to the ripe age of sixty.
In brief I truly believe that the aspect, quality, and status of love has not been given much priority in the vast majority of scholarly Pynchon research. One may also assume that love itself has been on the short end of the stick in our world since The Summer of Love, but once again "she is caught, dark, embodied, solid, against the face of the Sun, a Goddess descended from light to Matter" [M&D 92]. What better time than during the Transit of Venus to take another look at love?!
The Transit of Venus can only take place when Venus is in apparent retrograde motion! From its stationaryretrograde evening star position to a stationarydirect morning star motion, the retrograde cycle of Venus lasts between forty and fortythree days, occurring approximately every nineteenth month, or exactly five times in eight earth years.
If the morning of May 8, 1937 is actually his true date of birth, Thomas Pynchon was born during the final hours of a retrograde Venus cycle, under a motionless Goddess of Love! According to the cycle, the chance of being born exactly during this phaseswitch from retrograde to direct is about one to every 585 days indeed, a rare nativity endowing an accentuated detached quality for expressing the nature of Venus. Framed in this unique transition of motion, a cycle completed, Venus is now set to return to the outer world after a sixweek passage through other worlds. Venus as the morning star is also known as Lucifer, the fallen angel . . . another aspect of Pynchons relation to love?!
On May 8, 1937 Mercury, Mars, and Neptune were also retrograde. Since GR Pynchon has included various metaphorical examples, references, and characteristics of these astrological conditions, such as: messengers going the other way returning, human discourse denied, letters ignored; fierce watch dogs rolled over bellyup; dreams dancing on a ground of contradiction. Although there are numerous textual examples of twisted love in his five novels, he has never penned a line directly referring to Venus retrograde as far as I could unravel. Indirectly this is about as close as it gets:
In the past two years I have reread each novel from cover to cover. Basically concentrated and with markers of various colors, I did my best to find and cross in orange the word love [lover, loving, lovely, beloved, or a foreign language equivalent] in each novel. I also marked the word Venus. Then I transcribed these findings to a separate document for each novel. It is impossible to claim 100% accuracy definitely a few omissions and some of you might not agree with my rather generous allowance, but the count is pretty darn close and should be helpful for future research.
Yet who can truly define love, the meaning of love? From V. to Vineland, Pynchon comments less and less directly on this cardinal question, taking it up again in M&D. As a youthful passionate twenty yearold, Pynchon expresses his rather indistinct attitude on the meaning of love more in V. than in his other novels: "The word doesnt mean anything" (30); "whatever the word means" (86); "screwing five or six times a night" (129); "A gaudy dream, a dream of annihilation" (221); "You never said it and if you did you wouldn't mean it" (313); "You are scared [of love] and all that means is somebody else" (412).
At twentynine Pynchon only pens one rather contrary definition of love in COL49: "Thats the worst addiction of all" (91). Despite the multitude of intermingling relationships in GR, published shortly before his 36th birthday, I could only find one direct reference on the meaning of love: "Oh, its enough to make you scream. What would her idea [of love] be :?" (274). Seventeen years later Vineland was published and Pynchon at fiftythree has the following to offer: "returning him to the man he should have grown into . . . it couldve been about the only way she knew to use the word [love] anymore" (216).
Perhaps the most personal remarks disclosing Pynchons attitude on love are expressed in his 1988 review of Gabriel Garcia Marquezs novel, Love in the Time of Cholera. Written between GR and Vineland, Pynchon terms the 70s and 80s a postromantic ebb where many have even grown paranoid about love, once the magical buzzword of a generation just two decades ago. Pynchon attests a profound veneration for the authors courage and successful treatment of taking love seriously in its everyday follies, joys, and sorrows. Realizing that also love still has its place in what is valued in fiction, he quotes Gabriel Garcia Marquez: "I think that a novel about love is as valid as any other." He even goes one step further in his admiration, calling him revolutionary. Yet Pynchon himself is still seeking the Big L.... arent we all seeking the Big L?
Despite all its turmoil, the significance of the family as a centre for affection has become essential since Vineland, and in Pynchons own life as well. Published a week before his sixtieth birthday, Pynchon is still toying with the meaning of love in M&D: "Thats certainly what it feels like...tho as for this 'Love,' I still dont even know what its supposd to be" (376); "acting as my guardian [...] and come to define this attachment as Love" (379); "This Thing, she will not style it, 'Love.' Has she forgotten Words over there, where Tongues are stilld, and no need for either exists?" (541).
I have really tried to keep these textual excerpt references illustrating the difficulty to define or communicate in words the meaning of love in strict context from novel to novel, but love can not only to be examined as a definition. Pynchon is a special Venus child and he lets the Goddess of Love work her wonders in all five novels. Preferring a generous selection, like including lover, lovely, loving, lovingly, amorous, amiable etc., the word love and its foreign language equivalents appears at the last and very close count approximately:
The direct present tense phrase I love you is said:
Twice in V. from Elena to Fausto (362) and from Pappy Hod to Paola (478). [three times if one includes McClintics "Not even I love you is magic enough" (394)]. The past tense, I loved, I did love, is spoken four times: Schoenmaker undressing Esther (110); Foppl on von Trotha (268); and twice by Fausto in his confessions to Paola (358, 361).
Only once in COL49 from an uncoordinated boy to his mother. No past tense usage.
Three times in GR if one includes Ilses written note to Franz (414); but spoken only twice from Leni to Peter Sachsa (220) and from Lyle Bland to his family (591). The past tense appears four times: Enzian and Blicero (325); Sothrop on FDR (444); Enzian and Blicero (660); Graffiti on a bridge (733).
Twice in VL, both times from a child to a parent: Prairie to Zoyd (53) and Ché to Dwayna (329). The past tense is used only once Ralph Wayvone on the lives of people killed (130).
In M&D "I love you" is not uttered once, though feeling generous one could include Dixons "I love her" (751) and "I love it" (311) and Rhodie Becks "I love him" (619) to the list. The past tense occurs four time: Masons lament (437); Peter Redzinger and Christ (480); Sister Blondelle (519); The Ferryman, Immanuel Ice (659).
Hope this isnt too exhausting. I could have easily carried on with all the "he loves; she loves; we love; and they love" references, but lets look at the examples I have chosen out of the multitude of relationships in his novels. Honoring the Goddess, I have picked out what I believe to be a positive representation of Venus in each novel where love wins out over hate, death, war, money, government or corporate repression, and other antagonisms.
Some of you might wonder why I chose this or that relationship and left another out; others may even disagree with my selections. It is impossible to thoroughly examine all the various relationships, especially in V. and GR, but I have also mentioned and sketched over those of relevance. Some of these relationships have already received indepth scholarly analysis. Fortunately they were not my principal focus, and as far as I know my selections have not yet received equal treatment though anyone is welcome to set me straight. Regarding a positive representation of Venus, these are the examples Ive chosen from each novel:
Signor Rafael Mantissa and Venus in V. (with further comments on McClintic & Paola, Fausto & Elena, V. and Melanie, Benny Profane & The Whole Sick Crew)
Oedipa Maas and the Inamorati Anonymous in COL49 (comments on the boy and the dolphins, Mucho and music, Oedipa and herself)
Geli Tripping and Vaslav Tchitcherine in GR (comments on Roger Mexico and Jessica Swanlake; Pirate; Slothrop; Pointsman; Blicero/Weissmann; Enzian; Katje; Franz, Leni, Ilse; Der Springer; Margherita Erdmann, Bianca, Miklos Thanatz; Byron the Bulb; an army of lovers)
Darryl Louise Chastain and Takeshi Fumimoto in VL (comments on Frenesi, Prairie, Zoyd; Brock Vond, TraverseBecker family; Noreen & Moody; an army of loving friends)
Charles Mason and Rebekah in M&D (comments on Mason and Dixon; Fathers & Sons; Le Spark, Cherrycoke, Ives family; Mason, Susannah Peach and James Bradley; Dixon and Margaret "Meg" Bland; Armand Allègre and Vaucansons Duck)
Although each of these relationships have received due consideration in my paper, even being compared with the position of Venus in Pynchons progressed nativity, let us now focus on my primary selections.
In Chapter Seven of V., "She hangs on the western wall," Pynchon introduces Signor Rafael Mantissa, a small middleaged cohort whose appearance has become marked by many reversals of fate, failures, and years of lamenting. Within the avantgarde artist circles of Paris, love is (only) love. Within the clandestine, politically adventurous circles of Florence, love acquires a supreme transcendental quality.
Signor Mantissa is so in love with Venus that he contrives a plan to steal her; that is, the oil painting, "The Birth of Venus." Yet once standing before his greatest accomplishment, the fulfillment of his lifes dream, he is paralyzed by the sheer horror of her (motionless?) movement. "You have come all this way and now you will leave her?" "Yes."(221) His entire love, all 5'9" by 9'2" of her, Venus, the Goddess of Love, is left, somewhat gashed, to continue to radiate on the western wall a divine sacrifice, a gift of love, or fear of personal annihilation? Inanimate or not, a masterfully achieved oil painting really does move; growing slowly over decades and centuries as the pigments continue to interact with the oils, resins, glazes, and other mediums.
The Crying of Lot 49 was published around Pynchons 29th birthday. Oedipa Maas is twentyeight years old in the 1960s California setting of the novel. Aside from a few teenage groupies and other fleeting female characters, she is the only woman in the narrative. Reflecting on the men in her life and somehow awaiting illumination, Oedipa says to Professor Bortz near the end of the novel: "I was hoping forever, for love" (126). Oedipas most startling encounter is her accidental confrontation in an overcrowded bar with an anonymous member of the Inamorati Anonymous. Feeling that shes losing her mind and wearing an ID badge with the name Arnold "lookin' for a good time" Snarb, Oedipa is initiated by this man without a name into the worst addiction of all: love!
The whole subject of Inamorati Anonymous is a thesis for itself. "The whole idea is to get where you dont need it"(91). Falling in love, a mistake? Something to swear off in life? An organization of nameless members geared to dispatch a potential lover of any given member via the telephone answering service strange, indeed! The attitude of the IA is wonderfully contrasted by her musicloving husbands reference to the Beatles song She loves you:
"shes any number of people, all over the world, back through time, different colors, sizes, ages, shapes, distances from death, but she loves. And the 'you' is everybody" (117).As noted in V., Pynchon uses McClintics "flip-flop" Jazz reference to enlighten Paola; three years later the emerging "pop culture" has become the central driving force of love mindexpanding drugs or not, its a flipping miracle! As we shall discover in Pynchons next two novels, this "whole bunch of people," this you who is everybody will be transformed into "an army of lovers" in GR and an "army of loving friends" in VL.
Frightened and feeling stripped by the men in her life, Oedipa, contrary to Paola, doesnt take heed and leaves Mucho to pursue her legacy. [Pynchons deconstruction of female Oedipa is a "stripping," of male Slothrop upcoming in GR it is a "scattering!"]. Trusting that love will inevitably lead to some form of recognition, she does muster up enough courage to confront her undisclosed destiny. Seeking transcendence, she could have tried loving the dolphins, the creature pulling the sea chariot of Venus, and writing by WASTE.
In almost all of the relationships in GR love is not only antagonized by sex, death, war, money, but also directly by class society, politics, and propaganda the "system," corporate or otherwise. Despite the primary setting of GR during and after the closing months of WW II and the authors "They are in love. Fuck the war" (42), it is as if love is the enemy and not the ally for most characters in the novel. Even Venus, receiving due mythological references, is depicted from her amoral Luciferian aspect by seducing Slothrop to play her evil game, hence putting him on somebody elses voyage and sidetracking him deeper and deeper into the labyrinth (364).
There are oh so many episodes in GR deserving a special indepth "love" treatise. When informally asked which love relationship in Pynchons works spontaneously comes to mind, most readers refer to the shortlived affair between Roger Mexico and Jessica Swanlake. From the standpoint of love however, as I read it, this is actually a very onesided romance and doomed from the start by conventional British classconsciousness conditioning. Not once does she say the magic words. Going through his own déjà vu Pirate saw it coming, Pointsman had his Fu Manchu hand in it, and The Firm took care of the rest just another example of British hypocrisy winning out over love.
Exposed to a brief segment of How I Came to Love the People on their tour of Hell so many there, another "army of beaten lovers?!" Katje and Pirate only come to realize that the People will never love them. Bad Karma or just a bad dream? Will Pirate die in obscurity, without having helped a soul: without love, never vindicated a religious judgment if you wish. And Katje, does she find decency after all, something to hold on to, something to develop an idea of love during her life or will she succumb to her masochism another bourgeois fate?
Not only is "An Army of Lovers" beaten on the streets of Berlin, but "Love" itself. Well, almost the relationship between Geli Tripping and Vaslav Tchitcherine being the prime example of love winning out over hate, death, war, and the controlling forces of executive systems or corporate states. As a continuing thread of love through Pynchons novels, the positive significance of this relationship is generally overlooked scholars often mocking at these rather comical names . . . as if Mexico, Swanlake, and "Old" Beaver are not ridiculous enough. Yes, we all know of "Jelly Dripping" and "Gaily Tripping," yet in German "Geli" is the diminutive of Angelika, or little Angel! The young novice witch is actually an angel, an angel who saves the "Man of Steel," the "Red Doper," a nihilist without support or love from anyone, believing only in the Mortal State.
"But youre in love. Technique is just a substitute for when you get older."
Geli is not quite as young or naive as many readers assume. I put her at sixteen in 1945, a Venusruled Taurus (stubbornly persistent) born before sunset in the hour of the Rooster (her pet Owl) on Walpurgisnacht in 1929. Everyone with any connection to her knows shes in love with Tchitcherine (500). Vaslav has smitten hundreds of young women with love, balancing the hazards of attachment against his compulsive goal. Despite his network of Fräuleins, she is not just in love with him but the only person who loves him completely teeming with the titanic powers of spring. Knowing what magic is and what it is not about, Geli, choosing the music of the World instead of a career in the Hexenstadt, proceeds to ultimately save Tchitcherine from both his own death and fulfilling his obsessive spiteful private mission. Her Spell triumphs, they become united, and love further prevails over innate hate when the two brothers courteously exchange favors on the middle of a bridge: "This is magic. Surebut not necessarily fantasy" (735). Agreed, wondering how often Pynchon wrote something similar.
Between 1984 and 1997 Venus is smiling extremely friendly on Pynchons horoscope, progressing over his natal Sun and Mercury and forming an expansive channeling syndrome with Jupiter and Pluto, a very pleasant combination indeed, especially for an author, unifying love with creative expression and indicating a mental state of happiness with blessings from the Big L.
Pynchon is fiftythree when Vineland was published. Viewed through the matriarchal bloodline of four generations, one of the central themes in VL is the family. Contrary to his four other books, Vineland is definitely Pynchons most "female friendly" novel. In each their own way, successful or not, the women in Vineland are independent, assertive, and fare better than most women in his three previous works. Bungled as she did, even the hero or saving grace of the novel is a woman and what a woman at that!
No, I dont mean Frenesi Margaret Gates who once vowed to remain always on the groovy high known as Love with Zoyd Herbert Wheeler(38), but when their child came one sweet May evening (in 1970) she could not just be another mom in a world of moms. Abandoning all she ever loved, Frenesi becomes a victim of her erotic self, unable to save the fascist brute or even be saved by the magic of rock and roll thats how it goes when the pussy is running the show!
The supreme lady asskicker, Darryl Louise Chastain, does find love, oriental love magic. The relationship between DL and Takeshi Fumimoto (also weird names) develops diametrically opposite to that of Geli and Tchitcherine, yet nevertheless embodies many similar features and ultimately attains the same desired result. DL is one of the few Pynchon figures with a complete detailed biography. These and other textual references point to a birth on August 17, 1945 at 15:41 in Leavenworth, Kansas a Leo with Sagittarius rising in the Year of the Cock.
Better to stay an angel, angel. (134)
She is an angel too, an angel of mischief and a master of the Vibrating Palm, or Ninja Death Touch. In 1978 DL can not escape her destiny and she is convincingly seduced to put the Touch on Brock Vond, the worst kind of adversary, "'cause in her own words theres no rules, no codes of behavior, all bets are off, gentlemen goes on abusing his power and believin its all in the name of love" (265). Vond is tippedoff and sends a decoy of amazing resemblance to the rendezvous, Takeshi Fumimoto, his Japanese doppelgänger.
Takeshi falls in love before the act (151), but blurred by a dead prostitutes colored contact lenses, DL puts the Touch on only to realize the mistake after climax. A new partnership is sealed where death must now become death reversed. Like Geli, yet guided by the Mafia and not Pan or other forces of nature, Takeshi soon finds DL in the Kunoichi Retreat. With the help of Sister Rochelle and a trained Oriental Medicine Team, he undergoes a series of therapeutic sessions on the Puncutron Machine, often together with DL, exchanging electrical circuits to music and getting tuned to each other. Healed but not totally cured, Sister Rochelle sends them back out into the world, realizing they deserve each other, yet there is a clause . . . a nosex clause for a year and a day!
Initially frustrated and depressed, they soon make contact with a Vietnamvet Thanatoid who knows his mom would love their story where the Big L is always winning out over the Big D and takes them to his village in Vineland. Takeshi, going the opposite way back to life, grasps the opportunity and sets up a karmic adjustment business. The year and a day are spent productively. Actually getting results, yet poorly paid, the word is out in New Age California and their business thrives.
They grow close to each other, exchanging affinities: Takeshi calling her "angel," carrottop, and Darryl Louise; DL politely and affectionately responding in Japanese, "Fumimotosan." The nosex clause in extended for another year and a day, and yet another before finally being renegotiated after Sister Rochelle has socked Takeshi with her allegories about the Garden of Eden and Hell, and enlightened DL to fulfilling her true karmic project. After paying DLs mother a visit, they spend their first intimate night together in more than three years. Noreen immediately recognized his adoring love and passed on these encouraging words to her somewhat doubting daughter: "The Lord gives us these difficulties to be overcome, its just called gettin on with your life" (381).
The Guru of Karmic Adjustment and the Mistress of Invisibility stay together and get on with life, setting up a main office in L. A. It may not be the glamour job Noreen presumed, yet they guide everyone, including ghosts, who seek them in rebalancing any unbalanced karma honoring all old giri chits. Unfortunately there is not a collective giri chit and thus the 1960s ARMY OF LOVING FRIENDS in the Peoples Republic of Rock and Roll must forever remain a memory of the best times most people from back then ever had in their life.
Could the prerevolutionaries in the wilderness of 18th Century America have envisioned such a fate two hundred years later? One week before his sixtieth birthday Mason & Dixon was published. As the dedication indicates For Melanie, and for Jackson Pynchon has found the "Big L" and formed a family of his own. So as the TraverseBecker annual family reunion concludes the last chapter of Vineland, so does the Le Spark, Cherrycoke, Ives family Christmas gathering open the first chapter of M&D. Family relationships are subsequently developed, specifically love acquired between father and son; but also husband and wife.
Spiced with dubious presumptions, hilarious fantasies, and historical inconsistencies, M&D is nevertheless Pynchons most factual novel. One could rightly conclude that the ambiguous relationship between Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon is a strange love story in itself. Outgrowing an initial congenial antagonism and later on separated, these historical figures grow fond of each other over the years. Mason visits goutstricken Dixon as often as possible; they go fishing together, become old geezers, and even dream of each other.
Near the end of the novel we only briefly learn about Dixons longstanding cohabitant relationship with Margaret "Meg" Bland and their two daughters. He loves her and she nurses him through his final tribulation. Early on in the narrative Pynchon explicitly describes Masons attraction to Susannah Peach who marries James Bradley and his guiltridden haunting relation to his wife Rebekah, who died giving birth to their second son. Whereas DL was obliged into a nosex clause in order to reverse death, Mason voluntarily takes on celibacy for years in the hope of redemption and reunification with his beloved in the afterlife.
"I lost two woman I lovd, God help me" (437). Deeply attached, spiritually tormented, unable to forget, Mason feels himself a Commissioner of Unfinished Business in his melancholic love of Rebekahs Phantom both its daytime apparition and dreamstate Ghost bringing him messages from the over there. In the Other World there is no need for either the Big L or the Big D and in a dream she, or the Representation of Rebekah, the weight of her Ghost, finally sets him free. Mason gets on with his life, remarries and has six more children, yet never forgets Rebekah. They are not to be buried together, but perhaps reunited after all . . . ?! Pynchons most enigmatic spiritual love relationship.
One cannot examine love in M&D without briefly mentioning the whimsical love story between Armand Allègre and Vaucansons Duck as well as such comparative tales in Pynchons four other novels: Father Fairing and the rat Veronica, the boy and the dolphins, Byron the Bulb, Hector and the Tube, just to name a few. The mechanical duck has suddenly come to life by a kiss and seeks to transcend her fate through love, love for a cook whose specialty is duck. Not knowing what love is supposed to be, but having found a friend, the nowattached duck opts to protect Armand wherever he travels and later on Luise Redzinger as well, hoping to observe love, something she never possessed. Or was the duck actually designed for himself as a creature capable of love, Vaucanson hoping to produce Venus from a machine?
"Love,— I knew it, "'Twas Love for the Planet Herself." (102)
For the first time in 121½ years Venus is once again passing through the disk of the Sun, three bodies (Earth, Venus, and the Sun) lined up perfectly, a cosmic Visto, the Heliocentric system in its true Mechanism. Can we who would evoke the Goddess of Love, descended from light to matter in her hours of Visitation, truly search our hearts and souls, and try not to betray her message quite so much? This rare phenomenon will repeat itself in eight years, on June 6 2012. Pynchon will be at the wise age of seventyfive before the next, and final, occurrence for this generation. Venus departed from his natal sign shortly after his sixtieth birthday, progressing into Gemini, the sign on his Ascendant, the sign of numbers, letters and words. What Omens can we expect from the Goddess of Love and, in the name of love, what further oracles are awaiting us from the pen of Thomas Pynchon. . . .?
© all rights reserved, alle Rechte beim Autor, Douglas Kløvedal Lannark, Copenhagen/Berlin, March 2004.
Links zu Douglas Kløvedal Lannark:Douglas Kløvedal Lannark: Paperware to Vaporware, The Nativity of Tyrone Slothrop on this server.
Douglas Kløvedal Lannark: Handdrawn Chart of Tyrone Slothrop on this server.
Douglas Kløvedal Lannark: MASON & DIXON: An Astrological Review on this server.
Douglas Kløvedal Lannark: Venus Rules Love on this server.
The Fifth Gate A documentary by Bente Milton: Douglas Lannark is an acclaimed astrologer and expert in the various calendar systems used around the world.
Douglas Kløvedal Lannark: Wann beginnt das neue Jahrtausend ? Kalender und Zeitrechnung Meridian, 21.Jhg. 1999 / Heft 6.
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