Fifty: Truly Wonderful, Especially When Heated

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04.24: Gravity’s Rainbow

In which we continue our discussion of Gravity’s Rainbow with a look at chapters 14, 15 and 16 of Book Three.

2 thoughts on “Fifty: Truly Wonderful, Especially When Heated

  1. Good stuff on the sexualization of children (from one PoV) or children’s sexuality (from another). Either directly or through Norman O. Brown et al, P definitely knew his Freud (and had read Lolita by Freud-hating Prof. Nabokov). Back in the 1890s Vienna day, Freud’s evolving analytic approach to patients’ dreams turned up a *lot* of “Mami / Papi / the governess / the assistant butler did THAT to me.” At first he took these as repressed memories, but there were so many that he decided they must be common innate fantasies — voila, the Oedipus complex and Electra complex. 70 years later, revisionists would begin to argue that this had provided cover for a *lot* of actual sexual abuse of children.

    That turn in Freud’s thinking is consciously mirrored in Pointsman’s re-calibration (Penguin pp. 272-273) as evidence mounts that Slothrop’s starred map of London *wasn’t* a reliable record of sexual encounters, putting the whole penis/V-2 linkage in question: “’We admit that the early data seem to show,’ remember, act sincere, ‘a number of cases where the names on Slothrop’s map do not appear to have counterparts in the body of fact we’ve been able to establish… And what if many—even if most—of the Slothropian stars are proved, some distant day, to refer to sexual fantasies instead of real events? This would hardly invalidate our approach..’.” Good solid empirical science there, Dr. P (and Dr. F)… let it never be whispered that your theorizing might be as dubious flaky as that of those paranoid conspiracy fans.

    Party and orgy on the Anubis: think about Foppl’s siege party and the Whole Sick Crew’s “decky-dance” in V.; about the soon-to-be-massacred partygoers in “Mortality and Mercy in Vienna”; about Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death”; maybe even about Boccaccio’s Decameron, in which gilded youth flee the Black Death in Florence to tell each other stories — mostly sex and romance — in a villa in the hills. The lifestyles of the rich and famous (or just feckless and self-absorbed) are never more titillating than when they’re about to get their comeuppance.

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