CHAPTER 13

Here, thank God, we have a short, simple chapter. Starts in 1970, just after the events at CotS; Frenesi is still in the concentration camp, called PREP (Political Reeducation Program). [Presumably this is before DL breaks her out, but one gets the impression in the previous chapter that the break-out followed quite swiftly upon the CotS events, so go figure.] Brock stops in with his sidekick Roscoe and flirts with Frenesi. Vond is into Cesare Lombroso, a turn-of-the-century phrenologist. Lombroso's notion of "misoneism," a kind of negative feedback loop by which society resists change, is introduced too. Brock taunts Frenesi sadistically, and splits.

There's a flashback about Vond: His sexuality. His attractiveness for women. His fear of sex.

When Frenesi escapes, Vond is deeply distraught. It appears he really loves her. His colleagues begin to suspect that he's falling apart, so he has to lay low and not look for Frenesi. Instead he fucks other hippie girls.

Meanwhile, Frenesi has met and married Zoyd, and gotten pregnant. We get the impression that for Frenesi, the main benefit of her relationship with Zoyd is that it offers cover; love does not seem to be a significant feature. Zoyd and the Corvairs get a record contract, but cut no record. Frenesi moves back in with Sasha to have her baby. Afterwards, Frenesi becomes deeply depressed, and even more fixated on Vond. Her father Hubbell shows up too, and in the guise of comforting her tells her (and us) his sad story: A gaffer (and progressive left-wing type), he refused to scab at the movie studio by joining IATSE, choosing instead to join the Conference of Studio Unions. Of course he loses his job. In a nested flashback we visit Hubbell and Sasha as young WWII beboppers. Flashforward to Hubbell giving in and reluctantly joining IA--and retiring as quickly as possible. Flashforward again to Frenesi and the baby Prairie. Gradually Frenesi loses her hatred of Prairie, and tries to forget both Vond and 24fps. But when Vond reappears, their steamy S&M love affair resumes.

 

p. 268 "...his partner Roscoe..."    Roscoe = slang for pistol.

p. 269 "children longing for discipline"    Vond's genius lies in seeing this desire in the kids of the Sixties. Is this Pynchon's view? It certainly seems true of Frenesi.

p. 270 "Jeez I know I'm bad but--"    Reference to the Shangri-Las' old rock 'n' roll song "Leader of the Pack." The full line goes, "He's bad, but he's not evil."

p. 271 "less voluble Tonto"    Brock and Roscoe as Lone Ranger and Tonto.

p. 271 "Feel like we've been in a Movie of the Week!"   L-like The Brock Vond Story, starring Robert Redford?

p. 272 "Cesare Lombroso"    Detailed exposition of the Italian criminologist's theories show Brock's (or, more precisely, Pynchon's) fascination with them. "...crude in method and long superseded, although it seemed reasonable to Brock." Or any other fascist with a bent toward genocide. Most of this stuff probably comes from the 1911 translation of Lombroso's Criminal Man, or the 1911 biography by H.G. Kurella.

p. 274-5 "the Madwoman in the Attic"    Brock's female side. This is the name of a major concept in post-Freudian feminist psychology. (Also the title of the Gilbert/Gubar book of feminist criticism concerning 19th Century novels.) Vond's dream foreshadows other criminal/erotic dream-women (such as Frenesi) coming in "from steep overhead angles" (p. 276). They sound like harpies or vampires, coming to rape Vond. As we shall see, Vond later approaches Prairie from the same direction.

p. 277 "like a skier on an unfamiliar black-diamond slope"   The black diamond symbol marks an "expert" (i.e., very difficult) skiing slope. Hearing of Frenesi's escape from PREP, Brock freaks out, feeling himself to be in a dangerous situation beyond his abilities.

p. 278 "...hoping to find a girl to project Frenesi's ghost onto."   Vond is about to repeat the mistake make by Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo [1958].

p. 282 "Frenesi had been making it as easy for him as she could..."   She really does love Vond, it seems. Or his uniform, his sadistic charms, his authority.

p. 282 "sky-blue Rayleigh scattering"    Typical Pynchon science shot. The frequency-differential scattering of light waves, as described by Lord Rayleigh (1842-1919), is indeed what makes the sky appear blue.

p. 283 "A&R" = Artists and Repertoire. In record companies, the "Head of A&R" (originally "A&R man") decides which artists to sign, and what they'll record. A powerful position.

p. 283 "Department...head!"    A very old joke indeed. As noted previously, "head" is sixties doper slang for a user of (usually soft) drugs.

p. 284 "the eye-catching production values of LSD"   Nice line, but to set it up Pynchon has to run these Mellow acid-head variations. It's a pretty idealized trip. Pynchon does Dr. Tim.

p. 285 "Leonard the midwife."    Leonard? And in a Nehru shirt, no less! See also The Crying of Lot 49, paperback edition, p. 128: "Change your name to Miles, Dean, Serge, and/or Leonard, baby..."

p. 285 The look from infant Prairie to papa Zoyd that would, more than once in years to come, "help him through those times when the Klingons are closing, and the helm won't answer, and the warp engine's out of control."   Very nice use of the Star Trek metaphor to lock in the time frame during which Zoyd needed help, and also a powerful image to describe times of distress. See also the adventures of Cutter John, the wheelchair-bound character in the "Bloom County" comic strip, who's famed for Star Trek fantasies enjoyed with Opus, Bill the Cat and other animal stars of that strip.

p. 286 "...Frenesi was depressed"    Frenesi's deep sadness upon having her baby is so common it even has a name: "post-partum depression."

p. 286 "Lobster Trick Movie"    Well, this might be Annie Hall, but basically we're totally lost. Can it be some obscure Navy reference? A helmsman putting in his "trick" at the wheel? Or is this some kinda SoCal TV thing?

p. 287 "the sleek raptors that decorate fascist architecture"   Like the eagles of the 3rd Reich, and the USA.

p. 287 "She understood, from all the silver and light she'd known and been, brought back to the world like silver recalled grain by grain from the Invisible to form images of what then went on to grow old, go away, get broken or contaminated."   A remarkable extended metaphor about film (in which blacks are created by grains of silver appearing "from the Invisible" during development) as a sort of liberation from time.

p. 287  "Hubbell...cracking apart the first white-flame carbons of the evening into sky-drilling beams of pure arc light."   Nice writing, and sets up the soon-to-come "photon projectors" nicely. To light a carbon-arc spotlight you turn on the power and then bring two carbon rods together. A bright, sizzling spark is lit, and as you move the carbons a few millimeters apart that spark stretches into a dazzling arc suitable for drilling up into the sky.

p. 287 "photon projectors" = arc lights.

p. 288-290 Hubbell's tale: Sad, accurate, believable story pinned down by Pynchon's usual cascade of obscure, effective historic details and dialogue. Once again, Pynchon draws on his Navy experience to give Electrician’s Mate Third Class Hubbel Gates a verisimilitudinous background.

p. 289 "...drop a Brute 450 on you just as easy as a tree..."   The Brute is a heavy carbon-arc studio light made by the Mole-Richardson company. Obviously, Hub is tired of hearing about the heroic but schlemiel-like main event in the life of Sasha's dad. (see p. 75).

p. 289 "hit literally with a bolt from the sky"  This colorful telling is based on a real event. On 7 October, 1945, outside Warner Bros. Studios, at least 40 strikers were casualties of this and other gambits, including being blasted with studio fire hoses.

p. 289  "IATSE"  See note on IA, page 82.

p. 289 "Conference of Studio Unions"   The CSU was a coalition of filmmaking unions, notably the Painters' and Carpenters', formed by Herb Sorrell in 1941. The CSU was the spiritual successor of the SUC (Studio Unemployment Conference), the CMPAC (Conference of Motion Picture Arts and Crafts) and the UTSG (United Studio Technician’s Guild)—all of which were formed for similar reasons (to retake local control from the mob and sweetheart unions). And all of which were ruthlessly destroyed in the course of unsuccessful strikes.

p. 289 "misoneism" = hatred of what is new.

p. 289 "Roy Brewer"  Brewer was International Representative of the IA in 1941. Although he was the successor to small-time mobster Willie Bioff, Brewer was not, apparently, mob-connected—but he carried on the tradition of collusion with the producers, insuring "international" (as opposed to local) control of the Hollywood unions.

p. 289 "Ronald Reagan of the Screen Actors Guild"   Obviously, much has been written about Ronald Reagan, but some readers may not be aware that before becoming Governor of California, and then President of the United States, Reagan was a high-ranking officer of SAG—which was, initially, a fairly progressive union. In the 1930s SAG stood in solidarity with the liberal, locally-based Hollywood unions that were opposed to IA and its mob management. However, the mob quickly discovered that accusing the rival unions of communist influence was an effective tactic—especially since the charge was not entirely untrue. As World War II drew to a close, and the "red scare" began, the screen actors' union began a turn towards the IA. In July, 1947, Reagan (then Vice President of SAG) negotiated a temporary truce between the studios and the CSU—known as the Peace Treaty of Beverly Hills. Unfortunately, just as things were starting to calm down, the Central Committee of the Communist Party stepped into the situation, calling for more control—which alienated even friendly progressives like Reagan. Eventually, under pressure from Reagan (who was now President) SAG officially voted to condemn the CSU actions as "communist inspired," and led all the other neutral unions into the IATSE camp. This was, apparently, the beginning of Reagan’s conviction that Communism was a conspiracy bent on destroying the American way.

p. 290 "Happy-go-lucky kids..."    A sudden explosion of bebop tunes and wartime details powers this brief but effective time-machine day-trip.

p. 290 "...Hub with a uke...[both] singing bop tunes..."   In Pynchon's universe, musicians are always good guys.

p. 291 "pocket pool" = playing with your balls through a hole in your pants pocket.

p. 291 "...the Brute was first coming in. Jesus, all those amps..."   So it turns out that Hub, Frenesi's father, "went over" too, and (like his daughter) for the love of a Brute. This Brute, however, is a big Mole-Richardson arc light, not a lawman.

p. 291 "sold off my only real fortune -- my precious anger -- for a lot of god-damn shadows."   Meaning film, of course, but remember too that in the binary scheme of life light and shadows are ones and zeros.

p. 291-2 "Young Gaffer...I'd've called you my Best Girl."   A play on "Best Boy," a film term referring to the gaffer's first assistant.

p. 292 "...this turn against Sasha her once-connected self would remain a puzzle she would never quite solve..."    It's not that mysterious. Vond has forced a wedge (his erect penis, perhaps; see following note) between Frenesi and her mother, her leftism, her own female identity. It's a form of expulsion from Paradise, and ties in very neatly with Sister Rochelle's feminist Eden fable on p. 166.

p. 292-3 "joystick"    Vond reenters Frenesi's life, and the chapter ends with a powerful (if appropriately cheerless and depressing) simile in which Vond's erect penis is the joystick of the video game in a forbidden arcade that never shuts.