the caterpillar chronicles a literary & arts luncheon issue two, 2011
The Caterpillar Chronicles Issue 2, Volume 1 May 2011, Bucharest
ISSN 2069â€“7643 Editors: Ema Dumitriu, Alexandra Magearu, Mihaela Precup, Ana Roman, Saiona Stoian, Diana Voinea All rights reserved Copyright ÂŠ The Caterpillar Chronicles Magazine and their contributors (2011)
FROM THE EDITORS, WITH LOVE
IMAGE & TEXT Lauren O’Mahony — A Heart in the Hat Heather Lenz — Alienation Steve Castro — His Ubiquitous Light Alan Clinton — Depersonalization Journal
THE FIRST LINE Vlad Giulvezean — Last Call Goodnight Joseph Baron Pravda — A Brief History of (My) Time
FEATURED ARTISTS Daniel Embree Georgiana Marcu
THE ART OF LYING Race Capet — The Life and Career of Carrera Vilcas
IMAGINARY LETTERS Michael Angelo Tata — Dear Mother Kibble
POETRY SPECIAL Stacy Skolnik — Watching Each Other Die Kamikaze Picnic — Boyfriend Set
CRITICISM Veronica Bala ˘ ˘ — Beyond Naïve Criticism: The Banana Trope In ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’. A Cultural Reading In Context
VIDEO Mihai Grecu — Centipede Sun
EDITORIAL BOARD / CONTRIBUTORS
CALL FOR SUMISSIONS
elcome to the second issue of The Caterpillar Chronicles, a creative platform for writing, visual art and cross-bred projects. To kick off this spring edition, we’re showcasing new cover art by Daniel Embree. His painting, Dignity, explores the complexity of transition and memory and sets our tone for this issue. In the Image and Text section Andrew Abbott`s painting Killer Quaker inspires varied responses in poems or poetic fictions by Lauren O`Mahony, Heather Lenz, Alan J. Clinton and Steve Castro. From feelings of alienation to religious innuendos to Quaker hats and irony, our authors elicit meaning from the enigmatic image and explore the possibilities where the visual and literary meet. The two short stories selected for The First Line section, Vlad Giulvezean`s carefully crafted film noir experience and Joseph Baron Pravda`s humorous story of physical regression, were both based on Kurt Vonnegut`s memorable Slaughterhouse-Five line: “He went into the living room, swinging the bottle like a dinner bell, turned on the television. He came slightly unstuck in time, saw the late movie, backwards, then forwards again.” Our two featured artists this issue are photographer Georgiana Marcu and painter Daniel Embree. Georgiana collects travel memories by multiple exposure using plastic film cameras in an effort to underline the very essence of remembering: the hectic, non-chronological and whimsical character of returning memories. Daniel Embree takes us to the very core of his social and psychological development in an autobiographical narrative that runs from religious wanderings to sexual exploration to selfacceptance and, finally, to reaching an equilibrium. The Art of Lying introduces Race Joseph Capet`s brilliant piece, The Life and Career of Carrera Vilcas, an entirely fictional life story of “famous” Mexican writer Carrera Vilcas, provided with lengthy biographical details and wonderful poetry inserts, in a style very much reminiscent of Borges. As for the Imaginary Letters section, this issue we introduce Michel Angelo Tata`s fictional letter to experimental artist, Mother Kibble. Because many of the poems we received this time round showed great spirit and potential, we`ve selected two of the best for our Poetry Special section: Stacy Skolnik`s painful and poignant Watching Each Other Die, and, in a completely different vein, Kamikaze Picnic`s hilarious Boyfriend Set. Also, don`t miss our brief commentary (accompanied by several screen shots) on Mihai Grecu`s experimental video poem, Centipede Sun, a surreal exploration of time and distances. You can watch the entire piece on our website. Last but not least, Criticism introduces Veronica Bala`s ˘ ˘ exploration of (believe it or not) the leitmotif of the banana in Thomas Pynchon´s Gravity Rainbow in a very bold and well documented literary study. Finally, we invite you to check our new call for submissions for more sparkles and fizz. We hope you´ll enjoy reading this issue and, if you believe you think/see/feel & write in the same vein, please don`t hesitate to share your good thoughts with us. We`re very approachable. Love, THE EDITORS 5
Image AND text
Lauren O’Mahony A Heart in the Hat From behind the smoke came the man with the roaring gun. At first glance that was all he was. A man. With a gun. Making a gunpopping noise. A white man, very pale skin. The gun groaned and spluttered, emptying its deadly cargo into the room. Everything froze momentarily. Then people started to drop. Mrs Killim. Mr Knop. The Farjazaray couple who I knew had only been married two months and were already having affairs with other people. The child of the Ethiopian immigrants; I couldn’t remember her name. Their expressions blended perplexity and guttural horror. As they fell, they released worldly experiences of love, regret, calamity, success. I could swear I momentarily saw them release their link to earthly life as well. But then, perhaps that was just me romanticising the situation. My gaze shifted back again to the man. The one with the gun. He wore a strange expression. And a strange hat. Well not strange. More like unfamiliar. But I was sure I had seen it somewhere. On a box of cereal perhaps- seemed like an odd place for a hat like that. An acrid burnt smell now caught in my nose. It reminded me of the faulty toaster we had when I was a kid in upper lower class suburbia. If you weren’t paying attention, this toaster would crucify whatever you put in it. The house would fill with a haze and virtually unmovable odour. How long the pungence stayed depended totally on the degree of incineration and the type of food incinerated. Pop tarts were the worst. Their molten innards would ooze out from behind the charred pastry and cling to the toaster’s metallic insides in a hardened mess. Away from the many thoughts engulfing my mind I again registered this 7
Andrew Abott, Killer Quaker
strange-hatted man. He was now moving. Walking. An urgent, but business-like walk. The barrel of the device continued to turn. Where was he going? Or coming? He shot to the sides. I was in the middle. Behind the desk. I spied my in-tray filled with visa applications that had to be processed that day. Next to that was a framed photo of my Maltese Terrier, Hussein, embossed with the words “only my dog understands me”. Next to that was an Eiffel Tower snow globe. The gun-pop noise stopped and his shadow now lurked over me. His cylindrical face had neat contours. His left eyebrow twitched rhythmically to a tune of nervousness. A brownish stain above his crimson upper lip suggested he had recently ingested a cappuccino. His dark eyes of indeterminate colour seemed filled with things he wanted to say. He uttered one lonely, breathy syllable: “ah...”.Later that year, I experienced a whirlwind of artistic enthusiasm for this particular incident. I searched the garden shed for the old zeroing target board that my mother used to shoot her Smith and Weston Centennial at for stress relief. It was the only hard backed, frame-shaped thing I could find. I rejected the idea of stapling a sheet of clean canvas over the board. Instead, I cooked up a charcoal-paint imprint of that day straight onto the board’s neat squares and occasional bullet hole. The man. With the strange hat. The loud noise. The nostril curdling smell. The man who had stepped into the wrong office. Who had, for some inexplicable reason, picked up blanks instead of real bullets. And who thought that wearing a Quaker hat to a massacre was an act of irony. 7
There were always numbers in his head, things left undone. Figures not figured out, because he complicated everything with his posture & endless questions. He heard too many trains at night, couldnâ€™t sleep. He thought of all the tar-filled, blueeyed hearts that gathered in his own like a sacred pattern locked away in a room no one else could see. A room where silence made progress through the lines and numbers, the bold streaks left there for someone else to contemplate before sunrise. He has his secrets, his grace folded like the wings of a spent bird perched somewhere near the moonlight in a forest of constant rivers & cedars rising up toward dreams of the dead. Heâ€™ll try to simplify things in due time, become like rain streaked on the window of a cabin on Walden Pond or somewhere
Heather Lenz Alienation
where the railroad tracks finally end. Somewhere that has something to do with the ability to free the spirits of those who left him too soon and never replied to his inquiries. More answers will come at last, before the dull sleep takes him. He will figure out enough of the figures to know when to leave the rest alone.
Steve Castro His Ubiquitous Light He was a member of The Society of Friends, even though he had none. He wore a black fedora hat that used to belong to his blind father; he sported an unkempt black beard that complemented his black Buddhist robe. He walked around barefoot or so the story goes, because his robe completely covered his feet. The shadow that surrounded him was ominous like most bullets in mid-air tend to be. When he walked about, he carried a flash light at all times because he lived in a cabin with no electricity; he slept during the day and made his rounds during the night. He buried the dead when they were supposed to be buried, no earlier and no later. If his collection of shovels could talk, our protagonist would more than likely have ripped out their metal tongues. He was wiser than his speech; perhaps this was so because he was mute. The children were told by their elders when they misbehaved that our protagonist collected the hearts of evil children and fed them to his black cats. Our protagonist refused nothing; sadly, no one ever offered him anything; our protagonist was a lonely creature; he wore a silver cross that hung just below his Solar Plexus; it was always whispered around town that when the time came for our protagonist to meet the Lord, he would more than likely bury himself.
Alan Clinton Depersonalization Journals
I can see you walking floating outside your body covered with other people’s flesh projecting affidavits into juniper trees you hid in the parking lot, qui vive? As if the phrase were in motion toward or away. Random to you. In the case of. Realpolitik rebus. Chafe, are you going to read Voltaire?
You are always over there, in the course of going back and forth. You can only translate in New York, rare formula, recitative. Your eyes fill with blood, reclaim aircraft, verso allegations. Prostitutes will find you.
Leap better. You can’t eat, or know where to go. Reading god calls for waiting. Molten shelves. Redivivus. Add impossible, refer to gale series, a method of recognition. You attacked genes, sour philosophy numb. Wilhelm Reich offering accommodation, you went to Sarah Winchester’s medium.
Your money disappears money cigarettes and brakes belts fall out of your jacket Buddhism, you tour churches, forget the black man in the basement who speaks in the wrong frequency. Wants an altar. Flat background—and blind. Religious, religioso, samadhi is leaving the country. Like Manet?
THE FIRST LINE
Vlad Giulvezean Last Call Goodnight He went into the living room, swinging the bottle like a dinner bell, turned on the television. He came slightly unstuck in time, saw the late movie, backwards, then forwards again. With a light tap of the old remote, he sent the pictures reeling backwards, losing track of the words as they turned into garbled mumbles. It was a kind of magic, he had once thought, pensively taking another swig from the bottle.Through the flickering screen, he managed to step back through time until he found what he was looking for. t was only then that Nathan smiled, finishing his drink in one self-congratulatory gulp. Frame frozen upon the screen, he slowly mimicked its stillness. His own expression twisted itself to match the crinkled lines smiling back at him as his chest ached to reach out. His fingers could run across the screen, his alcohol-infused mind rebuilding the world according to his memories. Eventually, only they would be left, dancing behind his shut eyelids as they once did at their wedding. His eyes fluttered open a couple of times, finally giving in as his breath took on the shallowness of sleep. The bottle slipped, dull pain throbbing as she stepped on his smooth black shoe. He casually gave her hand a calming squeeze, smiling broadly as their eyes met, her teeth nervously biting into her lip. His wink brought out a shy smile, turning it into a delighted giggle as he twirled her round and round. Their laughter rang across the dance floor, his cheek pressing against hers. And when he fell, he flushed in expectation of the inevitable choir of mocking laughter. Nothing happened. The crowd grew eerily quiet, halting to a standstill.
They waited, eyes expectantly locked onto him, music playing in the background. He shivered as his palm felt wet yet hot at the same time, taking in the red puddle as it sprung around him. “What’s wrong?” The question slipped past her lewdly scarlet lips. It didn’t seem like much, twin tears running down in crimson pairs across her cheeks. Going down, they grew. Each drop splattered into the expanding pool, sliding towards him. “Everything’s going to be alright, isn’t that so?” She rushed to his side, her hands grabbing his firmly. “It’s going to be just this one last case, right? Once you get to the bottom of the story, we’ll just go away from here!” Her voice grew frantic, sobs racking her slender frame. “They’re not going to hurt you! Nathan! Promise me that you’ll be alright!” Her desperate pleas assaulted him, tearing into him like broken glass. He froze. His lips tried moving into words, but the sounds refused to come out properly. Instead, he pulled himself up only to slip back down. The dampness spread through his hair as she kept sobbing over him, each teardrop falling right through his clothes. He felt clammy, feverish. As two arms pulled her away, he almost felt relieved when the crowd parted to let them pass. But relief was only temporary. She smiled fondly, turning her back on him as she lay down on the stretcher, crowd closing between them. He jumped to his feet, struggling to stay up,
slipping again and again. The horde of expressionless figures closed in round him, forcing him to elbow his way forward. The world around them started fading, changing into something different, something which he dreaded. Pain rushed through him, slowing him down as they carried her away. He pushed against the gravestone, rushing ahead like a skier going down the mountain. From all sides, marble headstones jumped through the ground, blocking his path, swarming him like an avalanche. His coat felt torn as he pulled it free from sharp grasping hands, their moans howling behind him. Finally, he made it through, dashing madly to grab hold of her before it was too late. He fell. He caught her, her wrist firmly in his grasp. He bled, he smiled and she was smiling back. They fell. The ground rose sharply around them, swallowing them away, her bleeding smile before his eyes. Then Nathan woke up. *~* It wasn’t dark, a mix of streetlights slipping through the blinds and the television screen giving off enough light for the gloomy apartment. But it wasn’t bright either. The whole place was stuck at the crossroad between the two until he reached for the remote, turning everything off. A crumpled pack of cigarettes easily coughed up a battered smoke. Balancing it across his lips, he took a deep breath, the match quickly burning out. He let the flame come almost all the way to his fingers before putting it out with a wave. What was left of the match was as used up as the leads spread across the apartment walls. Some he
already knew by heart, like the first death threat. “Shame about the investigation, such a pretty lady too…” From newspaper clippings to crumpled notes, all had been torn down before and yet, there they were. He drank until he felt better, until he focused on moving on. Then some anonymous tip would arrive or some connection would pop up in his head one night and everything went back up. It made the place feel closed in, claustrophobic. Grave-like. Tearing himself from his seat, he reached for his jacket. He fished it off the desk without paying any attention to the stack of papers that crashed onto the floor. They were going to be there later, he knew that well enough. Leaving them behind, he headed out the door. The familiar weight of his metallic watchdog felt comforting. Its six chamber barrel pressed gently into his side as he walked down the streets, hands in his pockets to stave off the cold night. It was only March and things hadn’t settled in just yet, the weather jumping from warm to cold in the space it took you to shrug your jacket off. Didn’t bother him much though. He just kept on walking, his last lead bouncing about in his head. It wasn’t much to go on, a hastily written name and some numbers. The address looked promising, taking him all the way to the nicer side of town. It was the type of building where young professionals with undeservedly high paychecks preferred, the kind of place where they had planned to move to one day. On the phone, the muffled voice only said that the man he was looking for worked security at some big company whose name just happened to strike a bell. Of course, long ago, the lead would have seemed outrageous. To slander a good solid name like that would
have been unconceivable to his white-collar bosses. These days though, he found himself stopping in front of the intercom buttons. He was stuck between wanting to press the button and forgetting the whole thing. “Sorry, mind giving me a hand?” The door opened partway as a young man struggled to nudge it open while balancing several boxes. Shaking off his reverie, he quickly stepped aside, holding the door open. “Moving is a pain, huh?” The guy smiled apologetically, almost getting to his car before one of the boxes slipped, prompting a wave of cursing curtly cut off by the building door sliding shut as Nathan finally stepped in. It turned out that the third knock was the most satisfying one, blood gushing Vince’s nose before he even had a chance to properly open the door. He was the kind of guy that used to steal lunches during school before moving on to be a professional asshole. And now, karma was settling scores, Nathan thought as he locked the door behind him. Rolling on the floor, Vince clutched at his devastated nose. With a quick kick to the stomach, Nathan looked about the place, marveling how different it all seemed from the inside. Making sure that the brass knuckles were firmly in place, he turned his attention back to Vince. “You and I are going to have a talk,” Nathan said, admiring the effort put into soundproofing the apartment. It was so nice to see people concerned with their privacy and their neighbors comfort, he thought as he pulled Vince to his feet. Almost made him feel bad for ruining the paintjob, but as Vince slid to the ground, Nathan could not help but take some satisfaction at the trail of blood he left against the eggshell
yellow wall. There was a lot of work to be done before calling it a night. *~* Nathan woke up suddenly, his knuckles pleasantly throbbing as he recalled his “interview”. His door threatened to give way against the insistent beating. “Hey! Are you dead in there or what?” His friend’s voice drifted in, accompanied by the scent of freshly roasted coffee. “Hurry up or we’re gonna be late!” Grumbling, he quickly put on a fresh shirt and washed his face. By the time he found his keys and stepped out, Dave was already sipping his coffee. Sunglasses barely hanging from his nose, he looked Nathan up and down as the other struggled to close the door. “You look like shit and you owe me five bucks.” It was as close to a good morning that he was going to get, Nathan knew as much. “You’re short and your girlfriend’s probably cheating on you.” “Was that supposed to hurt, tall dark and undead-looking? Have you heard of the sun? It’s this revolutionary thing people use not to look like a corpse. Ya know, put some color on their skin.” Snatching the cup away before Dave could take another sip, Nathan hurried down the steps. “So, what’s it going to be today? Or is the big man saving all the juicy details for when he can shout at us in person?” “Neah, I took care of that bit over the phone. He needs better glasses too, kept going on and on about us moving our fat asses and doing actual work.” “You couldn’t let that one slide, huh?” Quickly grabbing the keys from Dave, Nathan jumped behind the driver’s
seat, revving up the engine. “Yes on both accounts. I called him a tub of lard. Problem’s this; I forgot that my phone had its speaker on. So yeah,” he said, grinning apologetically. “We’re stuck on shit duty.” “Great, thanks a lot, Dave. Just freaking great!” “You’re welcome, Nate. You still owe me a fiver though. Relax, today’s gonna be a good day for you. It said so in your horoscope.” “Yeah, yeah, I know.” *~* Pulling up in front of the building, Nathan looked out the car window. “Is this the place?” He asked as he waited to pass towards the parking space. “Yep, this is it. Corner of 5th and 20th.” The street was buzzing with activity, people running back and forth in a constant clatter of steps, loud phone talking and angry grumbles as they elbowed their way forward. He didn’t notice all that, letting it all fade away as he took a swig from his coffee. Meanwhile, Dave was busily trying to argue over the phone, the combination of morning traffic and bad reception already getting on his nerves. This was his element, the place where he could take a step back and breathe before losing himself in time. Later on he could go back to his apartment, put in the tape and slowly become unstuck in time, searching for the perfect moment. Until then, he was stuck with the day job, the here and now. “What do we have here?” He asked, trying his best not to show any curiosity. It simply wouldn’t do, Dave disliked that. “Victim’s name is Vince Palmer,
severely beaten with multiple gunshot wounds. The place is a mess, detective, yet no clues. Whoever did this definitely didn’t like the guy.” Looking over the crime scene, Nathan took a sip from his cup. Listening to the forensics report, he realized that Dave was right, today was definitely a good day. It sounded like an open-shut case with not a suspect in sight. Maybe he would finally manage to sleep.
Joseph Baron Pravda A Brief History of (My) Time He went into the living room, swinging the bottle like a dinner bell, turned on the television. He came slightly unstuck in time, saw the late movie backwards, then forwards again. “Einstein didn’t predict this, did he?” was the dominant experimental thought in his brain, reprising with every observation that registered there, albeit with a certain amount of imbibing’s usual effects. Relativity was definitely out, not that he fully understood the theory, generally or especially, or at all. He was momentarily pleased, that obsequious three pound slave advised him - whoever that was - at his wordplay on ‘special’ relativity; it now followed its master, back to his problem, with time… and space. He was not aging; in fact, the reverse was happening. His daily run had effortlessly increased almost by a mile in a matter of weeks. Grey hair was no longer in evidence, sometimes overnight. Having ruled out any arrangements with anyone claiming to be Mephistopholes or possessing his powers, Ben Yonge was concerned, no matter how beneficial these changes might be.His physicians were no help, brushing him off as experiencing some sort of male hysteria, a kind of late adolescent blooming. “Adolescent!?” was his exclamatory querulous response, having long since passed the age of 21… but, in which direction? His internist was adamantine: “Ben, be reasonable, your tests are all normal, nothing outside normal limits; just be happy about your collateral benefits and put it down to right living. Look, we know so little about the aging process that you may be truly the norm, the rest
of us just genetic mutants!” Very funny, mutant’s mutant … back, get back, get back to where you once belonged … ‘back’, wasn’t that the problem masquerading as solution? He didn’t feel normal, more like a freak. His wife had no complaints, the sex was better than ever, though his taste in music was strangely retrograde, tending toward, well, pubescent. “First my doctor, now you? I don’t know what’s happening to me, it’s like I’m stuck, not growing, you know?” “Ben, darling, sleep on it and we’ll talk about it later” she advised; he wasn’t tired, not at all, even after his increasingly rigorous workouts. The next morning, when he rose from what he thought was a brief period of dosing, he found his wife gone, as though she had not slept there at all. Looking round the apartment, he saw none of her possessions, not even a photo; worse, he couldn’t remember what she looked like. He was, he concluded, losing his mind. “Strangest case I’ve seen in years; this guy insists he’s 35, married with kids” confided Dr. Stanislaus, the psychiatric resident at the medical school teaching hospital where Ben had, somehow, found himself, dazed and stressed. “One other thing,” he paused to complete his dictation; “Mr. Yonge insists that it is 2002, and that an older female patient … is his wife; tentative diagnosis: extreme dementia, with ideation of time travel hallucinations; as he appears underage, must seek family consent to therapies, including possible shock treatment; he displayed ID
on admittance, bearing the same name, but clearly belonging to a much older male bearing some resemblance; will medicate pending location of kin”. Ben awoke, groggily, to find the TV set on; the language was one he did not understand, sounding more like pig Latin. Worse, the action was backwards, as if being rewound on a videotape. A brief glance in the direction of his toes was far more disconcerting: he was several inches shorter. A nurse entered the room, seemingly surprised to see anyone there. Her puzzled face - now turning away as she abruptly left the room to investigate - told the tale, one whose scenario called for Ben to hurriedly sit erect, don his extra large shirt and trousers, and easily shod his somehow smaller feet with familiar but oversized loafers. Ben thought he knew the date, yet it was, according to the television … three years prior. “This cannot be happening” Ben’s brain feebly offered, only to have any such denial tactic shunted aside by the obvious data flowing in through his ever keener senses. He was not staying; and his disguise was the twisted version of nature which had now transformed his patient (adult) status into that of impatient - and puerile, at least in stature. “At least I’m not responsible for the hospital bills” he thought and, with only a fraction of the relief he would have, as his former adult-sized self, expected. Clothes: they were too big, but, thanks to grunge and other unfashionable fashions, he could pull it off - a suitable if not fitting description of his slovenly appearance as he slackered his way down the hallway. “MATERNITY” the sign urged, and he succumbed.
“Plenty a kids on that floor...” his still somewhat mature brain advised. He spied a throng at the viewing window of the ward, a tradition preserved more for its nostalgic qualities than clinical need, he thought; ‘but, I need it, if only to feel... normal sized again!’ Nostalgia–––he was that noun, become verb. “Clink” - the sound of metal on a hard surface; gawking-eyed heads turned, ears tuned. A man’s watch, gold-plated, expensive, had slipped off the grunger’s wrist: his wrist, or what he used to know as his - alien, spindly, small, but still part of ‘him’, whatever that meant. A security type entered his shrunken peripheral vision; he knew, therefore, that the guard was closer than he appeared, enough warning if you’re behind the wheel of a car, he screamed inside his, still, ironically joking head. A stainless steel cart would have to do - noisy, its crashing bottles and metallic tinkling caused him to abandon any hope of further stealth; he just needed to move and his oversized shoes were not cooperating. Jumping atop the cart’s second shelf he dropped off the now clown shoe from his left foot and impersonated a junior skateboarder breaking new ground by taking it to the most unlikely and unwelcome indoor venue. Hopping off near the hall’s end, he made his way into the welcoming emptiness of a stairwell and was gone. He had taken his first steps on the lane to a doomed escape, he remembered concluding, realizing only then that he had drawn all the undesirable attention possible, wearing an improvised gauzy kerchief across his younger-by-the moment face like some kid playing outlaw, running for his half-life, after a rather small holdup of a lemonade stand. And, how could he remember, if he was going in the wrong direction, timewise?! Remnants of his somehow still adult mind blamed Samuel Clemens and his wry wish that
life be lived backwards. “Cute, Twain, but no longer a fictional whim”.hat was left of that adult consciousness thought one more thing: ‘stupid’, followed by, ‘small is good’, especially right now: into the linen shoot, thud. The odors kept him alert, and that was good as he felt like he needed a nap. The nap was closing in, urine stench and all, notwithstanding. “I can’t understand it; a baby, days old, in the laundry bin! The lawyers are frantic over this one: I want to know how this happened, that clear!” ogred the hospital administrator. The staff shrunk out of his office, his phone voice now returning to some local reporter who had gotten tipped off to the story with a $20 bill to an orderly source. “Now be reasonable, this is a major institution, and we are fully accred …” And the phone was violently returned to its cradle; not so with baby X, who was getting VIP treatment in the same maternity ward he had zipped past as a stainless steel skateboarder in his older form only hours before. The fact that he was now an apparent infant had no influence on his thoughts: ‘nice tits’ he observed in relation to the nurse now attending to his embarrassingly soiled diaper. He began to wail, still realizing that, while he could not verbalize them, his thoughts were strictly of the adult variety: ‘I am definitely dreaming this… no, too pat; what the Hell is happening!? Maybe if I hold my breath… yes, that’s it…’ And, as he began to turn blue, the monitor sent out an alert which brought the nurse running, yelling ‘Stat!’ An ER physician rushed to his incubator-style house, probing, lifting his eyelids. “Jesus, this is the kid they found… quick, get him oxygen, now!” An EEG machine was brought over, electrodes capped over his hairless head. Beep, beep, beep…
The nurse shrieked: “Look at this readout, the brain is overheated, what the… ” And she was pushed aside. “This looks like thinking, big time; we’ve got a freak here, get the chief of neurology, pronto” the attending doctor shouted. “Breathing’s advised.
“No shit, I guess I don’t want to die, or wake up or... Ben’s thought protested; just then he remembered his name, all of it. Someone else in attendance noticed his diaper was way too big for his body. “This baby’s losing weight… and… inches!” As things stabilized, a collective sigh of relief was evident, even to the point of a joke from an anonymous source: “We just did the ‘time warp’ dance, folks; I just hope the media don’t… ” was the unintended prophecy heard. A TV playing in the next ward dashed that hope: “This just in, we have learned that a mystery baby was found in the laundry chute bins at Metropolitan Hospital; no other details are available, and we do have reporters en route to the hospital; as soon as … ” and then a door shut, cutting off the loud broadcast. Ben had heard it; for some reason, he smiled, as this might enhance his prospects of escape, at least from the hospital. He had to get out, but how, and to where? Then it hit him: he needed to get hold of a speech synthesizer, the kind he had seen Hawking and others use, those suffering cruelly debilitating diseases which had trapped them in THEIR helpless bodies! And he knew just where to find one: down the hall in the trauma ward. The nurse, the one who had made the cryptic reference about time warping, she had been staring at him, somehow sensing what may have been happening; she was the one who must have called the media,
using the clumsy misdirection both as an immediate way of deflecting suspicion and signaling him that she… knew. Yes, that was it, and, now she was hovering, close by; in the relative chaos, she leaned over, and whispered: “I know… and I can help.” Obviously a staff member of the neurologist’s, she wasn’t, perhaps, working alone, maybe looking out for the prospects for huge advancement for her boss, maybe paramour, looked the type, soap operas, all too real, who could know; but she was his best shot. She cleared the ward in the name of Dr. Junger, going so far as to have security escort them out, exploiting, for good measure, the shroud of secrecy legal and administration now were frantically trying to cloak these goings-on with; at this point, she wheeled the pediatric unit out and into his laboratory, after security had dutifully cleared the corridor of all personnel. One hour later, Dr. Junger was ready with the device. “Can you hear me… uhh… ” And she handed him the admission chart; “… Ben? If so, blink your eyes.” He did. What followed would make medical if not human history unlike anything before. On tape, Ben recorded, albeit with a synthetic voice, the tiniest details of his horrifying ordeal, from the very beginning, including his distinct recollection of having seen a bright flash of light, in a nanosecond of duration, the morning it had begun; its source, he was now certain, had been indeterminate, as it had happened between the ordinary act of just blinking his eyes that day, that was all! Maybe that meant it had just happened to him, whatever
‘it’ was, how could he or anyone know. That sort of thing happened routinely, even when you were just rubbing your eyes from fatigue or a recent awakening. He left that to the doctors and research scientists … he just wanted to get … out, to grow again, to return, somehow, to normal size, to match his mind. But, then, after an hour or so, the messages became more incoherent, almost like jibberish, babytalk, and, then, nothing. Ben was returned to the ward, under tight security, while Dr. Junger huddled with his team and the administrators. It was now two hours later. “I don’t know yet, I need time to study this; it’s not in any textbooks, I can tell you that!” Dr. Junger uncharacteristically boomed. “At least we have it on tape” offered his nurse aide. A buzzer sounded, it was the administrator’s phone intercom. “Yes, I told you … what?!” He dropped the phone. “The baby’s … gone!” They all raced to the maternity ward, where the guard was visibly shaken. “I just looked away for an instant, then … nothing, no noise, nothing; I tell you noboby could of gotten in there!” The nurse’s adrenaline was charged and she telephoned Dr. Junger’s office. What she heard was, at any other time, clear insubordination. She called Dr. Junger aside. “Your office doesn’t know what we’re talking about, or about any machine… uh!” and she began to show fear, of what she didn’t know, only that she was, in her gut, now panicked. “It’s happening… to us, spreading
…” As she fell into Dr. Junger’s arms. “What’s happening… maybe just fatigue, we’re overwrought” he tried calming her. “No, I wish it was … the tape!” she bleeted. “What about it?” he replied. “I had it, in my pocket, the small casette, look …” as she pulled out her pocket, empty as it was. She then glanced in the mirror, and saw ‘herself’, glowing for a nanosecond, noticeably younger. As she fainted, her too big nursing gown falling feather-like to the polished clinical floor, a shriek of pure terror was ‘her’ last breath. THE Beginning...
The figure is a prominent part of my work. I am drawn to the incidental, beautiful shapes the human body creates, and I have studied nonverbal communication to better understand how we use our bodies to convey specific ideas. My most recent work draws on my experiences as a religious person coming to terms with homosexuality. When I was younger, I belonged to a church that taught me that homosexuality was wrong and should be changed. I underwent
so called â€œgender-affirmativeâ€? therapy to try to become straight. I use the suit as a symbol in my work of this inner turmoil. It is the suit I wore as a Mormon missionary. It is the suit of religious leadership. It is the suit of corporation. I wanted the figures in the suit to convey confusion, shame, and internal battle. I was influenced by stained glass windows, early Mormon art, and by the woodcuts of the civil rights movement. When I determined that the therapy was not
actually changing my sexual orientation, and when I met other gay people who helped me to see that I could be happy as a gay person, I accepted myself for who I was. I changed the way I was living my life, ultimately finding and marrying my husband. The tuxedos from our wedding became the symbol of this new life. I wanted the men in tuxedos to exude a sense of confidence, happiness, and liberation. They are at peace with themselves and with their decisions. Unlike the contorted suited 23
figures that are confined by the borders of the paper, the men in tuxedos stand straight with shoulders back. They are not bound by the confines of the composition. I am also influenced by illustrations from the 1920â€™s, which glamorized new cultural freedoms. Many of the posters and magazine ads from the twenties celebrate the end of war and the rise of a new era. In a similar way, my newest work reflects the transition into a new time in my life.
Shamefaced, tryptich by Daniel Embree
Fear And Trembling
Travel memories collide through plastic camera lenses to retell the story of travel adventures. The ongoing series is meant to mimic the way we experience travel and new places and record them in our mind. Through film manipulation and random frame overlaps, in a trial and error manner, the final piece is a reflection of how travel experiences are seen and memorized. Cameras used are generally plastic and minimalistic, with no batteries and limited to no settings. When manipulating the film, there can be no guarantee that every art piece will result in a beautiful successful result, but if successful, the morphing of the colours and objects within the photograph are like fading memories of new travel experiences or the surreal experience of discovering a new place. The discovery of a new place or a new culture, meeting new people, is a
walk outside the ordinary routine that peopleâ€™s minds are used to. When we are exposed to a different pattern of life, we think differently and our mood changes. When people return to their normal routine, they tend to reminisce their travel experience and in most cases, the memories are faded and blurred and continue to do so as time passes. Without their vacation pictures, it is more than likely that the traveler cannot remember everything that was seen. The visual mind morphs and combines what was seen and everything becomes a dream, and in most cases places and events are even confused with each other. The photographic series aims to reflect this idea through its blur and puzzle like assembly process, where there is no thought process on the arrangement of the frames. The final pieces are chosen through a conscious selective process.
the art of lying
R. Joseph Capet The Life and Career of Carrera Vilcas Of all the celebrated poets of the Spanish language, perhaps none is today so completely unknown outside his native country as Carrera Vilcas. Once hailed as a genius all over Latin America, and read widely in translation in the United States, he has become the province of obscure treatises by Mexican professors of literature, and his name has been erased from the English-speaking world. Yet, for those who care to pursue his footnote in the annals of world literature, there is a powerful and moving story about what it means to be a poet. Carrera Maria Vilcas was born in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico on 22 October 1898, the same year that Amado Nervo and Jesús Valenzuela founded La Revista Moderna (The Modern Review). His father, Elián Vilcas, was a retired brewmaster from the Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma in Monterrey. His mother, Maria Kościuszko, was an exchange student from Poland, who left Mexico for the last time shortly after his birth. This left young Vilcas in his father’s custody but, as Elián continued to work on commission for many local micro-breweries on both sides of the border, he often left his son with an elderly neighbour, Juana Gutierrez. It was she who, when Vilcas was thirteen, first exposed him to poetry in the form of an issue of La Revista Moderna. Nervo’s piece La Raza del Bronce (The Bronze Race), spoke powerfully to Vilcas’ own mixed heritage, and he decided from that point forward to be a poet himself1. Most of Vilcas’ early work, inspired by Nervo, is centred on social issues. It deals with his own struggle to find a place within Mexican society, both as an illegitimate child, and as a half-Pole. He treats the alienation of his friends at school as well, many of them mestizos or, like himself, „mitad de gringo”. The scholar interested in literature, however, can glance quickly over most of these pieces and move on. A short poem, entered in his journal for 13 January 1913, betrays the juvenile expression of this work, although the sentiment is honest enough:
Collección de Animales Salvajes (Menagerie)
We walk by in school uniforms-uniforms which leave us naked as the animals. Naked to their criticism, naked to their jeers. I am a half-Pole, my companion on the right a half-Native, my friend on the left a half-American. Should it follow from this that we are half-men?2
Although we now read these poems by way of gaining a background to Vilcas’ later work, we must remember that they did not shape the view of him as an artist at the time. They were entered privately in his journals, perhaps shared with family or friends, but never published. It was not until he reached the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) that he began to find outlets for his literary creativity. His arrival at the university did not simply serve to place him in the right circles to find publishers, however. It also drastically redefined the character of his work by introducing him to Nobia, with whom he fell deeply in love3. 3 1 2
Marcos Reya, La Biografía de Carrera Vilcas, (Tipografía Nacional: Ciudad de Guatemala, 1964), 1-12. Miguel Christoffson, The Collected Works of Carrera Vilcas, (University of Wisconsin Press: Madison, 1937), 24. Although many biographers have attempted to determine the identity of Nobia, none have managed to.
His work from his first encounter with her (recorded in his journal for 18 September 1916)4 on is therefore known as his „Red Period”. A much greater maturity is evident in these pieces, as Vilcas began to relate himself to this new emotional tide and his sexuality, a topic which he had not previously explored. His first published piece was run in an independent publication assembled by some students in the recently formed High Studies National School (now the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature)5. Their journal, inspired by the work of Futurist writers in Italy, was called El Camino del Futuro, and accepted the following poem by Vilcas in his freshman semester: Oda Apasionada del Joven a su Avión (The Amorous Ode of the Young Man to his Aeroplane)
I run my hand along your taught canvas and feel it give with the pliancy of a woman’s flesh-a pliancy into which a man can sink even as he is raised up by it.
I rub my fingers around your pert brass rivets and focus on the coming moment, any moment now, when I will climb inside you. Enveloped by you, and you will raise me up.
I will play the part of the haughty master and pretend to everyone that I pilot you. But the truth is that you will free me
to a place of currents beyond my control.
Your fuselage and mine will be fused by the endless sublimity of speed into an arrow of heedless Eros recklessly careening over the Earth.
And there, inside you, I will lose myself-and yet find you, some part of myself. Find in you the self which I would be had God bothered to give me wings6.
Despite the success which this poem achieved in Futurist circles at the UNAM, Vilcas was very conscious of the fact that he had not managed to adhere to all of the tenets of the movement. He wrote to a friend on 3 November 1916, „I love her. I love every bit of her, every facet, every refracted glint of her beauty which plays upon the twisted wreckage of this world as the morning sunlight upon a burst artillery shell in the field. And this is what frustrates me! I cannot bring myself to write, as Marinetti asked us to, ‚with scorn for woman’. How can I? I would celebrate her!”7 It was this fundamental tension which caused Vilcas to part ways with the Futurists by the middle of his second semester. By that time, in the spring of 1917, he had also made advances toward Nobia. These initial encounters were, however, not wholly successful. In his diary for 3 March, he wrote, „I invited that rare woman over for dinner this evening. She came, which is all good insofar as it goes, but did not seem to perceive the purpose. Had she realized that it was no merely friendly gesture I doubt she would have been so comfortable with me.
6 7 4 5
Alicia Dujovne, ed., Carrera Vilcas, él Mismo, (Emecé Editores: Buenos Aires, 1956), 154. Reya, 47 Christoffson, 76. Robert Woodard, trans., Carrera Vilcas in Correspondence, (Penguin: New York, 1947), 69.
After the salad I tried to explain how I feel... I emphasize the word ‚try’ for, bless her heart, I am relatively certain she still does not understand.”8 This frustration found voice, as always, in his poetry. Now freed from the constraints of the expectations of the campus’ Futurist Writers Association, he began to experiment more broadly. He took the opportunity to incorporate elements of traditional Nahuatl9 poetry, in which he interested himself at this period, although there is no evidence that he ever managed to learn any Nahuatl. It was in this vein that he composed a short piece:
El Canto del Tlauhquechol (The Song of the Tlauhquechol)
I sang to you like the red tlauhquechol bird I spoke as Popocatépetl to Iztaccíhuatl Had you but heard me-My words olé as a string of precious stones which tumbled brilliantly about your ears like the praise of a victorious matador Was my colonial Spanish too civilised? Was it an aquamarine when you desired sapphire? Perhaps the feral purr of Nahuatl, like the growling ¡ay! of a dahliajaguar--10
His flirtation with this style was ended abruptly when a close friend, Manuel Torríba, advised him that „Aztec poetry didn’t make any sense in Aztec, and it sure as hell doesn’t make any sense in Spanish.”11 Vilcas’ efforts to win over Nobia, however, continued, at last meeting with success in the early summer of 1917, when he broke his ankle in a university football match and seized the opportunity, after she had descended from the stands to see if he was all right, to simply kiss her. This began a long and happy summer to which almost half of the total pages of his collected diaries are devoted. Nobia appears to have been one of the few women who can be so built-up in the mind at a distance, and yet not disappoint their admirers on closer inspection. There are reams and reams of Vilcas’ work from this time, averaging one piece every day and a half, most of which is worthy of the modern reader’s attention. For the moment, we will content ourselves with one of the finer examples:
La Condición de Mujer (Womanhood)
I wish you had seen yourself in the pool, your long blonde hair curling darkly about your shoulders where every sinew seemed drawn like the string of Artemis’ bow. The steam rising off the water surrounded you, enshrouding you like a pagan deity or a jungle cat. Yes, you were the leopard, whose graceful femininity knows no weakness. The serenity of your expression a radiance of power, beaded brass dripped from your every pore and cast itself as the throne of womanhood. To have seen you thus as a woman would have been to learn one’s true nature. To have seen you thus as a man was to learn one’s place.12
The resumption of studies in the fall brought a great blow to Vilcas. Nobia was selected for a student exchange, and departed at the end of September for Spain. 10 8 9
Dujovne, 277. Translation mine. Reya, 62. Christoffson, 112. Woodard, 102. Christoffson, 179.
After that point, not a single word of verse occurs in any of Vilcas’ papers. On the 12th of October, he confided to his diary, „It’s all gone... Whatever there was of my gift has left with her. I want, more than anything, to tell her how I love her, to make certain that she knows. And yet I can’t. It is the spring all over again, but this time the fault is mine.”13 His friends made efforts to raise his spirits, reminding him frequently of the limited duration of her absence. Manuel Torríba wrote to their mutual friend, Carlos Largo, „What am I to do with him? Reason has no traction on his mind [...] I can’t even get him to write limericks anymore!”14 Vilcas became increasingly frustrated with himself. He wrote her letters every day, but was always unsatisfied with the expressiveness of his prose. In one such letter, dated 14 November, he voiced his anguish to Nobia, „I say ‚I love you’ and ‚I miss you’--what clichés! It is so much more than that, so much more! And yet I cannot find the words for it. My pining for you has put me beyond words. It has put me on a plane of emotion in which communication must take place by other means, and yet all of those means are cut off from me by the very cause of my anguish in the first place! I love you, please just know it.”15 Vilcas’ letters stopped two weeks before Nobia’s return. When she came back to Mexico City, Torríba brought her to Vilcas’ dormitory, where he was curled up in a ball in the corner, surrounded by thousands of crumpled sheets of paper, on which he had scribbled meaningless wavy lines.16 Vilcas and Nobia were married on the 22nd of May 1919. They were, by all accounts, very happy together17, and were survived by two children when they both died in 197218. Vilcas never again, however, wrote a line of poetry. Thanks to the efforts of Torríba, his work became widely known in Latin America after the publication of his collected works in 192119, which was well-received by critics. He was brought to the American audience in 1935 by the translations of Miguel Christoffson, an Uruguayan expatriate teaching literature at the University of Wisconsin20. The success of American „Beat” poetry in the early 1950s, however, prompted a reevaluation in which Vilcas’ work was felt to be too old-fashioned. No longer on the reading list for most fashionable universities’ literature departments, his fame began to decline. By the late 1980s, he was almost completely unknown outside Mexico21.
15 16 17 18 19 20 21 14
Dujovne, 342. Translation mine. Woodard, 188. Ibid., 237-238. Reya, 154. Ibid., 222-223. Juan Gutierrez, «Carrera Vilcas es muerto» in El Universal, 19 June 1972. Manuel Torríba, ed. Las Obras Completas de Carrera Vilcas, (UNAM: Ciudad de Mexico, 1921). Christoffson. Ibid., xii.
Michael Angelo Tata Dear Mother Kibble Michael Angelo Tata from Social Disease Dear Mother Kibble— The streets are like streets— only now and then rollerblading fools auto-combust in the tropical heat. Banquettes fill with Pucci chiffon and moleskin. Microphones screech high-pitched bat jive to perforate tympanums. Pierced body parts dangle synthetic diamond chips— an arrow through an aureole is all that remains of a teenage hustler, a faux-ivory snaggletooth through a lip the only proof that Bam-Bam pumped iron on South Beach. Or pumped Pebbles. This beat is Technototronic. Pancake makeup and blow mix into an indiscernibly homogenized cumulonimbus cloud which seems to guarantee a downpour—not rain, but some other liquid, perhaps Chanel No. 5 or the new Issey Miyake, the stuff that smells like Froot Loops. Chalk drawings on the integument of secluded alleys live out their final moments, the outlines of collapsed bodies and blueprints for a hopscotch grid glowing incandescent beneath starry pulsations and unabsorbable nervous energy.
Stacy Skolnik Watching Each Other Die I. My father and I have been watching each other die. It is unavoidable. In between, we take breaks. He takes a plane to Florida, visits my aunt, watches her die instead. I go to work, and use public bathrooms, and knock back gin, and squeeze lemon into everything I drink, but never bother to take out the pits. II. My grandparents and I have been watching each other die. It is predictable. In between, we take breaths. They go to the doctor, all different kinds of doctors, and go out to dinner by five thirty, and indulge in pudding or jello and have nothing in their fridge except yogurt. I take walks around filthy cities, fantasize about a clean one where I can stay and lick the gravel. III. My sister and I have been watching each other die. It is impractical. In between, we rest. She drives across an island, and ends up at home. She reads aloud to herself and boils eggs until the middles turn to chalk. I take the train across the same island, and end up somewhere that is not quite home. I canâ€™t find home. It doesnâ€™t bother me at all. IV. My brother and I have been watching each other die. It is inevitable. In between, we recess. He sits in a white room, alone, full of holes, singing, even though he has not heard music in years. I watch wheels spin, and make sure the spokes are straight, and then bury them, funneling dirt into my eyes. I have not yet gone blind, but am hoping that I soon will.
Kamikaze Picnic Boyfriend Set I complete you in this handsome outfit I’m a boyfriend set. You pick me up at the outlets My hair comes in a light brown finish You can have it dyed - color options are endless I come with two interchangeable blazers Others sold separately, so budget for you salary I can move furniture up to 500 pounds You may modify my dimensions to be chiseled or round I’m a boyfriend set. You can spray me with cologne Give me a hammer and I’ll fix your home I follow your commands like ‘help’ and ‘stop!’ And I recite love sonnets while I vacuum and mop I’ll figure out your feelings, based on the clues And no intimate request will be refused Warning: Your boyfriend’s heart can set fire If you overload his circuits by teasing desire Please read the manual before you turn him on There is also some cognitive assembly required If he’s in a bar and does not answer your call Or writes your phone number on a bathroom stall Just call for support. We’ll be there same day To pick up your boyfriend and cart him away Order Mr. Brute or Mr. Teddy Select standoffish or cuddle ready Choose a team player or a know it all We’re standing by. Make the call
˘ ˘ Veronica Bala
Beyond Naïve Criticism: The Banana Trope In ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’. A Cultural Reading In Context For the average postmodern reader of literature, Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow may seem overly demanding, with its encyclopaedic intentions and groundbreaking narrative innovations. Critics have rightfully entertained the idea that this complicated novel deserves to be interpreted with the help of established philosophers’ works (consult, for instance, the index of the 1998 collection of essays Pynchon Notes 42-43 for references to Hegel, Kant, Freud, Derrida, Bergson, Buber etc.). Gravity’s Rainbow has also earned its connections to canonical literary texts such as Ulysses, Moby Dick and Rilke’s Elegies, securing its place among works of high literature. However, as much as this first part is true, we must also acknowledge the presence of low and middle class culture in Pynchon’s novel. Unmistakably, elements of military slang, TV ads, commercial products, popular songs and movies are all part and parcel of what makes this book, also considering the above-mentioned associations, an all-encompassing piece of literature. Pynchon sports a wide range of symbols closely connected to each other, irrespective of their belonging to high- or lowbrow culture. One motif that has caught my attention is the banana, in all the shapes, sizes and metamorphoses it comes in throughout Gravity’s Rainbow. My aim is to interpret the role of the banana qua banana in Pynchon’s text, relating it to the primary images of the rainbow, the rocket and Slothrop’s erections. I shall first give an account of Pynchon’s usage of postmodern allegory in order to keep everything “paranoically” connected, and then proceed with the analysis of the banana trope in the text. I shall discuss the significance of Pirate Prentice’s banana breakfast and of Chiquita Banana in relation to the entire novel. Slightly moving away from the primary text, my paper shall consider the hermeneutic implications of the banana image in the 60s, spread by figures such as Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground. My conclusions shall deal with the metaphorical significance of the banana as rocket, penis and rainbow, and, final implications on the idea of control in Gravity’s Rainbow.
1. PYNCHONESQUE RHETORIC: FIGURES OF SPEECH IN POSTMODERNISM “[E]verything is connected, everything in the Creation” – Gravity’s Rainbow (703) Pynchon begins his novel with a most revealing quote from German rocketeer Wernher von Braun stating that ‘[n]ature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation.’ This can provide a valuable starting point in order to consider Pynchon’s ‘style of connectedness’, as critic Thomas Moore has expressed it. Since Gravity’s Rainbow is a book about the V-2 rockets in World War II, a great deal of symbolism falls under this very image, thus subordinating other objects, elements or ideas and creating a whirlpool of dependent interpretations. Naturally, for the sake of the present paper, I have placed the banana in the centre as the novel’s structural metaphor (the way Lakoff1 and Johnson define the said figure of speech), although critics have seldom centred their research on the fruit, preferring to comment on the importance of the V-2.
Metaphors We Live By. Lakoff, George. Johnson, Mark. Chicago, Ill. University of Chicago Press
In The Postmodernist Allegories of Thomas Pynchon Deborah Madsen2 stresses the importance of individual consciousness in interpreting an allegory, which ‘is, and works upon, the idea of culture – not the political, social and economic realities, but the explanations and justifications of them that culture provides’ (Madsen 3). In order to grasp an allegory, one needs to work at the level of the language and transcend the literalness of words to reach the real interpretation, which is what we as readers often do by linking fragments or seeing beyond what is merely written. Madsen proposes a series of opposed concepts that define this figure of speech: signifier and signified; the real and the unreal; visibilia and aenigmata; ‘a finite and temporal perspective, and an infinite or atemporal potential for meaning’ (Madsen 7-9). Consequently, the banana reads as a more complex image through which the great themes of the novel find alternative expressions. To the explicit picture of a banana in Gravity’s Rainbow corresponds the subtle innuendo of V-2s, male sexual organs, rainbows and arches. Stephen B. Henkle3 considers the metaphoric character of Pynchon’s writing, more specifically exemplifying the instances of explosions (which come back in the form of orgasm, eating and defecation). Images undergo repetitions, be they serious or playful, and this is precisely the mnemotechnical process that transforms them into inter-related material for the reader (Henkle 276). Returning to von Braun’s motto, we can read into it Pynchon’s interest in organicism, or transcendentalism, explained by Hugh Kenner: scientifically, this belief intends to correct Newtonian physics and explore ’the hierarchic interdependencies in nature and in history and in myth and in mind’ (Moore4 24). Molly Hite5, echoing Lakoff and Johnson’s theory, calls Gravity’s Rainbow a ‘metaphoric novel, which derives its ultimate coherence from a governing structural metaphor’ (Hite ‘Ideas of Order’ 97). She identifies the metaphor as the parabola of the V-2 and the rainbow in the title, themselves representations of 20th century linearity: ‘according to the general theory of relativity, the Euclidean straight line is warped into a curve by the presence of a gravitational field’ (Hite 97). Newton’s discovery of gravity eliminated the necessity of a God in order to explain the world, and with the discovery of the second law of thermodynamics, gravity was placed under a higher principle: the irreversibility of physical processes (Hite ‘Ideas of Order’ 106). It is a well-known fact that Pynchon makes use of his scientific knowledge accurately, be it physics, chemistry or rocketry that he is talking about. Slothrop’s name, for instance, stems from the abbreviation of the previously-mentioned second law of thermodynamics: Tyrone stands for the embodiment of entropy in Gravity’s Rainbow: he is a ‘thermodynamic surprise’ (GR 143). By discussing science as correctly as possible (often after having investigated obscure matters that lead to discoveries, such as Kekulé’s dream about the benzene molecule), Pynchon wishes to place special emphasis on development. The scientific element is explained in so much detail in the novel that it cannot be overlooked in a literary commentary, giving birth to secondary imagery and interpretations. The rainbow symbol can be traced back to the covenant between God and Noah that the earth shall not perish by water, but, ironically, is to meet its doom by the rocket’s fire (Hite ‘Ideas of Order’ 105). Surely there is no need to mention how seminal the V-2 threat proves in the novel, as the characters have already become used to the rocket’s presence in their everyday life. The fall is a recurring theme in Gravity’s Rainbow: Hite claims it explains ‘the tendency of experience to diversify beyond prediction and control’. The presence of these two latter concepts is all the more terrifying than the lack thereof because it condemns the universe to an already-settled end (Hite ‘Ideas of Order’ 115).
The Postmodernist Allegories of Thomas Pynchon. Madsen, Deborah L. Leicester. Leicester University Press 1991. ‘The Morning and the Evening Funnies: Comedy in Gravity’s Rainbow’. Henkle, Roger B. in Approaches to Gravity‘s Rainbow, Charles Clerc. Columbus. Ohio 1983. The Style of Connectedness: Gravity’s Rainbow and Thomas Pynchon. Moore, Thomas. University of Missouri Press. Columbia 1987. Ideas of Order in the Novels of Thomas Pynchon. Hite, Molly. 1983
Most of the characters that do not belong at the top of the novel’s status hierarchy act resigned in the face of the V-2s; Pirate, Jessica, and Roger simply register the presence of yet another rocket falling dangerously close by. By extrapolation, the curve that the fall entails synthesizes the trajectory of the novel in that it begins with the shooting of a rocket and ends with the pending explosion. In this respect, the first page of the novel is ominous as to what the ending will be like, with no possibility of escape from an eventual explosion: ‘It is too late. The Evacuation still proceeds, but it’s all theatre’ (GR 3). The various forms that arcs take in the novel are, in Amy Elias’s view, manifestations and trajectories of power (Elias 2366). As said before, the curve is the most representative shape in the 20th century; it also carries a special significance in Pynchon’s work, where it often stands for an ideological system of power control (Elias 240). This idea shall return time and time again in my discussion of the banana motif and the imagery adjacent to it.
2. STRANGE FRUIT: THE BANANA QUA BANANA Stephen Weisenburger’s Companion offers the banana the privilege to be featured on the cover of Gravity’s Rainbow‘s most seminal secondary read, explicitly linking it to the major symbol of the novel: the V-2 rocket. However, the content of the book fails to provide an analysis of bananas to match the investigation of other tropes—such as angels or pigs, to mention only a few. Since the aim of young literature researchers is not to ‘mind the gap’ but ‘find the gap’ within a certain topic and fill the breach with their own documented answers, it is the slightly ignored banana that fascinated me enough to want to dedicate an entire paper to it—to my knowledge the only one of its kind that has been written so far. Why are bananas so significant for a critical reading of Gravity’s Rainbow? What meaning do they contribute to the text? For a novel that is so obviously submerged in the realm of scientific explanations, it is appropriate to begin with a basic statement of precisely this nature to restore the fruit among the serious themes in the book: bananas defy gravity. ‘Why are bananas curved?’ is one of those tricky questions people usually ask just to be able to answer in a did-you-know manner and surprise their interlocutor with the fact that bananas grow upside-down. This phenomenon is called negative geotropism or gravitropism, which means that in ‘pendant bunches, typical for most bananas, the negative geotropic response results in an upward curvature of the fruit’ (Monselise7 49). In 1880, Darwin and his son co-published The Power of Movement in Plants8, a study in which they defined the terms ‘geotropism’ (the growth of a plant or the part of a plant in relation to the earth) and ‘heliotropism’ (vegetal growth in relation to the sun). Bananas are still widely exotic for cultivation purposes in first-world countries and direct observation of their growth is not immediately possible. Even though today’s globalized and Internet-bound population has easy access to information—so one should not assume its ignorance, but rather the opposite—, the exoticness of bananas was indeed perplexing for people half a century ago, including the readership of Gravity’s Rainbow. The Westerners had to be educated through Chiquita Banana commercials to know how to consume the new and strange fruit (the worldwide distribution brand United Fruit under which Chiquita produce was sold shall return later on in this part of my paper). Thanks to these affirmations on the growth of bananas, we can easily understand that Pynchon has chosen this fruit in order to reinforce the imagery of curvedness and the idea of submission or resistance to higher forces (gravity in the case of bananas, and political control on a more general level).
8 6 7
Sublime Desire: History and Post-1960s Fiction. Elias, Amy. 2001 CRC handbook of fruit set and development. Monselise, Shaul P. CRC Press 1986. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5605
Pynchon imbues the novel with related imagery of objects rising and falling, both literally and figuratively. I shall continue with a discussion of bananas as a central image and detail the points I have made in this paragraph in the course of the following pages. Let us direct our attention towards the beginning of Gravity’s Rainbow, featuring Pirate Prentice’s Banana Breakfast. The scene belongs to a special niche of literary genres, discussed by Christopher Ames under the term ‘festive literature’, which is meant to replace organized religion in modern societies, ‘with its possibilities for comic communion and catharsis’ (C. Ames ‘The Life of the Party’9 7). According to Lionel Trilling in Ames’s study, modern literature will be able to provide the spiritual substance of life as religion is gradually failing to do so, given the gradual secularization of the world. Moreover, feasts and celebrations depicted in literature incorporate religious force due to their resemblance to rituals. If we consider the meaning of festivity in its cultural anthropological acceptation it will become easier to see Pirate’s breakfast as a ‘“charm” against aerial bombardment’ (C. Ames ‘The Life of the Party’ 7). The element of religious reverence consists in the presence of people who are ‘allergic or upright hostile to bananas’ (GR 5), simply ‘because they wish to revere the miracle of tropical fecundity in freezing wartime England. […] It contains the essence of Pynchon’s religious reverence’ (Ramapriya10 230). The ‘fragile, musaceous odor of Breakfast’ (GR 10) is the way men at Pirate’s cottage house in London cope with ‘the loosely clustered forces of death—the war, the winter, the rockets’ (C. Ames ‘The Life of the Party’ 235)—which ultimately threaten the feast that brings joy into their lives: ‘though it is not often that Death is told so clearly to fuck off – […] so the same assertion-through-structure allows this war morning’s banana fragrance to meander, repossess, prevail’ (GR 10). For Den Tandt, the banana breakfast represents ‘a male homosocial celebration of autoeroticism’ through which the ‘characters oppose to the violent phallic logic of the Rocket their own, presumably more autonomous sexuality’ (Den Tandt 88). Osbie Feel even makes the allusion explicit by placing a banana inside his pants and letting it protrude through his fly, in case we still needed the confirmation that in Gravity’s Rainbow the fruit largely stands, among others, for an erect penis. hInstead of alerting the authorities right after having seen the V-2, Pirate decides to pick bananas and go through the morning ritual that has made him famous among people who ‘throng here from all over England’ (GR 5), thus ignoring his official duties in an act of political subversion. Pirate’s diligence at building the greenhouse, providing the fertile soil and making a deal to get banana trees from Brazil on his own evokes an utopian act by staking his autonomy and control against corporate powers (Den Tandt11 88). Through his decision to bring banana trees from South America and grow the fruit in the UK, Pirate is enacting political revolution on a small scale: if we regard how ‘unnatural’ climate-wise it is to cultivate exotic fruit in London, during one of the coldest winters ever (as Weisenburger confirms), we can see how the character is revolting against a limiting natural system. Furthermore, by circumventing the restrictions of a market that does not provide year-round access to the fruit—and when it does, it resorts to controversial corporate companies such as United Fruit—Pirate is making his own way into a freer world. One of the revelatory aspects in Gravity’s Rainbow is the exposure of how modern-day cartels came into being, and Pynchon does not ignore the problematic United Fruit Company, repeatedly accused of work abuse on plantations in third world countries. The Life of the Party: Festive Vision in Modern Fiction. Ames, Christopher. University of Georgia Press 2010. ‘Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow from an Ecosophical Perspective’ Ramapriya, R. in Essays in Ecocriticism. Rayson K. Alex and Nirmal Selvamony. Sarup & Sons 2007. 11 ‘Management and Chaos: Masculinity and the Corporate World From Naturalism to Gravity’s Rainbow’. Den Tandt, Christopher in Pynchon Notes, ed. Luc Herman, 42-43, spring-fall 1998. Herman, Luc. Antwerp, 2008. 9
The fact that Prentice is offering and others are accepting proves that demand for bananas among the common people exists, despite higher forces—a land less fertile than the Equator—not allowing them to grow there naturally. Pirate has the gift of ‘getting inside the fantasies of others: being able, actually, to take over the burden of managing them’ (GR 12). In a time when the world is at war and there is a banana shortage, he caters for other people’s desire to eat, or simply see bananas. There is little wonder that later on in the novel, when a tuba player at Peenermünde is asked by an alarmed orchestra-fellow what is happening to them, the former simply replies ‘[h]ave a banana’ (GR 506) with his own mouth full of the said stuff. Soon afterwards, Felix, the tuba player, is caught ‘eating a banana, and living for the moment’ (GR 508). The fact that these two actions are simultaneous is not a coincidence: Pynchon systematically equates the consumption of the fruit with a hedonistic manner of living. In episode 2, Osbie Feel, having placed a banana in his pants, bursts into a satirically cheerful song about going to war, in which for the first time in the novel one is urged to ‘have a bana-na’ (GR 8) in order to forget about problems. Felix’s enjoyment of the fruit is synonymous to mental and emotional isolation from greater issues that transcend the present moment, as it is for Pirate Prentice and his group. The soil itself—‘an impasto, feet thick, of unbelievable black topsoil in which anything could grow, not the least being bananas’ (GR 5)—is yet another symbol of resistance to what is generally accepted by society, axiologically speaking. Instead of earth and fertilizer, Pirate has combined vomit, faeces and dead matter, and managed to make grow out of this mixture a ‘rich and natural thing, […] nutritious, fragrant, contributing to man’s health and not his destruction’ (Henkle 273). Such contrast can subscribe to the discussion of the Preterite and the Elect, as formulated by William Pynchon, the novelist’s Puritan ancestor. His tract, The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption (1650), aimed to do away with the idea of predestination—that God has already chosen the ones he will save and the others will be discarded without the possibility to redeem through their actions in their lifetime. William Pynchon believed that Jesus died on the cross for both the Elect (the chosen ones) and the Preterite (the discarded), thereby establishing equality—in terms of chances for salvation—that others at the time regarded as heresy. The Preterite include the common, the base; in other words, anyone that does not seem to be privileged by God and will eventually have to perish. The extinct dodo bird on page 111 of Gravity’s Rainbow is a good example of the extermination of the weak and useless by the hand of the Elect. In Pirate’s breakfast scene, the soil can be seen as an embodiment of the Preterite idea; it is vile and made of residue that no-one wishes to save. In spite of this, Pirate symbolically redeems the mixture and puts it to use for a noble purpose: growing bananas and catering for people’s desire to enjoy this fruit. Prentice actively participates in the recuperation of that which is not meant to be saved, and mirrors William Pynchon’s messianic mission. Through this analogy, the breakfast episode successfully contributes to the relevance of the Preterite-Elect discussion of the entire novel. Christopher Ames, in another article of his, comments: ‘The phallic, comic banana, glowing fruit of the manure, seems to share the charmed “conjuror’s secret”- the capacity for telling death to fuck off […] with a success derived from the fertility of waste, the power of shit, the potency of that which is excluded or discarded by the official culture’ (C. Ames ‘Power and the Obscene Word’12 197). We remember Henkle’s reification of the rocket’s explosions—transmuted into reaching orgasm, eating or defecating—to be part of the metaphoric style in Gravity’s Rainbow (Henkle 276). This provides us with a comprehensive reading grid when dealing with the following passage: ‘He trudges through black compost in to the hothouse. He feels he’s about to shit. The missile, sixty miles high, must be coming up on the peak of its trajectory by now… beginning its fall… now.’ (GR 7).
The Life of the Party: Festive Vision in Modern Fiction. Ames, Christopher. University of Georgia Press 2010.
The celebration reaches Pantagruelian proportions, as the reader is presented with a comically decadent menu of banana-based dishes, which as Ames interprets, ‘provides a moment of magnificence that, indeed, is not the war.’ Moore also credits this initial scene in the novel for distinguishing between the organic (Pirate’s hothouse as a symbol of human life spreading DNA molecules) and the dead (embodied by the war, the cold winter and the rocket) (Moore 178). However, Pirate’s share of joy ends with the phone call he makes to announce he has seen the rocket. Upon returning, he can feel the separation that has come between him and the men he has made breakfast for, after just a minute of being gone: ‘He gazes [...] back down at the refectory at the others, wallowing in their plenitude of bananas, thick palatals of their hunger lost somewhere in the stretch of morning between them and himself. A hundred miles of it, so suddenly. Solitude [...]. Pirate’s again some other side of a window, watching strangers eat breakfast’ (GR 11) Pynchon makes Pirate withdraw so as to show the power that war has to separate people and interrupt their communion. Private celebrations are destroyed by the great official reality of war, although Gravity’s Rainbow as a historical novel unconventionally pushes conflict out of the reader’s sight, thus turning war into a mere pretext for literature (C. Ames ‘The Life of the Party’ 235-36). Apart from the uplifting effects that bananas are shown to have on the characters in Gravity’s Rainbow, the fruit is, in addition, efficiently stored in the memories of comedy lovers as part of the old slapstick joke of making another person slip on a peel. Pynchon does not leave this aspect aside: there is the clear example of Teddy Bloat falling victim to a banana peel in the breakfast episode. However, a more obscure and telling scene in the second half of the book provides Thomas Moore’s study on interconnectedness with material for analysis: the ‘banana peel that had caused Miklos Thanatz to slip overboard’ links to what the narrator in Gravity’s Rainbow imagines to be William Pynchon’s ‘stews, spilled on deck, being shaken off “the indignant shoes of the more elect” (GR 204)’ (Moore 134). Moore describes Thanatz’s fall as originating on the decadent ship Anubis and ending among Europe’s Preterite, with which the character is forced to interact—even though he ‘wasn’t supposed to be left with you discards’ (GR 667). Thanatz himself understands this when he confesses the following: ‘The white Anubis, gone on to salvation. Back here, in her wake, are the preterite, swimming and drowning [...] churning, mixing, rising, falling. [...] Men overboard and our common debris [...] there is a key, among the wastes of the World... and it won’t be found on board the white Anubis because they throw everything of value over the side’ (GR 667-68). Pynchon’s choice of words in this fragment relates to the vocabulary that characterises the soil of the banana hothouse: a fermenting mixture of vile composition. Thanatz’s slip on the peel sends him into the realm of the base, yet a category of the base that is aware of its real value and therefore rebels against the elect. He realizes that it was the decadent Anubis that was, in fact, unworthy of salvation, in the light of the human degradation and debauchery taking place onboard. Thanatz is ultimately happy to have rid himself of the ship and to stand out as valuable, similarly to Pirate’s banana tree soil: it proves fertile and beneficent for cultivation (‘contributing to man’s health and not his destruction’, Henkle 273) against all odds and doubts that might stem from a conservative idea of what good standard soil should be. The resistance in this case is enacted against a source of false authority. Let us reconsider slipping on a banana peel from a second angle: Richard B. Schwartz13 believes the slapstick joke ‘demonstrates the triumph of gravity over humanity, but the professional clown acts out our enslavement to gravity by falling and then rising, teaching us, in the process, both the nature of our limitations and the possibility of our survival’ (Schwartz 110). This is a perfect example of reading an allegory according to Deborah Madsen’s opposition of visibilia and aenigmata in my first chapter.
Nice and noir: contemporary American crime fiction. Schwartz, Richard B. University of Missouri Press 2002.
The punctual scenes of Thanatz or Teddy Bloat slipping on a banana peel give rise to a more generic interpretation, one that comes from the readership’s critical apparatus. Therefore, slapstick ceases to be mere slapstick: it is sublimated into information whose meaning is culturally bound. More exactly, our knowledge of the world allows us to read more into the banana trick than simply as part of a comedy show. In Molly Hite’s terms, the fall belongs to the uncontrollable part of human experience: as with the rocket, the only certain thing is that what goes up must come down, but we do not know the how, the where or the when. The arched shape—a symbol of power control in Amy Elias’s view—that the rocket’s trajectory takes symbolizes the V-2s compliance with the universal law of gravity, of which no-one is spared, be it rocket, or be it man (the clown in our particular example). Stephen B. Henkle, as already quoted, reinforces the parodic nature of the banana that will never match up to the rocket, ‘arching as if in its own parabolic flight away from its branch, ending in its own Brennschluss’ (273). Both being phallic symbols, they correspond to Pynchon’s comical style: ‘the metaphorical reduction of the fearful into the playful. Control of the ominous by converting it imaginatively into a subject for ludicrous parody of all its elements […] is […] the poet’s chief way of keeping alive humane illusions in the face of depersonalization’ (Henkle 273-74). Man’s defeat in the face of gravity is mirrored by the mark left by the Earth’s pull on bananas: the curve will forever symbolize the fruit’s struggle to reach upwards, in the same way the clown has to slip in order to get up and personify the hope that comes with having challenged gravity. Moving away from the anonymous house-grown bananas of Pirate Prentice, we come across the worldwide recognizable figure of Chiquita Banana, evoked in the fourth part of the novel by the famous commercial Chiquita song and by Carmen Miranda’s presence in the novel. The banana parabola extends from the beginning of the novel with the breakfast scene, all the way to the end when bananas are discovered in Slothrop’s fridge and a general panic gets hold of the narrator: ‘who-who’s been putting banana--In-the-re-frig er a-tor!/O no-nono, no-no-no! Chiquita Banana sez we shouldn’t! Somethin’ awful’ll happen!’ (GR 678). This fragment is a direct reference to the actual song in the Chiquita commercial, whose goal was to popularize the consumption of bananas at a large scale and to instruct people on how and when to eat them: ‘Me? No, not yet, my dear./ The greenish way you’re looking/ means that you are ripe for cooking. / How about me? No, no. / When you are fully ripe my dear,/ those little flecks of brown appear./ Me? You’re most digestible my friend, / delicious, too, from end to end […] But bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator./ So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator[…] Si, si, si, si!’14 (see annex for full lyrics). The brand is currently part of Chiquita Brands International Inc., which has produced and distributed fruit for 140 years now, until 1970 under the former name of the United Fruit Company. The Chiquita Banana emblem was created in 1944 by Dik Browne; he drew inspiration from Brazilian singer and actress Carmen Miranda famous for sporting her signature fruit hat: ‘These are Carmen Miranda hats, for example, bananas, papayas, bunches of grapes, pears, pineapples, mangoes, jeepers even watermelons’ (GR 664). For decades, the animated banana has been the star of several commercials. The official Chiquita website boasts 376 daily plays on the radio in the U.S. during the jingle’s heyday. In the late 80s, designer Oscar Grillo replaced the banana with the figure of a woman, the way the logo is known nowadays. Upon the re-release of the classic 1944 jingle, Sanford Ames15 quotes the New York (sic) edition of 20th October 1986 published an interview with a Chiquita representative claiming the jingles were meant to make people think of the lyrics at the mere uttering of the word ‘Chiquita’, the way many nostalgists would still begin to sing at the sound of the word.
Music © 1945 Shawnee Press Inc. under license to Chiquita Brands International, Inc. ‘Fast Food/ Quick Lunch: Crews, Burroughs and Pynchon’. Ames, Sanford in Literary Gastronomy. Bevan, David. Rodopi 1988.
In the eye of the consumers, this assured the company’s close tie with the main fruit it produced, and discouraged competition so that solely United Fruit’s image campaign would prosper (S. Ames 25). By the end of the century, bananas had become the most consumed fruit in America16, not unlikely because of the aim for monopoly of the Chiquita Company. Recent promotion includes variations to the jingle; one version that Sanford Ames notes is the one saying: ‘I’m Chiquita Banana and I’ve come to say/ I come from little island down equator bay/ I sail on big banana boat from Caribe/ To see if I can help good neighbor policy. / […] I make big hit with ‘mericanos/ Singing song about bananos […]’. Ames reads this as a flirty address that has incited the imaginations of many, such as the effect of the vintage commercial that has affected Slothrop’s brother: ‘Hogan’s in love with Chiquita Banana, Tyrone’s come in the room plenty of times found his brother with banana label glued on his erect cock for ready reference, lost in masturbatory fantasies of nailing this cute but older Latin lady while she’s wearing her hat, gigantic fruit-market hat, and a big saucy smile’ (GR 678). However, the jingle can be interpreted as trying to make up for the scandals Chiquita Inc. has been involved in, one of the most famous being the massacre of thousands of workers protesting against bad working conditions in 1928 in Ciénaga, Columbia17. Writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez has voiced the damage brought to his country by the company in his chef d’oeuvre, A Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), which Pynchon might have very possibly read by the time of Gravity’s Rainbow’s publication. The jingle could very well be aimed at clearing the company’s name and catering for the regional welfare of Banana Republics (‘a small country that is economically dependent on a single export commodity, such as bananas, and is typically governed by a dictator or the armed forces’18). The commercial makes the Chiquita mascot as Latino as possible—she comes from the Caribbean islands, she rhymes using Spanish words (although ‘banano’ seems to be a calqued option to the more common Spanish plátano). This new image of Chiquita first and foremost targets the English-speaking audience from the U.S. in simulating a turn of tactics for the fruit company: what was meant to transpire in the consumers’ minds is that Chiquita is so Caribbean that it is impossible for the company to think of doing anything that would harm the ‘good neighbour policy’ in the region. The idea that even fruit producers would join in the 20th century scramble for profit and engage in unfair trade conditions turns even such seemingly nature-friendly companies into cold-blooded cartels as those political and economic associates present in the novel. Pynchon here could very well be contrasting two contemporary ways of practicing agriculture. On the one hand, there is Prentice with his small-scale home-grown banana crop—not to mention the fair trade nature of his plantation: he does not exploit human beings or gain profit from his undertaking, and he has obtained the trees as a result of a transparent barter deal, ‘in exchange for a German camera’ (GR 5). On the other hand, we read of monopolizing companies such as United Fruit, engaging in work abuse across the Caribbean for big-scale fruit production, all in the name of the tyranny of profit. From a more general perspective, Chiquita can be associated with the evil cartel in Gravity’s Rainbow surrounding the V-2 rocket. What keeps the war going, and at the same time using it to make profit, is a secret corporation made up of IG Farben, Shell Oil and ICI (GR 250), to mention only a few controversial companies. A relevant and revealing passage in the novel describes the real nature of business in times of war, during which anything amoral is accepted: ‘Don’t forget the real business of war is buying and selling. The murdering and violence are selfpolicing, and can be entrusted to non-professionals. [...] The true war is a celebration of markets’ (GR 105). 18 16 17
The century in food: America’s fads and favorites. Bundy, Beverly. Collectors Press, Inc. 2002. Bananas and business: the United Fruit Company in Colombia, 1899-2000. Bucheli, Marcelo. NYU Press 2005. www.thefreedictionary.com
Pynchon heavily resorts to the concept of a higher power, past the reach of any common earthling, able to control and pull the invisible strings of the world’s political and economic mechanisms: these chosen few are called ‘They’. As opposed to the meek and honest ‘We’, ‘They’ stand for the despotic elect that, having self-proclaimed themselves as the authority, monopolize global markets, not very differently from the way the United Fruit Company has proceeded over the years. In the light of this argument, Chiquita Banana’s jingles echoing in Gravity’s Rainbow cease to sound as innocent and cheerful as they do to the uninformed consumer.
3. THE SIXTIES OF ANDY WARHOL AND THE VELVET UNDERGROUND Before commencing my interpretation on what relevance Warhol and the Velvet Underground have for Gravity’s Rainbow I first need to make some remarks about my proceedings for the third part of my paper. As I have mentioned in the introduction, most criticism on Pynchon draws on established figures in philosophy or classic socio-literary studies in trying to keep up with the same level of complexity and eruditeness that the novel itself exhibits. It has, therefore, been a breath of fresh air and an inspiration to read Brian McHale’s article on angelology19, and convince myself of the fact that academia—once too many times accused of elitism—does not ignore popular culture as TV programmes or advertisement signs, for example. Visual products like Chiquita Banana commercials and the Velvet Underground and Nico album cover can indeed become the object of scholarly articles and provide the freshness and unpredictability of such references for the sake of an actively engaging read. McHale, however, is dealing with the legacy that Gravity’s Rainbow has left pop culture—with artists such as Laurie Anderson, Leonard Cohen, Wim Wenders, and REM borrowing angel imagery from Pynchon—whereas I am researching the banana motif in cultural products preceding the novel’s publication. Another stimulating material was Molly Hite’s article20 on teaching Gravity’s Rainbow, whose importance relies on a very specific hermeneutic approach: interpreting the novel according to Pynchon’s alleged sources and interests at the time of the text’s writing—Marcuse’s theories and the Yippie collective. In attempting to periodize the 60s, Fredric Jameson regards the decade as a break between two capitalist modes of production resulting in unlimited expansion; this was caused by various socio-economical means and the lack of a clear authority to confine freedom. The 70s contrast with the previous years due to a return to a reality that once again had a face, as opposed to the confused 60s (Miller21 88). ‘For Jameson, “postmodern,” “accessible,” “easily grasped,” and “democratic” become synonyms, and cultural products possessing these features are assumed to have the potential of engendering resistance to or participation in politics’ (Tölölyan22 761). In Malcolm Bradbury’s view23, Kennedy’s election brought about the experimentalism of the Beat poets, of theatre groups and of pop and op artists (768). Pynchon has expressed his fondness of the Beat movement as a group that wished to subvert the official system (Moore 18). Censorships being lifted, sexuality and experiments were allowed once again on American bookshelves. Spontaneity was in high demand in poetry, in Warhol’s ‘random art’ and theatrical happenings (Bradbury 768).
‘Gravity’s Angels in America, or, Pynchon’s Angelology Revisited’. McHale, Brian in Pynchon Notes ed. Luc Herman, 42-43, spring-fall 1998. Antwerp 2008. ‘Reading the Value System of Gravity’s Rainbow with Marcuse, Freud and the Yippies’. Hite, Molly in Approaches to teaching Pynchon’s The crying of lot 49 and other works. Schaub, Thomas H. Modern Language Association of America 2008. “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” the Watergate Affair, and Johns’s Crosshatch Paintings: Surveillance and Reality-Testing in the Mid-Seventies. Miller, Stephen Paul. Boundary 2, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Summer, 1993), pp. 84-115 Duke University Press.
We know that Pynchon, in writing about the 40s, brings a considerable amount of commentary on the 60s left to be inferred by hints at, for instance, WW2 as a mirror to the War in Vietnam, still ongoing at the time of the novel’s creation. One of the novel’s links with Jameson’s portrayal of the 60s as an oasis of freedom can be the way Pirate Prentice is able to cultivate his own bananas and thereby create an escape space where he is not forced to meet his official duties. Also not to be left aside is Pynchon’s highly explicit style (cussing, sexual violence, taboos), which, although it did not get the book banned, made it lose the chances for the Pulitzer Prize. The critical reception of Warhol’s artistic career contributes to the contextualization of both Gravity’s Rainbow and the cultural scene of the 60s. Popism is the term Warhol invented for a movement that championed artistic pluralism capitalizing on ‘the immediacy and pleasure of commercial culture’ (Shattuc24 35). The appeal of pop art counted on the visceral youthful public and brought together elements of the American underground art movement of Warhol, Ginsberg and the Velvet Underground. Art involves the listener and talks about current issues in a playful manner, though overshadowed by the world’s fear of the A-bomb (Shattuc 39). This is yet another element that, in Gravity’s Rainbow, critically affects the way its first readers perceived the main theme: in 1973, the publication year, people still feared the proportions of the Cold War and the possibility of the world coming to an end as a result of atomic bombing. Certainly for them, unlike for us 21st century readers, the V-2 evoked a grimmer prospect. As a patron, Warhol has fathered one of the most critically acclaimed bands of all time, although in retrospect, by funding, creating and setting up performances for the Velvet Underground. Surely among Warhol’s top 5 best known creations one will come across the banana silkscreen from his Exploding Plastic Inevitable psychedelic show running until 1967, a print more commonly known from the cover of the 1967 The Velvet Underground and Nico album. Warhol’s multimedia spectacle, for which the band provided live music, was a product of the underground art scene and served the purpose of resisting institutionalized pressure by offering a new full experience for the mind and body. The limited edition of the music album featured the sign ‘Peel slowly and see’, which encouraged listeners to remove the banana peel and reveal a phallic pink member underneath. Stephen Weisenburger’s cover of his Companion is probably the most efficient and immediate element to connect Warhol’s creation to Gravity’s Rainbow. The power of visual representation sends the viewer of the book’s cover straight to the artwork of the Velvet Underground album. The significant link I mean to draw in this chapter is between Warhol’s silkscreen print and Pynchon’s usage of the banana motif in Gravity’s Rainbow as part of the writer’s commentary on sources of control. Pirate Prentice’s banana-eating crowd more or less consciously enacts a revolution in the face of the higher authorities at war; the hothouse provides the means for a short-term oasis of happiness. Similarly, Warhol had rounded up a number of artists to create the Exploding Plastic Inevitable show (featuring the Velvets live in concert) that would rebel against the established visual art world of the 1960s. Both Pynchon’s and Warhol’s bananas suggest sexuality in a celebratory manner: exhibiting a banana ultimately asserts the mindlessness that Pynchon thought of when using the well-known working title for Gravity’s Rainbow. This squares with the fact that Pirate Prentice, Felix the tuba player (GR 508) and Osbie Feel (GR 8)—as I have already commented in the second chapter—associate the fruit with a temporary mental relief from issues (mainly, the war). The phallic symbolism of bananas has been more than once proven authentic for the novel’s content.
The Second Time as Farce: Postmodernism without Consequences. Tölölyan, Khachig. American Literary History, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Winter, 1990) Oxford University Press. ‘What was Post-Modernism? The Arts in and after the Cold War’. Bradbury, Malcolm. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 71, No. 4, Special RIIA 75th Anniversary Issue (Oct., 1995), pp. 763774 Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. “Contra” Brecht: R. W. Fassbinder and Pop Culture in the Sixties. Shattuc, Jane. Cinema Journal, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 35-54. University of Texas Press on behalf of the Society for Cinema & Media Studies.
Warhol also prizes the banana as an opportunity to submerge into tongue-in-cheek sexual innuendo. It is not the first time Warhol draws on this image: his movie Harlot (1964) features actor Mario Montez in transvestite’s clothes devouring bananas for seventy minutes, exploiting the ambiguity between man and woman, and between banana and penis (Gemunden25 241). It is interesting for our discussion to trace back the way Lou Reed’s band got its name. The Velvet Underground (1963) was originally the name of a book by Michael Leigh on the violent sexual subculture of U.S. youngsters in the 60s. The band’s choice was, however, motivated by the resonance of the title and its capacity to evoke underground cinema. Curiously enough, the Thomas Pynchon website embeds the quote ‘velveteen darkness’ (GR 3) under the section ‘film/cinema references’. My interpretation is that the first scene in Gravity’s Rainbow is a loose anticipation of the end of the novel, and this not only when speaking about the firing/explosion of the rocket; Pynchon’s attempt at circularity goes beyond the mere object of the scene, on to include the surroundings. The book famously ends in a cinema full of people watching a movie; the opening, part of Prentice’s slightly absurd, or at best unclear, dream—as are all dreams—, hints at the existence of a dark room, also populated, as an evacuation is taking place to avoid an explosion. Pirate is dreaming that ‘it’s all theatre’, and is expecting ‘a spectacle: the fall of a crystal palace’, sitting in ‘velveteen darkness’ (GR 3)—either an epithet for the silence and reduced visibility of a cinema hall, or the tactile feeling of the common velvet chairs surrounding the spectator at the movies. It is obvious that Pynchon has deliberately blurred his opening pages with a layer of uncertainty, lauded as one of those rare and memorable beginnings of ground-breaking works. Whether it indeed be a cinema theatre or not is of less importance: the reference is clearly there and is more than enough to support my point on the various ways the Velvets can be present in Pynchon’s novel. The band, as does the writer, drew inspiration from the Austrian author Leopold von SacherMasoch and his seminal novel Venus in Furs (1870). Sacher-Masoch’s book became so well known, partly due to its scandalous nature, that psychoanalyst Richard von Krafft-Ebing coined the term ‘masochism’ from the author’s name to designate a sexual practice that involves one’s enjoyment of pain being inflicted onto them. The allusion is more explicit in the Velvets’ song off the above-mentioned album, as the listener has access to the title (although not repeated in the lyrics) and can hear Lou Reed tell the story of Severin’s abandonment in the hands of his cruel lover, Wanda (the latter also not mentioned). There is little need to begin lobbying for Gravity’s Rainbow’s sadomasochistic content, which, in spite of not referring directly to Venus in Furs, is revaluing the cultural heritage Sacher-Masoch has left the world. Take, for instance, the trio Katje-Blicero-Gottfried, who engage in shocking non-standard practices, or Pudding’s forced ingestion of excrement (GR 235) or Slothrop’s revenge-filled sex with Katje (GR 222). The twisted sexuality in Gravity’s Rainbow is, after all, one of the main reasons for which it has been denied the Pulitzer Prize. Further possible intertextualities, this time with respect to the band’s lyrics, can be found in the following fragment towards the end of the novel: ‘[(] but what’s this just past the spasming cervix, past the Curve Into The Darkness The Stink The… The White… The Corner… Waiting… Waiting For—). But no, the ritual has its velvet grip on them all. So strong, so warm…’ (GR 757-58). The conglomeration of the telling word ‘velvet’ and the almost verbalized song title ‘I’m Waiting for the Man’ might not be a simple paranoid association. The Velvet’s song tells the story of someone setting off to buy heroin in a New York neighbourhood from a drug dealer, also known as ‘the man’ in connoisseurs’ slang. In Gravity’s Rainbow, ‘The Man’ similarly embodies the idea of authority and control of others.
The Depth of the Surface, or, What Rolf Dieter Brinkmann Learned from Andy Warhol. Gemünden, Gerd. The German Quarterly, Vol. 68, No. 3 (Summer, 1995), pp. 235-250. Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Association of Teachers of German.
We can find this entity at points in the novel where the abstract ‘They’ are given this other identity, equally anonymous, but considerably narrowed down from the multitude. In one of the best known excerpts from the book, the reader learns that ‘[t]he Man has a branch office in each of our brains, his corporate emblem is a white albatross, each local rep has a cover known as the Ego, and their mission in this world in Bad Shit’ (GR 712-13). The Man is just another disguise taken by the invisible control coming from superior sources. An interesting connection can be made with the discussion of S&M above: keeping such practices taboo is of great interest to Them, so that in the larger picture, higher than individual preferences, everybody shall accept the dominance of The Man. All through the novel, and seconded by the Velvet Undeground’s tie with Venus in Furs, sadomasochism is widely practiced at all levels of society, despite what The Man would want, meaning that symbolically this form of sex stands for rebellion. The Velvets did not receive as much praise in their short group existence as they do now, and especially not at the time of their debut. But considering the period of six years that gave Pynchon the opportunity to hear of Warhol’s protégés, the author must have been acquainted with the activity of the band. Furthermore, imagery and lyrics associated with them seem to fit many references in Gravity’s Rainbow. The banana occupies an overarching place in representing both the music album, as well as Pynchon’s novel, through Weisenburger’s suggestion, the two art products featuring the fruit as artwork on the cover/sleeve. Its implications are explicitly sexual, and, in the case of the Velvets’ album it can be diachronically proven to stand for technology as well: let us consider the cover for the band’s fifth and final album, Squeeze (1973). The image of a hand gripping a vertical Empire State Building links very obviously to passages in Gravity’s Rainbow that consider the rocket, a product of modern technology, as pure steel erection (GR 324), thus turning the building into a masturbatory fetishized object. Since Pynchon’s novel and Squeeze were released at the same time, I do not intend to prove that the two are directly connected or have influenced each other. This rationale is only meant to demonstrate how, in the band’s history, pop culture can blend with sexuality and political commentary in the form of album art.
4. THE AVATARS OF THE BANANA Having mentioned the significant relation between bananas and technology, it is suitable at this point of the paper to present a collection of criticism on the V-2 and Slothrop’s erections. Pynchon makes allusions over and over again in order to connect his material in the novel: the reader is instructed that the rocket’s outer shell remains intact like a peel. This connects back to Pirate thinking about the V-2 in the following terms: ‘he’s already stopped believing in the rocket he saw. God has plucked it for him, out of its airless sky, like a steel banana’ (GR 8). Siegel advises the reader that Pirate’s bananas should be regarded as a mild version of “the brutal phallicism of the rocket” (Siegel26 81): ‘Beyond simple steel erection, the Rocket was an entire system won, away from the feminine darkness, held against the entropies of lovable but scatterbrained Mother Nature ...’ (GR 324); ‘[a]scending, programmed in a ritual of love… at Brennschluss it is done—the Rocket’s purely feminine counterpart, the zero point at the center of its target, has submitted. […] over its peak and down, plunging, burning, toward a terminal orgasm’ (GR 223).
Pynchon: Creative Paranoia in Gravity’s Rainbow. Siegel, Mark Richard. Kennikat Press, 1978.
Alan J. Friedman and Manfred Puetz27 remark on the comical songs blending rocketry and sexual fantasies as being a frequent motif, the sexuality exhibited by the rocket (Friedman and Puetz 357): ‘There was a young fellow named Crockett,/ Who had an affair with a rocket./ If you saw them out there/ You’d be tempted to stare/ But if you ain’t tried it, don’t knock it!’ (GR 305). As Pirate Prentice makes people’s fantasies become true, and his Banana Breakfast can surely be ascribed under this label, critic Joseph Tabbi underlines the achievement that the V-2 stands for, embodying ‘the immortal dreams and aspirations of an entire generation of German technocrats, engineers and rocket scientists’ (Tabbi28 94). For Christopher Ames, Slothrop correctly recognizes in the Atomic Bomb’s mushroom cloud ‘a new icon of power’, according to the novel’s spirit of ‘intent association of the rocket with corrupt phallic sexuality’ (C. Ames ‘Power and the Obscene Word’ 201). Gravity’s Rainbow makes it explicit that Slothrop, in feeling ‘so terribly, so immediately in his genitals for those rockets each time exploding in the sky’ must be ‘in love, in sexual love, with his, and his race’s death’ (GR 738). The trajectory of the V-2 corresponds to the natural cycle of a living being—‘You will come to understand that between the two points, in the five minutes, it lives an entire life’ (GR 209). The rocket is supposed to rise until Brennschluss point, when the descent commences and no control is possible anymore; the only certainty one can count on is that the rocket will never fall on its target spot. ‘The fact that biological life takes the same path as the rocket is repeatedly illustrated in the novel by what could be called the compost garden image. At least seventeen times we are shown a collection of things (animal, mineral, and vegetable) that have begun the return to complete disorder and loss of differentiation-to maximum entropy’ (Friedman and Puetz 348). Consequently, the hothouse soil that Pirate has collected is a significant particularization of the end-point that all living matter is supposed to reach. The rocket’s parabola (as does the banana’s curve) connects to the idea of a living body going through all the necessary transformations in nature—a transcendentalist view that von Braun’s motto also supports. Deborah Madsen’s study on allegory underlines the peculiarity of Gravity’s Rainbow’s narrative world, delineated by two opposing pretexts: the first is a Newtonian perspective that characterizes Them, and the second an Einsteinian cosmology, closely linked to a pantheistic view of the world, more lax and relative. Thomas Moore, as already quoted before in chapter 1, explains von Braun’s motto precisely in the same terms of replacing Newtonianism with a new form of organicism in which everything is subject to transmutability (Moore 24). Madsen argues that the Rocket’s parabola encompasses both pretexts, given that its ascent is controlled, yet its descent uncontrollable (Madsen 78). The connection between rockets and erections is rendered explicit by Pointman’s attempt to grasp Slothrop’s sexual conquests from a statistical point of view. The reader finds out later on it is due to Infant Tyrone’s exposure to Imipolex-G (‘the first plastic that is actually erectile’ – GR 699) that the character develops a Pavlovian reflex, therefore uncontrolled, towards the V-2: ‘[t]he automatic penis is such an appalling symbol of man’s unfreedom, of course, because sex would seem to be man’s most intimate contact with nature, and the surest route to his freedom from social control. But this natural freedom has to be won back from society’s various pornographies, imitations of nature’ (Earl29 230).
‘Science as Metaphor: Thomas Pynchon and «Gravity>s Rainbow»’. Friedman, Alan J. and Manfred Puetz. Contemporary Literature, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Summer, 1974), pp. 345-359. University of Wisconsin Press. Postmodern sublime: technology and American writing from Mailer to Cyberpunk. Tabbi, Joseph. Cornell University Press, 1996. ‘Freedom and knowledge in the zone’. Earl, James W. in Approaches to Gravity’s Rainbow. Clerq, Charles Columbus. Ohio 1983.
Slothrop’s life itself can be interpreted in mise-en-abyme in relation to the parabola of the rocket and that of the rainbow. His personal descent occurs when his identity starts to dissipate, just as he has escaped Their control and is left free to fall to the ground and disintegrate (Hite ‘Ideas of Order’ 117). Herbert Marcuse identifies Slothrop’s fragmentation with the embodiment of the pluridimensional man, freed of all control and impossible to be apprehended (Hite ‘Ideas of Order’ 118). Last time we see Slothrop, he engages in sexual hallucinations: ‘Slothrop sees a very thick rainbow here, a stout rainbow cock driven down out of pubic clouds into Earth, green wet valleyed Earth, and his chest fills and he stands crying, not a thing in his head, just feeling natural’ (GR 626). It seems that this serene clearheaded disposition is the fruit of a relaxed rapport between Slothrop and the world—as the pantheistic theme returns. Pynchon shows once more in what way ignorance is bliss and how the mindlessness of taking a moment’s break from paranoia (which other characters spend by eating bananas) can turn out to be the only solution to personal fulfillment. Control is a topic that brings the most important symbols in Gravity’s Rainbow together: the rocket, Slothrop’s erections, and bananas. Pynchon’s parabola stands for totalitarian control as the human need to encompass and rationalize experience (Hite ‘Ideas of Order’ 98). However, there is hope to be gathered from the ending to the story of each of these three elements. The rockets begin to have a will of their own after Brennschluss, and therefore defy Their authority. As Slothrop meanders through the Zone, farther and farther away from London, his conditioning seems to be wearing off, so he is finally able to enjoy his sexual freedom. Ultimately, what could be more absurd than the idea of a clockwork banana? Pirate uses the banana figure to subvert the official system, therefore subscribing to a long list of cultural associations according to which this fruit symbolizes freedom, rebellion, and the sexual side of humans.
ANNEX Chiquita Banana30 I’m Chiquita banana and I’ve come to say bananas have to ripen in a certain way. When they’re flecked with brown and have a golden hue bananas taste the best and are the best for you. You can put them in a salad. Me? No, not yet, my dear. The greenish way you’re looking means that you are ripe for cooking. How about me? No, no. When you are fully ripe my dear, those little flecks of brown appear. Me? You’re most digestible my friend, delicious, too, from end to end. You can put them in a pie - aye. Any way you want to eat them It’s impossible to beat them. But bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator. So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator. Bananas are a solid food that doctors now include in baby’s diet. And since they are so good for baby I think we all should try it! Si, si, si, si!
Music © 1945 Shawnee Press Inc. under license to Chiquita Brands International, Inc.
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Ames, Christopher. Power and the Obscene Word: Discourses of Extremity in Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow”. Contemporary Literature, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Summer, 1990). University of Wisconsin Press. The Life of the Party: Festive Vision in Modern Fiction. University of Georgia Press 2010. Ames, Sanford. ‘Fast Food/ Quick Lunch: Crews, Burroughs and Pynchon’ in Literary Gastronomy, David Bevan. Rodopi 1988. Bradbury, Malcolm. ‘What was Post-Modernism? The Arts in and after the Cold War’. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 71, No. 4, Special RIIA 75th Anniversary Issue (Oct., 1995), pp. 763-774 Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Bucheli, Marcelo. Bananas and business: the United Fruit Company in Colombia, 1899-2000. NYU Press 2005. Bundy, Beverly. The century in food: America’s fads and favorites. Collectors Press, Inc. 2002. Darwin, Charles and Francis Darwin. The Power of Movement in Plants http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5605 Den Tandt, Christopher. ‘Management and Chaos: Masculinity and the Corporate World From Naturalism to Gravity’s Rainbow’ in Pynchon Notes, ed. Luc Herman, 42-43, spring-fall 1998. Antwerp, 2008. Earl, James W. ‘Freedom and knowledge in the zone’ in Approaches to Gravity’s Rainbow, Charles Clerq. Columbus. Ohio 1983. Elias, Amy. Sublime Desire: History and Post-1960s Fiction. 2001. Friedman, Alan J. and Manfred Puetz. ‘Science as Metaphor: Thomas Pynchon and “Gravity’s Rainbow”’. Contemporary Literature, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Summer, 1974), pp. 345-359. University of Wisconsin Press. Gemünden, Gerd. The Depth of the Surface, or, What Rolf Dieter Brinkmann Learned from Andy Warhol. The German Quarterly, Vol. 68, No. 3 (Summer, 1995), pp. 235-250. Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Association of Teachers of German. Henkle, Roger B. ‘The Morning and the Evening Funnies: Comedy in Gravity’s Rainbow’ in Approaches to Gravity’s Rainbow, Charles Clerc. Columbus. Ohio 1983. Hite, Molly ‘Reading the Value System of Gravity’s Rainbow with Marcuse, Freud and the Yippies’ in Approaches to teaching Pynchon’s The crying of lot 49 and other works, Thomas H. Schaub. Modern Language Association of America 2008. ---. Ideas of Order in the Novels of Thomas Pynchon. 1983. Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago, Ill. University of Chicago Press 2003. Madsen, Deborah L. The Postmodernist Allegories of Thomas Pynchon. Leicester. Leicester University Press 1991. McHale, Brian. ‘Gravity’s Angels in America, or, Pynchon’s Angelology Revisited’ in Pynchon Notes, ed. Luc Herman, 42-43, spring-fall 1998. Antwerp 2008. Miller, Stephen Paul. “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” the Watergate Affair, and Johns’s Crosshatch Paintings: Surveillance and Reality-Testing in the Mid-Seventies. Boundary 2, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Summer, 1993), pp. 84-115 Duke University Press. Monselise, Shaul P. CRC handbook of fruit set and development. CRC Press 1986. Moore, Thomas. The Style of Connectedness: Gravity’s Rainbow and Thomas Pynchon. University of Missouri Press. Columbia 1987. Ramapriya, R. ‘Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow from an Ecosophical Perspective’ in Essays in Ecocriticism. Rayson K. Alex and Nirmal Selvamony. Sarup & Sons 2007. Schwartz, Richard B. Nice and noir: contemporary American crime fiction. University of Missouri Press 2002
Mihai Grecu Centipede Sun Production: Mathematic Studio, Arcadi Camera: Mihai Grecu Special Effects/Animation: Mihai Grecu, David Louis Music: Herman Kolgen
Visions of excess. Brittle, blueveined, glassy-eyed solitude, half human, half divine, as only fever stricken dreams can mold consciousness back into a state of cannibal delicacy, a waste land which has not been fully conquered over.
The Centipede Sun, the obsessive and lugubrious eye, the hydra-headed eye of fear, the eye that was dreamt by Bataille at the very boundaries of being, where seductiveness and horror face each other in a circular, weightless movement, doing violence to ourselves so we might live with others. Nothing is fixed, nohing is comprehensible, everything has been looked at, rubbed, caressed up to the point where air becomes electric, wires of high voltage despair, growling, guttural throbbing continents of lust slipping into the sea.
Sleep dreamlessly, sing quietly, here, in the deep cellar of the human heart, underneath, below the deepest foundations, where everything topples into dust.
Text by Saiona Stoian
Editors EMA DUMITRIU studied Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Bucharest, with a major in American Studies and a minor in French. She feels like she is never going to get over her fixation on Rimbaud and his fellow “assassins”. She’s currently anemic, which is not to say that she suffers from bad blood (and sweat and tears), yet keeps going ‘ON!ON!’ DIANA VOINEA holds a BA in translation issues and is attending an MA in French literary translations. Professional deciphereress to be, vitruvian and helplessly ensnared in murky mysteries, she is standing in the middle of the zoetrope, waiting for Godot. Obstinately trying to get feminism and deconstruction, she blabbers all day long in the language of Duchamp. Ouais! ANA ROMAN is yet a burning amateur, torn by the irrational and incoherent, violently searching and self condemned. Currently attending an MA at the Centre of Excellence in Image Studies and composing nauseating music for sad children.
ALEXANDRA MAGEARU holds a BA in American Studies and an MA in Photographic History. She works as a peer-reviewer for [Inter]sections, the American Studies scholarly journal at the University of Bucharest. She dabbles in writing and images. She is known to have had a secret fling with Oscar Wilde in her youth. She is now very much obsessed with Mrs. Woolf. She sometimes feels like The Book of Disquiet was written by her (infinitely more refined/intelligent/creative & resigned) alter ego from the past who is writing and rewriting the book while she’s reading it. Her main research interests are autobiography, poetic fiction, perception and memory. She doesn’t like caterpillars that much, but she loves cats!
LAUREN O’MAHONY teaches in the School of Media, Communication and Culture at MIHAELA PRECUP is currently co-author- Murdoch University in Western Australia. ing an “as weekly as possible” online com- Her current preoccupations include finishic with British artist Adam Hyde (www.jule- ing her doctoral dissertation on Feminism sandcrispin.com). She is also an Assistant and Romance in Contemporary Women’s Professor in the American Studies Program Popular Fiction and doing as many triathat the University of Bucharest. She’s a faky lons as her body will withstand. Her current geek, unreliable deadlinae keeper, con- distractions are a crazy tortoiseshell cat stantly poking fngers into many diversely named Issabelle, her sporadically producfavoredpies, such as memory and trauma, tive vegetable garden and creative (and not comics and family photography, gender so creative) writing. James Michener is one of her muses: “I love writing. I love the swirl and sexuality. and swing of words as they tangle with huSAIONA STOIAN holds a bachelor’s degree man emotions.” in Semiotics and is currently attending an MA in Theory and Practice of Image at CESI. Art- VLAD GIULVEZEAN is an English Literaful voyeur of the invisible, multilayered onion ture and Creative Writing student hooked of guilty delights, constant work in progress, on a healthy mix of books, comics, games willing to pay in cardboard pennies for an and movies. Having first dabbled with fichour of spiritual enlightenment and a brain tion to pass the time, pretty soon he found massage on the house. As Eliot once put himself trapped inside his own Workshop it: Te destination cannot be described. You of Random Thoughts where normal things know very little until you get there. don’t happen very often.
HEATHER LENZ is a long-time poet and amateur artist, as well as a poetry editor for First Step Press online. She was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest just outside of Seattle, WA and now resides in North Carolina. Her poems have appeared in both print and online publications such as Because We Write, The Indented Pillow, Falling Star Magazine, The Monarch Review, Calliope Nerve, Carcinogenic Poetry and others. She currently has work upcoming in Like A Fat Gold Watch (Fat Gold Watch Press), Ink, Sweat & Tears, and Dope Magazine. Along with writing and artwork, she enjoys nature (especially the rain), all kinds of music, museums and galleries, thrift stores and antiques, reading and collecting books, drinking Merlot, strong coffee, and spending time with her teenage son. She loves all kinds of literature and art and constantly surrounds herself with the beauty and intensity of both. STEVE CASTRO was born in San José, Costa Rica. Keen on exploratory research, the poet has walked on four continents: Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. His poems have appeared in Grey Sparrow Journal, ASKEW, Chiricú, Andar21 (Galiza/ Galicia, Spain), Snow Jewel - a Grey Sparrow Press publication and Divine Dirt Quarterly. Poems are forthcoming in the April, 2011 issue of Underground Voices and in Cricket Online Review, Vol. 7, Number 1. A Flash Fiction piece can be found in the March, 2011 POWER issue of This Great Society. MICHAEL ANGELO TATA is the Executive Editor of the Sydney-based electronic journal of literature, art and new media nebu[lab]. His ‘Andy Warhol: Sublime Superficiality’ arrived to critical acclaim from Intertheory Press in 2010. His essays appear most recently in the collections ‘Neurology and Modernity’ (Palgrave Macmillan) and ‘Passage to Manhattan: Critical Essays on Meena Alexander’ (Cambridge Scholars) and in the British journal ‘Parallax’ (Routledge). Forthcoming poetry and graffiti will appear in the British journal ‘Rattle’.
JOSEPH BARON PRAVDA was born in Brooklyn, NY and is a graduate of the University of Florida Colleges of Journalism, Law. Former U.S. government attorney. 10 pages from his play ‘Patsy’, involving a fated ‘reunion’ of JFK Jr. & the oldest daughter of Lee and Marina Oswald won him a highly competitive place at the Kennedy Center in 2006. Published diversity author via University of Central Florida. He is also a painter, find his works at: www.oncologyoncanvas.com DANIEL EMBREE creates paintings and original prints of dramatic figures and personal symbols. Based in the greater Boston area, he has exhibited work in the Fitchburg Museum of Art in Fitchburg, MA, the Springville Museum of Art in Springville UT, and in numerous galleries in Utah, the Midwest, and Massachusetts, including 13 Forest Gallery in Arlington, MA and the Zullo Gallery and Center for the Arts in Medfield, MA. Embree grew up outside Chicago, and spent several years in Los Angeles and Utah where he ultimately earned his BFA from Brigham Young University in 2009. In 2010 Daniel Embree spent some time at the Vermont Studio Center creating his newest body of work. He now lives with his husband in Newton, Massachusetts. MIHAI GRECU was born in Romania in 1981. After studying art & design in Romania and France, he has been pursuing his artistic research at the Fresnoy Studio of Contemporary Arts. Recurring topics such as distress, cloning, hallucination, city life and war articulate the whole of his exploration of mysterious and subconscious beginnings. These visual and poetic trips, mix several techniques and styles and may be seen as propositions for a new dream oriented technology. His work hes been shown in numerous film festivals (Locarno, Rotterdam, Festival of New Cinema in Montreal) and exhibitions (“Dans la nuit, des images” at the Grand Palais,”Labyrinth of my mind” at the Cube, “Video Short list: the Dream Machine” at the Passage du Retz, “Studio” at “Les Filles du Calvaire” Gallery, etc).
RACE CAPET is a poet, playwright, and essayist living on the West Coast. His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including “decomP”, “Taj Mahal Review”, “The Eclectic Muse”, “Burning Houses”, and others. STACY SKOLNIK is currently a senior Creative Writing major at SUNY Purchase, inching her way closer and closer to her imminent graduation. While she waits in hopes of figuring out, preferably by tomorrow, what she wants to do with the rest of her life, she just keeps writing and laughing in between bouts of anxiety.
˘ ˘ like the one with the douVERONICA BALA, ble life, from which she would have liked to learn Polish, but instead only got the French in the movie, and now lives in a half-French bilingual country, where she can actually speak their Dutch better. But still, she stubbornly follows English literature classes at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, in hope to some day do literary translations into Romanian and with some luck revive her creative Spanish by stimulating herself through the force of alterity with the exoticness of Portuguese pronunciation that she so rarely gets to practice but adores like a deliciously original intertextual finding. Kamikaze Picnic is a pioneer of the music genre he created called pulp rap. By basing his 100 albums on flash fiction, the albums form an episodic look into a dystopic island near Manhattan. His goals from album 100 down were to (1) not rap about rapping (2) not curse (3) scratch in every song. At album 94 he added the goal of (4) making episodic fiction-based music. At album 79 he added the goal of (5) avoid sampling by playing his own instruments and add assessment in the form of crossword puzzles relating to the fictional content. The setting of the albums is Junk Island, a 6th borough made of recycled garbage that has been sanitized and compacted into interlocking blocks that can be dropped into the ocean south of Manhattan and reaching into the Atlantic Ocean.
Alan Clinton received his Masters in English at the University of Georgia in 1996, studying under Hugh Kenner, Margaret Dickie, and Antony Shuttleworth, all of whom contributed to his interest in modernist literature and its political nuances. In May 2002, he received his Ph.D. in Literature at the University of Florida where he focused on the French avant-garde tradition (Mallarmé, Dadaism, Surrealism, the Situationists) and spiritualism. Most recently he guest-edited the Occult issue of 2nd Avenue Poetry. He has work forthcoming in Frank: An International Journal of Contemporary Writing and Art and has recently published work in Exquisite Corpse, Otoliths, Euphony, 3AM Magazine, The13th Warrior Review, Glossator, 88: A Journal of Contemporary American Poetry, Hunger Magazine, Pacific Review, Art: Mag, Portland Review, First Offense, Absinthe Literary Review, No Exit, 66: A Journal of Sonnet Studies, and freefall. Lee Ballentine of Ocean View Books has published his long poem Skeleton Key to the Wilderness, and his collection of poetry Horatio Alger’s Keys was published by BlazeVOX in 2008. His book Curtain Call: A Metaphorical Memoir appeared in October with Escape Media / Open Books. GEORGIANA MARCU has always had a fascination with travel and nature. While she has always been a painter, she lately has chosen analog photography as a medium to express her ideas. However, Georgiana is not limited to only analog as she is currently a professional photographer in her chosen career. She captures the light and the candid moment of various subjects - from couples in love and Caribbean sunsets to people and their pets. Georgiana collects cameras like she collects brushes and each one of them has a specific task and is used for a specific purpose. No camera viewfinder is the same, and no camera ever shares a similar task. Covers: Daniel Embree Layout & Design: Laurentiu Cotac
call for submissions We are currently accepting submissions for our Summer issue which will be published on our website in August 2011. The deadline for these submissions is JULY 25, 2011. Our third issue will not be themed, so we are open to many types of submissions. However, we are looking for specific types of texts and images for each section as detailed below. IMAGE & TEXT For the next issue, we have selected a screenshot from Mihai Grecu’s experimental film, Centipede Sun, as a starting point for texts of fiction or poetry. We accept submissions of poetry or short poetic fiction (~500 words) based on the image below. The Caterpillar Chronicles welcomes poetry and short fiction of all types. In general, we commend the experimental and eschew the inane. Novice and seasoned writers are welcome here; it is the quality and strength of the work that ultimately determines its inclusion in our journal.
THE ART OF LYING We’d love to publish your fictional auto/biographies in this section. We’re interested in textual or visual auto/biographies that are preoccupied with proving their own historical accuracy, while being, in fact, fully manufactured realities. IMAGINARY LETTERS We’re interested in the art of letter-writing and we would love to read your letters (1500-2000 words) addressed to real or imaginary people, dead presidents, historical figures, fictional characters, inanimate objects, etc. Be as imaginative as possible and do attach photographs to your letters if you feel it adequate. CRITICISM We are looking for critical theory texts that approach matters related to literature or the visual arts from an interdisciplinary perspective. Be inventive, divagate, suggest brand new topics and quote your sources properly. We accept submissions written in the MLA style (double-spaced; no footnotes, we prefer endnotes; properly formatted bibliography). VIDEOS If you want to share your videos or short films with us, do send us a YouTube or Vimeo link to your work and an artist statement or a description of your submission (~500 words). The videos will be published on our website. REVIEWS We accept short reviews (~500 words) of books, films, music albums, plays, exhibitions, etc. PHOTO-ESSAYS We are looking for submissions of images from artists who are able to put their photographs in a fictional context. A photo-essay should normally consist of a photographic narrative accompanied by a spontaneous text inspired by the images.
THE FIRST LINE We accept short stories (1500-2000 words) that begin with the following first line and continue in an appropriate tone and style. The quote selected for the next issue is: Everyone carries a room about inside him. This fact can even be proved by means of the sense of hearing. (Franz Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks)
FEATURED ARTIST We are happy to publish artists’ portfolios on any topics. Please include an artist’s statement (~500 words) and a short biography (~200 words) along with the images.
Please submit your texts, images or videos to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org For any comments, suggestions and inquiries, you can find us at: email@example.com Also make sure to visit our website: www.thecaterpillarchronicles.com
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