Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pynchon's Vineland as Political Novel

Vineland may be a great political novel, but it’s also about a statewide madness, and about cops: Brock Vonds and Karl Bopp (some read Bopp as a premonition of Ahh-nuld); it’s about malls swarming with Thanatoids (are they mad, or ghosts, or zombies? their ontological status so to speak seems to fluctuate) and burnt-outs who never questioned that someday California, or at least Marin north, would blossom into an outsider’s ecotopia with a Department of Cannabis and maybe Bobby Weir as The Guv.

As with Crying of Lot 49 (or Gravity's Rainbow, though I have yet to finish my ascent to the peak of that massive chaotic heap) there is plenty of cartoony phunn, but no shortage of melancholy, of the stories of the “preterite,” and of betrayal (Frenesi might be said to embody a certain sort of female californian Betrayer, i.e., Rat as the Reds used to call 'em). I think many current PC leftists (including those who haunt various UC campuses) generally fall in the ‘Toid category, more often than not as do the great majority of Cali suburbanites: the Net and blogopolis itself becoming some sort of gloomy Orwellian zone where simple jokes or insults cause some so-called liberals to start calling the FBI.

The Internet of course does provide lots of possibilities for a Snitch, of either Fed or state or corporate type (Malware itself sort of a type of snitching). A good Snitch respects no party lines, and indeed reading YOU ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO PERFORM THIS FUNCTION in your face enough times and you might begin to wonder if the Feds are administrating the servers of the world. Pynchon, the cyber-Wobblie, has a decent Orwellian fear of the state and the Law, wielded either by neo-con paraquat sprayers or by state- funded Dr. Deeplys. And I think Sir Pynchon was sort of correct (also basing this on other non-fiction stuff of his--intro to 1984, the “Luddite” essay) in that all the dreamed-of freedoms of the Net and computing have generated a great deal of fear and paranoia and if anything provided more opportunities for J.Edgarism. TP certainly was also aware of the possibility for a Reagan-like rightwing populism developing into a virus at any time; in some sense the CA recall was a Pynchonian tragi-comedic affair.

There are worse contemporary writers one might serve up to the current crop of academic Thanatoids and Oedipa Maas replicants strolling about the quads of Cali in hiphuggies with I-Pods stuffed in their brain and their $3000 laptops in their pack.
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