Friday, January 21, 2005

By the light of Gravity's Rainbow

A month ago I couldn't help quoting a passage from Moby Dick with eerie relevance to today. This morning I read this from another big encyclopedic American novel.
... Don't forget the real business of the War is buying and selling. The murdering and the violence are self-policing, and can be entrusted to non-professionals. The mass nature of wartime death is useful in many ways. It serves as spectacle, as diversion from the real movements of the War. It provides raw material to be recorded into History, so that children may be taught History as sequences of violence, battle after battle, and be more prepared for the adult world. Best of all, mass death's a stimulus to just ordinary folks, little fellows, to try 'n' grab a piece of that Pie while they're still here to gobble it up. The true war is a celebration of markets. ... [note the interesting capitalization]
--Gravity's Rainbow
(p.122 in the 1973 Bantam mass market paperback)
Thomas Pynchon didn't know about Dick Cheney & Halliburton in 1973, but he certainly catches the current tone of war as business, and war as business that can only be understood by the ex-CEOs of Halliburton & sons of privilege. The rest of us are mere pawns in their games. But I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that the preceding passage represents the dominant tone of the novel. It's as lyrical as any novel written in some passages, dense in others, and stylistically (though never intellectually or morally) silly in places like this when it lapses into song or verse:
There once was a thing called a V-2,
To pilot which you did not need to---
You just pushed a button,
And it would leave nuttin'
But stiffs and big holes and debris, too.
--Gravity's Rainbow
(p.355 in the 1973 Bantam mass market paperback)
Which is the perfect description of George the First's bloodless Gulf War I with its made-for-CNN Smart Bombs® and Patriot Missiles®.

--True Blue Liberal

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