Chapter 1

Please keep these annotations SPOILER-FREE by not revealing information from later pages in the novel.
492-page edition / 547-page edition

9/1 - Benny Profane
Benny: Benny is slang for benzedrine, a trademarked amphetamine often prescribed for anxiety. [1]. Also, bene [Latin] = "well-intentioned", observes Molly Hite.

Profane: Since 1912, as defined in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life by the sociologist Emile Durkheim, 'profane' has had the social meaning of 'everything that is not sacred'. [2]
"The division of the world into two domains, one containing all that is sacred and the other all that is profane—such is the distinctive trait of religious thought."--Durkheim (p. 34). [3]
Latin root: pro "in front of/before"; fanum "temple", i.e. not within the inner sanctum. Benny is "profane" compared to the almost mystical world of historical fiction Stencil (see below) moves through.

9/1 - Christmas Eve 1955
The first time that the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) received a call concerning Santa's whereabouts. [4]
Pynchon worked on aspects of NORAD [later acronym] when he was at Boeing.

9/1 - Norfolk, Virginia
Port city.wikipedia The city has a long history as a strategic military and transportation point. Norfolk is home to the Norfolk Naval Base, the world's largest naval base. Urban renewal, starting in the 1970s included the demolition of many prominent city buildings, and large swaths of urban fabric including the East Main Street district (where the current civic complex is located), and where Benny starts yo-yoing.

9/1 - his old tin can's
His particular naval ship. The informal usage of "tin can" refers to a naval destroyer, notorious for relatively light armor.

9/1 - Sterno can
Sterno Canned Heat is a fuel made from denatured and jellied alcohol. It is designed to be burned directly from its can.wikipedia

1954 Packard Patrician
9/1 - 54 Packard Patrician

The Packard Patrician was an automobile built by the Studebaker-Packard Corporation of Detroit, Michigan, from model years 1951 through the 1956 model. There was even an eight-passenger model.1958 was the last year of Packard production. The Packard had a high reputation for quality, for value that would last and Packards are highly-prized by collectors today.

10/2 - seaman deuce
A seaman apprentice [seaman second class].

10/2 - like a yo-yo...maybe a year and a half
"One year of those times [Fifties] was much like another...there was a lot of aimlessness going around". Introduction to Slow Learner, p.14, by Thomas Pynchon.

10/2 - Drunken Sailors...Do With
Lyrics to a sea shanty: "What shall we DO WITH a DRUNKEN SAILOR?"

Here, actually beginning on the first page, appears Pynchon's lifelong stylistic use of capitalization--for a certain kind of emphasis?, for a kind of reification?, and for much, much more certainly. It also has to do with Pynchon's preoccupation with Germanic history--in German, all nouns are capitalized. See Pynchon's 1997 novel, Mason & Dixon for the most extensive use of capitalization.

10/2 - one potential berserk...the glass breaks?
Cf. Zoyd Wheeler's annual "act of televised insanity" in Pynchon's 1990 novel, Vineland

10/2 - SP
Shore Patrol, the naval 'police'.

10/2 - Hey Rube
Carnies'--circus folk--call to come together when in a dispute with townspeople. Reviewer, writer, Michael Moorcock, who published an early Pynchon story when he was a young magazine editor, has pointed to circuses as motifs in Pynchon, calling Against the Day, a massive "circus" novel.

10/2 - V
This is the first appearance of the letter that is the title. It describes ugly green mercury-vapor lamps. Not positive associations--to say the least-- in Pynchon's world. See Against the Day, passim, especially in the Telluride sections. The V of the lamps recedes to the east, usually a positive association in Pynchon, especially in intellectual connotations.

10/2 - doggo
in hiding — used chiefly in the phrase to lie doggo

11/3 - Beatrice
Probable allusion — see 'all barmaids' coming up — to Beatrice, [Beatrice Poltinari] guide through 'Paradise' of Dante's The Divine Comedy, whom Dante loves.

11/3 - DesDiv 22
Destroyer Division 22. Possible allusion to Catch 22 ?, another now-classic comic, famously anti-war, novel, published in 1961, but sections were published even earlier in magazines.

11/3 - single up all lines

"Single up all lines" is a common nautical term. Ships are docked with lines doubled -- that is, with two sets of ropes or chains holding the vessel to the dock. To "single up all lines" is to remove the redundant second lines in preparation to make way. This phrase, used as either a nautical term or metaphorically appears in The Crying of Lot 49, p.31; Gravity's Rainbow, p.489; Mason & Dixon, pp.258 and 260; Against the Day, p.3; and Inherent Vice, p. 119.

11/3 - N.O.B.
Naval Operations Base.
On 17 September, 1943, an accident occurred which bears a lot of resemblance to the potential accidents Pynchon describes in "Togetherness," written while at Boeing: "A NAS [Naval Station] ordnance department truck was pulling four trailers loaded with depth charges on the taxiway between NAS and the NOB piers. Each trailer was designed to carry four aerial depth charges. To save time, two additional charges were loaded on top of each trailer. Compounding the problem, the charges on top were not properly chained down. One of the charges slipped loose and became wedged between the trailer and the ground. The friction of being dragged against the road caused the charge to begin smoking." Wikipedia

11/3 - Ploy
'ploi'..Function: noun
Etymology: probably from employ..Date: 1722
2 a : a tactic intended to embarrass or frustrate an opponent b : a devised or contrived move : STRATAGEM (a ploy to get her to open the door -- Robert B. Parker)

11/3 - Pentothal injection
Known as truth serum. Wikipedia

12/4 Negro
Negro is a racial term applied to people of Sub Saharan African origin; The word is now largely seen as archaic, usually neutral and, depending on the user, occasionally offensive. However, prior to the shift in the "lexicon" of American and worldwide classification of race and ethnicity in the late 1960s, the appellation was accepted as a normal formal term both by those of African descent as well as non-blacks. Negro means black in Spanish and Portuguese, and the Italian nero is similar (Latin: niger = "black").Wikipedia
V. is early sixties, before the word shift in the late sixties.

12/4 Dahoud
"Dahoud" is the Arabic name for David. Name of an inquisitive youth who tended to the camels in El-Jaziri. [?]

12/4 "life is the most precious possession you have?"..."without it, you'd be dead."
The 'meaning' of life reduced to this? Somehow seems akin to Profane's yo-yoing, or later randomness. Satire of existentialism?

12/4 Lights Out
lights out at 2200 (10:00 PM)---Navy Boot Camp.

12/4 snipes A snipe is naval slang for a member of the engineering crew on a ship. Historically, there was always tension between snipes and the deck crew.

12/4 - DesLant
Destroyer Force, North Atlantic Fleet.

13/5 Mrs. Buffo...also named Beatrice
A basso buffo, a comic bass, a staple of nearly every classic Italian comic opera.

13/5 dragon-embroidered kimono
The Kimono (着物, Kimono? literally "something worn", i.e., "clothes") is the national costume of Japan. Originally kimono indicated all types of clothing, but it has come to mean specifically the full-length traditional garment worn by women, men, and children. Kimonos are T-shaped, straight-lined robes that fall to the ankle, with collars and full-length sleeves. The sleeves are commonly very wide at the wrist, as much as a half meter. Traditionally, on special occasions unmarried women wear kimonos (furisode) with extremely long sleeves that extend almost to the floor. Wikipedia
Kimonos were originally worn only by the nobility.

After World War II, as Japan's economy gradually recovered, kimono became even more affordable and were produced in greater quantities. Europe and America fashion ideas affected the kimono designs and motifs. japanesekimono

13/5 Seventh Fleet
The United States 7th Fleet is a naval military formation based in Yokosuka, Japan, with units positioned near South Korea and Japan.

13/5 Dewey Gland
Spelled "Dewy", it means moist, wet--from dew. "Dewy-eyed" means innocent, naive.-M-W Dictionary. Musicians, often guitar and ukelele players, are positive characters in Pynchon's oeuvre. Since music is a great joy in Pynchon's world, musicians seem often to be his archetypal artist figures. See, as context, the myth of Orpheus,"the music of [whose] lyre was so beautiful that when he played, wild beasts were soothed, trees danced, and rivers stood still."

14/6 goat hole
The goat is the naval mascot.
Goat Locker - Chiefs' Quarters and Mess. The term originated during the era of wooden ships, when Chiefs were given charge of the milk goats on board. Nowadays more a term of respect for the age of its denizens.

14/6 wardroom
wardroom n : military quarters for dining and recreation for officers of a warship.

14/6 X.O.
Executive Officer.

14/6 Pappy Hod
pap·py2 (păp'ē) n. Informal., pl. -pies.--- Father
Of or resembling pap; mushy.

hod n. A trough carried over the shoulder for transporting loads, as of bricks or mortar. A coal scuttle.

14/6 boatswain
n : a petty officer on a merchant ship who controls the work of other seamen ... More commonly written [and pronounced as] "bosun".

14/6 riggish
wanton: said of Cleopatra whom the holy priests praise when she is riggish' (i.e. wanton) ... Anthony & Cleopatra, Shakespeare.

14/6 Pig Bodine
Notice immaturity and other relevant meanings to simple 'pig' 1 a : a young domesticated swine not yet sexually mature; broadly : a wild or domestic swine. 3 : a dirty, gluttonous, or repulsive person.--Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Pigs in Gravity's Rainbow [5]

See terrific Bodine entry at AtD wiki: Bodine

15/8 jarhead(s)
Marine Corps slang for a Marine, perhaps for the shape of the hat/helmet they wore. The term was well-established by the fifties.

17/10 "Where we going," Profane said. "The way we're heading," said Pig.
Notice the tie-in with yo-yoing, immediacy and goallessness. Also notice that Profane's question is presented as a statement and Pig's answer is all part of the same paragraph. (Unlike almost all dialogue in novels.)

17/10 WAVE lieutenants
WAVES, or "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service". In the decades since the last of the Yeomen left active duty, only a relatively small corps of Navy Nurses represented their gender in the Naval service, and they had never had formal officer status. Now, the Navy was preparing to accept not just a large number of enlisted women, as it had done during World War I, but female Commissioned Officers to supervise them. It was a development of lasting significance, notwithstanding the WAVES' name, which indicated that they would only be around during the wartime "Emergency". Department of the Navy historical bulletin.

17/10 Morris Teflon
Teflon, patented in 1941 and trademarked in 1944 by the Dupont company == Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a synthetic fluoropolymer which finds numerous applications. PTFE has an extremely low coefficient of friction and is used as a non-stick coating for pans and other cookware. It is very non-reactive, and so is often used in containers and pipework for reactive and corrosive chemicals. Where used as a lubricant, PTFE significantly reduces friction, wear and energy consumption of machinery.

17/10 switchman
switchman - a man who operates railroad switches. Pynchon does not like railroads. See Against the Day.

18/11 wire-brushed
naval slang for a merciless chewing out.

18/11 - She taught them all a song. Learned from a para on French leave from the fighting in Algeria
The song the paratrooper taught Paola is a French anti-war song, "Le Déserteur" ("The Deserter"), recorded in 1954 by Boris Vian and written by Vian and Harold Berg:

Early tomorrow morning
I will shut my door
on these dead years
I will take to the road.
I will beg my way along
on the land and on the waves
the old and the new world ...

Have a listen & look; Lyrics (with a variation)

18/11 Piraeus
Piraeus is a city in the periphery of Attica, Greece, located to the south of the city of Athens. It is the capital of the Piraeus Prefecture and belongs to the Athens urban area. It was the port of the ancient city of Athens and it was chosen to serve as the modern port when Athens was re-founded in 1834. Piraeus is the largest port in Europe (and third largest in the world) in terms of passenger transportation. Wikikpedia

19/12 F.L.N.
The National Liberation Front (French: Front de Libération nationale, hence FLN) is a socialist political party in Algeria. It was set up on November 1, 1954 as a merger of other smaller groups, to obtain independence for Algeria from France. Wikipedia

19/12 WAVY
WAVY is the NBC affiliate serving the Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Virginia market.

19/12 Pat Boone
A very popular 'smooth' singer of the 50s, famous for doing covers of African-American hit songs. Wikipedia

19/12 "No", she said. "Meaning Yes"
Foreshadowing of the chapter "In which Esther Gets a Nose Job."

19/12 Click, went Teflon's Leica
Reminds of Pynchon's legendary aversion to being photographed. Although, as the narrator notes, "Outraged privacy was not so important; but the interruption had come just before the Big Moment."

20/13 Navy greatcoat
Beautiful pictures from all sides here: Navy greatcoat

20/13 topside
the top portion of the outer surface of a ship on each side above the waterline

20/13 Madonna, he thought
aka Mother Mary, aka the Virgin Mary, used blasphemously.

20/13 roads
A sheltered body of water where vessels can safely anchor. Often an estuary on the approaches to a port.

20/13 - inanimate

52 uses of the word inanimate in V.; 13 of animate. Thematic: Life vs. Non-Life/Death.

21/14 turn a corner in the street...where nothing else lived but himself
As Benny did "rounding the corner' onto East Main [p.2]. Cf. animate/inanimate above.

21/14 mental eye
Consciousness, of course; also a perceptual theory. A-and here is a use by Charles Dickens: "gilding with refulgent light our dreamy moments, and laying open a new and magic world before the mental eye, the drama is gone, perfectly gone,' said Mr Curdle." from The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby.

Further reading again indicates that "mental eye" is an older use which has faded, being largely replaced by 'mind's eye".

Cf. Third eye:The third eye (also known as the inner eye) is a metaphysical and esoteric concept referring in part to the ajna (brow) chakra in certain Eastern and Western spiritual traditions. It is also spoken of as the gate that leads within to inner realms and spaces of higher consciousness. Third eye Cf. third eye in Against the Day, p. 125

21/14 Susanna Squaducci, an Italian luxury liner
Ex-Scaffold sailors hold their 'reunion' here. See Pynchon's later 'linking' of a military ship and a luxury liner, the Stupendica, in Against the Day

Susanna: name of a young woman who is the subject of a famous Biblical story

in the Book of Daniel. Known as 'Susanna and/among the Elders', Susanna is viewed bathing by a group of elders and they attempt to blackmail her into performing sexual favors. There have been paintings and a poem by Wallace Stevens. Wikipedia

Squaducci: need an expert in Italian slang perhaps, but a related word seems to be: sgualdrina f. (pejorative) trollop, strumpet, harlot, tart. Squa(l)might add the negative meaning to whatever 'ducci' [pl. of duchess?] means, since 'drina' can be a girl's name and, in fact, was what young Queen Victoria was called. See Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey.

Somehow the meanings seem to fit Pynchonian themes: from the sound, to the Biblical sexual allusion (of saved purity) reduced to lack of such purity.

21/14 dancing the dirty boogie
a voluptuous dance (with varying lyrics) originating within the African-American tradition. "The “Dirty Boogie,” which was made famous by another film, “Dirty Dancing.” As you may recall, this film takes place in the 1960’s in a small Catskill resort where a dance instructor taught a young seventeen year-old varius types of sexy dance moves: one being the “Dirty Boogie.” Of course there was a scene in the movie showing all the teenagers and young adults doing the “Dirty Boogie.” Many of the dance moves in the “Dirty Boogie,” resembled movements featured in the movie, “Lambada.” These movements were acting out sexual pleasure on the dance floor. The Rolling Stones do a "Dirty Boogie" on their Black & Blue album.

21/15 clown's motley
Motley refers to the traditional costume of the Court jester or the Harlequin character in Commedia dell'arte.[6]

22/15 Rachel Owlglass
"Rachel" means "ewe" in Hebrew; the name of Jacob's wife, who, after long infertility, gave birth to Joseph. "Owlglass" is the Anglicization of "Eulenspiegel"; Till Eulenspiegel was a trickster/fool in German folklore and protagonist of "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks", a tone poem by Richard Wagner. "Eule"="owl", "Spiegel"="mirror".

22/15 the Catskills
Catskill Mountains, an area northwest of New York City, famous as a vacation resort area. Wikipedia.

22/15 shakedown cruise
Shakedown cruise is a nautical term in which the performance of a ship is tested. Shakedown cruises are also used to familiarize the ship's crew with operation of the craft. The term can also refer in a generic sense to the process of testing out any new technology or systems.

22/15 gee and haw
To haw and gee — To haw and gee about, to go from one thing to another without good reason; to have no settled purpose; to be irresolute or unstable. [Colloq.] Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, 1913.

The phrase derives from "Hey and Go" - turn right and turn left, and was originally used in leading oxen and cattle by teamsters.[7]

22/15 - Schlozhauer's Trocadero

The word trocadero, which in Spanish means "place of barter" (from trocar: "to barter"), goes back to a fortified site near Cadiz, Spain, that was the stronghold of the Constititutionalists in the revolution of 1820 and that fell to the French in 1823. During the International Exhibition of 1878 an ornate palace was built to commemorate the French victory. "Trocadero" became a popular name for public places in Europe, one being the Trocadero Palace of Varieties in London, known as "The Troc," which opened as a music hall in 1882 on the corner of Shaftsbury Avenue and Windmill Street.

22/15 Liberty
Liberty, New York: Google Map

22/15 fight Arabs in Israel
Of the 950,000 estimated Arabs in Israel before Israel became a state in 1948, an estimated 156,000 remained after. Wikipedia

23/16 Parris Island
Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island is an 8,095 acre (32.9 km²) military installation near Beaufort, South Carolina, tasked with the training of enlisted Marines. Male recruits living east of the Mississippi River and female recruits from all over the USA report here to receive their initial training. Wikipedia

23/16 Haganah
The Haganah (Hebrew: "The Defense") was a Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948. Wikipedia

23/16 mezuzah
A mezuzah (Hebrew: "doorpost") is a piece of parchment (usually contained in a decorative case) inscribed with specified Hebrew verses from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21). These verses comprise the Jewish prayer "Shema Yisrael," and begin with the phrase "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One." Wikipedia

23/16 iceberg lettuce
The Iceberg lettuce industry exploded during WWII as salads were seen as a real morale booster. After the war, its popularity continued as soldiers came home wanting the same assortment of fresh produce procured by the military. [8] California producers of iceberg lettuce were the targets of protests by Cesar Chavez's National Farm Workers Association, beginning in the very early sixties.

23/16 watercress
The capital growing city of this leaf vegetable was Huntsville, Alabama until:

"The city's transformation began with the arrival of Wernher von Braun, Hitler's chief missile designer, whose V-2 rocket terrorized London and other British cities. An SS major who headed rocket research at the Peenemunde complex, where slave laborers were starved, beaten, and worked to death, von Braun could have ended up in the docket at Nuremberg like other leading Nazis. But at war's end, the Pentagon was anxious to plumb German scientific know-how in order to improve America's weaponry. Under the top-secret Operation Paperclip, the Army smuggled von Braun and his team of 118 Peenemunde scientists out of Germany and brought them to the United States. After first going to a military base near El Paso, they were taken to Huntsville in 1950 and put to work at Redstone Arsenal." [9]

23/16 Belgian Endive
A leaf vegetable grown completely underground or indoors in the absence of sunlight, a process that prevents the leaves from turning green and opening up .

23/16 Abdul Sayid
Abdul (also transliterated Abdel, `Abd al-, and other ways) means "servant of the", and is the first part of many Arabic names. It is combined with one of the 99 Names of God in the Qur'an to form a two-word Arabic theophoric name. [10] Sayid or Sayyid is an honorific title given to males who are thereby said to be descendants of the prophet Muhammed, founder of Islam.

24/17 pedestrian girls
notice double meaning.

The 1913 edition of Webster's Dictionary seems to be, from this and other citations, one of Pynchon's major linguistic resources or, at least, gives some of the most resonant meanings from a Pynchon Perspective.

24/7 - drained-nervous
With the hyphen, this shows another older archaic usage. Cf. Snow-shroud and the loss of hyphens between words above.

27/21 - a pimpled bravo

A "bravo" is a villain, desperado; esp. a hired assassin

32/26 - Dewey, now astride a lifeline on the bridge, gave a bass string intro and began to sing Blue Suede Shoes, after Elvis Presley.
A slight anachronism. We know the date is 1st January 1956. Carl Perkins wrote "Blues Suede Shoes" in on 4/5 December 1955, and released the record on 1st January 1956. Elvis recorded it on 30th January 1956 and first played it on television on the 11th February. It was the first track on his first album, released March. So Dewey couldn’t have played "Blue Suede Shoes" after Elvis Presley.

An anachronism, but "after" here means "in the manner of".

37/32 - horniness
a state of sexual excitement. Pynchon is the first citation in the Oxford English Dictionary for use of this word in print, in V..

39/34 - screw where his navel should have been...
The navel is where the umbilical cord attaches. When the boy unscrews it, his body falls apart. This is a repeated reference that bodily traits are passed on through genetics and the umbilical cord attaches you to a parent. If you try to undo it, you will undo yourself.

41/37 - Luis Aparicio
Venezuelan major-league baseball player; American League Rookie of the year in 1956, playing for the Chicago White Sox.

42/38 - Geronimo broke off the song to say “Coño” and wobble his fingers.
"Coño" is Spanish for "cunt"

43/39 - now [the alligators] moved big, blind albino, all over the sewer system...
The urban legend of alligators living in the sewers of New York was given the some credence when, in the 1950s, Edward P. "Teddy" May, the superintendent of sewers in New York City, went down into the sewers to investigate and told a journalist that he'd seen "Alligators serenely paddling around in his sewers. The beam of his own flashlight had spotlighted alligators whose length, on the average, was about two feet. Some may have been longer." (The World Beneath The City, Robert Daley, 1959). However, Mr. May's credibility has been questioned and, in truth, the sewers are an environment inhospitable to alligators or caimons, and reports of their subterranean existence have been greatly exaggerated. New York Times article about this...

However, a Nile crocodile was captured in the sewers of Paris, albeit in 1984, after the book was published. See for example this article or this one.
43/39 -Zeitsuss

'Zeit' [German] = Time. "suss" = Sweet. Mr. Zeitsuss is head of the Alligator Patrol.

Chapter 1
In which Benny Profane, a schlemihl and human yo-yo, gets to an apocheir
Chapter 2
The Whole Sick Crew
Chapter 3
In which Stencil, a quick-change artist, does eight impersonations
Chapter 4
In which Esther gets a nose job
Chapter 5
In which Stencil nearly goes West with an alligator
Chapter 6
In which Profane returns to street level
Chapter 7
She hangs on the western wall
Chapter 8
In which Rachel gets her yo-yo back, Roony sings a song, and Stencil calls on Bloody Chiclitz
Chapter 9
Mondaugen's story
Chapter 10
In which various sets of young people get together
Chapter 11
Confessions of Fausto Maijstral
Chapter 12
In which things are not so amusing
Chapter 13
In which the yo-yo string is revealed as a state of mind
Chapter 14
V. in love
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Epilogue, 1919
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