Chapter 11

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

307/337 - rhythms pulse regular and sinusoidal
A sinusoidal waves's path, when plotted to a time base, is a sine wave (particles execute transverse vibrations of a simple harmonic type); Wikipedia

318/351 - 8th of June

This date is incorrect. The bombing of Malta began on June 11, 1940. History of Malta

316/348 - Valletta of the Knights
Jean Parisot de la Valette (1494-1568), a member of the Knights of St. John, was the leadeader of the resistance against the Ottomans during the Siege of Malta in 1565, and later grand master of the Knights Hospitaller

318/351 - June Disturbances
Two days of riots in Valletta, from June 7 to 8 of 1919, which British troops were called in to suppress, resulting in the deaths of several Maltese civilians.

321/354 - elephants
There are no elephants on Malta, though there are fossilized remains of dwarf elephants at Ghar Dalam, near Birzebbuga. These remains prove that during the Pleistocene period the island was still connected to Sicily but cut off from North Africa. Apparently the animals got "trapped" on the island as they retreated towards warmer regions.

322/355 - v.
After a discussion of the human zygote as matter without soul, shaped by the same mechanical forces that "dictate a bomb's trajectory, the death of stars, the wind and the water spout" we move to Fausto's "understanding" with God which comes down to, simply, "human law v. divine." In context "human law" seems to be a function of, among others, poets in creating metaphors and mothers in perpetrating a fictional mystery about motherhood -- see the "Great Lie" below (p.360). By contrast, the "divine" may simply be the laws of mechanical motion.

The "v." between human law and the divine -- the crux/cross of being animate in an inanimate world is yet another interpretation of the title.

324/358 - the first bomb of 8 June 1940
This date is incorrect. See above...

326/361: - catenary
A catenary is the curve formed by suspending an ideal chain. The catenary resembles a parabola, the recurring curve of Gravity's Rainbow. Unlike the parabola, the catenary is a transcendental curve, meaning a curve with a non-algebraic function.

The locus of an equation is the curve that plots the equation, so the "locus of the transcendental" is the graph of the catenary, whose shape is the "smile" in the poem. The final line of the poem is the catenary equation itself — appropriately enough for a poem by an engineer-poet.

327/361-2 The sun had almost achieved reality.
This line strikes to the core of the animate v. inanimate discussion. Of course the sun is inanimate, though very energetic! -- so in order to almost achieve reality implies the perception of the poet bringing the sun to a subjective-animate reality. "Shades" of Wallace Stevens, Proust, William Blake, here.

For example William Blake in 'A Vision of the Last Judgment' writes:

I assert for My Self that I do not behold the outward Creation & that to me it is a hindrance & not Action; it is as the Dirt upon my feet, No part of Me. "What," it will be Questiond, "When the Sun rises do you not see a round disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea?" O no, no, I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty." I question not my Corporeal or Vegetative Eye any more than I would Question a Window concerning a Sight: I look thro it & not with it.
328/363 - a/a


331/366 - history is a step-function

A "step function" is a single real variable that remains constant within each of a series of adjacent intervals, but changes in value from one interval to the next. Wikipedia The graph of a step function looks like a series of small steps.[1]

335/371 acid-green
"Acid-green" is a Pynchon favorite. Appears also in Gravity's Rainbow and Vineland.

338/375 - unconscious identification of ones own mother with the Virgin...

From Pynchon's short story Entropy:

Henry Adams, three generations before his own, had stared aghast at Power; Callisto found himself now in much the same state over Thermodynamics, the inner life of that power, realizing like his predecessor that the Virgin and the dynamo stand as much for love as for power; that the two are indeed identical; and that love therefore not only makes the world go round but also makes the boccie ball spin, the nebula precess. [1]


  1. Pynchon, Thomas, Slow Learner, Jonathan Cape, 1985, pp.84-85

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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