A six-pack of Dos Equis

Vineland hasn’t gotten much of a run around here, I think because I can barely remember what happens in it. Something to do with Reagan? And ninjas? Clearly a reread is in order sometime soon. I do remember Pynchon’s sympathies for Family as a potential seat of grace and humanity and a bulwark against Their…

Torpedo Juice

During WWII, US Navy torpedos were fuelled on 180 proof grain alcohol. So were the sailors.  The torpedos had an easier time stomaching the stuff. Alcohol was (and is) more-or-less banned on Navy ships, and the higher-ups employed dastardly stratagems to keep the high-proof fuel out of the sailors’ bloodstreams. Early on, They spiked the…

Montrachet

Early on in Gravity’s Rainbow, while we’re still huddled behind London blackout curtains with relatively recognisable characters and fairly coherent plots, Jessica sits up while Roger sleeps, “filling with a need to cry” because she cannot protect him as she wants to. She remembers asking him what things were like before the war. Page 59:…

Green Beer

Early in Against the Day, the young Franz Ferdinand is hanging out in Chicago for the World’s Fair. Greenhorn private security agent Lew Basnight is tasked with protecting the Archduke, whose mostly interested in hunting down “ladies of flagrant repute.” One night, F.F. gives his handlers the slip. Lew goes looking for him. Page 47:…

Soju Wallbanger

It’s time for that old favourite game again: drinking things Guardian commenters say you shouldn’t. Last time it was vodka with milk, vegetable soup, and watermelon juice. Today it’s the Soju Wallbanger, about which one “sprockethawk” holds some strong opinions: I am sorry to report that my evening has thus far involved no solar sparkle…

Brandy Alexander

Just post-Slothrop’s troubling moment with the really-too-young Bianca (discussed with great thoughtfulness and insight on the latest Pynchon in Public podcast), our dubious hero finds himself weaving through “newly-risen roisterers” below decks on the Anubis. Page 480: There is hardly a thing now in Slothrop’s head but getting to Bianca. At the end of the passageway, across a score of…

Aged Bourbon

Tommy Boy turns eighty today, and while I won’t say that counts as officially old, it is a pretty creditable age. No doubt he’s got another book coming together, as vivid and profound as anything before… On the occasion of our Chief Chum of Chance’s 80th, I’m toasting Pynchon in Public Day with an 18 year old bourbon….

Cheap Claret

Claret first enters the etymological record as a British nickname for Bordeaux red in 1700, not too long before Mason & Dixon gets started. The slang would then have been sixty-some years in use when first appears in M&D on page 192, with Mason in an English pub called the George distracting himself from the death of former Astronomer Royal Bradley with…

Italian Beer

On page 724 of Against the Day, we find sinister (likely orange-faced tiny-handed) plutocrat Scarsdale Vibe touring northern Italy with his faithful manservant Foley Walker hunting bargains in Renaissance art. The hunt involves regular humiliation for Foley, not a day going by that he doesn’t “find himself carrying out some chore better left to a performing monkey.” Page…

Mavrodaphne

One spring late in Against the Day, Auberon Halfcourt and Umeki Tsurigane find Yashmeen, Reef, and baby Ljubica on the Greek island of Corfu. They dine “in a taverna down by the harbour in Garitsa.” Page 975: They sat at a long table and ate tsingarelli and polenta and yaprakia and a chicken stoufado with…

Brandy and Soda

The brandy and soda is a drink that seems to exist today primarily as a P. G. Wodehouse reference. It’s a basic combination that nevertheless occurs to no-one but those imitating Bertie Wooster. Surveying the internet, it appears that mention of the ‘B and S’ without reference to Jeeves and Wooster has been strictly outlawed. They do seem…

Coconut Ale

In Chapter Three of Mason & Dixon, the Reverend Cherrycoke narrates the first excursion of our title characters in London. As Mason (“coming the Old London Hand”) inducts Dixon into the cheerful violence and mystery of the city, they encounter a group of sailors in charge of the vessel the pair are to sail on. Under the enthusiastic captaincy of…