Seeing as our friend Tyrone Slothrop’s Pilsner Urquell was such a good idea, we’d better see what else he can recommend us. Or actually–he gets through some classy girlfriends, some of them must have pretty good taste. Let’s try Katje. Mysterious Katje. Near the start of the second part of Gravity’s Rainbow (“Un Perm’ au Casino Hermann Goering”), after a convenient seaside octopus fight, Slothrop winds up (as They intended) in her hotel room (“Welcome Mister Slothrop Welcome To Our Structure We Hope You Will Enjoy Your Visit Here”). Enter the brandy: “…inside, a single scented candle burns, and the suite is washed in moonlight. She pours brandy in old flint snifters, and as he reaches, their fingers touch.” Wonder where that’s leading…
I unfortunately have no old flint snifters, or actually any snifters at all. Gotta invest in some Pynchonian stemware one of these days. So my brandy’s in a big old wine glass. The brandy itself, I suspect, may also fall short of the quality of Katje’s product. She does, after all, have Their backing. Mine was the cheapest in the shop.
But let’s assume brandy’s brandy. What’s it like? The smell at first was way more bourboney than I’d expected. But if one gets a little closer and breathes a little deeper, raisins come to the fore. Something a bit herbal too. The taste is relatively delicate–I’m getting raisins and chocolate–then there’s quite a burn at the finish. Not much spice, a little sweetness. And, surprise surprise, that sweetness just gets nicer the more of it you have. I must add though, my Katje stand-in (don’t read too much into that) was not a fan; too much alcohol burn for too little flavour in her books.
Honestly, I’m glad I’m not in Slothrop’s position here. If I’d arrived a brandy virgin at a beautiful woman’s Riviera suite and she’d poured me a glass of the stuff, I’d have probably taken a gulp expecting something wine-like and coughed it up all over her. Not “suave, romantic Slothrop.” Of course, our AWOL adventurer is likely no brandy virgin. He’s pretty on top of things here, recognising that the hotel room is “mostly props,” singing a little, and then of course he’s on top of Katje…
Afterwards, Slothrop’s asleep and snoring “like a rocket whose valves, under remote control, open and close at prearranged moments,” snores that “have been known to rattle storm windows.” Katje’s having none of it. She attacks him with a pillow, prompting a pillow fight that escalates until she’s brandishing a Seltzer bottle.
Slothrop keeps trying to grab the bottle. Slippery girl squirms away, gets behind a chair. Slothrop takes the brandy decanter off of the sideboard, unstoppers it, and flings a clear, amber, pseudopodded glob across the room twice in out of moonlight to splash around her neck, between her black-tipped breasts, down her flanks. “Bastard,” hitting him with the Seltzer again.
Too good. But am I neglecting my duty if I don’t test brandy’s use as a weapon? No one around seems too keen to have it thrown at them, even if it is in gorgeous amber pseudopodded globs.
These brandy episodes are from pages 195 and 197 of my edition. The brandy I drank was the Bardinet VSOP.