Gravity’s Rainbow

 

Gravity’s Rainbow is a 1973 novel by American writer Thomas Pynchon. The plot  is complex, containing over 400 characters and involving many different threads of narrative which intersect and weave around one another. The recurring themes throughout the plot are the V-2 rocket, interplay between free will and Calvinistic predestination, breaking the cycle of nature, behavioral psychology, sexuality, paranoia and conspiracy theories such as the Phoebus cartel and the Illuminati.

The novel’s title declares its ambition and sets into resonance the oscillation between doom and freedom expressed throughout the book. An example of the superfluity of meanings characteristic of Pynchon’s work during his early years, Gravity’s Rainbow refers to:

*the parabolic trajectory of a V-2 rocket: the “rainbow-shaped” path created by the missile as it moves under the influence of gravity, subsequent to the engine’s deactivation;
the arc of the plot. Critics such as Weisenburger have found this trajectory to be cyclical or circular, like the true shape of a rainbow. This follows in the literary tradition of James Joyce‘s Finnegans Wake and Herman Melville‘s The Confidence-Man.

*The statistical pattern of impacts from rocket-bombs, invoked frequently in the novel by reference to the Poisson distribution.

*The introduction of randomness into the science of physics through the development of quantum mechanics, breaking the assumption of a deterministic universe.

*The animating effect of mortality on the human imagination.

Pynchon has brilliantly combined German political and cultural history with the mechanisms of paranoia to create an exceedingly complex work of art. The most important cultural figure in Gravity’s Rainbow is not Johann Wolfgang von Goethe or Richard Wagner, however, but Rainer Maria Rilke, Captain Blicero’s favorite poet. In a way, the book could be read as a serio-comic variation on Rilke’s Duino Elegies and their German Romantic echoes in Nazi culture. The “Elegies” begin with a cry: “Who, if I screamed, would hear me among the angelic orders? And even if one of them suddenly pressed me against his heart, I would fade in the strength of his stronger existence. For Beauty is nothing but the beginning of Terror that we’re still just able to bear, and why we adore it is because it serenely disdains to destroy us.”

These lines are hideously amplified in the first words of Pynchon’s novel: “A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.” This sound is the scream of a V-2 rocket hitting London in 1944; it is also the screams of its victims and of those who have launched it. It is a scream of sado-masochistic orgasm, a coming together in death, and this too is an echo and development of the exalted and deathly imagery of Rilke’s poem.

Pynchon’s novel is strung between these first lines of the Duino Elegies and the last: “And we, who have always thought of happiness as climbing or ascending would feel the emotion that almost startles when a happy thing falls.” In Rilke, the “happy thing” is a sign of rebirth amidst the dead calm of winter: a “catkin” hanging from an empty hazel tree or the “rain that falls on the dark earth in early spring.” In Gravity’s Rainbow the “happy thing” that falls is a rocket like the one Blicero has launched toward London in the first pages of the book or the one also launched by Blicero that falls on the reader in the last words of the last page.

The arc of a rocket’s flight is Gravity’s Rainbow–a symbol not of God’s covenant with Noah that He will never again destroy all living things, nor of the inner instinctual wellsprings of life that will rise above the dark satanic mills in D.H. Lawrence‘s novel The Rainbow. Gravity’s Rainbow is a symbol of death: Pynchon’s characters “move forever under [the rocket]. . .as if it were the Rainbow, and they its children.”

 

Little Girl in the Big Ten, twentieth episode of The Simpsons‘ season 13 (May 12, 2002)

Lisa: You’re reading Gravity’s Rainbow?

Brownie: Re-reading it.

 

My Mother the Carjacker, second episode of The Simpson’s season 15 (November 9, 2003)

Mona Simpson read Homer Gravity’s Rainbow as a good night story. After Homer started to sleep Mona said “Thomas Pynchon you are a tough read”, before she also started to sleep

 

Gravity’s Rainbow is a song by the British band Klaxons, from the album Myths of the Near Future (2007). Pat Benatar also released an album called Gravity’s Rainbow after reading Thomas Pynchon’s novel

 

The novel inspired the 1984 song Gravity’s Angel by Laurie Anderson. In her 2004 autobiographical performance The End of the Moon, Anderson said she once contacted Pynchon asking permission to adapt Gravity’s Rainbow as an opera. Pynchon replied that he would allow her to do so only if the opera was written for a single instrument: the banjo. Anderson said she took that as a polite “no.”

 

New York artist Zak Smith created a series of 760 drawings entitled, “One Picture for Every Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow” (also known by the title Pictures of What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow)

A Gentleman’s Gentleman

“Get out of the way, I’ll show you what I am. I’m a gentleman’s gentleman, and you’re no bloody gentleman!”

 
 

 
 

The Servant is Harold Pinter‘s 1963 film adaptation of a novelette by Robin Maugham(Falcon Press 1948). A British production directed by Joseph Losey, it stars Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, Wendy Craig and James Fox. It opened at London’s Warner Theatre on 14 November 1963. The Servant won three British Academy Film Awards. Wendy Craig replaced Vanessa Redgrave who was to make her feature debut but had to drop out because she was pregnant with her elder child (Natasha Richardson).

 
 

‘It was Losey who first showed Robin Maugham’s novelette The Servant to Bogarde in 1954. Originally separately commissioned by director Michael Anderson, Pinter stripped it of its first-person narrator, its yellow book snobbery and the arguably anti-Semitic characterisation of Barrett – oiliness, heavy lids – replacing them with an economical language that implied rather than stated the slippage of power relations away from Tony towards Barrett

Nick James
Joseph Losey & Harold Pinter: In Search of PoshLust Times

 
 

Originally planned as a film by a different director, Michael Anderson. It was he who commissioned Harold Pinter to write the script, in 1961. When Anderson dropped out of the project, Joseph Losey took over and insisted that Pinter’s script be extensively rewritten. This led to what Losey claimed was their only quarrel in over twenty years of close friendship. The Servant is the first of Harold Pinter’s three film collaborations with Joseph Losey. The other two were Accident (1967) and The Go-Between (1971).

When Joseph Losey was hospitalized for two weeks during this shoot, Dirk Bogarde continued filming assisted by minute, daily instructions over the phone from Losey’s hospital bed. When Losey returned to the set he did not re-shoot any of the script, much to the relief of cast and crew.

 
 

 
 

Tony (James Fox), a wealthy young Londoner, hires Hugo Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) as his manservant. Initially, Barrett appears to take easily to his new job, and he and Tony form a quiet bond, retaining their social roles. Relationships begin shifting, however, and they change with the introduction of Susan (Wendy Craig), Tony’s girlfriend, who seems to be suspicious of Barrett and to loathe all he represents. Barrett brings Vera (Sarah Miles), whom he presents as his sister, into Tony’s household as a maidservant, but it emerges that Vera is actually Barrett’s lover. Through Barrett’s and Vera’s games and machinations, they reverse roles with Tony and Susan; Tony becomes more and more dissipated, sinking further into what he perceives as their level, as the “master” and the “servant” exchange roles. In the final scene, Tony has become wholly dependent on Barrett, and Susan is exiled permanently from the house.

 
 

 
 

Although Losey’s films are generally naturalistic, The Servant‘s hybridisation of Losey’s signature Baroque style, film noir, naturalism and expressionism and both Accident‘s and The Go-Between‘s radical cinematography, use of montage, voice over and musical score amount to a sophisticated construction of cinematic time and narrative perspective that edges this work in the direction of neorealist cinema. All three films are marked by Pinter’s sparse, elliptical and enigmatically subtextual dialogue, something Losey often develops a visual correlate for (and occasionally even works against) by means of dense and cluttered mise en scene and peripatetic camera work.

 

To watch the movie clip Staircase Quarrel from The Servant , pease take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

From Babel Tower to Metropolis

Movie Poster

 
 

Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927) features a range of elaborate special effects and set designs, ranging from a huge gothic cathedral to a futuristic cityscape. In an interview,  Lang reported that “the film was born from my first sight of the skyscrapers in New York in October 1924”. He had visited New York for the first time and remarked “I looked into the streets – the glaring lights and the tall buildings – and there I conceived Metropolis.” Describing his first impressions of the city, Lang said that “the buildings seemed to be a vertical sail, scintillating and very light, a luxurious backdrop, suspended in the dark sky to dazzle, distract and hypnotize”. He added “The sight of Neuyork [sic] alone should be enough to turn this beacon of beauty into the center of a film”

The film was written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou, and starred Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel and Rudolf Klein-Rogge. A silent film, it was produced by Erich Pommer in the Babelsberg Studios by Universum Film A.G.. It is regarded as a pioneering work of science fiction genre in movies, being among the first feature length movies of the genre.

Filmstudio Babelsberg or The Babelsberg Film Studio located in Potsdam-Babelsberg outside Berlin, Germany, is the oldest large-scale film studio in the world, producing films since 1912. Today it covers an area of about 25,000 square metres (270,000 sq ft) and thus is Europe’s largest film studio. Hundreds of films, including Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel were filmed there. More recent productions include V for Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2006) , The Bourne Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass, 2007) , Valkyrie (Bryan Singer, 2008), Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009), Cloud Atlas (The Wachowski brothers and Tom Tykwer, 2012), The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014) and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (Francis Lawrence, 2014).

 
 

 
 

Made in Germany during the Weimar Period, Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia, and follows the attempts of Freder, the wealthy son of the city’s ruler, and Maria, a poor worker, to overcome the vast gulf separating the classes of their city. Metropolis was filmed in 1925, at a cost of approximately five million Reichsmarks, making it the most expensive film ever released up to that point. The motion picture’s futuristic style is influenced by the work of Futurist Italian architect, Antonio Sant’Elia.

The appearance of the city in Metropolis is strongly informed by the Art Deco movement; however it also incorporates elements from other traditions. Ingeborg Hoesterey described the architecture featured in Metropolis as eclectic, writing how its locales represent both “functionalist modernism [and] art deco” whilst also featuring “the scientist’s archaic little house with its high-powered laboratory, the catacombs [and] the Gothic cathedral”. The film’s use of art deco architecture was highly influential, and has been reported to have contributed to the style’s subsequent popularity in Europe and America.

 
 

The New Tower of Babel, Fredersen’s headquarters in Metropolis

 
 

The Tower of Babel in Maria’s recounting of the fable was modeled after this 1563 painting by Pieter Brueghel

 
 

The film drew heavily on Biblical sources for several of its key set-pieces. During her first talk to the workers, Maria uses the story of the Tower of Babel to highlight the discord between the intellectuals and the workers. Additionally, a delusional Freder imagines the false-Maria as the Whore of Babylon, riding on the back of a many-headed dragon. Also, the name of the Yoshiwara club alludes to the famous red-light district of Tokyo.

The Photo Which Gave Birth to the Modern Maternity Portrait

Ever since Annie Leibovitz photographed Demi Moore, for the front cover of Vanity Fair magazine, maternity photographs have become increasingly popular. Undoubtedly this photo gave birth to the modern maternity portrait

 
 

The supermodel swelled with pride as she showed off her seven-month belly (filled with son Presley) in the June 1999 issue of W. Cindy Crawford was originally slated to wear a gown, but she apparently didn’t look pregnant enough in it. Problem solved. Photo: Michael Thompson

 
 

It’s only fitting that Brooke Shields was Vogue‘s first visibly pregnant cover model. After all, she’d also been the fashion bible’s youngest cover model back in 1980, when she was 14. She was 37 and eight months along with daughter Rowan on the April 2003 issue, on which she sported a sheer, soaking-wet Krizia gown.Photo: Annie Leibovitz

 
 

The Italian bombshell — best known to American audiences for her work in The Matrix Reloaded — had more than vanity in mind when she posed nude for the cover of a 2004 edition of Vanity Fair: The wife of French actor Vincent Cassel reportedly disrobed to protest Italy’s laws against the use of donor sperm. Nicely done, Monica. Photo: Fabrizio Ferri

 
 

Vanity Fair Italy, March 2010. Photo by Tyen

 
 

Six months pregnant with second son Jayden James, the then-spiraling pop star Britney Spears disrobed for the August 2006 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Necklace: Louis Vuitton. Photo: Alexi Lubomirki

 
 

November 2006 issue of Britain’s Q magazine. In the interview, Britney revealed she was craving ice (and evidently lollipops). Photo: James Dimmock

 
 

Milla Jovovich gnawed on that gauzy curtain for a good cause. Her 2007 shoot for Jane magazine benefited charity. Soon after, she gave birth to daughter Ever Gabo with Resident Evil writer-director Paul William Scott Anderson.

 
 

Christina Aguilera was nearly done baking son Max when she ditched her duds (but not her Louboutins or hair dye) for the January 2008 issue of Marie Claire. Photo: Ruven Afanador

 
 

Known for her sometimes outrageous red carpet poses, Paula Patton looked perfectly goddess-like draped in nude chiffon with curly hair and natural make-up on the May 2010 cover of Ebony. And the magazine happened to hit stands after the actress, who’s married to R&B crooner Robin Thicke, gave birth to son Julian Fuego

 
 

Dem babies, as Mariah Carey affectionately nicknamed still-gestating twins Moroccan and Monroe, kicked at their mom’s belly through most of her photo shoot for the April 18, 2011, issue of Life & Style. We assume they were kicking in protest over this awkward pose

 
 

Proving that supermodels really are superior life forms, a shaggy-haired Claudia Schiffer was pregnant with her third child, daughter Cosima, when she stripped down for a Karl Lagerfeld-directed shoot in the June 2010 issue of German Vogue

 
 

Mrs. Orlando Bloom, Miranda Kerr,  was six-and-a-half months pregnant with son Flynn when she tastefully revealed all in the December 2010 issue of W. Photo by Patrick Demarchelier

 
 

The 41-year-old actress bared her soul (per the cover’s tagline) and lots more in the November 2011 issue of Ebony. She welcomed her second son, Kez, that same month. “The medical [profession] tries to tell every woman, ‘Have your babies before 40 because you shouldn’t have children after 40. Society tells us, ‘Get married before 30, because no man wants a woman after 30.’ You are not half the woman you’re gonna be until you turn 30. You’re not even half of that woman yet. So I think if we’d just take our time as women, and do what comes natural to us and for us, we would make fewer mistakes.”

 
 

The latest star to go au naturel, Jessica undressed for the April 2012 issue of Elle and revealed she’s expecting a girl with fiancé Eric Johnson. Photo: Carter Smith. Styled by Joe Zee

Transported by a Dream

“Hearing Ryan Adams’ album Heartbreaker was a seminal point for this part of my career. I just fell in love with him and that record. And I had the great fortune of doing Songs From the West Coast with producer Pat Leonard. He got my idea and simplified the record, and made me work with other musicians. I have to say that one of the biggest regrets of my life is that I’ve not fallen out, but I’ve drifted away from Pat. I feel very ungrateful to Pat that I didn’t make another record with him. We were so close on that record, he shifted me so much in the direction that I wanted to go. Original Sin is one of the best songs I’ve ever written.”

Elton John

 
 

 
 

The music video for the song Original Sin (David LaChapelle, 2001) featured Elizabeth Taylor and Mandy Moore. It also featured John playing the father of Moore’s character and the husband of Taylor’s character. Moore was the centre of the video, who plays a huge Elton John fan from the 1970s who is transported by a dream (à la The Wizard of Oz) to one of his concerts, where she socializes with various celebrities of the period (Bette Midler, Sonny Bono and Cher, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, etc.) played by look-alikes. Then at the end she wakes up and Elton’s character asks, “Who is this Elton John, anyway?” It also has more of an upbeat dance mix to the music.

 
 

 
 

It is the third and last single extracted from the album Songs from the West Coast (reported back to the origins of the musical career of Elton and the period of the seventies). This is a slow song with the melody sweet and melancholy and based on Elton’s piano playing, as well as Rusty Anderson on guitars and keyboards producer Patrick Leonard.

 
 

Related photographs posted on The Genealogy of Style’s Facebook page:



Must Be Santa

Mick Jagger

 
 

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

 
 

Jimi Hendrix

 
 

Kurt Cobain and Chris Novaselic

 
 

Alice Cooper

 
 

Iggy Pop. Galleries Lafayette ad campaign

 
 

Ronnie Vannucci Jr.

 
 

Brandon Flowers

 
 

Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons

 
 

Flea

 
 

Bette Midler

 
 

Katy Perry

 
 

Cee Lo Green

 
 

Mariah Carey

 
 

Destiny’s Child

 
 

Elvis Presley

 
 

Bono

 
 

Ian Anderson (lead vocalist of Jethro Tull)

 
 

Bob Dylan. Must Be Santa (Nash Edgerton, 2009)

 
 

Based on a German drinking song, Must Be Santa is structured as a call and response, with the lead singer posing the question of who has a certain feature, with a chorus responding that Santa Claus has said feature. After every other verse, the list of features mentioned up to that point is reiterated, followed by the chorus of “must be Santa” repeated three times and ending with “Santa Claus.”

In November 2009, Bob Dylan covered Brave Combo‘s version of the song in a polka style for his Christmas album, Christmas in the Heart. The New York Daily News described Dylan’s version as such: “It’s sort of unclear if Dylan (…) was aiming to celebrate the holiday, or gently poke fun at the music’s Norman Rockwell-esque simplicity.”

Under the Charm of Scheherazade

The mystery never ends, it cannot end. That´s why it is called a mystery, it cannot be known ever. It will never become knowledge, that´s why it is called a mystery; something in it is eternally elusive. And that´s the whole joy of life. The great splendor of life is that it keeps you eternally engaged, searching, exploring. Life is exploration, life is adventure.

The legendary Persian Queen Scheherazade is a gorgeous example of this wonderful, intelligent and creative mystery called life. Her amazing story featured in One Thousand and One Nights (هزارافسانه), is an inspiration to generations of story tellers, movies makers, musicians, painters and poets. It will remain so, forever and ever and ever.

Scheherazade (شهرزاد‎) is a female name meaning "of noble lineage" in old Persian, or "born in the city" in modern Persian.

 
 

Model wearing Schiaparelli’s asymmetrical evening dress at Schéhérazade club, Paris

 
 

Photo taken at Schéhérazade club by Roger Schall, 1940

 
 

Art Nouveau poster

 
 

Edmund Dulac

 
 

Virginia Frances Sterett

 
 

Umberto Brunelleschi

 
 

Erté

 
 

Léon Bakst

 
 

Vaslav Nijinsky and Ida Rubinstein in ballet adaptation of Sheherazade premiered on June 4, 1910, at the Opéra Garnier in Paris by the Ballets Russes. The choreography for the ballet was by Michel Fokine and the libretto was from Fokine and Léon Bakst, who also designed sets and costumes

 
 

Nijinsky

 
 

Nijinsky by Georges Lepape

 
 

Sleeve design for Rimsky Korsakov’s symphonic suite recorded by The Philadelphia Orchestra. Phillips

 
 

Nijinsky in the role of the negro slave in the ballet Sherezade by Rimski Korsakov, George Barbier

 
 

George Barbier

 
 

Paul Mak

 
 

John Austen

 
 

Alberto Vargas

 
 

José Segrelles

 
 

Sophie Anderson

 
 

Richard Corben

 
 

Franz Helbing

 
 

Edouard Frederic Wilhelm Richter

 
 

Elizabeth Taylor in disguise

 
 

Directed by Walter Reisch

 
 

J. Jones

 
 

Willy Pogany

 
 

René Magritte