Hawaii Islands & Culture & Thomas Pynchon

Gravity's Rainbow

The Hawaiian Islands and Hawaiian culture are represented and riffed on in several of Thomas Pynchon's novels: Against the Day, Vineland, and Gravity's Rainbow. And in Thomas Pynchon's seventh novel, to be published in August 2009, Inherent Vice, it seems that Hawaiian culture, and beach culture, will be represented, as this excerpt indicates:

And if he had a nickel for every time he'd heard a client start off this way, he would be over in Hawaii now, loaded day and night, digging the waves at Waimea, or better yet hiring somebody to dig them for him.

The Hawaiian Islands are the largest group of isolated islands on Earth, located almost midway between the continental United States and Japan. Originally settled by Polynesians who traveled there by canoe, the islands were unified by Kamehameha I in the early 19th century and after increasing American presence and trade agreements, were annexed in 1898 and made the 50th state of the Union in 1959.

The habitable islands of Hawaii are Kauai, Oahu (home of the state capitol of Honolulu and the popular Waikiki district), Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and the Big Island of Hawaii.

Hawaii these days is a popular vacation destination, and tourists from primarily Japan and the United States flock to the islands to enjoy the balmy and sensual tropical climate, drinking in the "aloha" of the islands and experiencing the timeless beauty of the islands.

Hawaii references in ''Gravity's Rainbow''

Lots of ukuleles and Slothrop's Hawaiian shirt, with island imagery dealt with in a fairly hallucinogenic fashion, eg Puke-a-hook-a-look-i Island.

All page numbers reference the original first-edition pagination.

tattered sheets of carbon paper, the scribbled ukulele chords to a dozen songs (18)

a busted corkscrewing ukulele string (18)

the Post Office is considering issuing a list of Nonacceptable Songs, with ukulele chords as an aid to ready identification. (132)

and clutches at Slothrop's Hawaiian shirt, begins tightening her own grip there, and who was to know that among her last things would be vulgar-faced hula girls, ukuleles, and surfriders all in comic-book colors (186)

every stitch of clothing he owns is gone, including his Hawaiian shirt. (201)

That 'Hawaii I.' You know anything about that? (207)

The Schwarzkommando use the 50 cm band--the one the Rocket's Hawaii II guidance operated on. (325)

Nincompoop — you've been under one mountain at Nordhausen, been known to sing a song or two with uke accompaniment, and don'tcha feel you're in a sucking marshland of sin out here, Slothrop? (364)

Ukuleles, kazoos, harmonicas, and any number of makeshift metal noisemakers accompany the song [...] (593)

Then comes a chorus for ukuleles and kazoos and so on while everyone dances, black neckerchiefs whipping about like the mustaches of epileptic villains (594)

Mangoes, I see mangoes on that tree over there! a-and there's a girl — there's a lotta girls! Lookit, they're all gorgeous, their tits point straight out, and they're all swingin' those grass skirts, playin' ukuleles and singing (though why are the voices so hard and tough, so nasally like the voices of an American chorus line?) (634-35)

you — have won (drumroll, more gasps, more applauding and whistling) an all-expense, one-way trip for one, to the movie's actual location, exotic Puke-a-hook-a-look-i Island! (the orchestra's ukulele section taking up now a tinkling reprise of that "White Man Welcome" tune (692)

Hawaii references in ''Vineland''

Vineland really gets into the kitschy aspects of Hawaii, particularly "tiki" culture — umbrella-festooned cocktails, eg — Kahuna (Hawaiian for "priest") Airlines, Hawaiian shirts, ukuleles (natch), and the rest.

the dress, Day Glo orange, near ultraviolet purple, some acid green, and a little magenta in a retro Hawaiian parrots and hula girls print (15)

At the time he was working a Hawaiian cruise gig for Kahuna Airlines, a non-sked flying out of LAX's East Imperial Terminal, a gig he'd stumbled into in the turbulent last days of his marriage, out on one more desperate attempt, transpacific this time, to save the relationship, as he saw it, or, as she saw it, once again come messing with her privacy, red-eyeing in to Honolulu on a charter flight in an airplane of uncertain make [...] (56)

"Hawaii is where men from California bring their broken hearts, seeking exotic forms of self-injury not so readily available on the mainland. Some specialize in active volcanoes, others in cliff diving, many go for the classier swimming-out-to-sea option. (60)

Zoyd got up, put a white suit he'd borrowed from Scott Oof on over his Hawaiian shirt (61)

Each 747 in the Kahuna Airlines fleet had been gutted and refitted as a huge Hawaiian restaurant and bar, full of hanging island vegetation, nightclub chairs and tables instead of airplane seats, even a miniature waterfall. In-flight movies included Hawaii (1966), The Hawaiians (1970), and Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961), among others. Zoyd was presented with a thick tattered fake book full of Hawaiian tunes, and on the lounge synthesizer, a Japanese make he'd heard of but never played, he found a ukulele option that would provide up to three orchestral sections of eight ukes each. It would take several flights across the Pacific Ocean and back before Zoyd felt easy with this by no means user-friendly instrument. The critter liked to drift off pitch on him, or worse, into that shrillness that sours the stomach, curtails seduction, poi- sons the careful ambience. Nothing he could find in the dash-one under the seat ever corrected what he more and more took to be conscious decisions by the machine. (62)

In the plane, passengers milled among the resined hatch-cover tables, the plastic tikis and shrubbery, clutching their oversize paper-parasoled drinks, Zoyd attempting to keep up a medley of peppy tunes. (64)

He saw somebody in a blond hippie haircut, floral bell-bottoms, and tropical shirt, with a dozen or so plastic leis piled up around his face and shoulders, plus some pitch-black goggle-style shades and a straw hat, holding a banjo-ukulele of between-the-wars vintage. (65)

"Man's after you, eh," smoothly, finding a lead sheet with, inevitably, uke diagrams on it. "How about this?"

"Uh-huh!" the strange ukulelist replied. "But it'd-be easier--in the key of G!" Ukulele talk, all right, the new sideman proceeding to turn in a respectable rhythm job on the old Hawaiian favorite "Wacky Coconuts," (65-66)

He played a few bars on the uke. (67)

a thin piping tune in three-part harmony, all sixteen bars of the theme from "Hawaii Five-0" [...] She shut off the music right after the part that goes,

Down in the streets of Honolu-lu,
Just bookin' folks and bein' patched through, what a
Lu-wow!. .. Hawa-
Ii Five-Oh! (99)

Workin' at the Daily Planet was the Man o' Steel's Hawaiian vacation (133)

Next day, feeling mysteriously better, he was back on the case, visiting widely separated Bay Area pharmacies with forged prescriptions for speed, purchasing a ukulele and the liver-and-blue suit he was wearing when Prairie met him [...] (161)

Takeshi reached into his bag to produce only the ukulele, gals, no problem, and strum a four-bar intro before singing, as certification he was harmless, JUST LIKE A WILLIAM POWELL (162)

Hub with a uke from Hawaii singing "Down Among the Sheltering Palms" (290)

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Thomas Pynchon
Gravity's Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon