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"A City of the Future": Gravity's Rainbow and the 1962 Seattle world's fair.

"I'm caught in it," Thomas Pynchon wrote to his friend Kirkpatrick Sale on May 28, 1962, referring to Seattle. "It's killing me. [...] I'm losing my mind" ("Letter" 1962). (1) In this letter Pynchon lays much of the blame on the Seattle World's Fair, then in the second month of its half-year run. The arc of Gravity's Rainbow somehow reaches from 1945 Europe to the Los Angeles of the early 1970s, where, in the dominant reading of its final scene, aV-2 rocket launched in the final days of World War II has transformed into an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) descending on a crowded movie theater run by night manager "Richard M. Zhlubb," sealing Pynchon's furious history of the continuity, from Nazi Germany to Nixon's Cold War United States, of militarism and empire ([1973] 2006, 769). (2) Here I claim that Gravity's Rainbow also reaches, in more surreal and sublimated form, to Seattle, where Pynchon lived while working as a technical writer for Boeing's Bomarc Service News from February 1960 to September 1962, when he decamped to Mexico. (3) The center of my historicizing argument is a set of highly specific links, as yet critically unexamined, between the nightmare landscape of historical pastiche recurring in Gravity's Rainbow--the oppressive realm of performance, spectacle, and exhibitions known as the "Raketen-Stadt"--and the Seattle World's Fair. Running from April 21 to October 21, 1962, and also known as the Century 21 Exposition, the Seattle World's Fair was--from the several years of planning to the construction of its signature landmark, the Space Needle--a dominant feature of the city's news during Pynchon's time there. Criticized as a civic risk in an age when World's Fairs seemed to have lost their appeal as public spectacle, Century 21, billed as "America's Space-Age World's Fair," became a huge financial success, bringing in more than ten million attendees, and it is widely credited by historians with hastening Seattle's transformation from provincial outpost to cosmopolitan center (Becker and Stein 2011).

In biographical materials from this 1962 moment (such as his letter to Sale) and news coverage that seems to be the basis for some Pynchon scenes, there is ample evidence that important aspects of the novel Pynchon published eleven years later were shaped by the Seattle World's Fair, its technological triumphalism, and its suspect optimism about a benign Space Age--the ideological notion that, in the text's terms, "a good Rocket to take us to the stars" will win the "perpetual struggle" with "an evil Rocket for the World's suicide" (GR 741). Pynchon's highly surreal Rocket City, called "a City of the Future," maps readily onto

Seattle, the Boeing-inspired nickname of which, Jet City, Pynchon revises in light of the weapons systems produced at the city's largest employer, heir to the German rocket production facility nicknamed the Raketen-Stadt during the war (687). So, too, at several points does the world of Gravity's Rainbow--a book clearly attempting to imagine World War III out of the materials of World War II and finding that "it has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now" (3)--map onto the Seattle World's Fair, a future-obsessed event that featured a major exhibition titled "The World of Tomorrow" (Official 1962, 28). A 2012 documentary marking the fiftieth anniversary of the fair, aptly titled When Seattle Invented the Future, shows footage of exhibitions proclaiming that everything from the now routine (call forwarding) to the not-yet-here (flying cars and meals that cook themselves) would be "commonplace in the City of the Future" (When 2012).

Pynchon's earliest works were tutored by Henry Adams's vision of the Dynamo at a World's Fair, the Paris Exposition of 1900, part of the substrate of V. and cited in "Entropy" (Pynchon [1984] 1985, 69). At the other end of Pynchon's career, Against the Day, opening at Chicago's 1893 Columbian Exposition, manifests his inclination to ruefully anatomize World's Fair settings for their technological boosterism and recapitulation of colonial patterns in theme and physical layout. Here, drawing on his correspondence and a much wider Seattle than the work at Boeing that critics have focused on, I contend Pynchon was, more subtly, doing similar work in Gravity's Rainbow with what were probably some firsthand experiences of (and at least some newspaper reading about) Century 21, his "own" World's Fair. (4)

The mythos of these international spectacles is present from Gravity's Rainbow's second paragraph, where Pirate Prentice dreams of "glass somewhere far above" that will crash down in "the fall of a crystal palace" (GR 3), alluding to the iconic Crystal Palace at what is usually called history's first World's Fair, London's Great Exposition in 1851 (Weisenburger 2006, 17; "Past Expos"). Here, Pynchon subjects the soaring ambitions of World's Fair iconography to a downward plunge, as he does more subliminally, I argue, in depicting the harrowing elevator rides of the Space Needle, an overlooked reference point for the novel's many towers. Seattle itself is not, of course, the Raketen-Stadt, which is, in William Atwill's words, "a 'Rocket City' of the psyche, a world shaped not by geography and national origin but by ... [Cold War] technocracy" (2010, 6-7). But while he synthesized in Gravity's Rainbow countless historical scenes and allusions to popular culture, Pynchon could also draw his vision of an American Raketen-Stadt and its fascistic future directly from the chauvinistic city in which he lived, in ways that have not previously been acknowledged. While Pynchon has been perceived as the transnationalist author par excellence, connections to Pynchon's Seattle home suggest that we should see the globalism of Gravity's Rainbow emerging from the complex mixture of nationalist fervor, international Cold War tensions, and highly local politics embodied by Century 21. (5)

Regionalist readings of Pynchon ought to be expanded as well. In recent writing by, for example, David Cowart and John Miller, critical attention to Pynchon's West Coast settings has focused almost exclusively on his California-centric novels--The Crying of Lot 49, Vineland, and Inherent Vice--and their particular fictional projects, somewhat skewing our perception of Pynchon's use of the landscapes and cityscapes of the western United States (Cowart 2011, 82-135; Miller 2013). (6) A Pynchon of a broader West Coast or the Pacific Northwest ought to be studied as well, and not just regarding his involvement with aerospace. For when critics have turned to Pynchon's Seattle years, the topic has almost always been the details of his work at Boeing, leaving out the flavor of the city in which he lived. Criticism and journalism by Cowart (1980), Mathew Winston (1975), Donn Fry (1990), and Richard Lane (1999) have sketched a picture of Pynchon's Boeing, including Cowarts report from a colleague that Pynchon would drape huge sheets of paper over his head "and work within his cocoon, like an aerospace Bartleby" (1980,96). Adrian Wisnicki does the great service, in 2001, of correcting inconsistencies and unsourced details in accounts of Pynchon at Boeing, demonstrating that, while he may also have written for a few external publications, his direct employer was the internal newsletter Bomarc Service News (2000-2001, 9). Wisnicki also persuasively argues, focusing on tone, allusion, and content, for the addition of twenty to twenty-five technical articles from Boeing publications to the Pynchon "canon," beyond the one piece with his byline: "Togetherness," signed "Thomas H. Pynchon," on safety in airlifting the Bomarc IM-99A missile (10). Wisnicki's new Pynchon texts include some pieces that preview rocket-raising scenes and background material from Gravity's Rainbow (25-29). It is also a commonplace to take Boeing, relocated to Southern California, as Pynchon's model for the defense contractor Yoyodyne in The Crying of Lot 49. But in none of this critical work do other features of Seattle life receive any attention. So too is Steven Weisenburger's authoritative 2006 guide to Gravity's Rainbow's allusions entirely silent on a broader Seattle and the 1962 fair.

My more indirect historiographic approach finds that Pynchon, while providing so many esoteric references we may (eventually) "get," also creates surreal condensations of historical materials calling for examination from many angles beyond the ostensibly allusive. I do not go so far, though, as Charles Hollander, who sees Pynchon writing multilayered "encrypted meditation[s]" on subjects that reveal their true meanings "to readers who have the knack" of unfocusing normal sight and reading practices (1997, 61, 64). In more mundane but also more practical terms, I am simply following out the implications of Pynchon's assertion in the introduction to Slow Learner about a habit of mind that developed in his early work around his Long Island childhood: "I mistakenly thought of Long Island then as a giant and featureless sandbar, without history, someplace to get away from but not to feel very connected to," he writes. "I imposed on what I felt to be blank space a set of more complicated topographies. Perhaps I felt this was a way to make the place a little more exotic" ([1984] 1985, xxxi). Pynchon describes later in this introduction his "old Baedeker trick" (xxxii) of writing about many places he had never visited, a move quite familiar to critics and most clearly manifested in the story that became chapter three of V. Here I pursue something like Pynchon's inversion of the old Baedeker trick: with caveats about the perils of making too much of Pynchon's highly elliptical biography, I show him hiding his lived-in locales in the "more complicated topograph[y]" of war-ravaged Nazi Germany's rocket sites and rituals. For instance, if, as Pynchon writes in the final Raketen-Stadt scene, a photograph shows "the ceremonial City" "from a height that is topographically impossible in Germany," he may well be suggesting that many of the tower views I discuss below are influenced by the Space Needle, which was, when built for the fair in 1962, the tallest structure west of the Mississippi and, as we will see, likely to have been on Pynchon's mind as he wrote his masterpiece (GR 740).

As a Seattleite with his interests and expertise, and given the special bile he reserves for tourists in V. and Gravity's Rainbow, how could Pynchon not have paid attention to Century 21? Letters at the Harry Ransom Center from Pynchon to his Cornell classmates Kirkpatrick and Faith Sale have aided in Luc Herman and John Krafft's dissection of the editing of the final stages of V., which Faith helped Pynchon edit in unofficial, and later official, capacities (Herman and Krafft 2007, 3). (7) While most of these eight letters come from Pynchon in Mexico between November 1962 and March 1964, my interest lies in the earliest dated letter in this batch, from May 28, 1962, addressed to Kirkpatrick, when Pynchon is still living in Seattle-but ready to leave it yesterday. Pynchon had the previous weekend attended a festival of the works of Anton Webern, whom Saure Bummer would describe in Gravity's Rainbow as the avatar of "maximum freedom" in music, "shot in May, by the Americans. Senseless, accidental if you believe in accidents" (448), events Pynchon also refers to in the letter to Sale. The Webern festival "had nothing to do with the Seattle Worlds Fair, thank god," Pynchon writes to Sale. "I am boycotting the S.W.F." Foreshadowing his sympathies for the urban preterite, Pynchon complains about Century 21's effects: cheap diners have raised prices, and the fair has evicted "little old ladies on relief [...] to make way for tourists." Businesses may make money, Pynchon writes, "but the Consumer, that great, mindless majority of whom I am one, is getting screwed (as we say), blewed and tattooed." Pynchon warns the Sales (recently wed) against Seattle as a honeymoon spot, unless Kirkpatrick (a journalist) wants to pen "a good muckraking article," which the fair deserves. Pynchon notes Alistair Cooke did write one in the Manchester Guardian after the fair opened, but the "brute idiocy" of the "promoters and used-car salesman" backing the fair have won out, Pynchon concludes, and visitors have been duped into regarding it as the "grooviest thing since the first coming of Christ. It's not. It's a state trade fair. That's all it is" (Pynchon 1962).

Boycott it entirely he may have, but the fair was virtually unavoidable. And his letter shows that Pynchon also kept rather close watch on its impact through the papers. With "used-car salesman" (singular noun, note) he is referring to Joe Gandy, president of the fair from 1960 to 1963, who had made his fortune as a Ford dealer (Berger 2012, 17). As for evictions, the displacement and housing demolitions of the fair's "eminent domain take" of parts of its 74-acre "jewel box" site in a poorer part of town caused controversy in the late 1950s and after (Becker and Stein 2011, 24). Moreover, Pynchon seems to have not just read Cooke's review but imbibed it; the line about Century 21 being a mere state trade fair is almost a direct quote. Cooke's April 26 article in the Manchester Guardian Weekly was headlined "Space-Age Fair with a Coney-I. Touch." Citing the "booster air of [the Fair's] publicity" and "raging preoccupation with national pride in consumer goods," Cooke writes, "It is, then, a trade fair overlaid with Coney Island. And it is a pity it was not so advertised" (1962b). Perhaps this example of the "modern neurotic conflict between 'promotion' and truth," Cooke continues, has to do with Seattle's insistence that "it is now violently respectable" when the "one idiom it gave to the American vernacular was 'Skid Road,' whose original haven of waterfront bums is there." This nonmythical Seattle Pynchon also sees under threat of literal destruction from the gentrifying forces embodied by the fair: Pynchon complains to Sale that, eventually, "Skid Road will go, the winos will be made to shave and join AA, they'll turn Pioneer Square [a gathering point for the city's homeless then and to this day] into a parking lot. Aaahhhrrrggghhh" (Pynchon 1962). The Space Needle and other fair structures go unmentioned by Pynchon, but he does complain that sterile new aluminum and glass architecture will soon replace the dirt and "Victorian excesses" of the old Seattle he much prefers. Pynchon must have also been sensitive to the nuclear anxieties the fair's facile and patriotic optimism covered over, just as surely as his writing about "safety" in Minuteman missile work must have seemed darkly absurd, given the millions of deaths the weapon was designed to cause.

Century 21 is widely seen by historians as a watershed in the Cold War. The fair was the by-product of nationalist fervor surrounding the "space race": organizers began work in 1955 with the intent of celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Seattle's 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition under the theme "Festival of the West." But after Sputnik's launch in October 1957, they shifted toward the theme of "America's Space-Age World's Fair," billing the event as part of the new imperative to educate American children for a scientific future and, with the help of US senator Warren Magnuson, securing major federal funding (Becker and Stein 2011, 11, 21-22). Century 21 featured a Skyride, an iconic monorail (still today it carries passengers from downtown to the former fairgrounds, now known as Seattle Center), and numerous corporate and national exhibits on home life, telecommunications, and urban organization in the year 2000 and beyond. Major exhibits included architect Minoru Yamasaki's shimmering white US Science Pavilion (now the Pacific Science Center), with its majestic "Space Gothic" arches out front (Berger 2012, 37). Nearly two-thirds of the fair's ten million visitors "sought out" the Science Pavilion, which "the pros had warned was black plague at the box office," writes Murray Morgan (1963, 14), and Cooke would at the fair's end write a piece rapturously praising the exhibit as the great exception to his criticisms (1962a). Inside the Science Pavilion was the Boeing-sponsored Spacearium-a cinema featuring a domed screen and the surround-vision of 70mm Cinerama lenses, employed for the first time at Century 21 after being developed by Boeing's own research (research that also had military applications) (Becker and Stein 2011, 39). The fifteen-minute film, Journey to the Stars, was a major hit of the fair and played to standing audiences of a thousand at a time. Employing stop-motion photography to create a rocket journey into space, the film was projected onto a 360-degree, 6,000-square-feet screen holding a "hemispherical view of star-studded heavens" (Scott 1963, 345). (8)

While Boeing was, according to fair historians Paula Becker and Alan J. Stein, a surprisingly late convert to sponsorship of the fair (considered essential given the theme and Boeing's size), the corporation became a significant presence through not only the Spacearium but also its recruiting efforts (2011, 36). On the first page of the Official Guide Book: Seattle World's Fair 1962, a full-page ad directed at "Engineers and Scientists" "cordially invit[ed]" them to stop by the "Boeing Professional Employment Information Center" near a fair entrance or, barring that, to send a resume through the mail (Official 1962, 1). (9) New employees hired through the fair would have followed a path Pynchon had recently traced in going from Cornell to Seattle. As Boris Kachka's revelatory investigation of Pynchon's biography notes, the author would quit Boeing in the fall of 1962, "vowing to never work for a corporation again" (Kachka 2013). Especially since he worked in what was in effect a branch of public relations for Boeing, Pynchon may have been especially sensitive to the fair's ideological promotion of the military-industrial complex and to Boeing's involvement with a film--perhaps the latter helped spur his much discussed alignment of film and rocket technologies throughout Gravity's Rainbow. In the Guide Book's ad, four photos depict "Commercial aircraft," "Basic and applied research," "Gas turbine engines," and "Space vehicles and systems" as areas for work--but with no direct mention of defense projects (Official 1962, 1).

The fair's final days were dramatically marked by a shift in rocket thematics from space travel to warfare. On October 21, 1962, President Kennedy, scheduled to speak at the closing ceremony, claimed sickness and stayed in DC. Disappointed organizers learned with the rest of the world the next day that Kennedy had in fact been dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis--the "evil Rocket for the World's suicide" asserting itself over the moon-shot dreams embodied by Kennedy and, in Gravity's Rainbow, engineer Franz Pokier, who thinks of the rocket he works on that "all [will] use it, someday, to leave the earth. To transcend" (406). Many had seen much earlier than the Cuban Missile Crisis the menace of nuclear war, of course, and the likelihood that Seattle and Boeing were particular targets. In Jim Lynch's extensively researched historical novel about the inner workings of the fair, Truth Like the Sun, the protagonist, Roger Morgan, an amalgam of various fair leaders and a quintessential Cold War subject, feels latent anxiety about nuclear war throughout, from thoughts on Kennedy's installation of missiles near Seattle to the military "insisting on a bomb shelter beneath the Science Pavilion" (2012, 26). Giving Vice President Johnson a tour of the Space Needle, Morgan summons the courage to ask, "Is there any reason to think the fair could be a target?" in response to which Johnson quickly changes the subject. Edward R. Murrow, asked the same question later, underscores Morgan's naivete, undoubtedly shared by millions in 1962: "The fair? Boeing makes you a bull's-eye, of course, but you already know that, right?" (87).

Century 21 was, then, rife with suggestiveness for Pynchon's fiction writing. For even if the monorail, its line stretching a mile from downtown to the fairgrounds, is not precisely Pirate's nightmare train of evacuees moving "out of downtown [...] pushing into older and more desolate parts of the city" (GR 3); even if Yamasaki's shimmering white temple to science might not directly conjure a contemporary White Visitation and his white arches are not strictly models for Etzel Olsch's parabolic entrances to the Mittelwerke; even if we do not call to mind the Space Needle (widely seen as evoking an unlaunched rocket) when learning that Olsch's static parabolas signify a rocket "frozen, in space, to become architecture. It was never launched. It will never fall" (305); and even if Journey to the Stars does not correspond completely to the text's final film featuring a screen that merges with reality and a brightness that seems like a star but is "not a star, it was falling, a bright angel of death" (775)--we can still see why even a less-than-paranoid reader might find a shadow map of Gravity's Rainbow in the fairgrounds, in ways I document with greater specificity below. In the remainder of this essay I focus on three major sites of correspondence between Century 21 experiences and Gravity's Rainbow: NASA's presence both at the fair and in the novel; similarities between the fair's exhibits and the Raketen-Stadt; and the uncanny presence of the Space Needle and a fair attraction called the "Bubbleator" in Pynchon's depictions of towers and elevators.

Introducing a recent book that draws heavily on Pynchon's novels, Atwill calls the US space program as it advanced in the 1960s a "postmodern narrative": it was "the most effective display of [Foucauldian] power in this century, a dispersed, nearly invisible coercion of the souls of people by way of a technological display apparently benign in its application" but holding "more sinister payloads" (2010, 7). Century 21 proves a key site for linking Gravity's Rainbow with the space program in its full Cold War context, for the fair was a national coming-out party for NASA, the "agency's first large-scale attempt to tell the story of the US space program," according to Becker and Stein (2011, 252). NASA had been formed in 1958, and its popularity was boosted by John Glenn's February 1962 orbit of the earth (the first ever by an American) in the Friendship 7 capsule, which was displayed at the NASA Pavilion, the fair's largest exhibit (155-56). Wernher von Braun, the Nazi rocket man who directed NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center from 1960 to 1970, is both source of Gravity's Rainbow's opening epigraph and the figure who, in the words of Luc Herman and Steven Weisenburger, "haunts [those] pages" depicting the undoing of Pokler's space travel idealism at the hands of Blicero (2013, 119). On May 10, 1962, in conjunction with the National Conference on Peaceful Uses of Space, von Braun visited the fair along with Glenn, who, mobbed by adoring crowds, fired a famous salvo in US/Soviet ideological and theological conflicts. At a televised panel discussion Glenn responded to comments by Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov, who, visiting the fair five days before Glenn, had been asked how his recent space flight had affected his outlook. "Sometimes people are saying that God is out there," Titov said through his interpreter. "I saw neither angels nor God." He added that he believed "in man ... and his reason" and voiced multiple criticisms of NASA's failed launches (quoted in Becker and Stein 2011, 92).

Inevitably asked about God and angels on his own visit, Glenn won yet more adoration with his reply: "The God I pray to is not small enough that I expected to see Him in outer space" ("Glenn" 1962). Glenn had reported seeing small specks of light, what he called "fireflies," outside his capsule while in orbit, and, asked about them at the fair, he shared various (nonscientific) theories people had sent him in letters (Stein 2002). Onboard Mercury 6 Glenn had radioed to ground controllers about a "big mass of some very small particles, that are brilliantly lit up like they're luminescent. I never saw anything like it. They round a little; they're coming by the capsule, and they look like little stars. A whole shower of them coming by" ("Transcripts"). On Mercury-Atlas 7, launched on May 24, 1962, astronaut Scott Carpenter discovered when he bumped his head against the interior cabin wall that Glenn had actually been seeing ice particles shaken loose from the capsule's exterior and illuminated by the sun--a cosmic mystery solved.

In his May 28 letter to Sale (about three weeks after the Titov and Glenn visits) Pynchon shows considerable interest in these statements, complaining that Seattle has "too many brainwashed Hearst paper readers" and, more specifically, that "Titov says he saw no angels in space and this gets a banner headline in one local paper" (1962). Pynchon refers to the May 7 headline in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (owned since 1921 by the Hearst Corporation): "Space Man Expounds His Atheism." But we might also consider Gravity's Rainbow's measures of awe, appropriate to its fictional exploration of rocket-driven theology and mysticism-permeated science. Recall here the 1942 Palm Sunday sighting of a gigantic ("miles beyond designating") angel by Royal Air Force (RAF) pilot Geoffrey "Basher" St. Blaise during the Allied bombing raid over Liibeck that inspired Hitler's "vengeance" weapon, the V-2 (GR 153). In World War II, Glenn flew combat missions and dropped bombs (in the Pacific), and certain elements in Basher's vision do suggest the conflicting mysticism of Glenn's and Carpenter's observations: "Only Basher and his wingman saw it, droning across in front of the fiery leagues of face," as the angel's miles-high eyes follow them, "the irises red as embers fairing through yellow to white," even as "ice crystals swept hissing away from the back edges of wings perilously deep" (154, 153). In light of Pynchon's letter to Sale, the fair's "debate" and Carpenters discoveries do seem to have left traces in Gravity's Rainbow. Writing in 1998, Brian McHale accepts the "prestigious, high-culture sources" to which Gravity's Rainbow's many angels have been attributed by critics, including most importantly Walter Benjamin's "Theses on the Philosophy of History" and Rainer Maria Rilke's tenth Duino elegy, but McHale also suggests we might see in Pynchon a forerunner of the angel craze in 1990s "pop-culture iconology" and link him to less "sublime" (1998, 306, 307) meditations on American angelhood. If we take the Seattle Fair as a key condensation point for Gravity's Rainbow's imagery, however, St. Blaise's angel seems to have been lurking in the American popular mind since 1962, and Pynchon appears to draw on an astronaut news story in inventing this mystical moment.

It is the Raketen-Stadt scenes and those surrounding them, though, that are densest with Pynchon's World's Fair transformations. In its hallucinatory recurring presence, the Raketen-Stadt is a touristic exhibition space in which spectacle and display rule, an enactment of the opening's cynical assertion that "it's all theatre" (GR 3). The Raketen-Stadt is first mentioned as Slothrop descends on a tour of the Mittelwerke at Nordhausen, disguised not as muckraking Alistair Cooke but a British correspondent all the same, Ian Scuffling. The Mittelwerke scene's fantastical developments become somewhat more realistic if we consider here that Pynchon is channeling the fair. Cameras were available for rent at Century 21, and in the Mittelwerke they are "for rent at the main gate, if you're interested," Slothrop hears--"one of many hustles." Ever attentive to the pornography of the rocket, Pynchon has the cameras available for the many "high-level tourists" who want to take pictures of A4 parts, "like a burlesque crowd" (300). Perhaps Pynchon is modifying here the most notorious aspect of the fair, much covered in the newspapers: the burlesques of Show Street, including a "Girls of the Galaxy" performance in which "models ... pose[d] in space-age costumes on a revolving stage as fairgoers [took] 'pin-up' photos with their own cameras or rented ones" (Patty 1961, 12). In the Mittelwerke there is also a "sandwich wagon" and "an energetic businessman, selling A4 souvenirs: small items that can be worked into keychains, money clips or a scatter-pin for that special gal back home"--all reminiscent of the endless tchotchkes, some rocket-themed, for sale at the fair (many of them now available from collectors on eBay) (GR 300).

Promised a special "tour" that will include the slave labor camp Dora, Slothrop-as-Scuffling finds instead an "elegant Raumwaffe spacesuit wardrobe" featuring silks for "Space-Jockeys," a display of deathly, grotesque space helmets to try on, and "dioramas on the theme 'The Promise of Space Travel,'" all seemingly jabs at displays like the NASA and US Science Pavilions that tried (and failed) to shift attention away from both a grisly history and a totalitarian future and toward benign uses for gleaming V-2 technology. The donning of the skull-like helmets (possibly inspired by the NASA Pavilion's numerous displays of astronaut garb) is especially chilling: "What you thought was a balanced mind is of little help." In second person, noting "popular attraction[s]," the voice throughout this passage is that of a condescending guidebook, the style later associated with "Mister Information" (301, 657). "Tourists," Pynchon writes, "have to connect the look of [displays] back to things they remember from their times and planet," including "hairdos of the late 1930s" (302)--perhaps a critique of fair prophecies that Pynchon knew ended up, as they always do, revealing more about the prophet's relationship to a pastiche of historical signifters than the real "ways of the 21st century" (301). Many lights of Century 21 were left on twenty-four hours a day, and "this Rocket-City," pointing ahead to the White City of Against the Day, is "whitely lit against the calm dimness of space" (302).

Increasingly surreal as Slothrop's time in the Zone lengthens, the Raketen-Stadt features "nightly spectacles" of a "nonstop revue," some involving the Floundering Four--more performance, more large-scale public event, all foreshadowing the novel's final scene (GR 693, 694). The fair brought many performers, musicians, preachers, and the like to Seattle for shows in the Playhouse (now the Intiman Theatre), Opera House, and the outdoor Memorial Stadium. Pynchon's director Gerhardt von Goll, who discourses on the world as a giant film set, finds an echo in the shooting of It Happened at the World's Fair: star Elvis Presley rode the monorail and walked around, extras riding behind him and hundreds of actual fair visitors standing by for a close-up view (Becker and Stein 2011, 173-74). The Raketen-Stadt's constant live spectacles take place before "hundreds of thousands" of "spectators" in a gigantic "amphitheater"/cityscape reminiscent of the Roman Coliseum, inexplicably with "miles" of seats (this whole world is indeed "all theatre") and detritus evocative of fairgrounds ("broken buns, peanut shells, bones, bottles half-filled with green or orange sweet") (GR 692-93). All this is interspersed with the cooking fires of homeless people here "in the slum-suburban night" (694). Even as this amphitheater suggests a society of the spectacle (the onstage performances often seem like parodies of film and TV), Pynchon evokes the homeless of Pioneer Square and those evicted, or simply socially ostracized, from the fairgrounds, much as, in his recreation of the Columbian Exposition in Against the Day, he notes the irony that actors have become "refugees from the 'national' exhibits" after the exposition closes, the country "a place of exile" revealed to be full of everyday white cities (2006, 69).

All these kitschy, degrading, often racist amusements give Gravity's Rainbow the frequent feel of Disneyland, which, as Jean Baudrillard famously argues, is the embodiment of postmodern America, "presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest [of the country] is real" (1983, 25). Direct, deeply sinister Disney references help constitute Pynchon's simulacral, propagandistic world: Walt Disney has illustrated "The Wisdom of the Great Kamikaze Pilots" (GR 693) with racist caricatures and is one of those "in on" the promotion of war ideology, with his Dumbo "clutch[ing] to that feather" as a model for dead soldiers with their hands "frozen around a Miraculous Medal" (137). Such associations are linked to another World's Fair--based reading of Gravity's Rainbow: examining "the Rocket State's material and imaginative roots," Dale Carter has linked Pynchon's creation to both the 1964 New York World's Fair's "singularly futuristic air" and Walt Disney's ambitious plans for a domed Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow (EPCOT) (1988, 8, 2-3). Observing that Zwolfkinder's child guides to the park evoke Disneyland's similar practice, Carter speculates that it is "possible that Pynchon, who was working for Boeing at Seattle, Washington, between 1960 and 1962, visited Disneyland and witnessed not only this particular scheme in action but also the popular moon rocket ride and monorail systems of 'Tomorrowland.'" Noting that a review of The Crying of Lot 49 had Pynchon living in New York as of 1966, Carter writes that the 1964 New York fair "attracted massive publicity and Pynchon may have either visited the pavilions, witnessed the film shows, or read papers" (4n6).

But while visits to Disneyland or the 1964 fair are plausible, Carter leaves out the fact that Pynchon had a Disneyfied World's Fair setting readily available to him in 1962 Seattle. Urban historian John M. Findlay (1992) notes the impact of Disney's theme park model on several western US cities, including Seattle in the crucible provided by the 1962 fair. "From the outset," Findlay writes, the Seattle fair "organizers consulted with Walt Disney and visited Disneyland to learn how it worked," contracting for the Seattle monorail and Skyride with the same firms that had built similar attractions in Anaheim and hiring on Disney specialists in ticket sales, concessions, and crowd control. "The Disney way had prevailed at Century 21" (1992, 244-45). Upon visiting the Space Needle, Disney himself predicted that, while Disneyland would not install one, "there will be Space Needles cropping up all over after the success of this one" (Berger 2012, 103). One of the Disney veterans, Frederic V. Schumacher, director of operations and services at Century 21, returned to Disney in 1962 to work on projects for the 1964 New York fair (Findlay 1992, 244-45). Thus Gravity's Rainbow's reimaginings, rooted primarily in Seattle, occupy the nexus of a whole series of infantilizing, anesthetizing landscapes and techniques Pynchon distills in "Happyville," where "Skippy," "little fool," gets to avoid, temporarily at least, the lessons in store in a Rilkean "Pain City" (GR 657).

My final set of correspondences between the Raketen-Stadt and Century 21 centers on the enduring symbol of the Space Needle--the signature element of the fair and now of Seattle's skyline. A 605-foot tower of sleek steel with a tripod-like base and topped by an observation deck and rotating restaurant, it was at the time of its construction the tallest structure west of the Mississippi (it is now only the seventh tallest in Seattle itself). The Needle was plainly visible "everywhere, blocked only by the hills" in 1962, as Knute Berger (2012, 77) notes (and remains so today from countless spots, since it is set off from downtowns skyscrapers by over a mile). Meant to be a space-age rival to the Eiffel Tower (constructed for Paris's 1889 World's Fair), the Space Needle was widely called "a UFO on a stick" (24, 32). The structure evokes a sort of gantry for an unlaunched rocket, and, in fact, Needle engineer John Minasian had worked on Saturn and Atlas rocket gantries (69-70). During most of the fair's run, the Space Needle had a natural gas flame burning at its top, which, as Washington Natural Gas boasted, burned enough energy in one day to power 125 homes (84). Perhaps Greta Erdmann, recalling Blicero's madness on the Luneburg Heath, has the flame-lit Space Needle in mind when she mentions "black and broken towers in the distance, clustered together, a flame that always burned at the top of one stack. It was the Castle" (GR 494).

Gravity's Rainbow is rife with both towers and aerial views, as Kathryn Hume was first to note, in an argument that shows Pynchon switching continually between a heightened perspective and that of a "cowering creature awaiting annihilation" in the city below, such that we readers often "experience the viewpoints of rocket and victim" simultaneously (1988, 625).That is the kind of vertigo we experience at the first mention of the Raketen-Stadt in the fair-inspired Mittelwerke scene I noted earlier, where a simulacral diorama "commands your stare" to the point that we can see "immense" distances, and "yes, we're hanging now down the last limb of our trajectory in to the Raketen-Stadt"--as though a commanding vantage has suddenly transformed into a spot at the tip of the falling rocket, subtly preparing us for Gottfried's fate (GR 302).

The fascination with the Space Needle, and with the views from its observation deck, might well have prompted Gravity's Rainbow's efforts to bring "the Towers low," as the ending song says (776). Certainly, it's easy to think of Pynchon mentally composing Enzian's despairing lines to Katje while making his way around Seattle in 1961-62, with the hegemonic symbol of the Space Needle rising above:

"I would take you to a balcony. An observation deck. I would show you the Raketen-Stadt. [...] We would gaze down on staff-rooms, communications centers, laboratories, clinics. [...] I would say: This is what I have become. An estranged figure at a certain elevation and distance ..." who looks out over the Raketen-Stadt in the amber evenings, with washed and darkening cloud sheets behind him--"who has lost everything else but this vantage. There is no heart, anywhere now, no human heart left in which I exist. Do you know what that feels like?" (673)

"Washed and darkening cloud sheets" do sound like Seattle weather. But even if he did not go up in the Needle himself, as construction was completed Pynchon could have seen many accounts and photographs of the view of the city and Puget Sound the Needle commanded. He had ample opportunity to contemplate the ways his nation and city had "become"--had gotten "lost" to--the sublime "vantage" of a rocket in disguise. He did read Cooke's account of the fair, where Cooke writes that the Needle gave "the town's citizens a godlike view of the grandeur that begins on the horizon and mocks the rather dreary works of man below," the "miles of junk and secondhand car lots" (1962b). As if taking Cooke's cue, Enzian's speech points to the culturewide accession to fascistic forces that is represented in Weissmann's Tarot reading, where he is "'covered,' that is his present condition is set forth, by The Tower" (GR 762). While Pynchon characteristically offers a wide range of apocalyptic interpretations for it, The Tower, "we know by now [...] is also the Rocket." A tower that is also a rocket: this was the language in which the Space Needle was often described.

Perhaps the strongest case for a specific Century 21 link, though, lies in what the novel calls "elevator lore," the means by which Pynchon puts occupants of his rocketlike towers in traumatic motion (750). Among the most noted Seattle World's Fair experiences were two elevator rides. The Space Needles elevators--traveling at a speed of 800 feet per minute, or about 10 miles per hour, more than 3 times faster than a typical elevator--were framed as a rocket ride, the car itself as (in the words of a Seattle Times article) a "space-shaped 'capsule'" ("Bottom" 1962). "With rocket-like speed," says another article, the two passenger "elevators ... zip to the top in only 43 seconds" ("Needle" 1962). Meanwhile, the Bubbleator, widely remarked on as one of the most beloved experiences of the fair, was a spherical plexiglass elevator in the Washington State Coliseum (now Key Arena) that delivered a hundred visitors (or "a century") at a time to the beginning of the exhibit "The Threshold and the Threat," one of the fair's attempts to acknowledge the chilling reality of nuclear war. Bubbleator riders ascended into a honeycomb-like set of 3,250 aluminum cubes, on and around which occurred a multimedia display on possibilities of technological utopia and nuclear apocalypse (Becker and Stein 2011, 258). The Bubbleator operators, clad in silver lame Buck Rogersesque uniforms, intoned as people entered, "Please step to the rear of the sphere!" and, as they left, "Step off--into the future! We all have to do that some time." The transparent walls of the Bubbleator refracted a surrounding glow of white light so that riders saw a rainbow of colors as they rode up toward the white cubes. (10)

Gravity's Rainbow often intertwines the harrowing experience of elevators with rocket-induced trauma, the many elevator scenes part of a constant search for analogies (always failed) between older technologies and the nuclear war to come. In Pirate's opening dream, for example, evacuees from what might be a nuclear strike "are taken in lots, by elevator--a moving wood scaffold," that last word suggesting a mass execution (GR 4). Later, in Pointsman's abreaction ward, the text illustrates the return of trauma for a patient ("you") who survived a V-2 hit on a movie theater that foreshadows the novel's ending. Grasping for a metaphor from everyday experience, the description settles on an elevator: "once again the floor is a giant lift propelling you with no warning toward your ceiling--replaying now as the walls are blown outward" (50). Repeatedly, too, characters face an abyss beneath them, as when Greta, introduced to Imipolex, feels "an abyss between [her] feet" as the contents of her mind and body go "tumbling downward [...] out into some void" (496). Here, as with thoughts Pokier draws from the climactic fall of the "mad inventor" Rothwang in Metropolis, technological innovation itself seems like an elevator with its floor giving way, producing "chances of surrender, personal and dark surrender, to the Void, to delicious and screaming collapse" (588).

The culminating moment of collective elevator trauma in Gravity's Rainbow occurs at the beginning of the final passage through the Raketen-Stadt, the novel's last major section. "By now the City is grown so tall that elevators are long-haul affairs, with lounges inside" (749).The scene of an impossibly long ride upward reads as a dreamlike condensation of the towering Space Needle and the Bubbleator. The Space Needle elevator operators were all female, like the team of demonstrators at the Science Pavilion (Berger 2012, 92), and like the elevator operators in Pynchon's Raketen-Stadt as well, who wear "green overseas caps" and "green velvet basques" (or bustiers), militarized to suit the novel's vision but maintaining the signature color of Seattle, a.k.a. the Emerald City (GR 749). These operators head off worry about the "Certificate of Inspection" on the wall by discussing with ominous cheerfulness a "Vertical Solution" that, in another connection of elevators with oblivion, evokes Hitler's Final one (750). Before this Vertical Solution, operator "Mindy Bloth of Carbon City, Illinois," her face refracted by mirrors, says,
   "all transport was, in effect, two-dimensional--ah, I can guess
   your question--" as a smile, familiar and unrefracted for this old
   elevator regular, passes between girl and heckler--'"What about
   airplane flight, eh?' that's what you were going to ask wasn't it!"
   as a matter of fact he was going to ask about the Rocket and
   everyone knows it, but the subject is under a curious taboo, and
   polite Mindy has brought in now a chance for actual violence,
   the violence of repression [...] into this intimate cubic
   environment moving so smoothly upward through space (a bubble
   rising through Castile soap where all around it's green lit by slow
   lightning), past levels already a-bustle. (750)

Reminiscent of Mister Information, this condescending voice offers reassurance, diverting attention from Boeing's rockets to its jets. The rocket is a taboo topic because these riders are effectively in a rocket, not an elevator, at the moment. Seattle seems present again, in the preponderance of green, in the image of the Bubbleator evoked by soap bubble lighting effects, and in a later evocation of office parties and stops for witty banter over the "SG-1" at "Field Service" and "Engineering Design" that point to both Slothrop's quest for the S-Gerat and, it would seem, the structures Pynchon navigated at Boeing (750). The mention of the mystery rocket part is appropriate, as riders on this "elevator" foreshadow gagged Gottfried, the real S-Gerat, inside the rocket, where Weissmann gives his vision-distorting, four-inch window "a greenish tint" (766).

Present too in the symbolic mix seems to be an article from the June 10, 1962, Seattle Times. Headlined "Pilots of Needle Elevators Hear Some Silly Questions," it reads:

Is the bottom going to fall out?

This is the most frequent remark made by tourists as they ride the elevator to the top of the Space Needle.

"I bet I hear that question 50 times a day," said Miss Melissa Kohl, 20, who has been an elevator operator on the Needle since before the Seattle World's Fair opened. "But ... people [are] just making a remark. So I just smile," ...

Melissa said most of the silly remarks come from men. "The men are the corny ones," she said. "They ask things like 'Is this thing safe?' and 'Did they pick you girls because you're tall?' The answer to both is 'yes.'"

(Because the feature of the Space Needle is height, the elevator operators were chosen for their height--and good looks. Five feet seven inches in [sir] the minimum requirement.) (Almquist 1962)

Could Melissa Kohl, homophone of coal, have become a native of Carbon City in Pynchons punning and ecologically minded twists? Whatever the case, in Pynchon's hands Seattle World's Fair scenes have been exaggerated, parodied, remixed, their "actual violence" exposed--making Gravity's Rainbow in part a Seattle history, a US Rocket City history, as I have been claiming throughout.

While this final section of the novel drifts away from the Raketen-Stadt elevator scene, before the first subsection heading ("The Occupation of Mingeborough") Pynchon suggests that we have been on that impossibly long elevator ride all along, on a buildup to blastoff: "a wine rush is defying gravity, finding yourself on the elevator ceiling as it rockets upward, and no way to get down. You separate in two" (GR 758). As "it rockets upward," the elevator effectively becomes a rocket (the Space Needle taking off?), and, like Gottfried, "you" are inside an enclosed space for ascent and, tragically, descent. An elevator rider moving quickly upward would expect to be pinned to the floor of the elevator, not the ceiling, but this defiance of the laws of physics gets added to the rocket's other disturbances to supposedly ironclad sequences (cause and effect, arrival and sound, and so forth).Thus, like the patient on Pointsman's ward reexperiencing a rocket from above as "the floor [becomes] a giant lift propelling you with no warning toward your ceiling," the reader riding this paradoxical elevator experiences a rocket abreaction, one that points (ahead in the text's pages, back in the chronology) to Gottfried, sacrificial victim, inside Blicero's 00000. In these ways, Pynchon devastatingly revises the giddy American admiration for rocket rides encapsulated by the Space Needle.

Trying to interpret Pynchon's surrealism, localize his allusions to any singular source, or draw any conclusions from his scant biographical materials is, of course, tricky business. But, with caveats, I have tied some of the strangest inventions of Gravity's Rainbow to historical events in the midst of which Pynchon lived. Although any single one of these references is not enough to clinch a connection to the 1962 fair, together the allusions do become legible as Pynchon's radical and studied response to the events and symbolism of his 1962 home. This reading could be extended to a detailed examination of the liberties Pynchon takes with the historical record of the 1893 World's Fair in Against the Day, as I have already suggested. For instance, visiting the White City, Lindsay Noseworth and Miles Blundell see an alleged "SPECIAL REINDEER SHOW" put on by native Tungus herders but advertised by dancing "young women in quite revealing costumes," obviously not Tungus, who speak English and caress a reindeer "with scandalous intimacy" as a come-on to passersby. "This doesn't seem [...] quite ... authentic, somehow," says Lindsay, "between fascination and disbelief"--a metafictional moment where, in addition to the ethnic and other dissonances, Pynchon may be allowing 1962 Seattle's Show Street burlesques to commingle with his nineteenth-century exposition (Pynchon 2006, 23). World's Fair settings seem to activate his powerful use of anachronism.

This is true too of Pynchon's most recent turn on the deadening colonization of a celebratory global space of technology in Bleeding Edge. When Maxine Tarnow first sees the "gigantic 17-inch LCD monitor" on which she will experience Deep Archer, the Deep Web play space that serves as this novel's initially disordered Zone, she exclaims, "Whoa, Cinerama here"--a reference to the Boeing-aided film technology that made a major splash in the Seattle fair's Journey to the Stars (Pynchon 2013, 74). Much later, as Maxine witnesses the corporatization and colonization of DeepArcher, Pynchon may still be thinking about 1962 Seattle as a template for his Zones and their inevitable gridding and commodification:
   She can't help noticing this time how different the place is.
   What was once a train depot is now a Jetsons-era spaceport
   with all wacky angles, jagged towers in the distance, lenticular
   enclosures up on stilts, saucer traffic coming and going up in the
   neon sky. Yuppified duty-free shops, some for offshore brands she
   doesn't recognize even the font they're written in. Advertising
   everywhere. On walls, on the clothing and skins of crowd extras,
   as pop-ups out of the Invisible and into your face. She wonders
   if-Sure enough, here they are, lurking around the entrance to a
   Starbucks, [...] Eric's ad-business acquaintances Promoman and
   Sandwichgrrl. (354)

Developments in DeepArcher appear to be following the logic of space-age futurism, naive-seeming in retrospect, at the 1962 fair: as in the Raketen-Stadt's use of 1930s motifs in an alleged 1945 that is really expressive of 1970s militarism, DeepArcher's accelerated vector into the future is a historical pastiche of styles and imagining. The mention of the Jetsons points to Century 21 as well: The Jetsons premiered on television in September 1962, and one of its main creators, Iwao Takamoto, admits to drawing inspiration from Century 21 and the Space Needle for the look of George and family's "skypad" apartment (Berger 2012, 166). The "jagged towers" and "lenticular enclosures" on "stilts" also call to mind the Space Needle, the converted train depot suggests the space age monorail, and the ad-marked "crowd extras" and "Promoman" evoke the controlling and commodified World's Fair atmosphere. And, of course, Pynchon here names the Seattle coffee brand that has brought the city's yuppifying capitalism all over the world. Elsewhere in Bleeding Edge renegade documentary filmmaker Reg Despard, having uncovered bad shit, heads west from New York to Seattle and ends up temping at Microsoft, seemingly tracing Pynchon's own 1960 course into the belly of the Boeing corporate beast. Perhaps Reg's and Eric Outfield's "rolling server farm," always on the road ahead of detection ("We could be heading anywhere"), should read as Pynchon's post-Seattle embrace of nomadism and invisibility in Mexico as he continued writing his secret histories of Western terrors (Pynchon 2013, 437).

Further connections between the implicit World's Fair settings of Gravity's Rainbow and the explicit ones of Against the Day could someday become the leading edge for study of the network formed by various Pynchon novels from Gravity's Rainbow forward. Such study awaits Pynchon critics once his letters to his longtime agent Canadia Donadio, now under seal at the Morgan Library, are opened to research after Pynchon's death. Mel Gussow's brief quotations from these letters in a March 1998 New York Times article include Pynchon's tantalizing mention that in April 1964 he had four novels in progress. "If they come out on paper anything like they are inside my head," Pynchon writes, "then it will be the literary event of the millennium" (quoted in Gussow 1998). Which four subsequent publications these became--or whether some were combined or discarded--remains a deeply intriguing mystery.

Might direct experience of the 1962 events I chronicle here have led Pynchon to construct World's Fair celebrations of capital and technology as a motif connecting major projects that would come to light individually over the next four decades, with, say, Gravity's Rainbow and Against the Day, each in its own coded way, responding to 1962 Seattle? We must await the opening of the letters and any other revelations that may be forthcoming. I rest with having offered here some small reflection of what Pynchon may mean when he writes, in a 1978 letter Gussow also quotes, apparently in response to a suggestion that the author write his autobiography, "As for spilling my life story, I try to do that all the time. Nobody ever wants to listen, for some strange reason" (1998).

DOI 10.1215/0041462X-3616564

Jeffrey Severs is assistant professor of English at the University of British Columbia. He coedited Pynchon's "Against the Day": A Corrupted Pilgrim's Guide (2011) and has essays published or forthcoming in Critique, Modern Fiction Studies, Review of Contemporary Fiction, and Studies in American Fiction. His book, David Foster Wallace's Balancing Books: Fictions of Value, is under contract with Columbia University Press for publication in 2016.


My thanks to John Krafft, Tore Rye Andersen, and Knute Berger for their helpful comments on this article.

Works cited

Almquist, June Anderson. 1962. "Pilots of Needle Elevators Hear Some Silly Questions." Seattle Times, June 10.

Atwill, William. 2010. Fire and Power: The American Space Program as Postmodern Narrative. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Baudrillard, Jean. 1983. Simulations. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).

Becker, Paula, and Alan J. Stein. 2011. The Future Remembered: Tire 1962 Seattle World's Fair and Its Legacy. Seattle: HistoryLink.

Berger, Knute. 2012. Space Needle: The Spirit of Seattle. Seattle: Documentary Media.

"Bottom of Needle Will Be Busy Place." 1962. Seattle Times, January 12.

Carter, Dale. 1988. The Final Frontier: The Rise and Fall of the American Rocket State. New York: Verso.

Cooke, Alistair. 1962a. "Layman in a World of Science." Manchester Guardian Weekly, October 25.

--. 1962b. "Space-Age Fair with a Coney-I. Touch." Manchester Guardian Weekly, April 26.

Cowart, David. 1980. Thomas Pynchon: The Art of Allusion. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

--. 2011. Thomas Pynchon and the Dark Passages of History. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

Findlay, John M. 1992. Magic Lands: Western Cityscapes and American Culture after 1940. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Fry, Donn. 1990. "A Genius among Us--For a While." Seattle Times/Seattle Post- Intelligencer, January 14.

"Glenn Terms Titov's Remarks 'Ridiculous.'" 1962. Seattle Times, May 11.

Gussow, Mel. 1998. "Pynchon's Letters Nudge His Mask." New York Times, March 4, -nudge-his-mask.html.

Herman, Luc, and John M. Krafft. 2007. "Fast Learner: The Typescript of Pynchon's V. at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin." Texas Studies in Literature and Language 49, no. 1:1-20.

Herman, Luc, and Steven Weisenburger. 2013. "Gravity's Rainbow," Domination, and Freedom. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

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(1.) Unless bracketed, all ellipses in quotations from Pynchon are in the original text.

(2.) Gravity's Rainbow will be cited as GR.

(3.) Boris Kachka (2013), drawing from interviews with Pynchon's friends and former lovers, says Pynchon called the $1,000 he made from the delivery of V in 1962 his "escape money" and used it to quit his job and move to Mexico.

(4.) A note on nomenclature: throughout, in calling events like London in 1851 and Paris in 1900 "World's Fairs," I draw on common usage and the historical accounts and lists provided at "Past Expos-A Short History of Expos" by the Bureau of International Expositions (B IE). Technically, though, the BIE did not begin officially designating events as World Expos or World's Fairs until its inception in 1928. Not all events widely called World's Fairs receive the BIE's sanction: for example, Century 21 did, but New York in 1964 did not.

(5.) For the fullest account of Pynchon in the context of transnationalism and the postnational, see Pohlmann 2010.

(6.) In fact, an entire collection of essays on Pynchon as California writer, edited by Scott McClintock and Miller, was published by the University of Iowa Press in 2014.

(7.) Kirkpatrick Sale was the coauthor with Pynchon of the unfinished musical Minstrel Island, written at Cornell and now also owned by the Ransom Center. Faith, working at Lippincott and having given feedback on the manuscript before, took over late edits of V. when Corlies Smith departed for Viking in September 1962 (Herman and Krafft 2007, 3).

(8.) In a study of the panorama and other immersive technologies in Against the Day and V., Justin St. Clair (2011) demonstrates Pynchon's career-long interest in wide-screen experiences, drawing links between nineteenth-century panorama displays and IMAX screens. Cinerama-particularly in the 360-degree form it took in the Spacearium-fits into this general lineage. See as well my remarks on Cinerama in Bleeding Edge in the conclusion of this essay.

(9.) I am grateful to Katie Muth for drawing my attention to this ad.

(10.) I have taken the descriptions of the Bubbleator experience and operators in this paragraph from the short documentary video "MOHAI World's Fair Minute-Bubbleator" (Museum 2012).

Hume, Kathryn. 1988. "Views from Above, Views from Below:The Perspectival Subtext in Gravity's Rainbow." American Literature 60, no. 4: 625-42.

Kachka, Boris. 2013. "On the Thomas Pynchon Trail: From the Long Island of His Boyhood to the 'Yupper West Side' of His New Novel." Vulture .com, August 25, -bleeding-edge.html.

Lane, Richard. 1999."Boeing, Boeing." The Pynchon Files (website inactive). Accessed June 30, 2015., Boeing.htm.

Lynch, Jim. 2012. Truth Like the Sun. London: Bloomsbury.

McClintock, Scott, and John Miller, eds. 2014. Pynchon's California. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

McHale, Brian. 1998. "Gravity's Angels in America, or, Pynchon's Angelology Revisited." Pynchon Notes 42-43: 303-16.

Miller, John. 2013. "Present Subjunctive: Pynchon's California Novels." Critique 54, no. 3: 225-37.

Morgan, Murray. 1963. Century 21: The Story of the Seattle World's Fair, 1962. Seattle: Acme/University of Washington.

Museum of History and Industry/KCTS. 2012. "MOHAI World's Fair Minute--Bubbleator." YouTube video, watch?v=vLWC95Ts9dU.

"Needle Is Symbol." 1962. Seattle Times, April 8.

Official Guide Book: Seattle World's Fair 1962.1962. Seattle: Acme.

"Past Expos--A Short History of Expos." Official Site of the Bureau International des Expositions, /past-expos-a-short-history-of-expos.

Patty, Stanton H. 1961."Girls of Galaxy Booked for Fair." Seattle Times, November 11.

Pohlmann, Sascha. 2010. Pynchon's Postnational Imagination. Heidelberg: Universitatsverlag Winter.

Pynchon, Thomas. 1962. "Letter to Kirkpatrick Sale, May 28." Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas-Austin.

--. (1973) 2006. Gravity's Rainbow. New York: Penguin.

--. (1984) 1985. Slow Learner: Early Stones. Toronto: Bantam.

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--. 2013. Bleeding Edge. New York: Penguin.

Scott, Darrin. 1963."Journey to the Stars." American Cinematographer (June): 344-45.

"Space Man Expounds His Atheism." 1962. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 7. St. Clair, Justin. 2011. "Binocular Disparity and Pynchon's Panoramic Paradigm." In Pynchon's ".Against the Day": A Corrupted Pilgrim's Guide, edited by Jeffrey Severs and Christopher Leise, 67-88. Newark: University of Delaware Press.

Stein, Alan J. 2002. "Astronaut John Glenn Visits the Seattle World's Fair on May 10,1962.", .cfm?DisplayPage=output. cfm&file_id=3697.

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Weisenburger, Steven. 2006. A "Gravity's Rainbow" Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

When Seattle Invented the Future: The 1962 World's Fair. 2012. DVD. Directed by John Gordon Hill. Seattle: KCTS Television.

Winston, Mathew. 1975. "The Quest for Pynchon." Twentieth-Century Literature 21, no. 3: 278-87.

Wisnicki, Adrian. 2000-2001. "A Trove of New Works by Thomas Pynchon? Bomarc Service News Rediscovered." Pynchon Notes 46-49: 9-34.
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Date:Jun 1, 2016
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