Introduction: Approach and Avoid

Author: Luc Herman (University of Antwerp)

  • Introduction: Approach and Avoid


    Introduction: Approach and Avoid



On December 14, 1944, twelve hundred people were watching a matinee performance of Buffalo Bill (starring William Wellman and Maureen O'Hara) in the Rex movie theatre in Antwerp, when a V-2 came down and killed 567 of them. This historical event inspired Thomas Pynchon to write the final episode of Gravity's Rainbow, except of course that he seems to keep what has by that time changed into the Bomb forever suspended instead of letting it come down on the Orpheus theatre in L.A. Interestingly, the proper noun "Rex" appears on page 546 of the novel in connection with Antwerp, not as the name of the movie theatre–which was in fact derived from a Parisian model–but rather as that of the Belgian Fascist party led by Leon Degrelle. Toward the end of the Antwerp paragraph on 546, Katje says that her little brother, Louis, had joined Rex, which she describes with a quotation as "the realm of total souls." The signifier "Rex" brims with hermeneutic possibilities: one could develop the link in GR between movies and Fascism, and thus see the Antwerp paragraph as a slightly veiled confirmation of Siegfried Kracauer's fundamental importance for the novel; or one could interpret the absence of the signifier's cinematic meaning from the Antwerp paragraph as the foreboding–for those who know Antwerp, and to be activated at the beginning of the final episode–of a potential apocalypse.

How to Cite:

Herman, L., (1998) “Introduction: Approach and Avoid”, Pynchon Notes , 9-11. doi:

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Published on
22 Sep 1998