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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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On my latest, but numerically beyond-counting, read-through of Gravity's Rainbow, it suddenly struck me that the Fred and Phyllis referenced on page 711: "(who's that tapping and giggling at your door, Fred and Phyllis?)" are none other than Pynchon's long-standing friends Fred and (the late) Phyllis Gebauer.

While I'd written about Phyllis before, notably in regard to her donation of a rare set of signed copied of Pynchon's works to the UCLA writing programme to fund scholarships, I also wondered if there were other of Pynchon's friends making it into his writing. Others certainly think so. Disappointingly, there is no source for this information cited, but Gene Bluestein in Anglish/Yinglish: Yiddish in American Life and Literature (U of Nebraska Press, 1998), p. 86 claims that Steve Edelman is also the name of one of Pynchon's acquaintances: “here, as elsewhere, Pynchon uses the name of a friend”. Whether this is hearsay remains unconfirmed.

Of course, this will remain a topic of fascination; Pynchon's reluctance to let any details of his personal life into the open (and, hey, that's entirely his right) while simultaneously writing novels in which quests (albeit quests which disintegrate) are of primary significance almost invites such speculation.