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Bette Davis and Margaret Dumont are in the curly-Cuvilliés drawing-room of somebody’s palatial home. From outside the window, at some point, comes the sound of a kazoo, playing a tune of astounding tastelessness, probably “Who Dat Man?” from A Day At The Races (in more ways than one). It is one of Groucho Marx’s vulgar friends. The sound is low, buzzing and guttural. Bette Davis freezes, tosses her head, flicks her cigarette, “What,” she inquires, “is that?” Margaret Dumont smiles, throws out her chest, looks down her nose, “Well it sounds,” she replies, “like a kazoo.”

For all Slothrop knows, it was a kazoo. By the time he’s awake, the racket has faded in the morning. Whatever it was, it woke him up. What it was, or is, is Pirate Prentice, in a more or less hijacked P-47, on route to Berlin. His orders are terse and clear, like those of the others, agents of the Pope, Pope got religion, go out ‘n’ find that minisinger, he’s a good guy after all…

— Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)

for Richard Farina

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