Vyrva, the Beanie Baby

In what follows I while attempt to persuade you that Vyrva and Beanie Babies are essentially the same.

Throughout the novel, I’ve felt that Vyrva’s character never contributes any sustenance to the story. She seems to pop up in certain areas of the reading, but only to introduce other characters or ideas. In effect, she is meaningless in the overall importance of the story. She even describes herself to Maxine in chapter 1, “‘I’m just hangin out, waitin for my stock options to vest?’” (Pynchon pg. 4) She is introduced to the audience in Chapter 1 as the fourth character in the novel (after Maxine, Ziggy, and Otis). In Chapter 4, Vyrva shows up at Maxine’s to pick up her daughter, who has been waiting to get picked up for some time. In Chapter 7, Maxine goes over to Vyrva’s house where she spends all of her time with Justin and Lucas. Vyvra materializes in the DeepArcher scene (page 77) with coffee, giving me the notion that her sole purpose in Pynchon’s narrative is to serve others. To elucidate, Vyrva reappears in Chapter 13 to deliver one sentence “’Don’t look at me,’ sez Vyrva, ‘I just roll the joints and bring out the junk food.’” (Pynchon pg. 135)

I want to draw upon a point in Chapter 4 where it is discovered that Vyrva is a ‘Beanie Baby person’. Vyrva explains to Maxine:

“…Ten, twelve years down the line, college looming, you know what these are gonna be worth to collectors?”

“Lots?” Maxine guesses.

“Uncomputable.”

Ziggy’s not so sure. “Except for one or two special editions,” he points out, “there’s no packaging on Beanie Babies, which is important to collectors, and also means that 99-plus percent are out there loose in the environment, getting trampled, chewed apart and drooled on, lost under the radiator, eaten by mice, in ten years there won’t be one in collectible condition, unless Mrs. McElmo is stashing them in archival plastic someplace besides Fiona’s room… (Pynchon pg. 39-40)

I remember investing in Beanie Babies when I was in primary school, just like Vyrva. I must have bought at least fifteen of them, which are now collecting dust in my parents’ attic (I’m sure I’m not alone on this one). In order to dissect what Pynchon is telling us in the preceding passage, I did a little research on Beanie Babies and came up with some interesting facts. Ty Warner started producing their first generation of Beanie Babies in 1993. These stuffed animals presently fetch the highest average prices because they are the most rare and thus the most collectible. From 1994-1998, Ty Warner produced 5 more generations of Beanie Babies, and public interest in these toys grew fanatical. The height of the craze was around 1999, where five more generations were created in a span of two years. Throughout all of this time, Ty Warner deliberately limited production of Beanie Babies to create scarcity. They also retired Beanie Babies, and early generation retirees increased in value. As a result, public craze surged right around the era that Bleeding Edge is set in. Ironically, Pynchon published this book in 2013, so he knew exactly what would happen to the value of these toys. Furthermore, Ziggy foresees the main problem of leaving Beanie Babies under the protection of children: The stuffed animals lose almost all of their value if they are not in mint condition with both tags and the correct packaging. Ziggy points out the apparent flaws with investing in a child ‘s toy that must be kept in mint condition. Thus, Beanie Babies turned out to be just another fad in 1999 and are now worthless.

Beanie Babies correlate with Vyrva in that they are both products of the passing time. Vyrva appears to be just waitin for her stock option to vest even though she is not worth anything, just how Beanie Babies are now worthless. There is a passage in Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow that I keep running into and that best explains the principle of worth and time: “’Temporal bandwidth,’” is the width of your present, your now. It is the familiar “∆ t” considered as a dependent variable. The more you dwell in the past and in the future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are.” Vyrva, and consequently Beanie Babies, have an extremely limited “bandwidth”, for they do not provide any value in the long term. In essence, they lost their identity as they dropped out of plot and were devoured by time. This idea alludes to Pynchon’s theme of the preterite v. elect. In Calvinist theology, God predestined the elect with an afterlife in Heaven. Consequently, the elect have meaning and purpose because they exist within God’s design. The preterite, on the other hand, have been excluded from God’s plan, and so their life is essentially unimportant. In Bleeding Edge, Vyrva represents a member of the preterite, for she does not provide any meaning in Pynchon’s overall scheme.

If you want to compare the values Beanie Babies across the generations and see if you have a hidden gem in your attic, go here.

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One Response to Vyrva, the Beanie Baby

  1. …you’re definitely not alone. I actually collected beanie babies that were sea creatures. Only sea creatures. Like I actually wanted all the beanie babies that were sea creatures. Crabs, whales, sharks, etc., I was obsessed. I love that you directed attention to this passage, because I totally had written Vyrva off as basically a valley girl/bimbo foil for Maxine. I overlooked this one, you reminded me of how incredibly deliberate Pynchon is with all of these references, even if they’re outside of the scope of the digital and control networks. I love it. If you’re going to elaborate more on these types of clever engagements Pynchon is implementing, I’d encourage you to look at the passage at the beginning of chapter 7 on page 68, where Otis and Fiona play with action figures and end up destroying Fiona’s Melanie’s Mall. It’s a great scene, but I think it’s encroaching into some of the same territory you’re observing here!

    Like

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