Wolfe Tone O'Rooney

The author probably had Theobald Wolfe Tone, commonly known as Wolfe Tone, in mind when he created Wolfe Tone O'Rooney. Theobald Wolfe Tone (1763-98), an Irish revolutionary and one of the founders of the Society of United Irishmen (United Irishmen) in 1791. The society envisioned the union of Protestant and Catholic Irland to work toward constitutional independence as a republic on the model of the United States. In 1795 it shifted from a constitutional to a revolutionary approach. Mr. Tone was inspired with republican idealism by the successes of the American Revolution and by the apparent success of the French Revolution. He was instrumental in several abortive attempts to secure French support for Irish revolution in the 1790s. Wolfe Tone was captured at sea during one of these attempts (1798 Irish Rebellion) and sentenced to death for high treason. He committed suicide, allegedly by cutting his own throat, in prison in Dublin. Wolfe Tone is worshiped in Ireland as an iconic figure and the father of Irish Republicanism. (Wolfe Tone).

Slim Gaillard (1916-1991)
More likely... O’Rooney is a groaningly sly nod to Slim Gaillard. Slim was one of the most individual, eccentric and original musicians in the history of jazz. An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, he also composed numerous, hilarious nonsense songs, often in a language he created himself called “vout,” a jive jargon that enjoyed enormous popularity with the Hipsters during the 1940’s, and “O’Rooney” is Pynchon’s shout-out to “vout.” Gaillard is name-checked in Jack Kerouac's On The Road :
'Nobody knows where Slim Gaillard is'
'... one night we suddenly went mad together again; we went to see Slim Gaillard in a little Frisco nightclub. Slim Gaillard is a tall, thin Negro with big sad eyes who's always saying 'Right-orooni' and 'How 'bout a little bourbon-arooni.' In Frisco great eager crowds of young semi-intellectuals sat at his feet and listened to him on the piano, guitar and bongo drums. When he gets warmed up he takes off his undershirt and really goes. He does and says anything that comes into his head. He'll sing 'Cement Mixer, Put-ti Put-ti' and suddenly slow down the beat and brood over his bongos with fingertips barely tapping the skin as everybody leans forward breathlessly to hear; you think he'll do this for a minute or so, but he goes right on, for as long as an hour, making an imperceptible little noise with the tips of his fingernails, smaller and smaller all the time till you can't hear it any more and sounds of traffic come in the open door. Then he slowly gets up and takes the mike and says, very slowly, 'Great-orooni ... fine-ovauti ... hello-orooni ... bourbon-orooni ... all-orooni ... how are the boys in the front row making out with their girls-orooni ... orooni ... vauti ... oroonirooni ..." He keeps this up for fifteen minutes, his voice getting softer and softer till you can't hear. His great sad eyes scan the audience.
Dean stands in the back, saying, 'God! Yes!' -- and clasping his hands in prayer and sweating. 'Sal, Slim knows time, he knows time.' Slim sits down at the piano and hits two notes, two C's, then two more, then one, then two, and suddenly the big burly bass-player wakes up from a reverie and realizes Slim is playing 'C-Jam Blues' and he slugs in his big forefinger on the string and the big booming beat begins and everybody starts rocking and Slim looks just as sad as ever, and they blow jazz for half an hour, and then Slim goes mad and grabs the bongos and plays tremendous rapid Cubana beats and yells crazy things in Spanish, in Arabic, in Peruvian dialect, in Egyptian, in every language he knows, and he knows innumerable languages. Finally the set is over; each set takes two hours. Slim Gaillard goes and stands against a post, looking sadly over everybody's head as people come to talk to him. A bourbon is slipped into his hand. 'Bourbon-orooni -- thank-you-ovauti ...' Nobody knows where Slim Gaillard is. Dean once had a dream that he was having a baby and his belly was all bloated up blue as he lay on the grass of a California hospital. Under a tree, with a group of colored men, sat Slim Gaillard. Dean turned despairing eyes of a mother to him. Slim said, 'There you go-orooni.' Now Dean approached him, he approached his God; he thought Slim was God; he shuffled and bowed in front of him and asked him to join us. 'Right-orooni,' says Slim; he'll join anybody but won't guarantee to be there with you in spirit. Dean got a table, bought drinks, and sat stiffly in front of Slim. Slim dreamed over his head. Every time Slim said, 'Orooni,' Dean said 'Yes!' I sat there with these two madmen. Nothing happened. To Slim Gaillard the whole world was just one big orooni.' [1]
4-CD Box Set
Pynchon’s love of On the Road, jazz, “improvisational” language, and absurdist song is well known. It’s certainly no accident that this character appears in a section dealing with anarchy and “jass.” Slim Gaillard was a jazz anarchist nonpareil. The name of just this one character is a perfect example of multiple layers of riffing on historical “reality,” Pynchon’s jazz/anarchist stock in trade. How many such nuggets lay buried in this goldmine of a book as we sit stiffly while Pynchon dreams over our head? “Maybe it’s not the world, but with a minor adjustment or two it’s what the world might be.” Amen-orooni to that.

A recent 4-CD Box Set, with extensive liner notes, is available from Amazon.com

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