Gravity’s Rainbow

ISBN: 0140283382
ISBN 13: 9780140283389
By: Thomas Pynchon

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About this book

Winner of the 1974 National Book Award“A screaming comes across the sky. . .” A few months after the Germans’ secret V-2 rocket bombs begin falling on London, British Intelligence discovers that a map of the city pinpointing the sexual conquests of one Lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop, U.S. Army, corresponds identically to a map showing the V-2 impact sites. The implications of this discovery will launch Slothrop on an amazing journey across war-torn Europe, fleeing an international cabal of military-industrial superpowers, in search of the mysterious Rocket 00000, through a wildly comic extravaganza that has been hailed in The New Republic as “the most profound and accomplished American novel since the end of World War II.”

Reader's Thoughts

Bram

I think reading and reviewing this book requires taking on some extra baggage because it...well, I don't actually need to explain why or else Gravity’s Rainbow wouldn't have this baggage in the first place. It's Gravity's Rainbow, and that makes me feel like I need to read it, preferably without thinking too much about why exactly I feel this way. But at the same time I feel like I should avoid it so I don't look like a damn hairdo, which I'm told is British slang for someone who “tries too hard” (to look cool, hip, intellectual, etc). Anyway, I decided that the draws of the former outweighed the risks of the latter, and I read it. But first I had to be mentally prepared. Because unless you possess a level of genius utterly alien to me, approaching this book requires that you take a moment to assess your reading goals. Specifically, you need to ask yourself some fundamental questions about the ways in which you are capable of deriving pleasure. The whole idea of a pleasurable reading experience is so subjectively malleable as to be rendered almost meaningless. For some, pleasurable means sticking to a plot structure, character ensemble, and prose style that's well within one's own capabilities, while also being offered thrills that lie on a primarily primitive and visceral level. For some it means making your brain sweat, drawing a little blood, grasping outside of your intellectual reach, and building up some serious (but less overt) tension to provide for powerful releases and enduring satisfactions. And for most of us, it usually means doing a little (or a lot) of both, occasionally in the same novel, depending on x number of mitigating factors in our non-reading lives. Sometimes we want to push ourselves and sometimes we just want to casually, facilely enjoy ourselves. At the moment, I'm at a place in my reading life where it seems like the more I give in blood, tears, and neuronal overheating, the more pleasure I'm capable of deriving from literature (assuming all this work is actually worth it on the other end). Now I know a passing personal fad when I see one, and even if certain not-too-far-off responsibilities weren't looming, I don't think I could find the energy, desire, time, heart, balls, chutzpah, whatever to continue tackling books like this for any extended period of time. So I'm trying to harness the obsession that's currently ruling my free time and put that cruel Blicero-esque master to work. So anyway, despite the baggage, I went into reading this with pretty realistic and tempered expectations. I recently read Pynchon’s startlingly mediocre early short stories and was also beginning to question my initial infatuation with The Crying of Lot 49. In truth, I was hoping I wouldn't love it too much or hate it (I more or less succeeded here). Reasons: I didn’t like the idea of being a full-on contrarian with claims of overwrought suckiness (while making sure to prove in my review that this opinion wasn't due to blatant comprehension inabilities), but I also couldn't make this a gushing splooge-fest for reasons nicely summed up by Goodreads Jessica: "Guys who are really into GR are like those overly-earnest guys who're way too into Tom Waits. It's this weird, jealous, intense kind of passion that can seem pretty incongruous with its object, and can make you (or me, anyway) not want to participate in this creepy cultishness." Now, simply admitting that I was concerned about all of this is likely betraying a repulsive and frightening narcissism that this website seems intent on drawing out. Yes, Goodreads is messing with me…and reading a long book about paranoia sure doesn’t help. Another general issue Gravity’s Rainbow has me mulling over is: how legitimate is it to construct a book that includes hundreds of allusions the vast majority of well-read, well-educated people will be unable to grasp without a serious study of the text and outside sources? To be honest, I'm not really sure where that line is, if there even is one, or if (assuming it's there) Pynchon crossed it. Thankfully, grasping all (or even most) of the allusions doesn't appear to be necessary to enjoy the hell out of the book and have a good idea of what's transpiring. And for this reason, I'm leaning toward a belief that Pynchon did not cross the line (if it exists). For what's better than a book you can enjoy the first time through and perhaps even more (or better yet, for new and different reasons) on subsequent reads? Initially, the difficulty of reading Gravity’s Rainbow centers on the disorienting nature of character and plot introductions, as Pynchon places you into scenes and conversations with no instructions or compass. After the first section, this disorientation (almost certainly intentional) starts to melt away, but I can imagine that most aborted reading attempts justifiably occur long before the 200 page mark. More than with any other book I've read, this one appears to have been designed for rereading. I know authors and critics throw this concept around quite a bit, with many people claiming, like Nabokov, that reading only begins with rereading. Ah, to have the luxury. But in this case, I think it's true. If I were to go back to the beginning armed with a solid grasp of the convoluted characters and plot, I'd think I'd be able to piece together aspects to which I was nakedly subjected the first time around. Pynchon's ability to create an evocative setting with an infectious mood is pretty amazing. The decimated 1945 London he cooks up is mesmerizing and provides the perfect backdrop for Roger and Jessica’s passionate, doomed love affair. He flawlessly balances feelings of reality and bizarreness here and there’s also this great just-at-the-edges-of-my-mind-but-out-of-reach-familiarity thing going on. Kind of like when you get nostalgia for something you've never experienced (but have studied or heard about or whatever). These were the things that kept me plowing through the early stages of the book. Well, in addition to all of the references (6!) to my favorite actor, Cary Grant, who’s even impeccably impersonated by Slothrop via Pynchon’s perfectly placed commas. The first section is both the easiest and hardest to navigate. Pynchon seems intent on having the readers experience the dislocation of the characters, many of whom don’t really understand the whats or whys of the situations in which they find themselves. At the beginning of a book, I expect to be a little lost when dealing with the many character introductions, new setting, etc., so this is easier to take. Later on, when we move away from major characters for the umpteenth time to meet someone new and tangentially-related, this can be a little more taxing. I’m used to having information in a novel presented in certain ways, even in the most unconventional books I’ve read, but Pynchon seems hell-bent on blazing his own narrative path. One early 20-page stretch delivered the wildest emotional rollercoaster ride I’ve ever experienced in fiction: first I was thoroughly disturbed by the S&M re-telling of Hansel and Gretel, then moved by the lushness and sorrow of the dodo slaughtering, and finally laughing hysterically (on the T, embarrassing) during the “Disgusting English Candy Drill”, in which Slothrop is subjected to various horrible British ‘candies’ by a little old lady. Seriously, the dodo-bird scene is one of the greatest pieces of writing I’ve ever encountered and it also sets up one of GR’s major themes: the Elect vs. the Preterite, a concept which surfaces throughout the book to signify the powerful vs. the powerless; those ‘passed over’ vs. those killed in war; the Man vs. the Counterforce; et al. Strangely, I am unsure whether this book itself is Elect or Preterite—was Modern Library right to exclude it from top 100 books of 20th century? Or is the quote from The New Republic on the back cover correct? The most profound and accomplished American novel since the end of World War II. This question of what is lasting and remembered literature, hinted at with subtle brilliance in 2666, is something I find fascinating. One practice that sets Pynchon apart from other writers is his incorporation of metaphors from nearly every branch of science—often very difficult ones (referring here to metaphors and branches of science). Since he doesn’t do much in the way of explaining, this can be a significant source of frustration. But it allows us science geeks to finally justify the hours spent studying organic chemistry. Actually, justify is much too strong a word. But I really enjoyed seeing Tchitcherine’s penchant for attracting counterrevolutionaries described in terms of molecular bonding capability, or seeing Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle used to describe the relationship between analgesia and addiction. Only from Thomas Ruggles Pynchon. I was also delighted, to my surprise, by much of the postmodern winking—from the few but potent direct addresses to “you” (the reader), to a discussion of difficult avant-gardism vs. pleasing simplicity that, although couched in a musical argument, was undoubtedly a direct commentary on the merits of Gravity’s Rainbow. Pynchon also can’t help himself from summarizing and distilling GR within other stories, such as that of Byron the immortal light bulb (whose experiences mirror Slothrop’s) and the plot to a drug-induced film entitled “Doper’s Greed”. There are probably many more commentaries on the book that I have either missed or forgotten—another rereading bonus, I’d bet. Perhaps most effectively, Pynchon plays around with the concepts of Pavlovian stimuli, and he relishes eliciting responses (especially sexual arousal) that will inevitably be accompanied by ethical unease, disgust, or shame. This writer-to-reader flirtation with the “ultraparadoxical phase”, wherein positive stimuli become inhibitory and vice versa, is one of the most brilliant aspects of the book. Before tackling GR, one of my main concerns about Pynchon was what I perceived to be a lack of personal human insights to balance all the other stuff—philosophical and scientific allusions, gorgeous prose, compelling metaphysics…basically everything else I need or want in a book. Gravity’s Rainbow does deliver some of this, most prominently with the Pökler storyline, but these truly human and revealing moments are rather few and far between. For me, this is where the one star deduction comes in. Telling us many times that Slothrop was sad to lose Tantivy or Katje isn’t the same thing as making us feel it. Isn’t that writing 101? I have no doubt that Pynchon can (and occasionally does) aim for character insight and evocation, but for whatever reason he frequently chooses not to. Our loss. Still, I’ve developed a bit of a Pynchon addiction and it's weird because the buzz isn't that great, but I compulsively take another hit anyway. Actually, let me rephrase that—the buzz is occasionally fantastic but usually short-lived, and frequently the let down/hangover is rather rough and nauseating. But outside of my favorite Modernists, I've never read anyone who can zing me quite the way he does on occasion. While technically the ending presents us with the ultimate climax, the last bit of the book felt appropriately anti-climactic. In the final 100 pages or so, Slothrop starts to disappear (literally?) and the “plot” sort of peters out after reaching a high point of coherence and intrigue part way through the 3rd section, which also contains some of the craziest shit I’ve ever read. Indeed, Gravity’s Rainbow makes Infinite Jest and 2666, to compare it to other postmodern monsters on which it had no small amount of influence, look conventional by comparison. How can we be expected to piece it all together? One of the least sympathetic characters in the book, Pointsman, is obsessed with Pavlovian cause-and-effect and therefore is searching for something that the more likeable stand-in Roger Mexico rejects in his analysis of events that he determines to be pattern-less and Poisson-distributed. Extrapolating from this, is Pynchon suggesting that we shouldn’t try to make too much sense out of this entropic book, which may simply be filled with random happenings rather than any connected or logical series of events? Or is that just a red herring, a false trail to divert us from some greater meaning?

Bill

Advice for a first time reader of Gravity's Rainbow:Gravity's Rainbow is a book you either love or hate, and if you hate it it's probably because you couldn't finish the damn thing. Though by no means impenetrable, the novel is daunting enough to merit a list of tips for those wishing to tackle it for the first time. Below is my advice on how new readers can get over the hump. Trust me, it's a small hump, and the masterpiece that lies on the other side is worth the effort.1. Read V first ... Pynchon's V is shorter and more accessible than Gravity's Rainbow, but addresses the same themes in a similar style. If you enjoyed V, you will have built up a reserve of goodwill for Pynchon that will carry you through the initial rough patches of Gravity's Rainbow. This advice was given to me years ago, and I'm glad I took it.2. Accept that you won't understand everything...Don't be concerned if you can't follow the many digressions or keep track of every minor character that pops up. As with other famously difficult novels, Gravity's Rainbow's real payoff comes in the rereading, so you shouldn't feel obliged to linger over each passage until it makes sense. Pynchon isn't trying to lord it over you by writing a book this dense; it's just his way of giving you your money's worth. Just follow what you can the first time through, which fortunately is a lot.3. Accentuate the accessible...Gravity's Rainbow's unreadability is over-hyped. Yes, there are many jarring digressions, but threading through them is a fairly conventional detective story. Sure there are lyrical passages that take off for the stratosphere, but they are grace notes in a melody of otherwise breezy narrative prose. So on your first time through, it's enough to follow the main plot (will Slothrop find the mysterious Rocket 00000?) and enjoy Pynchon's jokes, which are laugh-out-loud funny.4. Don't give up too early...I don't want to say that Gravity's Rainbow gets off to a slow start, but it has a lot of scene-setting to do, and the engine that really drives the book along only gets revved up in part 2. Part 1 is a well-executed minor key portrait of wartime London, but part 2 is where the drugs kick in, so stick with the novel at least that far.

Rob

It is difficult to say for certain if the five-star review will withstand a second reading--but we won't know that until I subject myself to it that second time. Fortunately for me, it has gone back to its "last in line" position for at least a little while.First, the obvious stuff: this is the kind of novel that makes "Top N" lists of all kinds (formal and less so) and is widely regarded as a masterpiece among postmodern masterpieces. It's transgressive in a number of different ways--fucking with sexuality; history and modernity and futurism; politics and anarchy; mysticism and science; u.s.w.--all on its celebratory-romping exploration of annihilation on every possible scale. It's surreal and impenetrable and referential and still somehow an engaging read. But as I look back over my notes, I'm struck by a few of my own status updates:Inappropriate analogies: Pynchon is like Neal Stephenson channelling Kurt Vonnegut doing an impression of George Orwell after having dinner with Philip K. Dick.And:Last night I dreamed that Slothrop was at a party with Bobby Shaftoe, both of them hitting on Juliana Frink.And:"It's like Neal Stephenson was writing a remix of Dhalgren for a class taught by Kurt Vonnegut?"But also:Well that last bit read like it was written by a horny college sophomore that just got introduced to absurdism.And the emergent theme of my own reading experience was definitely an academic or collegient one. The kind of book where an upper-division English class of like 6 or 7 students sits around in a circle wanking over its references and allusions and going on at great length about its influence on other, more recent works. And this isn't necessarily a Bad Thing--this is part of what Gravity's Rainbow Intends to Be. But given how I am so quick to compare it (in my mind at least) to Infinite Jest, therein lies an important difference--Infinite Jest may be surreal and absurd and referential and seemingly impenetrable, but it is also colloquial and demotic in a way that Gravity's Rainbow is not. But this is an unfair comparison.So then... what's with the five-star review? Because despite its impermeable nature, this novel--however dense, however exclusive--really does seem to accomplish what it sets out to discuss, and from every angle I could think of. And though much of it was lost on me (as a reader's guide was recommended to me, so do I recommend one to you), there is a gripping and tangled enough tale in here to keep one engaged with the prose and its narrative. (A prurient nature helps, too.)------See also:• 10 Science Fiction Novels You Pretend to Have Read (And Why You Should Actually Read Them) at io9

Aidan Watson-Morris

playing a prominent role in virtually every article on 'difficult' literature, pynchon's cult status has elevated this excellent novel to a divisive modern classic, & while pynchon's political passion & perfect panoramic prose produce potent products, don't be intimidated by those touting this as the dense, impenetrable successor to joyce on either side of the alley.like a rainbow, this covers the full spectrum--you're not gonna be able to sort out every little detail (especially if you have this, the penguin deluxe edition, which fuck you penguin), but the moments of lucidity, & the overall result, are almost paralyzing beautiful. its ambition & artistic vision are staggering, but it doesn't sacrifice the human element at the core of any great work of art (or most, i guess).this doesn't mean pynchon takes himself too seriously, mind you; part of why this book is so divisive is precisely because he's having so much fun with things, & because his (com)passion so often translates into transgression. it's as much an encyclopedia of the ridiculous as it is an entry into the pantheon of great literature.have faith in yourself as a reader, & this will be just as fun to read as it is intelligent. by the end, you may find it'll have all come together as something much, much more.explanatory note so the comment section remains coherent: originally here was a placeholder non-review in which i talked about my obsession with book cover design & showed some of the more rare covers for this beauty. most of the ones i showed can be found in the flavorwire link in the comment section.

j. ergo

***THIS IS SO A WORK IN PROGRESS: ENJOY/GIGGLE/HUFF IF YOU MUST******THE WHOLE REVIEW IS ONLY AVAILABLE UNDER MY WRITINGS BECAUSE (SEE DIRECTLY BELOW)***ALSO, THIS IS WHAT THE KIDS CALL TLTR (I think), WHICH MEANS IT'S REALLY, REALLY LONG******AND . . . IT PROBABLY HAS SPOILERS, BUT I CAN NO LONGER SEE STRAIGHT SO YER JUST GONNA HAVE TO TAKE YER CHANCES******. . . OR NOT*** Tom Don’t think too hard, Eddie, you might sprain something. Dane You are so goddamn smart. ‘Cept you ain’t. I get you, smart guy. I know what you are. Straight as a corkscrew. Mr. Inside-Outsky, like some goddamn Bolshevik, picking up his orders from Yegg central. You think you’re so goddamn smart. You join up Johnny Caspar. You bump Bernie Bernbaum. Up is down. Black is white. Well, I think you’re half-smart. I think you were straight with your frail. I think you were queer with Johnny Casper. And I think you would sooner join a Ladies’ League than gun a guy down.-Miller’s CrossingOpening a review with a quote seems kind of pretentious to me. But I'm feeling a bit pretentious now that I've finally finished Thomas Pynchon's 1973 pièce de résistance, Gravity's Rainbow. And when I say that, I am indeed calling myself out for enjoying feeling pretty smart right about now, undeserved though it may be. It's just a book after all; or to paraphrase an old movie, q. Can an ape read Nietsche? a. Yes, you idiot. He just can't understand it. But I think I did more than read Gravity's Rainbow. I understood it... well, parts of it for sure. The quote above comes from, on any given day, my favorite film. Miller’s Crossing is period gangster film set in a small, unnamed Midwestern city during the prohibition era. The story and tone of the film borrows heavily, in some cases straight steals, from the books The Glass Key and The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. What does it have to do with Gravity’s Rainbow? Very little, I suppose. But often, while reading the book, that very scene kept popping into my head. I believe now that it stemmed from discovering that every time I thought I had Pynchon, or the story, or even some miniscule point pegged, he would come out of nowhere with something that would crush my theory. Often he would turn it on its head, inside out, or upside down. For the sake of protecting anyone else’s experience with the book, I’ve decided to forego providing any examples of this as it was probably the most consistently entertaining part of reading it.To clarify, because the above could be interpreted as making light of the book instead of myself, let me say that Gravity's Rainbow is easily the most profound and captivating novel I have ever read. It is also arguably the most enjoyable one as well. Were I to possess any of the intelligence I attribute myself for just finishing it, I wouldn't be spinning my wheels here attempting to describe how it made me feel that way. This review began as a response to a thread of a friend's below, and I've decided to leave it to develop ramshackle and unbound as it began. If yer reading this at all, you've already decided one way or the other whether you might be interested in reading Gravity’s Rainbow. Because of that, I'm going to mostly throw in a few scattered thoughts around passages I found particularly pleasing, ones that might help someone make the decision to make that plunge. I've left out some of the most powerful ones I came across because the subject matter is, well... just in the remote possible chance someone might be eating and reading this at the same time, proper etiquette dictates that I do. Pynchon himself has no qualms about depicting exactly what I'm not talking about in the last sixty pp. A marked as to-read: Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas PynchonK wrote: "Good luck!! I've tried twice and can't do it. I'll try again when I have more time / less immediate responsibilities."A wrote: "Uh-oh. That makes the baby Jesus cry."Pay no mind to the naysayers. I started GR about 7 years ago for the first time and made it just shy of the 200 pp. mark before real life, in general, and my second year of fatherhood, specifically, intervened. When I tried to pick it up a month later, all was lost. I knew within 10 pp. I would have to start over, and I just didn't have the wherewithal at the time. A few years later I started fresh and made it past the 250 pp. mark before some more serious matters put a sudden halt to that. But, in addition to knowing it was pointless taking up where I left off, I learned a new lesson. I realized I hadn't really understood a thing the first time I started it. Rereading the exact same 200 pp. was akin to discovering that I'd tried to read it in Mandarin the first time. Now skip ahead, just short of a year. I happened to have a copy of The Crying of Lot 49 on a long flight. I’d read and enjoyed it in high school, but really didn't get it because I wasn't smart enough yet. Four hours later I finished it and began to really settle into Pynchon's groove. For some reason, when I got home I decided to read V. instead of giving GR another go. Though it is a challenging and long work, I devoured it in an extremely satisfactory manner in a matter of weeks. A few months later, about six months ago, I once again started GR from the beginning; and though I've taken, at times, up to a week off and finished six or seven other books in the same time period, today I finished part three leaving myself just over 100 pp. to go. I think it is the most rewarding novel I've ever read (big words for somebody who hasn’t finished reading it yet), and I've read a few. Of the modern/post-modern juggernauts I haven’t read, the few most likely I’d mention in its class are Moby Dick, Ulysses, Finnegan's Wake, A Man Without Qualities, The Recognitions, JR, Dhalgren, Terra Nostra, The Public Burning, and maybe Infinite Jest; all of which I plan to read before I die. But I kind of have a feeling I’m already reading the one that will always speak to me the most.More on that later. Gravity’s Rainbow begins in early December of the year 1944. It is divided into four parts. Pt. 1 is entitled Beyond the Zero, and its epigraph reads:"Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me, and continues to teach me, strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death."-WERNHER VON BRAUNFor those reading who know nothing about Wernher von Braun, he was one of the single most amazing human beings in the written history of our civilization. Also, he was a Nazi and a punk jack ass. But I digress…. As if his real life wasn't interesting enough (much, much more of that below, but it wouldn’t be any fun to give it all away now), not only does he loom large over the whole of GR, he is well-known to be, with a little Sidney Gottlieb (goat farmer/mad scientist for the CIA, responsible for the lovely MK-Ultra project and, by proxy, the explosion of psychedelic use in the ‘60s) thrown in, the basis for Peter Sellers, Terry Southern, and Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, one of my absolute favorite films of all-time.Pirate Prentice’s Banana BreakfastWith a clattering of chairs, upended shell cases, benches, and ottomans, Pirate’s mob gather at the shores of the great refectory table, a southern island well across a tropic or two from chill Corydon Throsp’s mediaeval fantasies, crowded now over the swirling dark grain of its walnut uplands with banana omelets, banana sandwiches, banana casseroles, mashed bananas mold in the shape of a British lion rampant, blended with eggs into batter for French toast, squeezed out a pastry nozzle across the quivering creamy reaches of a banana blancmange to spell out the words C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre (attributed to a French observer during the Charge of the Light Brigade) which Pirate has appropriated as his motto . . . tall cruets of pale banana syrup to pour oozing over banana waffles, a giant glazed crock where diced bananas have been fermenting since the summer with wild honey and muscat raisins, up out of which, this winter morning, one now dips foam mugsfull of banana mead . . . banana croissants and banana kreplach and banana oatmeal and banana jam and banana bread, and bananas flamed in ancient brandy Pirate brought back last year from a cellar in the Pyreneed also containing a clandestine radio transmitter . . .Beyond the Zero, E. 2, pp. 10-11I wrote: "what of the Giant Adenoid? This my second attempt. As for understanding everything for me, it's harder explaining what I understand if that makes any sense."Yes… what of the giant Adenoid?The first few times nothing clicked. The fantasies were O.K. but belonged to nobody important. But the Firm is patient, committed to the Long Run as They are. At last, one proper Sherlock Holmes London evening,, the unmistakable smell of gas came to Pirate from a dark street lamp, and out of the fog ahead materialized a giant, organlike form. Carefully, black-shod step by step, Pirate approached the thing. It began to slid forward to meet him, over the cobblestones slow as a snail, leaving behind some slime brightness of steet-wake that could not have been from fog. In the space between them was a crossover point, which Pirate, being a bit faster, reached first. He reeled back, in horror, back past the point—but such recognitions are not reversible. It was a giant Adenoid. At least as big as St. Paul’s, and growing hour by hour. London, perhaps all England, was in mortal peril.We know from the paragraph that follows that the “lymphatic monster had once blocked the distinguished pharynx if Lord Blatherard Osmo.” Reading on, we are treated to a grotesque Busby Berkeley musical number replete with chorus line of “quite nubile young women naughtily attired in Busbies and jackboots.” The Adenoid proceeds to wreak the type of havoc all over the city that only a giant Adenoid can. I think the purpose of the tale is to establish, by showing us his first true experience, Pirate Prentice’s role as “fantasist-surrogate,” or what is now actually referred to as an oneironaut. An oneironaut is one who can travel consciously through someone’s dreams; their own or another person’s.Every day, for 2 ½ years, Pirate went out to visit the St. James Adenoid. It nearly drove him crazy. Though he was able to develop a pidgin by which he and the Adenoid could communicate, unfortunately he wasn’t nasally equipped to make the sounds too well, and it got to be an awful chore. As the two of them snuffled back and forth, alienists in black seven-button suits, admirers of Dr. Freud the Adenoid clearly had no use for, stood on stepladders up against its loathsome grayish flank shoveling the new wonderdrug cocaine—bringing hods full of the white substance, in relays, up the ladders to smear on the throbbing gland-creature, and into the germ toxins bubbling nastily inside its crypts, with no visible effects at all (though who knos how that Adenoid felt, eh?).But Lord Blatherad Osmo was able at last to devote all of his time to Novi Pazar. Early in 1939, he was discovered mysteriously suffocated in a bathtub full of tapioca pudding, at the home of a Certain Viscountess. Some have seen in this the hand of the Firm. Months passed, World War II started, years passed, nothing was heard from Novi Pazar. Pirate Prentice had saved Europe from the Balkan Armageddon the old men dreamed of, giddy in their beds with its grandeur—though not from World War II, of course. But by then, the Firm was allowing Pirate only tiny homeopathic doses of peace, just enough to keep his defenses up, but not enough for it to poison him.Beyond the Zero, E. 2, pp.15-17As for the significance of the Adenoid itself, Steven Weisenburger hazards a couple of guesses in his book, A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion:“The fantastic creature disappears from GR after this analeptic appearance, but a thinly disguised Richard M. Nixon, as ‘adenoidal’ theater manager Richard M. Zhlubb, will reappear in the final proleptic moments of the narrative.”and“Since medical references to “adenoids” nearly always use the plural, Pynchon probably refers here to Charlie Chaplin’s role as the Jewish barber and then dictator of Tomania, ‘Adenoid Hynkel,’ a thinly veiled Adolf Hitler in The Great Dictator [1940]. Indeed the film’s closing speech, in which Chaplin drops the Hitler-mask appeals directly to the viewers, rather deftly capsulizes GR’s themes.”This is hardly an obscure tangent when viewed in a vacuum, given the subject matter and Chaplin’s status as an iconoclast, but GR is as close to a literary antithesis of a vacuum I’ve ever come across and occurrences of this sort abound page after page. Personally, I can see a similarity between chapter four of V., appropriately entitled In which Esther gets a nose job, in which Pynchon devotes an entire chapter to the first person narration of the unlucky recipient of an un-anaesthetized back alley rhinoplasty. Though I am still uncertain as to its pertinence to the story, the chills I’m experiencing as I write this remind me how little I cared when I read it.But Beyond the Zero isn’t all jollities and shenanigans. It ends on an ominous note at a séance attended by, among others, the Generaldirektor Smaragd of IG Farben.TP Drops Some KnowledgeWhy do they want Rathenau tonight? What did Caesar really whisper to his protégé as he fell? Et tu, Brute, the official lie, is about what you’d expect to get from them—it says exactly nothing. The moment of assassination is the moment when power and the ignorance of power come together, with Death as validator. When one speaks to the other then it is not to pass the time of day with et-tu-Brutes. What passes is a truth so terrible that history—at best a conspiracy, not always among gentlemen, to defraud—will never admit it. The truth will be repressed or in ages of particular elegance be disguised as something else. What will Rathenau, past the moment, years into a new otherside existence, have to say about the old dispensation? Probably nothing as incredible as what he might have said just as the shock flashed in his mortal nerves, as the Angel swooped in…But they will see. Rathenau—according to the histories—was prophet and architect of the cartelized state. From what began as a tiny bureau at the War Office in Berlin, he had coordinated Germany’s supplies, quotas and prices, cutting across and demolishing the barriers of secrecy and property that separated firm from firm—a corporate Bismarck, before whose power no account book was too privileged, no agreement too clandestine. His father Emil Rathenau had founded AEG, the German General Electric Company, but Walter was more than another industrial heir—he was a philosopher with a vision of the postwar State. He saw the war in progress as a world revolution, out of which would rise neither Red communism nor an unhindered Right, but a rational structure in which business would be the true, the rightful authority—a structure based, not surprisingly, on the one he’d engineered in Germany for fighting the World War.and”Consider coal and steel. There is a place where they meet. The interface between coal and steel is coal-tar. Imagine coal, down in the earth, dead black, no light, the very substance of death. Death ancient, prehistoric, species we will never see again. Growing older, blacker, deeper, in layers of perpetual night. Above ground, the steel rolls out fiery, bright. But to make steel, the coal tars, darker and heavier, must be taken from the original coal. Earth’s excrement, purged out for the ennoblement of shining steel. Passed over.“We thought of this as an industrial process. It was more. We passed over the coal-tars. A thousand different molecules waited in the preterite dung. This is the sign of revealing. Of unfolding. This is one meaning of mauve, the first new color on Earth, leaping to Earth’s light from its grave miles and aeons below. There is the other meaning… the succession… I can’t see that far yet….“But this is all the impersonation of life. The real movement is not from death to any rebirth. It is from death to death-transfigured. The best you can do is polymerize a few dead molecules. But polymerizing is not resurrection. I mean your IG, Generaldirektor.”“Our IG, I should have thought,” replies Smaragd with more than the usual ice and stiffness.Beyond the Zero, E. 19, pp. 167-169***THIS REVIEW IS A WHOLE LOT LONGER, SO I WILL DO WHAT I CAN TO FIT IT ELSEWHERE***

Aloysius

As I was finishing Gravity's Rainbow (took me 2 months), I started kicking around an question that hadn't necessarily occured to me when I started: Am I really intended to understand everything that's going on in this book? And if approached with the answer of "no," Gravity's Rainbow is an enjoyable experience. I started off slowly in the attempt to take in every word and comprehend everything that was going on, but as I read an reread, I realized that some of this stuff was either above my head or completely incomprehensible without a study guide or a graduate course and I should simply try to extract from the experience what I could rather than try to understand it in its entirety. Unlike other high-brow writers such as Joyce or Nabokov, Pynchon uses a low-brow, toilet humor that lends him an immediacy and accessibility not found in Ulysses or Lolita/Ada (okay, it's arguable, but when Nabokov and Joyce make jokes...um, face it people, they're not really that funny) and the periods of lucidity and of tangible plot within Pynchon's work are intriguing. He writes with a genuine love of language and can weave a spell-binding web with poetic, descriptive lines that draws a reader in, although at times, the text is incredibly difficult (sometimes painful) to wade through. In particular, I found the story of Pokler (one of hundreds of characters) caught my attention, for the questions it raised. Although it may only occupy 30 pages of the book, I felt an emotional attachment to this German scientist that I wasn't able to form with any of the others in the book. Basically, Pokler is an important figure in the development of the V2 rocket for the Germans, but he's not necessarily the most willing or happy of workers. His wife and daughter are in a concentration camp somewhere and his superiors hold this against him like a carrot at the end of a stick. Each year for a few days, his daughter is sent to visit him, and then taken away unexpected without the benefit of a goodbye. Of course, each year, he's not certain as to whether it is the same girl or even his daughter at all, but he pretends that she is simply because he needs that connection to survive, to keep himself sane. The story is an unsettling examination of familial relationships and the idea of identity, and its worth reading the book if only for this small section. Of course, the rest of the novel had its moments, but none so poignant for me as that of Pokler's work on the rocket and his relationship with his daughter. There are times when a reader has to wade through examinations of corporate conspiracy ("They" being a main, unidentified force throughout) and descriptions of the science behind rocket feul, and at these times Gravity's Rainbow is completely overwhelming. But then again, perhaps Pynchon's point is to make you feel as lost in the novel as people do in modern life. Certain things don't make much sense; but hey, when you look out at the complexities of the world, is the society we live in any different?

Leo Robertson

(Not a lot of this review is about the content of GR, because who am I to even say what that is?)Okay, this book is bloody brilliant.I didn't think so at first, having not understood a lot of it through not paying attention and zoning out because there's a new story happening almost every paragraph if not sentence. Checking the wikipedia summary to try and keep up made me pretty sure I wasn't reading the same book (They're in a casino? He slept with who? She died?)And, like all human beings (if they're stare-in-the-mirror honest with themselves), I get really really annoyed when someone else exists or has existed who is phenomenally cleverer than I am: won't have it. So, at first these things convinced me that I didn't like it. Authors like Thomas Pynchon, William Faulkner,James Joyce, most recently and amazingly Elfriede Jelinek (and a whole host of others that I haven't read yet) would laugh with contempt at my pathetic and cliched need as a reader to understand everything that I read, and despite how much respect and appreciation I have for these authors and their books it remains a jarring and unsettling experience for a plot to pass over your head BUT I have not yet got into the idea of re-reading, which this and certain other books demand.You know what? Sometimes David Lynch films are geniunely pretty good, sometimes you want to listen to Animal Collective, sometimes it is fun to find and support a local book shop, what with all the crap hipsters say, they are statistically bound to get it right a handful of times as per the above examples. It's difficult through all the recommendation static to find the thing that really is worth trying out.That said, please don't judge me when I say that I have a copy of this book by my bed, and like to open it at a random page and have a read, and in these small chosen digestions I find it so much more fun, enjoyable, interesting, insightful, bizarre, funny, downright impossible, and it makes me want to find the time to read it all over again.It feels like something that is really, really important to do as someone who appreciates "Good Reads". If you, reading this review, are someone who perchance is someone who likes these "Good Reads", I would have to recommend you this book.**Original post-wtf review**Confusing brilliant blah blah... (felt out of most of the jokes, undoubtedly dragged- minus 1 star)If I have anything new to say about this book, it's that there's been a totally missed opportunity.The cover needs to be a 40s pin-up girl on a rocket with a B-movie subtitle eg. "Gravity's Rainbow, or Pynchon's Pavlovian F**k-Rocket!"So obvious!Please address this, people responsible for such decisions.

Mark

--------------------------------------------->----------------------------------------->------------------------------------->A SCREAMING comes across your skull. It is the sound of a bone saw, revved full throttle, splintering, decimating; shards of cranium shimmering to dust, falling into your eyes, blinding; hands curling into fists, drumming against matted hair charred with sweat; convulsions overtake your body, sing the body electric, vibrating upward, reaching an orifice, manipulating mouth, throat muscles, and you sing:Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, I'm just wild about HarrrrrryAnd Harry's wild about meeeeeeeeeewhile the cancan dancers do the up-down leg number, shiny silk stockings glisten and chuff, and out front Carmen Miranda does the boom-chikee-boom with banana maracas with transistor rattlers; and then the onstage sex show begins, light bulbs rammed home into nether regions which were never meant to illuminate, but brighten the corners just the same; and a pig strolls by, 12-bar blues issuing from a 10 hole harp gouged between its haughty mandibles; and then you're lost, the churning sea, sailors sloshing:Yo ho ho and a bottle in your bumthen its: "Man OVERBOARD!" and a you're drowning, drowning in words, drowning in language, drowning in conspiracy theories borne high on the waves before your very being, and do you know who your parents are? and if you do, do you really? because there's always the possibility that you were a lab rat chemical baby who while living in a test tube one day met your own twin before that tragic day when the guy who swept the floors at night, drawn near the tube because of some violet light, mesmerizing as the Aurora at noon, and his hand slips, reaching for the reefer stick in his breast pocket, and now isn't the time to finish this story so we'll save it for later......Zooooommm, wooooooosh! the sound of rockets overhead, where will they land? but no one knows, ah, save that one man, what was his name? the kid with the funny name and looks like Beetle Bailey in tights and a cape, But don't forget the death cult, folkssssCause it's about time for a plotzzzz(here, the violinist trips over the bassoon player, and they fight, great fisticuffs while the rest of the horn section turns to applaud, instruments lying in unoccupied chairs where the ants work to find bread crumbs that the 3rd cellist left behind before last Tuesday night's performance, the unwashed varmint!)...And then you close the book and you will never look at the world the same way again(.)(For a real review, check out my friend Jenn's.)

Kyle Wright

Hundreds of unimportant characters, dozens of instances of pedophilia, unending passages that ramble on and on with no actions or information of consequence, drug and sexual organ obsessions, and fecal matter galore! If all of these sound like what you enjoy in literature, then this is the book for you. While a great master of vocabulary, Pynchon just doesn't know when to quit. It seems that any time there is any hint that the story might be progressing, Pynchon has to go off on a barely related tangent for ten or twenty pages, rarely returning to or referencing this material again. While Laurance Sterne (The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman) managed to employ "the tangent" with aplomb, Pynchon takes them to such excess that I can't help but say he is a literary glutton, prone to verbose over-indulgence.When I start a book, I finish it. It has taken me over a year and a half to get through this book because every time I read a little bit, I dislike it so much that I end up picking up another book to read instead. I'm well aware that I am bucking the trend by not liking this book, but it seems that the high ratings are in part due to pseudo-intellectuals reveling in the knowledge that they 'get it' and the rest of us just don't. While I do admit that Pynchon managed to write a very dense (as in "packed to the brim with information"), cryptic, and nigh unfathomable tome, those attributes are overwhelmed by the plodding narrative, explicit perversion (I know, that is a personal, rather than technical, fault), and lack of character development (I didn't learn enough about the hordes of characters to care about any single one of them). The intelligentsia may turn up their noses at my [obviously] inferior taste and comprehension, but nonetheless, I stand by my opinion. Gravity's Rainbow is quite possibly the worst book I've ever read.

Matthew

When I was at the Mets game last week, the crowd started doing the wave during the seventh inning, and everyone watched anxiously as it went from one end of Shea Stadium to the other and then cheered when it finally got to the end. This went on for most of the inning, growing in strength and crowd enthusiasm. Finally, the guy in front of me stood up and pointed at the field and shouted, "Oh my God! In the midst of our wave, there's a game being played!" That's kind of what I thought about Gravity's Rainbow. Somewhere in the midst of all this noise and digression and (let's be honest) showing off, there's a story, which can actually be hysterical and frightening. Like The Crying of Lot 49, the only other Pynchon I've read (so far), Gravity's Rainbow reads like a paranoid, schizophrenic, Terry-Gilliam-esque slapstick nightmare. Unlike Lot 49, though, the prose here lacks any semblance of control, which is not necessarily a bad thing, except for the times when it feels like a bad Faulkner rip-off. In the midst of innumerable side stories about immortal light bulbs and toilet diving, to name just a couple, Tyrone Slothrop is stumbling his way through The Zone (Europe after World War II), searching for information about a mysterious rocket and wondering why every time he gets an (ahem) erection, death and destruction follow. I know that a book like this needs to be read and then re-read (and then re-read and then re-read). Like Ulysses, I imagine I'll pick up on connections I didn't see this on the next time around, I'll remember more of the hundreds of characters, I'll appreciate better the mixture of "high art" and pornography; I get it. But I can't help but think that like Slothrop or Blicero or the myriad characters aboard the Anubis, Pynchon was also getting off on all the chaos, working himself into a frenzy, and more than once, overdoing it, making a mess all over the page.

Edward Kelly

Gravity's Rainbow is first and foremost funny. I cannot imagine speaking about any of Pynchon's fiction and not laughing. Somehow he is always talked about in such a serious tone. If you are not laughing at the bawdy humor, the slapstick, and the corny...If you are not laughing giddily at the way the stories connect inside the novel as well as to the historical context outside the novel...If you do not like send ups...If you cringe at gallows humor and sexual perversity...If your mind doesn't crave the complexity of an encyclopedic novel...If absurdity does not bring you closer to a primordial truth that incites laughter at man's history... Yes there is a plot. You may not find it but it is there. I would not read this book if you are struggling mightily with it. Do not believe people who say how hard, difficult, and painful it was, that they really didn't get most of it but "it was worth it". There are a ton of references and the book is more fun if you actually are able to tie in a bunch of the metaphors, references, historical contexts and character appearences and disapperences. I cannot imagine the point of reading the book if you couldn't, what a bore it must be. I think it is insulting that so many people believe that it is taboo to even talk about the book as a story,-a wildl, f-ing funny story at that. Yes some of us read Pynchon for enjoyment, not because it makes us stronger or better or fuller. (Pudding anyone?) I read Pynchon for the plot. I remember the small passages on pg.29 that are tied back in on pg500 without having to consult a third text. I delight in the connections and how often they break open the plot or a bigger meaning. I certainly miss some but I get a ton.(Can you plot out GR according to the Londen Times in 1944-45 and the Christian Advent season? Yes. But do you have to know this to figure out what Pynchon is up to? No.I wouldn't even bother, it will not get you closer to understanding. He sprinkles the novel with references that can bring you there if you are capable.) If I didn't I would give this book away. Pynchon pretty much debunks the Super Pynchon Theory in the introduction to Slow Learner. He talks about people's perception of him as being a brilliant mind who knows a ton about the subjects he riffs on. He admits that his knowledge of entropy(a major metaphorical theme for him)amounts to a typical dictionary definition entry.( not ot say that he is not extrordinarily well-read but don't be surprised if he doesn't know that much about Middle Dutch poetry but instead knows it in a more referential manner just as you do) Of course, his brilliance is his ability to take an idea and run it through his own mind, to say something about man, history and the nature of maening. And this is the kind of reader he is after. If when you read passages you find that his reference has sent you off thinking on your own and you realize you keep reading the same paragraph over and over transfixed by its briliance while each time it sparks a new tangent of thought until finally you wake up and feel that you have just flown around the globe...If you read GR and feel that you need to talk about Pynchon in a half-apologetic, fully-reverential tone instead of laughing at the Hansel and Gretel in the oven of an SS officer then you really did not get it and should try again with a a little more levity. Perhaps you can borrow Gottfried's wedding dress to wear while you read it.If you read GR and feel that it was devoid of a plot and was not chock full of brilliant observation on the plight of man/history, our encounters with meaning and many other metaphysical questions then the overall complexity of the structure went over your head and you should not try again.If you read it and hated the pace and style of the prose then well, you are probably right.

Jeremy

Gravity's Rainbow is a full-bore freakout. It's a book you have to bring your "A" game to as a reader. The stew of themes, ideas and valences it percolates in is dense and strange, and at times the book seems to literally emit radioactive vapors of its own. Like with V. the book feels more like it's about the resonances between ideas, (History! Paranoia! Free Will! Scatology! Drugs! Pavlov! Plastics!) and that the characters, (along with the reader) are just sort of sucked along for the ride in their haunted, often hilarious collisions and musings. It also offers a frighteningly, and I do mean FRIGHTENINGLY detailed depiction of blitz era London and of Europe in general right after WWII ended. By way of something approximating a meaningful comparison, I'd say that what Herman Melville does for Whales in Moby Dick is sort of akin to what Pynchon does for Rockets in Gravity's Rainbow. But Pynchon takes his rocketphilia waaaay farther (maybe too far)? They are the central organizing principle of the book, the beginning, the end, the heart, the mind, the dick, the creation and apocalypse, the sign and the thing it signifies, the ethics, the physics and metaphysics, the Uber-idea out of and into which every other idea here flows and congeals. I felt awe-struck, confused and afraid on almost every page. Gravity's Rainbow is clearly a high water mark of some kind, but I think I'm scared to know which wall its line is on.

Danica

i will put the review i wrote of this after reading it, that has been lying unused in my journal since then, in here, when i'm not supposed to be working out. and here it is!!!!! i just got back from running, ha ha... perfect... this is dated summer 2004:"As a reborn lover of books, there has been an ongoing rediscovery of "literature" and it's implications in my life recently. A precocious student early-on, I was hungry for knowledge and read everything I could get my hands on. I have read the high-school caonon of novels and stories--sought out Fitzgerald at Kafka at the age of 12 and wowed English teachers with my deconstructions of the Bronte's and Joyce. However, although subculture was present in other aspects of my life-most notably music-for some reason I found it difficult find the intersection where the past met the future of writing. Enter Infinite Jest. I began noticing it, massive and orange, on the shelves of friends who I looked up to most. Upon research, I discovered D.F. Wallace to be the reigning "kid genius" of popular fiction and also that none of my acquaintances had finished the book. So, I decided to finish it. It was a dizzying novel-spectacular in its breadth-highly entertaining at times and sometimes just as intensely boring. But I got through it. And I was hungry for more. A co-worker of mine told me if I wanted another big, challenging book, I should read Gravity's Rainbow. I was somewhat familiar with Pynchon at this point because of The Crying of Lot 49, Vineland, and some short stories. I understood him to be a man who enjoyed confusing readers who might not be engaged enough. He enjoyed complex plots and mystifying explanations. He enjoyed the underworld and silliness. He created the unending probability of the certain impossible actually happening and absurdly named characters who actually expected it. In The Crying of Lot 49 as well as, say, Infinite Jest, I had encountered in various passages a cockiness I was wary of. It consisted of a self-awareness with a kinship to the purposeful zaniness of things but left something lacking. I was struck by this decorative zaniness because it bore not real significance on the plot or inherent mood of the story. So far, none of Pynchon's nonsense songs had worked their magic on me. In David Foster Wallace, I forgave it by the end of the book because all of the pieces ended up fitting together, and anyone who even slightly enjoys post-modernism likes to be fucked with. That's what entertainment is all about. Still, a few months later, I wonder how much of Infinite Jest I have forgotten and whether it really matters. Do I really need to know about the extensive catalogue of tattoos of the halfway-house inmates?For the first time, with Gravity's Rainbow, I was thoroughly delighted by these little games. More importantly, I feel that they served as a foundation for the gorgeously dark, terrifying, and whimsical world that Pynchon's characters inhabit. The book revolves around the misadventures of Tyrone Slothrop, a United States soldier in England at the end of WWII. Inexplicably, and presumably because of a connection between his amorous conquests and the pattern of bombs falling on London, he is kidnapped and his identity is erased. He spends the remainder of the novel trying to solve the mystery of the rocket that he is connected to and searching for his freedom. He encounters spies, merchants, warriors, and magicians as he wanders the wastes of post-war Europe through the spring of 1945. This book, to me, was all about identity. Slothrop's identity is stolen and becomes a commodity and a legend. He is inextricably connected to the tests that programmed him to interact in the way that he does with the opposite sex and, therefore, the war. The book, though whimsical, is a tragedy. Slothrop disappears in the end-unable to assert himself over the machine that has made him who he is. Of course this is a novel only-a fake conspiracy theory for the enjoyment of the authro and readers. But to me it rang true because I often question how big of a role the individual does have in society, war-torn or not. It is easy to feel a certain joyful emptiness when I am surrounded by strangers on a subway train hurling through the dark. There is another less joyful loss of identity I feel upon financial problems, or dealing with red tape of any kind for that matter. This is more of a feeling of dread of the future being nothing but owing something to someone else, of being a number, of not having a voice or face because I am less powerful than most people. I would like to hope that power is something that doesn't overlook the intelligent or self-motivated, and that each person has the right to self-determination. Slothrop, though, didn't. Or rather, his rights changed so much that the only option for him to remain in control of himself was to disappear completely. Is a man really a man without an audience? Once he falls off the face of the earth, goes into the wild, does nothing of "importance", does he exist or is he just another animal? This is assuming that man and animal are separate to begin with, an assumption I choose to make. Men left on desert islands have told their stories, but what if Robinson Crusoe hadn't refound civilization?It is a simple thing to think about. Really, the story of Slothrop is the story of anyone. We humans tend to bumble through our lives, sometimes blandly and innocently unaware that anything is wrong, other times struggling to piece things together. However, I feel that this book affected me so much because the lush cacophany that Pynchon surrounds Slothrop with is none of the tried-on wackiness of other post-modern fiction but rather a symbolic representation of the world as it is. I do not expect to be fighting Pavlovian octopi or sneaking around parties disguised as a pig any time in the near future, but the fact that Slothrop did shows that each human is up against the same odds. In one way this tale is all about the excesses and frivolities of a world where people have enough money or corruption to manipulate the lives of other mortals. In another sense it is about the indiviual as the person inside the body: the unexplained journey and then the disappearance at the end. For the purposes of the story slothrop may have died when he vanished, but it doesn't really matter. In giving up navigation of the powers that be, we will also die. The story will end. It may seem natural, but it is really a choice to fight, to disguise oneself, to not stop. Pynchon succeeded in telling the story of the individual without sacrificing the absurdity that marks the vagueness of what being a human actually is. Fitzgerald may have told me, when I was 12, that we don't get what we want (and I believed for a long time after that, that tragedy was the most I could hope for in my own narrative... at least it would be interesting). I had been trying to suppress any goofiness for so long and had been looking for the remote picturesquenss of melancholy in such a way that, when I encountered the wildness of Gravity's Rainbow, I rejoiced. I saw that in art and life the unexplainable, the low, the poor and destitute and directionless,the empty ones with looming dark futures are most likely to win, or stay on the map at least, if they succumb to the amazing and question-filled moments, as Slothrop would, to a party of strangers where someone might have the answer.

Gabi Dopazo

Gravity’s Rainbow is finally over after months of starts, give-ups, re-starts, more give-ups and more re-starts. A book that I’ve hated probably more that I’ve loved. Still is a hard one to call. I have been suffering reading this book, I haven’t had much pleasure. It’s very dense, hard to follow, difficult to make sense of, and that goes for each paragraph. It’s been written by a lunatic, by a genius, by a man that probably wrote it in a state of semi-awareness, in trance… Some of it looks like automatic writing. It’s a book that will stay forever, although I’m not sure for the right reasons. After being done with it I feel very uncertain. The book generates questions rather than answers. Not sure if those questions are any good either. I find it very Buñuel, lots of different sequences, memories, places, different people, thoughts, feelings… there is speed and there is confusion and every now and then there is wonderful poetry but also boredom and tiredness. Small print, single spaced, 776 pages… you feel like you are totally wasting your time but you also get a feeling, deep inside, that somehow you aren’t. It’s hard to explain, very confusing. There is sex, drugs, liquid fuel, Impolex G, people that still dont know who they were supposed to represent, including the main guy... but was I supposed to know that, would it matter? The book is loaded with a great amount of plaster and glue. If you look carefully you might find between the lines several holy grails and weekends away for two

Chance Maree

Years ago, the retina of my left eye detached and I underwent major surgery. Since then, the annual eye exam has brought a certain amount of anxiety, and yes, paranoia over every flash and floater. A week ago, the eye doctor identified a hole in the macular of my left eye. If a V-2 nano-rocket hit the the retina, it might look like this macular hole: The macular hole has an interesting effect on my vision: Fortunately, my right eye is dominant so I can read well enough, for now. The surgery is scheduled in a couple weeks. It is an out-patient procedure under a local anesthesia, but recovery requires I spend 2 weeks with my face kept parallel to the ground. The reason I'm bringing all this up is to to garner sympathy explain how I 'saw' Gravity's Rainbow and why I've given it only one-star and deter a skewering by Pynchon lovers who wouldn't kick a girl while she'd down—would they?Some scenes were all too clear: S&M acts including consumption of shit and urine, the sad plight of an adolescent sex slave (enjoyed by Slothrop, a major protagonist), bad 'poetry', bizarre appearances of what could be described as slapstick or burlesque acts out of nowhere, etc. However, amidst all the drugs, sex and despair were concise and interesting nuggets of wisdom, such as:If there is something comforting—religious, if you want—about paranoia, there is still also anti-paranoia, where nothing is connected to anything, a condition not many of us can bear for long. Paranoia is perhaps the major theme. No doubt, Pynchon is brilliant, and some passages were inspirational, but I felt I had to sift through lots of...sand. At times, my comprehension of an idea felt as exciting as panning for gold—if one tiny morsel sparkled, I was thrilled. Despite the difficulty reading Gravity's Rainbow, I continued to the end in hope of pumping up my linguistic muscles and cleansing my linguistic palate. I understand that patterns in what we read or write prime us to repeat those patterns automatically in our own writing. Psycholinguists refer to this influence as structural priming or syntactic persistence. Priming occurs at the subconscious level. It is very powerful, and for that reason, I will not finish novels that strike me as poorly written. But writing isn’t just about forming varied and understandable sentences. It is about creating syntactic delights that thrill the reader, most of whom find pleasure in encountering language that departs from what they are primed to expect. I admire writers who find new ways to employ language. I did not enjoy Gravity's Rainbow; it deviated so much from my own priming that I often found it incomprehensible. Although I used a reader's companion guide, many of the references were unrecognizable as vocabulary--just not on my personal map. Reading GR was as frustrating as trying to read with my bad eye, through which straight lines are wavy and letters in the middle of my vision collapse into a blurry gray hole.

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