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Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

Gravity's Rainbow (original 1973; edition 1974)

by Thomas Pynchon

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7,75191434 (4.11)1 / 389
Title:Gravity's Rainbow
Authors:Thomas Pynchon
Collections:Your library
Tags:Modern American Lit.

Work details

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (1973)

  1. 80
    Ulysses by James Joyce (Jen7r)
  2. 60
    Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (AndySandwich)
    AndySandwich: Books that cause neuroses.
  3. 42
    House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (AndySandwich)
    AndySandwich: Gravity's Rainbow = paranoia House of Leaves = claustrophobia
  4. 00
    Ratner's Star by Don DeLillo (rickyrickyricky)
    rickyrickyricky: Like Pynchon? Like DeLillo? Here we gots DeLillo's enthusiastic and goofy response to his own, favorable experience with Pynchon's most famous monsterwork. Wit, mathematical math and DeLillo dialogue.
  5. 44
    Moby Dick by Herman Melville (ateolf)
  6. 00
    Crash Gordon and the Mysteries of Kingsburg by Derek Swannson (jasbro)

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English (89)  Italian (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (91)
Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
I thought about adding a "WTF" shelf just for this book. Alas, better judgement.

I know many people love this book. I know this because I googled and read many people's ideas about this book as I trudged through these pages. I hoped, dreamed, indeed, I YEARNED for some help. How to read this thing?

Alas, no matter how much people loved this book, they simply couldn't help me see their light.

I'll take the blame. Maybe I'm too plot-bound (though I do, indeed, love many books that are light on plot). Maybe I like characters too much. Maybe the poop-eating scene turned my stomach so much I read the rest of the novel prepared to shut my eyes, to not look.

Maybe. But really... This book just mystified me. For the first quarter or so I took notes. I thought it was helping, and then it wasn't. I tried re-reading. I tried reading more slowly. I tried shorter reading periods, longer reading periods. Nothing worked.

Fact: I just hated this book. Never in my working memory have I dreaded five weeks of "pleasure reading" so thoroughly. I found myself simply reading to plow through words, enjoying the periodic clever turn of phrase (and there are quite a few of these), trying to catch some gist of something amidst the clutter of words that just felt like... snippets of text.

I could not find the train of thought.

This book passed me by. For five whole weeks.

I never take five weeks to finish a blasted novel. ( )
  ThePortPorts | May 1, 2016 |

Gravity’s Rainbow is set in Europe at the end of World War 2. Superficially, the plot focusses on the development and distribution of the German V2 rocket and its potential connection to the sexual conquests of American soldier, Tyrone Slothrop.

It is in every sense a narrative of paranoia; the word ‘paranoia’ itself features heavily as various coincidences mount, inviting characters and the reader to make connections and draw seemingly impossible conclusions. Has Slothrop’s Pavlovian conditioning as an infant left him able to predict incoming rockets by his erections? And, the question at the heart of the novel: Are “They” out to get him?

Alongside the Slothrop plot run a number of interweaving characters and stories, connected to a variety of acronymic agencies and their subdivisions all working with, against and for each other in some capacity at various points in the novel. The interrelationship of these agencies and their double or triple agents lends the novel the ‘trust no-one’ outlook of a contemporary thriller, but the underlying confusion of all parties turns it into a farce.

This brings me to the first thing that should recommend this book to any reader; it is funny. The comedy ranges from the surface play of slapstick action and laddish gutter humour to the depths of an incisive ironic wit.

The comedy is both an end in itself, and also a means to underline and throw into relief the more serious, political and thematic elements of the novel. This is particularly relevant to the bawdy songs and limericks scattered throughout the book:

There once was a fellow named Ritter,
Who slept with a guidance transmitter.
It shrivelled his cock,
Which fell off in his sock,
And made him exceedingly bitter.

This section of laddish humour sums up a lot of the ideas in the overall novel; namely, threatened masculinity and the problem of fertility (both biological and artistic) in a technological and war torn age.

All this war, technology and “banter” does make for a very ‘masculine’ novel, if we are to speak of it in gendered terms, and the reduction of women to coloured stars on Slothrop’s map of London opens up a serious line of inquiry for feminist critics.

That said, the novel’s preoccupation with scrutinising notions of masculinity, more specifically the diminishing centrality of the “white heterosexual male” resists labels of misogyny, homophobia or racism, while dealing with sensitive gender, sexuality and race issues from the other side, as it were.

Pynchon’s novel doesn’t shy away from these issues or from representations that may be challenging or potentially offensive. This is perhaps most obvious in the controversial coprophilia scene (fun with faeces) which offended members of the Pulitzer board so much that despite the Pulitzer jury selecting Gravity’s Rainbow for the prize in 1974, no prize was actually awarded that year.

See my full review: https://ahermitsprogress.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/gravitys-rainbow-funny-fearless-and-phantasmagorical/ ( )
  Victoria_A | Mar 11, 2016 |
I tried. I failed.
  Rob3rt | Mar 3, 2016 |
It's tempting not to write a review at all for two reasons, one that the scope of the novel really is beyond my ability to summarize or otherwise comment about. The other being that although I fully recognize the extraordinary range of the novel, it wasn't really the right thing to listen to. The plot such as it is would appear to be about an American soldier, Tyrone Slothrop of western Massachusetts, a swamp yankee sprig, stationed in Special Ops in London who slowly realizes he is somehow connected with the V-2 rocket. By the end of the novel he is wandering around in "the Zone"--post-war Germany looking for a rumoured final type of V-2--the 00000. Adolescent (and earlier) exuberance (yeah the porn, the scatological, the silly puns and songs and so on) alternates with "moments" of blindingly empathic writing and extraordinary description (the latter often just tossed so casually into the mix its easy to overlook). By the end though, everything is fragmenting and even time is not anchored firmly. As always with Pynchon, events and ideas are either 100% accurate and factual or quite firmly based on things people were thinking and things that happened. He doesn't "make up" all that much stuff, if you allow for the fantastical flights of fancy. (There was a plot between GE and several other big manufacturers, for example, to make lightbulbs burn out - the first instance of "planned obsolescence".) My grandparents had an ancient lightbulb in a bathroom in their house from when electricity was installed that is now well over a hundred years old--one of my brothers has the house now and the bulb is still going strong. Maybe it is Byron himself!) Pynchon's deft handling of such facts, twisting into more monstrous--and unavoidable--shapes is what has given him the reputation of being paranoid. Is he? I think he is a realist and uses his sense of humor to keep from falling into utter despair. The idea is that the technological advances that arise during the pressures of warfare have made death just another regrettable side effect of progress and moneymaking. If you're looking for a straightforward story this is so not for you, but if you are willing to look things up as you read, take it slow, savor the richness, then you should read it. ***** ( )
1 vote sibyx | Jan 19, 2016 |
Finished Gravity's Rainbow. Where's my cookie?

The first time I tried to read this book was maybe 15 years ago. I got through about 1/3 of it. Five years or so later I tried again and reached the halfway point. Finally made it after starting over again about 7 months ago.

The middle of the book is definitely the mire. And by middle I mean the long middle. You're climbing a tall mountain. Lots of pretty things to see, but mostly loud breathing and muscles screaming at you to stop. You reach the top approximately one hundred pages from the end. Go ahead and step off the edge. The rest is pure free fall through a rolodex of dreams.

[spoilers: kinda]

Rockets plunge like Kabbalistic emanations through love triangles and deep African suicide pacts. Pavlov lies sleeping as the peaks of a Poisson distribution align to complicate the systemic destiny of the witch from Hansel and Gretel nearly reaching escape velocity while enshrouded like that of Turin through Gravity's ubiquitous field. Basically. ( )
1 vote JoshWagner | Dec 7, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
There’s a dirty secret tucked away in Thomas Pynchon’s novels, and it’s this: beyond all the postmodernism and paranoia, the anarchism and socialism, the investigations into global power, the forays into labor politics and feminism and critical race theory, the rocket science, the fourth-dimensional mathematics, the philatelic conspiracies, the ’60s radicalism and everything else that has spawned 70 or 80 monographs, probably twice as many dissertations, and hundreds if not thousands of scholarly essays, his novels are full of cheesy love stories.
Those who have read Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow know that those 700+ pages add up to more than just a novel; it’s an experience. The hundreds of characters are difficult to follow, the plot is nonsensical, sex is graphically depicted, drugs are smoked out of a kazoo and a poor light bulb goes through many humiliating experiences. But the brilliance of Gravity’s Rainbow is not in spite of its oddness but because of it.
Like one of his main characters, Pynchon in this book seems almost to be "in love, in sexual love, with his own death." His imagination--for all its glorious power and intelligence--is as limited in its way as Céline's or Jonathan Swift's. His novel is in this sense a work of paranoid genius, a magnificent necropolis that will take its place amidst the grand detritus of our culture. Its teetering structure is greater by far than the many surrounding literary shacks and hovels. But we must look to other writers for food and warmth.

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pynchon, Thomasprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bergsma, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Britto, Paulo HenriquesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Doury, MichelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fučík, ZdeněkTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gryzunovoĭ, AnastasiiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jelinek, ElfriedeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koshikawa, YoshiakiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindholm, JuhaniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miller, FrankCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Natale, GiuseppeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nemt︠s︡ova, MaksimaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nilsson, Hans-JacobTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ondráčková, HanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pigrau i Rodríguez, AntoniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piltz, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sudół, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zabel, IgorTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"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 Braun (Beyond the Zero)
"You will have the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood." - Merian C. Cooper to Fay Wray (Un Perm' au Casino Hermann Goering)
"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas any more...." - Dorothy, arriving in Oz (In the Zone)
"What?" - Richard M. Nixon (The Counterforce)
For Richard Farina
First words
A screaming comes across the sky.
This classic hustle is still famous, even today, for the cold purity of its execution: bring opium from India, introduce it into China - howdy Fong, this here's opium, opium, this is Fong - ah, so, me eatee! - no-ho-ho, Fong, you smokee, [smokee], see? pretty soon Fong's coming back for more and more, so you create an inelastic demand for the shit, get China to make it illegal, then sucker China into a couple-three disastrous wars over the right of your merchants to sell opium, which by now you are describing as sacred. You win, China loses. Fantastic.

A former self is a fool, an insufferable ass, but he's still human, you'd no more turn him out than you'd turn out any other kind of cripple, would you?
They'll always tell you fathers are 'taken,' but fathers only leave - that's what it really is. The fathers are all covering for each other, that's all.
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answer.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143039946, Paperback)

Tyrone Slothrop, a GI in London in 1944, has a big problem. Whenever he gets an erection, a Blitz bomb hits. Slothrop gets excited, and then (as Thomas Pynchon puts it in his sinister, insinuatingly sibilant opening sentence), "a screaming comes across the sky," heralding an angel of death, a V-2 rocket. The novel's title, Gravity's Rainbow, refers to the rocket's vapor arc, a cruel dark parody of what God sent Noah to symbolize his promise never to destroy humanity again. History has been a big trick: the plan is to switch from floods to obliterating fire from the sky.

Slothrop's father was an unwitting part of the cosmic doublecross. To provide for the boy's future Harvard education, he took cash from the mad German scientist Laszlo Jamf, who performed Pavlovian experiments on the infant Tyrone. Laszlo invented Imipolex G, a new plastic useful in rocket insulation, and conditioned Tyrone's privates to respond to its presence. Now the grown-up Tyrone helplessly senses the Imipolex G in incoming V-2s, and his military superiors are investigating him. Soon he is on the run from legions of bizarre enemies through the phantasmagoric horrors of Germany.

That's just the Imipolex G tip of the shrieking vehicle that is Pynchon's book. It's pretty much impossible to follow a standard plot; one must have faith that each manic episode is connected with the great plot to blow up the world with the ultimate rocket. There is not one story, but a proliferation of characters (Pirate Prentice, Teddy Bloat, Tantivy Mucker-Maffick, Saure Bummer, and more) and events that tantalize the reader with suggestions of vast patterns only just past our comprehension. You will enjoy Pynchon's cartoon inferno far more if you consult Steven Weisenburger's brief companion to the novel, which sorts out Pynchon's blizzard of references to science, history, high culture, and the lowest of jokes. Rest easy: there really is a simple reason why Kekulé von Stradonitz's dream about a serpent biting its tail (which solved the structure of the benzene molecule) belongs in the same novel as the comic-book-hero Plastic Man.

Pynchon doesn't want you to rest easy with solved mysteries, though. Gravity's Rainbow uses beautiful prose to induce an altered state of consciousness, a buzz. It's a trip, and it will last. --Tim Appelo

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:51 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Winner of the 1973 National Book Award, Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern epic, a work as exhaustively significant to the second half of the twentieth century as Joyce's Ulysses was to the first. Its sprawling, encyclopedic narrative and penetrating analysis of the impact of technology on society make it an intellectual tour de force.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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