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Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

Gravity's Rainbow (original 1973; edition 2000)

by Thomas Pynchon

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7,70189438 (4.11)1 / 381
Title:Gravity's Rainbow
Authors:Thomas Pynchon
Info:Penguin Books (2000), Edition: Later Printing, Paperback, 784 pages
Collections:Currently reading

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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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 |
Too depressing and bleak. I could not finish it.
  Michael_Lilly | Nov 30, 2015 |
You can't talk about Gravity's Rainbow without getting one fact straight from the start: this is a difficult book to read. Much more so than Infinite Jest, another infamously difficult book that largely doesn't deserve that title. Pynchon's sentences share a lot with David Foster Wallace's writing, in that they're often discursive and lengthy, he loves to have fun with language. This is all great when you have a handle on what's going on, but the opening section of Gravity's Rainbow is so fragmented even on a sentence level that Pynchon's tics and tricks end up working against him somewhat.

The novel flits around between a coterie of characters, is not particularly wild about giving you context or clarifying their relation until later in the novel, and those characters are often doing some seriously weird shit, usually of a sexual nature.

And that's the second part you should know about: the sex. There's a lot of it, of all kinds. Sexy sex, unsexy sex, BDSM (you know, bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism). There's even some pedophilia! And most of these, including that last one, are our main character's doing.

Like I said, there's a lot of different characters, but most of the novel centers around this US Army Lieutenant named Tyrone Slothrop. Pynchon has a thing for wacky names. This Slothrop guy doesn't really make much of an appearance in Part 1—about the first 180 pages or so. This is also the part of the book where you'll be confused as all hell, so I'll sketch out some more. This is the kind of book where spoilers won't kill your enjoyment, and are actually handy for understanding how everything fits together.

Most of the characters we'll see in this first section belong to a conspiracy studying our Tyrone Slothrop. They're interested in him for a very curious reason: whenever he has sex, a few days later a V-2 rocket will impact that exact same spot.

One of the first things I liked about the novel: it really gets across how utterly terrifying the V-2 rockets were for London during the war. For those not familiar, London's experience was far different from the US's in World War II. While we just got Pearl Harbor, London was under threat for years: first by the bombers of the Blitz, then by V-1 cruise missiles that would fly along with a tiny wind driven propeller, waiting to reach the set number of rotations and then cutting the engine and falling on whatever was below.

You'd hear a sputtering noise in the distance and stop what you were doing to try and discern if it was flying directly overhead. If it was, you were frozen with fear, waiting to see if the engine would cut out. And if that sound suddenly stopped right when it was about to reach you, there were only seconds to get under something sturdy, and hope to survive the explosion. It was, to put it mildly, fucking frightening.

The V-2s were in a way, kinder. These were even more incredible machines than the V-1, built with just enough range to reach London 82 miles away. These would be launched, arc overhead in a ballistic trajectory, and then arc back down to strike London. By the time they reached the ground, they'd be traveling in excess of the speed of sound. You'd hear a sudden explosion without warning, followed by the ripping roar of the incoming trajectory. Pynchon gets quite a bit of juice out of this curious property of the V-2, how it seemed to reverse cause and effect by outrunning its own warning.

Over three thousand V-2s were launched over the course of just seven months, but what most people don't know is that less than half were aimed at London. Most were actually aimed at Antwerp in Belgium, and about one third of those scored direct hits. London actually had a respite after the first barrage, since British intelligence leaked misinformation that the rockets were missing London by about a dozen miles. The Germans corrected their fake problem, and afterwards, most of the rockets missed their mark.

But London still paid a heavy price during the attacks: over twenty seven hundred dead, six and a half thousand injured—which happens to be about the same toll as the attacks on September 11th. The guidance systems were less-than-accurate even in the best-case scenarios, so these hits were spread throughout the city. You can start to see why understanding where they would hit was so important, and why they'd be willing to entertain the wildest theories about how to do it, up to and including stuff we'd consider today as pseudo-science.

So Slothrop is in London, promiscuous as all get up, and tracking his exploits on a map—which agents are then secretly photographing to continue tracking this strange coincidence. We start to find out that Slothrop was the subject of a strange experiment when he was an infant, conditioning a reflex to an as-yet-unknown substance. It's known as the Little Tyrone experiment, echoing the Little Albert experiment which conditioned a child into being afraid of a rat and anything furry. If you took a psychology class in high-school or college, you probably heard of it.

Curiously enough, that Little Albert experiment turned out to not be as rigorous as we thought. I know, big surprise. When researchers tried to track down the original child, only identified by a pseudonym in the original research by John B. Watson, it turned out that he'd died just a few years later of hydrocephalus, where the brain cavity takes on extra fluid which increasingly impairs brain functioning if the pressure isn't relieved. If this condition was present at birth, and there is some evidence that it was, then the child was impaired at the time of the experiment causing it to be fundamentally flawed.

Though really, and this is the last of this tangent, I promise, really we should have had serious doubts from the start: Watson knew from the beginning that he wouldn't have time to desensitize the child after their four-month-long experiment, so at the end, they just sent the child back out into the world, fear of all things furry completely intact. Science was pretty fucked up back in the day.

But science was also pretty amazing—with the V-2 rocket I mentioned earlier, and the atomic bomb yet to come. These kinds of dramatic advances make the institutional acceptance of pseudoscience in the book much more plausible, similar to the earlier uptick of interest in seances around the turn of the century, with electromagnetism and other forces of nature being discovered left and right. So we see mediums, psychics, people who can change the melatonin in their skin, and a few other wacky characters in this opening portion of the novel.

Even in the midst of this insanity—and it's hard to describe the hectic first section any other way—there are some touching parts. Roger Mexico carries on a relationship with the engaged Jessica, afraid that he'll lose her to her safe fiancé. In describing some of these interrelationships, Pynchon often pulls a nifty trick of sliding his perspective between characters. You can tell because the narration will be channeling the inner thoughts and worries of one character, only to switch over to the other imperceptibly a few paragraphs later. It can be confusing, but when you're all keyed-in it is wonderful.

In Part 2, Slothrop moves onto France, and the novel becomes immensely clearer. The multiple perspectives of the beginning largely die out and we mostly follow Slothrop for the remainder of the novel. Slothrop also starts to become paranoid that he's being tracked, manipulated towards some end. I was really glad to see this paranoid mood start to assert itself, because I was more familiar with Pynchon's writing there, having read The Crying of Lot 49 and enjoying it immensely.

Slothrop's paranoia helps drive the rest of the novel, especially as he gradually discovers that it's incredibly well-founded. He's being pumped full of information about mathematics, rocketry, and other subjects relevant to V-2s, under the auspices of the conspiracy. Keeping him in one place is Katje, a beautiful woman he happened to meet while fighting off an octopus. Yeah, that happens. But even she seems to be suspicious, and Slothrop closes out this section of the book by fleeing the scene, and France altogether.

In Part 3, by far the largest chunk of the book, Slothrop wanders around the Zone, Pynchon's term for the post-war Germany. I found it incredibly striking how he evokes the aftermath of the war, especially in how he bent it towards his existing themes. In Pynchon's hands, fallen Germany becomes a region bursting in possibilities—history dethroned, and an open question as to what will take its place. An anarchist in the book even directly says as much!

For Slothrop, the possibilities end up being less political than sexual, but it's also in this third part where Pynchon's comedy action muscles really get exercised. There's a miniature-train chase within a rocket factory, an arial pie fight, and multiple disguises including a pig suit.

Gradually though, in the midst of all these miniature episodes, we find out more information about the V-2 program and a mysterious rocket numbered with five zeroes. Slothrop becomes determined to track down this rocket, and the mess of characters we met in the first part start to show up again. But there are multiple parties searching for this rocket, and it becomes a madcap race leading up to a very strange conclusion.

So after hearing all of this, the ups and the downs, I'm sure you're wondering whether all this effort is worth it. After all, the book's really dense, difficult and over 750 pages long. I was very dubious about liking it for the first 200 pages, but slogged through on the strength of its reputation.

But once the book opened up, I found myself really enjoying it. Pynchon is a really weird writer, but you'll get used to his quirks about the time that they start to really die out and he becomes much more coherent. I was really put off by some of the science deployed—like his fixation on conditioning during the opening section, bordering on mumbo-jumbo.

But at the same time, as with Lot 49, he's utterly unique in capturing a sense that there are esoteric meanings to the world that we just aren't tuned in to hearing, sub-cultures as subtle (or even as benign) as the infrastructure under our feet. And in the anything-goes madcap post-war Germany, Pynchon found an amazing setting to explore a lot of those ideas, punctuated by scenes where he balances the seriousness with cartoon-logic action sequences.

While I enjoyed the book as a whole, the esoteric nature of many sections did bug me—and I'm not sure that they needed to be that way, or if the tradeoff was entirely worth it. Lot 49, which is how I got into Pynchon, was a lot clearer and easier to read—not to mention much tighter as a work. And Infinite Jest, while not a work of similar paranoia, does carry forward a lot of Pynchon's innovations and sophistication, but is much clearer about it. I also like the intimacy of David Foster Wallace a lot better, and find his writing just more thrilling and fun. I guess you can argue that the first section functions as a kind of overture to the book, introducing key characters and such so they'd be familiar later on, but would it have killed Pynchon to signpost that stuff a bit more?

Either way, if you do decide to embark on reading Gravity's Rainbow, this is a book you'll want to build up to. I'd recommend Lot 49 for sure to get used to Pynchon's style in a much easier package. And though David Foster Wallace is a much later writer, he's a great one to exercise your reading muscles in building up to this book. For him I'd recommend starting with Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, then jumping into Infinite Jest, which is easier, but still a workout. If you're having trouble with even that, Wallace also has some non-fiction that's his most accessible writing of all, such as Consider the Lobster. For other handy authors, I've heard that Ulysses is handy to read before Gravity's Rainbow, but I haven't gotten around to reading it myself. I can't imagine it being any more difficult, but will have to report back on that one later.

Reading Gravity's Rainbow was a pretty unique and great experience, albeit one that took a ton of time and totally threw off my goal to read 52 books this year. I'm glad to have read it and look forward to tackling Pynchon's other books, maybe even revisiting this one sometime in the future. In the meantime, I'm glad that my next book will be way easier, whatever it'll be. ( )
  gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
So it took me eight months to read Gravity's Rainbow. How can that be, when (1) this was my second trip through the phantasmagoria; and (2) this novel is regularly cited as one of the great works of 20th Century American fiction--to say nothing of its author's reputation as a genius?

Forget for a moment that I am no genius and can hardly hope to understand how the mind of such a creature thinks. My readerly struggle with the book might have to do with Pynchon's narrative method (if a practice so seemingly undisciplined, slipshod, and self-indulgent might be so-called). I kept putting the story aside because Pynchon does exactly the same: he suspends not just the action (what non-genius novelists call a profluent plot) but also time and place, as well as almost all discernible signs of any character's presence, by slipping, falling, lapsing, plunging, and, yes, wallowing in digressive, discursive side-trips through mental reaches of rarefied abstraction at a rate of a thousand words, or more.

Ladies and gentlemen, it won't do. A novel is a great, big, baggy monster (secundum H. James), but most readers prefer it to retain a semblance of order and form. Gravity's Rainbow possesses these qualities so slightly--or so obscurely--as hardly to possess them at all, even to the point of placing in question its status as a single, unified narrative. Oh yes, I know V-2s are falling in the opening pages and that 00000 is a second from detonating at the end. Very nice, this apocalyptic framing. And yet what, I wonder, has become of friend Tyrone, Puritan-descended Slothrop, our paranoid, sort-of protagonist and maybe-against-his-will rocket-fetishist, who vanishes from the novel's final forty pages (unless it's all happening in his mind; hmmm ... guess I'll have to read it again).

So why the four stars at the top of this review? Well, folks, the fact is that the best moments in the novel are truly wonderful: entertaining, moving, interesting, memorable. I'm thinking especially of Slothrop's romantic interlude with--no no no, not Katje Borgesius (Borges-ius? ... oh ...): that business is good ol' seasonal sex (it's springtime, as the novel's calendar-mappers have helpfully noted)--but rather, yes, Geli Tripping, manifestly a German witch but oh how sexy and funny is Slothrop's brief time with her. Or his even briefer liaison with an unnamed German girl, a printer's daughter, during and after the Schweinheld festival: it's so simple and sweet and truly felt, seems so real notwithstanding Slothrop's pig-suit get-up, and begins and ends so quickly that it would be easy to miss except that it so completely refreshes the narrative atmosphere that you can't help notice you've stopped holding your breath against the lung-crushing miasma of Pynchon's more ambitious and pretentious longueurs.

The lucid, alive moments are sharply, beautifully rendered, particular in detail, so vivid as to become almost palpable. Some of these are delightfully comic, others, razor-nasty, and each one makes the author's detours into discursive murk all the more regrettable. Pynchon does it on purpose, of course, and I'm sure it makes perfect sense to him; and yet, did he understand the harm he was doing to his story? In being self-consciously Post-Modernist--and no less self-consciously rewriting Moby-Dick, with the Rocket standing-in (yes, that is the correct verb) for the White Whale and an array of Rocket-besotted grotesques amalgamating Ahab's monomania (without, it ought to be noted, rising to half the height of the Captain's sinister menace)--he is also, perhaps unwittingly (despite his genius), laying his narrative open to criticisms of addled art and incompetent craft.

To argue that the narrative is carefully-designed to trace the shape of a parabola (oh, I get it--gravity's rainbow, wow) or insist that intermittent recurrences of certain motifs, images, metaphors, and so forth organize these 700-plus pages as a mandala is besides the point, really, when the reader cannot perceive any such shape during the course of his reading. It's a fine diversion, I suppose, to map it all out afterward, to flow-chart rectangular boxes marked "tarot" and "pagan ritual" and "Christian holy day" with page numbers sedulously inscribed, and maybe it's even a pale kind of almost-fun to re-read the novel with such a guide at one's elbow--and yet, is that how we most enjoy reading a story? What is the good or purpose of a narrative structured as a mandala or a parabola or anything else if the bewildered, exasperated reader's experience of reading it is so recurrently tedious, confusing, dull, and alienating?

A more satisfying explanation of the wander and drift one feels in reading Gravity's Rainbow is that the novel is a picaresque--the most famous example being Don Quixote and the first incarnation in Anglo-American literature being Tom Jones: The History of a Foundling. Read as a Post-Modernist picaresque, Gravity's Rainbow might easily, and perhaps too simplistically, be understood as a death-haunted dark farce featuring a hero on the run--a fair description of another W.W.II-based picaresque, Catch-22 (orig. pub. 1961), with which Pynchon's meisterwerk has much in common. Gravity's Rainbow obliges us to travel a macabre and dangerous road, however festooned its main lines and back alleys (and, yes, waterways) might be with antic billboards, jokey signposts, juvenile (when it is not puerile) humor, and bizarre human (arche)types masquerading as realistic characters. It will surprise no one who has read the novel that, in this construction, its hero is not Tyrone Slothrop but rather the Rocket; for it is the Rocket that is this story's overarching (literally) über-presence: the virtual mensch and consummate system (preeminent in a narrative preoccupied with systems) that the book's unraveling plot follows from its beginning ("A screaming comes across the sky") to its end. In this story of the Rocket, Slothrop is nothing but adjunct and fellow-traveler.

Would that Pynchon had omitted the most disengaging of his many digressions! Cutting 200 pages would have allowed the really fine, interesting, compelling moments to make a greater claim on the attention of a less-weary reader. A finer, stronger, shorter, better-loved and more memorable novel would have been the result. And it would have been the same novel: rendered the same experiences, proposed the same ideas, explored the same questions, broached the same terrible truth, i.e., that totalitarian systems-builders everywhere are in love with Death and we, to the extent that we are their acolytes and abettors, are unconsciously caught-up in working to exterminate our own species. It's much too late, of course, for revision, which in any case is unnecessary: published in 1973, Gravity's Rainbow won the 1974 National Book Award, has been called the most accomplished and profound American novel published since W.W.II, heads or is near the top of every list of the greatest novels of the 20th Century, and established Thomas Pynchon as the reigning genius (whatever that means) of Post-Modernist American fiction. Brilliant in conception, excessive in execution, Gravity's Rainbow persists as one of the difficult, infuriating great novels with which serious readers of American fiction must wrestle. ( )
2 vote bookie53 | Jul 26, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 87 (next | show all)
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
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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)

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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)

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