Wednesday, March 31, 1999

Gravity's Rainbow

by Thomas Pynchon

I started this last year, got to page 400 or so, and quit.  Then started it again.  Slogged through to the end.  Dammit, if I was going to spend that much time on this 760-page, quarter-million word monster, I would see it through.  My best friend's favorite book, for what that’s worth.  Hmmm.  Let’s see.  It concerns one Tyrone Slothrop, an American stationed in London during WWII, who gets erections where German rockets fall.  His friend is killed, and he deserts to search for... something.  And one Tchitcherine, a Russian, searching for his Herero half-brother, Enzian.  And some other people.

It contains multitudes.  Poems and songs from witty to doggerel; foul descriptions of pornographic acts; some truly low scatological humor; extensive tinkering with language, German and English; puns; arcane references to physics, chemistry, the Tarot, Dillinger, Them, Masons; lost loves and refugees; several long, truly hilarious scenes (Slothrop eating some foul candy; Roger Mexico meeting Pointsman with his foot in a toilet); and clever, seemingly unrelated vignettes (Byron the immortal lightbulb).  This book cries out for an index.  There exists an Annotated Guide, which I may investigate one day.  But simply because the book is abstruse does not mean Pynchon’s a genius.  No more than it means he’s pulling our collective leg with complex nonsense.  My initial reaction is: like a mountain filled with veins of rich ore; mostly useless rock, but hiding some real gems of brilliance.

three stars

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