Gravity’s Rainbow

August 5, 2007

The first book I dug into this year was Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon’s 750-page monster. (Although, what of Pynchon’s work couldn’t be considered a monster by those standards?) It was my first exposure to Pynchon besides The Crying of Lot 49, which I’m told is not his best work by any means.

What can I say about this book that would do it justice? I finished it at the beginning of the summer, so niceties like plot and character have begun to fade–but it seems almost as if those elements are irrelevant in this book. Pynchon’s characters break out into song at inopportune times, people are dressing up as pigs or lobbing pies through the air from a hot-air balloon, and somehow you just have to sit back and accept it. To try to diagram any of his sentences would give even the most accomplished grammarian (especially the most accomplished grammarian?) a conniption fit. To read this book you have to suspend all disbelief, pay close attention to minor characters because they WILL be back 300 pages later, and then sit back and enjoy the ride.

This book is not for everyone. Many people will get frustrated. I was a few chapters into Part 2, some 200 pages into the book, when I realized I had no idea what was going on. I paged backwards to an earlier point, realized I was still confused, then gave up and started over from Page 1. You will probably have to do this too at some point. Chris lost his copy midway through, and when he finally got a new copy, he too had to start over or be completely lost. This will happen.

But believe me, it’s worth it. This is not one of those books that’s frustrating, yet you read it to be “better”–the Odyssey, the Inferno, whatever. This is a book that’s frustrating, but you read it for its own merits because it’s just that good. It has probably changed more than a few lives.

That’s all.

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