Oct 4, 2011
Taking Refuge in Gravity’s Rainbow
“Um über die nachträgliche Abspannung der Nerven hinwegzukommen habe ich leider wieder zum Chloroform meine Zuflucht genommen. Die Wirkung war furchtbar.” – Georg Trakl, 1905
I’ve begun to re-immerse myself in the intricate and densely overwrought sprawl of Pynchon’s masterwork. I first read it some 28 years ago and must declare that it remains, then as now, worthy of my idolatrous devotion.
20th Century literature begins with Ulysses and ends with Gravity’s Rainbow. The rest is either commentary or reaction.
Gravity’s Rainbow is not easy chewing, for sure, but it’s worth the effort.
I love Pynchon. A Los Angelesan like yourself might like Inherent Vice, Pynchon’s attempt at writing a hard-boiled detective novel. Except it’s Philip Marlow is a 1960s doper. Fun.
Or, Against the Day, Pynchon’s attempt at… oh hell, it’s as uncategorizeable as Gravity’s Rainbow, but set about 50 years earlier.
OMG, Eric! Great to hear from you.
Funny that you say “not easy chewing” since I just read the passage where Slothrop is forced to eat a series of outlandish and improbably horrible English candies. I came to that part right after I had written this post and it reminded me that what makes this book so weird, and in some ways maddening, is the way it incorporates the most beautiful and startling writing with scenes of childish absurdity (or absolutely prurient perversity).
I tired to read Vineland a while back and couldn’t get into it. I’ll try Inherent Vice because it sounds like something right up my alley!
Some of the prurience you mention in Gravity’s Rainbow? It squicked me out. And I’m an open minded guy.
Maybe after you’re finished with GR and Inherent Vice, you’ll think, “More. I simply must have more Pynchon.” And you’ll give Vineland one more try. It’s one of my all-time favorite books, and Pynchon’s most explicitly political novel. It was written during the worst of the Reagan-Bush(Senior) years, and it will be nice preview for the Perry years.
I feel that my only significant role in this life is to attempt to lift from obscurity all those Pynchon novels which are laboring under the burden of not being Gravity’s Rainbow.
I love Mason & Dixon!
Eric – You have fulfilled that significant role with these comments. I will give Vineland another shot. You may now rest on your laurels.
I love their line!
The line: judiciously laid out.
The book: truly fine.
But the video game? To die for.
I believe it was Steve Jobs who said, “Death is Nature’s video game.”