[ Gravity's Rainbow (Penguin Classics Deluxe) By Pynchon

By Thomas Pynchon

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
andreea avasiloaiei
Nobody wanted to do it, but ... Pynchon went "back in," and pulled out this bit of mythologizing from the ugliest part of our (human) history: the momentum that was allowed to pass, extending the lifespan of us Westerners beyond age 45 (on average), as a result of the machinations running their "course" ...

Where IS "In the Zone" (Chapter 3)? Is it ... William Burroughs's "Interzone," a boundary-less land beyond nation-states, that Tyrone Slothrop's been pushed into, to stay one step ahead of ... who?

The "They" people? Can you SEE them? Can you guess -- hovering beyond the horizon, beyond what you can take in without being "jumpy" or "over-alert" or (horror of horrors) "paranoid"?

How do you sleep at night -- how do you REST EASY, like, EVER -- when even your DAD couldn't keep I.G. Farben away [a REAL company, BTW, and one none-too-concerned with the "Frankenstein monster" they & others had created, even AFTER "National Socialism" invaded Poland]?

Hold on to your hats! Pynchon's writing to "beat the Devil," here; to not let the accountability meter just "slip away" ... over the "horizon," for GOOD ... leaving everyone with the numbing comfort of monotony culture ... of being able -- plausibly, demonstrably UN-able NOT to, really -- to just shrug one's shoulders and say "Well ... what can WE do?"
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AND, HERE'S A BONUS DEMONSTRATION OF "INFLUENCE," THAT I LIKE TO CALL:

"TORTURE!...it's sheer TORTURE, I tell ya!" [Pt. 1 of 2]
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"He was my good health," she often says. "Since he passed away, I've had to become all but an outright witch, in pure self-defense." From the kitchen comes the smell of limes freshly cut and squeezed. Darlene's in and out of the room, looking for different botanicals, asking where the cheesecloth's got to, "Tyrone help me just reach down that -- no next to it, the tall jar, thank you love" -- back into the kitchen with a creak of starch, a flash of pink. "I'm the only one with a memory around here," Mrs. Quoad sighs. "We help each other, you see." She brings out from behind its cretonne camouflage a great bowl of candies. "NOW," beaming at Slothrop. "Here: wine jellies. They're prewar."

"Now I remember you -- the one with the graft at the Ministry of Supply!" but he knows, from last time, that no gallantry can help him now. After that visit he wrote home to Nalline: "The English are kind of weird when it comes to the way things taste, Mom. They aren't like us. It might be the climate. They go for things we would never dream of. Sometimes it is enough to turn your stomach, boy. The other day I had had one of these things they call 'wine jellies.' That's their idea of CANDY, Mom! Figure out a way to feed that to Hitler 'n' I betcha the war'd be over TOMORROW!" Now once again he finds himself checking out these ruddy gelatin objects, nodding, he hopes amiably, at Mrs. Quoad. They have the names of different written on them in bas-relief.

"Just a touch of menthol too," Mrs. Quoad popping one into her mouth. "Delicious."

Slothrop finally chooses one that says Lafitte Rothschild and stuffs it on into his kisser. "Oh yeah. Yeah. Mmm. It's great."

"If you REALLY want something peculiar try the Bernkaslter Doktor. Oh! Aren't you the one who brought me those lovely American slimy elm things, maple-tasting with a touch of sassafras--"

"Slippery elm. Jeepers I'm sorry, I ran out yesterday."

Darlene comes in with a steaming pot and three cups on a tray. "What's that?" Slothrop a little quickly, here.

"You don't really want to know, Tyrone."

"Quite right," after the first sip, wishing she'd used more lime juice or something to kill the basic taste, which is ghastly-bitter. These people are really insane.

[p.118]
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AND NOW:

"TORTURE!...it's sheer TORTURE, I tell ya!" [Pt. 2 of 2]

(or: "Brand New TECHNOLOGY ... Same Old BORING!")
--------------------------------------------
"Is that the coast highway, do you think?"

Opened his eyes to the lady leaning across him to peer through the film of hair-oil. Like Mrs. Armbruster in fifth grade; older than his father would be now.

"I don't know," Rydell said. "Might be. All just looks like streets to me. I mean," he added, "I'm not FROM here."

She smiled at him, settling back into the grip of the narrow seat. Completely like Mrs. Armbruster. Same weird combination of tweed, oxford-cloth, Sante Fe blanket coat. These old ladies with their bouncy thick-soled shoes.

"None of us ARE." Reaching out to pat his khaki knee. "Not these days." Kevin had said it was okay to keep the pants.

"Uh-huh," Rydell said, his hand feeling desperately for the recliner button, the little dimpled steel circle waiting to tip him back into the semblence of sleep. He closed his eyes.

"I'm on my way to San Francisco to assist in my late husband's transfer to a smaller cryogenic unit," she said. "One that offers INDIVIDUAL storage modules. The trade magazines that call them 'boutique operations,' grotesque as that may seem."

Rydell found the button and discovered that CalAir's seats allowed a maximum recline of ten centimeters.

"He's been in cryo, oh, nine years now, but I've neve like to think of his brain tumbling around in there like that. Wrapped in foil. Don't they always make you think of baked potatoes?"

Rydell's eyes opened. He tried to think of something to say.

"Or like tennis shoes in a dryer," she said. "I know they're frozen solid, but there's nothing about it that seems like any kind of REST, is there?"

Rydell concentrated on the seatback in front of him. A plastic blank. Gray. Not even a phone.

"These smaller planes don't promise anything new in the way of an eventual awakening, of course. But it seems to me that there's an added degree of dignity. _I_ think of it as dignity, in any case."

Rydell glanced sideways. Found his gaze caught in hers: hazel eyes, mazed there in the finest web of wrinkles.

"And I certainly won't be there if he's ever thawed, or, well, WHATEVER they might eventually intend to do with them. I don't believe in it. We argued about it constantly. I thought of all those billions dead, the annual toll in all the POOR places. 'David', I said, 'how can you CONTEMPLATE this when the bulk of humanity lives without air-conditioning?"

Rydell opened his mouth. Closed it.

[from "CHAPTER NINE: When Diplomacy Fails" of William Gibson's Virtual Light (1993)]
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FUN FACT: [SPOILER ALERT!] Both of the above two old women turn out to be ... SPIES!
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OTH. CONTEMPORANEOUS, "PARALLEL" WORKS: Rule Britannia &Mumbo Jumbo &The War Business: the International Trade in Armaments &The Adding Machine &A Clockwork Orange
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Here she has become a connoisseuse of silences. The great silences of Seven Rivers have not yet been alphabetized, and perhaps never will be. [...] They are silences NTA cannot fill, cannot liquidate, immense and frightening as the elements in this bear's corner -- scaled to a larger Earth, a planet wilder and more distant from the sun.

[from "In the Zone"]
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HELPFUL "PLAYING-FIELD ESTABLISHING" REF'S: 1973 Nervous Breakdown: Watergate, Warhol, and the Birth of Post-Sixties America &Thomas Pynchon and the Dark Passages of History
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The night room heaves a sigh, yes Heaves, a Sigh -- old-fashioned comical room, oh me I'm hopeless, born a joker never change, flirting away through the mirrorframe in something green-striped, pantalooned, and ruffled -- meantime though, it IS quaint, most rooms today hum you know, have been known also to "breathe," yes even WAIT IN HUSHED EXPECTANCY and that ought to be the rather sinister tradition here, long slender creatures, heavy perfume and capes in room assailed by midnight, pierced with spiral stairways, blue-petaled pergolas, an ambiance in which no one, however provoked or out of touch, my dear young lady, ever Heaves, a Sigh. It is not done.

But here. Oh, THIS young lady. Checked gingham. Ragged eyebrows, grown wild. Red velvet. On a dare once, she took off her blouse, motoring up on the trunk road near Lower Beeding.

"My God she's gone insane, what IS this, why do they all come to ME?"

"Well, ha, ha," Jessica twirling the necktie of her Army blouse like a stripper, "you uh, said I was afraid to. Di'n't you. Called me 'cowardly, cowardly custard' or something, 's I recall---" No brassiere of course, she never wears one.

"Look here," glaring sideways, "do you know you can get arrested? Never mind YOU," just occurring to him, here, "I'LL get arrested!"

"They'll blame it all on you, la, la." Lower teeth edging out in a mean-girl's smile. "I'm just an innocent lamb and this---" flinging a little arm out, striking light from the fair hairs on her forearm, her small breasts bouncing free, "this Roger-the-rake! here, this awful beast! makes me perform, these degrading . . . "

Meantime, the most gigantic lorry Roger has ever seen in his LIFE has manoeuvered steel-shuddering nearby, and now not only the driver, but also several -- well, what appear to be horrid . . . MIDGETS, in strange operetta uniforms actually, some sort of Central European government-in-exile, all of them crammed somehow into the high-set cab, all are staring down, scuffling like piglets on a sow for position, eyes popping, swarthy, mouths leaking spit, to take in the spectacle of his Jessica Swanlake scandalously bare-breasted and himself desperately looking to slow down and drop behind the lorry -- except that now, behind Roger, pressing him on, in fact, at a speed identical with the lorry's, has appeared, oh s*** it IS, a military police car. He can't slow down, and if he speeds up, they'll REALLY get suspicious . . .

"Uh, Jessie, please get dressed, um, would you love?" Making a show of looking for his comb which is, as usual, lost, suspect is known as a notorious ctenophile . . .

The driver of the huge, loud lorry now tries to get Roger's attention, the other midgets crowding at the windows calling, "Hey! Hey!" and emitting oily, guttural laughs. The leader speaks English with some liquid, unspeakably nasty European accent. Lots of winking and nudging up there now, too: "Meester! Ay, zhu! Wet a meeneh', eh?" More laughter. Roger in the rearview mirror sees English cop-faces pink with rectitude, red insignia leaning, bobbing, consulting, turning sharply now and then to stare ahead at the couple in the Jaguar who're acting so -- "What ARE they DOING, Prigsbury, can you make it out?"

"Appears to be a man and a woman, sir."

"A**." And it's out with the black binoculars.

[from pp. 124-125]
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"BUT ... HOW DID THIS BOOK 'LAND,' AT THE TIME?"
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Suddenly I was back home crawling into the cool sheet of my bed. I closed my eyes and then what seemed like two minutes later blasted out of bed raced off to work. I had a surprisingly huge amount of energy all day. Jonathan was sucking up to someone he thought was an important artist so he left me alone. Jack called around five and asked if I wanted to "hit the beaches," his expression for barhopping, but I told him I had already made plans. Which was a lie.

About an hour later this woman came by Erehwon. She was using one of the duplication video machines we own and as she squatted down to loop some tape onto a reel, she had an almost perfect bum, so I started up a conversation with her. Turns out she's really into Thomas Pynchon and I've been reading "Gravity's Rainbow" so we're seeing each other tomorrow on my day off.

[from Eric Bogosian's invigorating, exhilarating, & galvanizing 2009 novel of the '70s (& '00s), "Perforated Heart"]
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
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[I.]

"Everyone associated with de Mohrenschildt would have a good explanation for why they knew everyone else. And, to make it more confusing still, this cover story would be layered over another one that was even more intriguing, and that would itself lead to a dead end. ¶ Allen Dulles once called CIA documents 'hieroglyphics.' Like the old lion surrounded by his adoring cubs, Dulles used to expound on such elements of tradecraft to his fellow Warren Commission members. On one occasion, he told them...more "Everyone associated with de Mohrenschildt would have a good explanation for why they knew everyone else. And, to make it more confusing still, this cover story would be layered over another one that was even more intriguing, and that would itself lead to a dead end. ¶ Allen Dulles once called CIA documents 'hieroglyphics.' Like the old lion surrounded by his adoring cubs, Dulles used to expound on such elements of tradecraft to his fellow Warren Commission members. On one occasion, he told them that no one would be able to grasp an intelligence memo except for those involved in its creation and their colleagues. ¶ This creates endless, perhaps deliberate, obstructions for someone trying to piece together the story of the Kennedy assassination. When Thomas J. Devine, Poppy Bush's business partner and a former CIA agent, coyly suggested to me that the problem with journalists like myself is that 'you believe what you read in government documents,' he was referring to such deeply coded disinformation."

[Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America's Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years by Russ Baker (Bloomsbury Press, 2009)]
--------
[II.]

"As with both Freemasons and the followers of Pythagoras, a prominent Essene symbol was a mason's trowel. And like the Freemasons, the Essenes produced literature involving intricate codes and allegories to protect their knowledge from the uninitiated as well as from the Roman authorities. ¶ For example, when writing about the Romans, they used the term 'Kittim,' thought to refer to the ancient Chaldeans of Mesopotamia. 'The Essenes resurrected the old word for use in their own time and enlightened readers knew that Kittim always stood for "Romans,"' explained Gardner, adding, 'study of the Scrolls ... reveals a number of such coded definitions and pseudonyms that were previously misunderstood or considered or no particular importance.' Another example was the use of the term 'the poor,' which most people conclude mean people of few resources. The Scrolls make it clear that the early Christian church in Jerusalem referred to their numbers as 'the poor,' indicating their humble lives. ¶ According to Gardner and others, the terms 'leper' and the 'blind' were used to signify persons not initiated into the Essene traditions or 'Way.' 'Texts meaning "healing the blind" or "healing a leper" refer more specifically to the process of conversion to the Way,' Gardner explained. 'Release from excommunication [by the community] was described as being "raised from the dead". The definition "unclean" related mostly to uncircumcised Gentiles, and the description "sick" denoted those in a public or clerical disgrace.' [...] It is easy to see how the many translations and interpreters of the Bible went astray. Down through the years, interpretations of the Bible were made by men and women unfamiliar with either modern technology such as flight or with the allegories and codes employed by the original authors."

[Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History that Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids by Jim Marrs (Perennial/HarperCollins, 2000)]
--------
[III.]

"Gravity's Rainbow is the WAR BOOK TO END THEM ALL!"

[99 Novels: The Best in English Since 1939 by Anthony Burgess (Simon & Schuster, 1985) (emph. added)]
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"How to Direct Citizens: Lesson 3."
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Winter is coming. Soon there won't be enough food or coal in Germany. Potato crops toward the end of the War, for example, all went to make alcohol for the rockets. But there are still small-arms aplenty, and ammunition to fit them. Where you cannot feed, you take away weapons. Weapons and food have been firmly linked in the governmental mind for as long as either has been around.

[from reel 3 of "The Counterforce"]
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"Occupational Hazard"
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The hair at Weissmann's temples was graying and disarranged. Pökler saw that one earpiece of his glasses was held on with a paperclip. His desk was a litter of documents, reports, reference books. It was a surprise to see him looking less diabolical than harassed as any civil servant under pressure.
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"Oh, well ... of COURSE!"
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One of the sweetest fruits of victory, after sleep and looting, must be the chance to ignore no-parking signs.
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[*] Aside from Promise of Love (The American Analog Set) and Our Love to Admire (Interpol), of course!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
sunil murthy
Thomas Pynchon's 1973 novel GRAVITY'S RAINBOW is often looked upon as the author's magnum opus, a 900-page monster that, in constructing its fairly straightforward story, plunders all the riches of history and many of the sciences that its author found fascinating.

The plot is simple: in the last days of World War II British intelligence notices that a map American lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop has made of his sexual conquests in London corresponds exactly to where German rockets subsequently hit. An obscure branch of the British military specializing in all manner of ESP, voodoo, and Pavlovian crackpottery--Pynchon is playfully referring to how much money was thrown at all kinds of war-winning proposals--tries to discover how exactly Slothrop can predict the rocket, but Slothrop breaks away from his handlers and heads off to discover his destiny. Pynchon digresses from the main plot extremely frequently. From a 5-page tour of the awful English candies of yesterday to the creation of a new alphabet for Turkic speakers in the Soviet Union, from the tropes of Westerns to Herero religion, references abound to all manner of obscure subjects.

The novel has a reputation for being "difficult" and full of obscure references, but this is largely exaggeration. The reading public shouldn't have trouble following a long main plot of wartime intrigue and shifting between a wide cast of characters--after all, Neal Stephenson's similar and similarly huge novel Cryptonomicon was a best-seller. Most of the digressions are understandable for anyone with a solid university education.

In the end I found the novel disappointing. I did, indeed, read the thing, Pynchon fans, so don't accuse me of not having what it takes to make it through there. My reasons for not liking GRAVITY'S RAINBOW are somewhat similar to those of Pulitzer board members that overturned the 1973 award, calling the novel "unreadable," "turgid," "overwritten," and "obscene". Unreadable it's not, I got through it as have many. However, the problematic parts of the novel are turgid, overwritten, and obscene at once. Most digressions are entertaining, but often Pynchon throws in long passages of foecal humour or unusual sexual fetishes in a transparent attempt to be shocking and boundary-pushing. Unlike a William S. Burroughs, who wrote could sincerely write out-there stuff, Pynchon's risque writing is calculated and lame.

Much of the novel is impressive--and I especially like the surprise ending and the Finnegans Wake-like circle the book makes--but its failings were pretty big for me. I wouldn't warn all readers away from GRAVITY'S RAINBOW, as evidentally many do like it as a whole, but one can risk disappointment with Pynchon's work.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
naomi
For the first 20 pages or so, I struggled. Everything after that is a blur. The memories of events that occurred are stacked in my head in a way that no other information is stored. I know of events, but I don't know who was involved, or in what sequence they happened. I can only come to the conclusion that this was intended, however much I hate attempting to understand author's intentions, only because usually the intention is obvious. Not so here.
When I first decided to read Gravity's Rainbow, I did it to prove to myself that I'm a genius. I felt this way up until about half way through, when my own genius was boring me. I began to feel an itch for more entertainment, and the book just wasn't hearing my plea. At this point, I also realized that I'm not a genius because I was half way through and I hadn't a clue what the book was about. I continued reading because I've never not finished a book in my life, once started. I suppose I marveled at the idea of the 'beauty of incomprehension'. But this idea soon got old. There are very compelling scenes in this book, yet they lack something that links them all together. Each chapter could just be it's own short story.
Also, this was only my first reading, and I know that to honestly crit any piece of literature, one must re-read multiple times, however I must make due simply because I probably won't re-read this for another ten years or so. I didn't give this book five stars because, even though it's probably the most unique experience I've ever had reading a book, it was just too convoluted. I didn't give it one star because the literature is beautiful and I understood a lot of the esoteric references to electronics and science, myself being an engineer, and he does create an interesting blend of art and science.
It's one of those books you should read for the experience, not to be entertained.
Mason & Dixon: A Novel :: Gravity's Rainbow by Pynchon - Thomas New Edition (1995) :: Underworld: A Novel :: V. (Perennial Classics) :: The Death and Life of Great American Cities - 50th Anniversary Edition (Modern Library)
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
chelsea dyreng
Any author who uses "further" for "farther" (as Pynchon does, among many other errors) should never make anyone's "best novelist" list. This novel might appeal to the many readers out there whose brains have been so modified by years of pot smoking that paranoiac plots of Titanic proportions are as readily accepted (and cherished) as that tattered Grateful Dead poster still hanging their bedroom wall. For the rest of us, who can see clearly through the thick marijuana fumes that others have so extravagantly exhaled for two generations, "Gravity's Rainbow" seems childish. To this reader, Pynchon sounds like the unabomber with a better thesaurus. Tedious. One of those books that professors are constantly forcing students to read because the novelist can't attract a following on his own merits and ability to entertain. This is one of those "university novels" (as opposed to "popular" novels that people actually read and love) that "you have to work hard at to appreciate". In other words, expect to be bored and puzzled and left with the feeling that you have wasted your time and money.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
myjah
I have very mixed feelings about this book. it is my second pynchon book, having read "vineland". For any first time reader of pynchon, this is not the book to start with. This was the most difficult book I have ever read and that is saying a lot having read many of faulkner's novels. The difference here is that the author seems to go out of his way to make it hard. There are way too many characters that come and go. At times he will use only first names when we meet them and use only their surname later. each time he starts a new scene it takes 2 pages to understand where you are. In Faulkner there was always a method to his madness. In pynchon there appears to be only madness.

On the other hand, the book has a fascinating underlying story. The v2 rocket developed by the germans during the second world war is the centerpiece. It is a phallic symbol that represents both power and destruction. Since it travels at the speed of sound, you feel or are killed by the explosion before you hear the rocket coming. For the first time in history man can be killed anywhere, at anytime, without any warning. That is the horror of the rocket. The german developers fall into two separate groups: the ones who see the future potential of the rocket for space travel etc. and those who see it as the last hope of the third reich. The last half of the book is both sides, allied and Russian, looking for whatever they can to find the scientists and the science to develop their own rocket program.

This rocket is just a final piece of warfare that both sides are practicing that includes paranormal and psychological tactics. It is this piece that is the stepping stone that starts the book off. i wonder if that is historically accurate?

These are really fascinating concepts. The problem is they get bogged down in the babble of the author. Had this book been one third to half the length, it would have been bearable. As it is, it is an arduous search for a storyline and conclusion that never comes about.

Interestingly I see some Vonnegut here. Slothrup, the main character, traveling through the "zone" in a cape and silver horned helmet and subsequently a pig outfit, remind me of billy pilgrim in his silver boots and fury muff in "slaughterhouse five". I wonder if there is a tie in?

If you plan to take the leap, I suggest you learn something about the history of the development of the rocket. The book appears to be historically accurate about this.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dick
This was the first Pynchon book I ever read (sympathy sigh), and I've been a fan ever since. I have to say I didn't have the kinds of problems everyone else seems to have had--it was funny, it was encyclopedic, and anything I didn't quite understand went over my head anyway. What's probably most important about this novel is its depth--I've read several essays about Gravity's Rainbow that point out some of the phenomenal research Pynchon must have done to complete the novel. One reviewer went so far as to have an astrological reading done on Tyrone Slothrop, and found that the major events that happen to poor Tyrone in the novel correspond to this reading. Whether or not this was intended is up for grabs, but the research is nonetheless awe-inspiring. I would suggest, however, to anyone thinking of reading Pynchon for the first time to start easy, either with The Crying of Lot 49 or Slow Learner or Vineland, and decide whether to continue from your experience with those books. Needless to say, Pynchon is a major American author--whether or not you enjoy him is up to you.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dave hammer
Do you speak and read English fluently? If you do there is no reason you cannot read this book. It is a dense, intense novel which can be read if you are willing to sit down and read the thing with attention.

Too often we want Steven King easy in our novels. Hunker down and pay attention to the amazing, hypnotic prose of America's greatest living writer.

You may need to read this more than once; but once you get it, great rewards will becoming your way in terms of satisfaction.

As Pynchon was once quoted as being quoted: "Why should everything be easy?"
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ismael
Mix Joyce's "Ulysses" and a modern sci-fi novel, set it during WWII, and you get "Gravity's Rainbow". Like Joyce, I felt that GR was simply too much effort for too little gain. To understand even half of the book, not only do you have to read very slowly, but also slog through annotations or a separate guide. The time investment in comprehending this book is very large, and I simply do not feel that I walked away with enough to justify the time spent. If you are the type of reader who enjoys stopping to dig for secrets on every page, this book is for you. If you are a casual reader, it is not.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sonia szymanski
A novel not for the weak of heart nor for those who give up easily. It took me several attempts to finish GR and it was well worth it. The novel jumps often, with barely discernible strings of narrative holding it together. The style is reminiscent of Burroughs's Naked Lunch, but GR has far more depth and layering than anything since Joyce. A helpful hint to those who read it: search for an online guide to help you keep track of what is going on and who you have met (the list of characters seems endless). It also helps to have knowledge of some foreign languages such as french, spanish and german, some knowledge of physics and an affinity for song lyrics. Don't try to understand it all, just hang on for the ride.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
hywel
Thomas Pynchon's 1973 novel GRAVITY'S RAINBOW is often looked upon as the author's magnum opus, a 900-page monster that, in constructing its fairly straightforward story, plunders all the riches of history and many of the sciences that its author found fascinating.

The plot is simple: in the last days of World War II British intelligence notices that a map American lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop has made of his sexual conquests in London corresponds exactly to where German rockets subsequently hit. An obscure branch of the British military specializing in all manner of ESP, voodoo, and Pavlovian crackpottery--Pynchon is playfully referring to how much money was thrown at all kinds of war-winning proposals--tries to discover how exactly Slothrop can predict the rocket, but Slothrop breaks away from his handlers and heads off to discover his destiny. Pynchon digresses from the main plot extremely frequently. From a 5-page tour of the awful English candies of yesterday to the creation of a new alphabet for Turkic speakers in the Soviet Union, from the tropes of Westerns to Herero religion, references abound to all manner of obscure subjects.

The novel has a reputation for being "difficult" and full of obscure references, but this is largely exaggeration. The reading public shouldn't have trouble following a long main plot of wartime intrigue and shifting between a wide cast of characters--after all, Neal Stephenson's similar and similarly huge novel Cryptonomicon was a best-seller. Most of the digressions are understandable for anyone with a solid university education.

In the end I found the novel disappointing. I did, indeed, read the thing, Pynchon fans, so don't accuse me of not having what it takes to make it through there. My reasons for not liking GRAVITY'S RAINBOW are somewhat similar to those of Pulitzer board members that overturned the 1973 award, calling the novel "unreadable," "turgid," "overwritten," and "obscene". Unreadable it's not, I got through it as have many. However, the problematic parts of the novel are turgid, overwritten, and obscene at once. Most digressions are entertaining, but often Pynchon throws in long passages of foecal humour or unusual sexual fetishes in a transparent attempt to be shocking and boundary-pushing. Unlike a William S. Burroughs, who wrote could sincerely write out-there stuff, Pynchon's risque writing is calculated and lame.

Much of the novel is impressive--and I especially like the surprise ending and the Finnegans Wake-like circle the book makes--but its failings were pretty big for me. I wouldn't warn all readers away from GRAVITY'S RAINBOW, as evidentally many do like it as a whole, but one can risk disappointment with Pynchon's work.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
larin
Since this is one of many previous reviews, I will be brief. This is one of the most extraordinary novels I have ever read. But not the easiest one. The first time I read it I felt overwhelmed and undereducated, until I saw a another book written as a companion to the novel. It helped a lot with the unfamiliar cultural references, of which there are many. And I felt better. I read it a second time, on a couple of flights back and forth across the Pacific (perfect place - you're captive, with few distractions). And it took a few more hours than that to finish. In the end, if you can read no other novel, or if you are going to be isolated on an island with no chance of escape, and can take a book to read, take this one. You won't regret it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ali nin biri
Despite Proust (who was really a 19th century author trapped in a different era), Joyce (who was a master craftsman and a genius of language, but we remember him less for beauty than for technique and for the concepts of his enormities), Kafka (who was a universal author, equally out of place in any era, the 20th century just happening to be there), Faulkner (whose dark obsessions cast a sobering personal shadow over his work), or Borges (who was more truly a reader than a writer); despite these giants and others, Pynchon's masterpiece, which incorporates all of them but makes them fit and transforms them all without so much as a single false note, remains to this reader the most beautiful that the 20th century has to offer.

To be clear, this book is very strictly speaking a book of the 20th century, incorporates styles and themes unique to the era, gives birth to characters that are of the 20th century alone, and weaves a fabric of unsurpassed beauty in the process.

To call Pynchon post-modern is limiting and flawed. Any comparison to DeLillo, or Gaddis, or the like, is comical and should not be taken seriously. Some books can be read once through, and stand for everything, more or less, that an author has to offer. Gravity's Rainbow can be read countless times, and the experience is unique and profound, always.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
divyanshu saxena
Initially, I wanted to read this book so that I could have something to talk about at lame college parties, but then I read it and fell in love with the prose, and narrative attitude that Pynchon employs. My first mistake though was reading it for historical accuracy and knowledge. The book is indeed a genuine, satirical, and poignant commentary on the Second World War, albeit to read it as such is absurd--you'll gain nothing but a headache. I would read a page for almost an hour, thinking the current topic of the sexual prowess of so and so would be revealed to be an intricate part to some rocket sequence, and then find out Pynchon had been talking about wallpaper. The book is merely, in (of course) my opinion, lyrical genius. I stopped reading it when I realized I was trying to contextualize everything in some time and place I heard about through a history text--as if fiction only gets good when it seems real ; upon my second try I attempted to read it as a poem. I read it all the way through like this. Without any meaning, significance, or thought of satirical connotation, the book becomes a simple feast for the ears ; I enjoyed reading this book because it sounds so good. I would want to read my friends non-sequitir passages about bananas and artillery because I thought that lingually they were beautiful, and that perhaps the book is not supposed to be taken as a serious political/historical novel. Read it for the words ; language can be meaningful and intimate and special just because it sounds, well, neat. If you are going to sit there and look up every reference, then you will miss out on Pynchon's most amazing literary talents.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jennifer kurnz dittus
There are at present 130 reviews of Gravity's Rainbow.
I just wanted to say that I've just finished "Lord Jim," "Lord Skim," if you will, but I was on a mountain in Tibet with nothing else to read, so I read the whole thing. It was the Modern Library edition, which conveniently lists the ML's top 100 English books of the 20th century.
Gravity's Rainbow is perhaps THE novel of the twentieth century. What is its subject, after all? And yet it is not on the list. ML, wake up. No one reads Finnegans Wake.
So sez this would-be seaman a-a-an reader.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
michelle tishler
First and foremost - don't read Gravity's Rainbow if you haven't read something else by Pynchon first. The Crying of Lot 49 is possibly your best shot: it's very short (though only slightly simpler). If you can't stand Lot 49, which you may very well not, don't read Gravity's Rainbow.

Second, you must know what you're getting into. It's not going to be easy; at times it will be hilarious, at times, thought-provoking, but often it will be nearly meaningless.

Third, realize before you read that this book isn't 800 pages long - it's 1600 pages long. You HAVE to reread it; those meaningless passages will make a bit of sense. Which is, after all, the point - Pynchon is NOT trying to confuse you for the purpose of confusing you. At the same time, he's not feeding you pizza or apple juice; Gravity's Rainbow is not for those with an eight-year-old's taste buds.

Fourth, everyone (me, you, critics, Pynchon) must confront the issue of whether the book is a pretentious, self-possessed, I'm-better-than-you-because-I-can-confuse-you, meaningless, useless load of crap. Personally, I don't think it is (it's *funny*, *all-encompassing*, and, to tell you the truth, only difficult to read, not at *all* impossible), but it's an open question.

Finally, while Gravity's Rainbow is a great book, but it's NOT a good book. Go in with that mindset, and you'll be okay. And the book will be, too.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
wolfgang
This book isn't something to amuse yourself during a thirteen hour flight to Japan. This book isn't something that you pick up at the supermarket checkout counter, nestled in between the latest Grisham thriller and the guide to One Thousand Healing Herbs. This isn't the book that you bring to the dentist's office while waiting for your daughter to be fitted for braces. This book, for lack of a better description, is an all-consuming juggernaut of a novel. This book reads like some bizarre hybrid of "Finnegan's Wake," Einstein's lecture notes, and William S. Burroughs in his most drug-addled of states. If you do not give it your undivided attention, this book will tear you to shreds. However, if you are genuinely interested in bettering yourself as a person, then look no further. "Gravity's Rainbow" is basically the story of the twentieth century, with all its ironies and idiosyncracies, compressed into a mere 750 pages. To summarize the plot (and I use the word "plot" loosely) would be an exercise in futility. To call it a "War Novel" would miss the point entirely, because Pynchon uses the destruction of World War II as a nothing more than a springboard from which he can detail the travesties of modern life and the twisted nature of history. Granted, it does delve into the grittiness and decay of World War II, but it deals equally with sex, money, politics, and everything else that has tripped humankind up along the way. This book is like a blender: it takes all these facets of modern life and purees them into a hallucinatory nightmare of a novel. And then there's the language... It is impossible to speak of Pynchon without mentioning his fascination with words and language. "Gravity's Rainbow" has taken the dogma of the short story, stating that every word must be important, to the extreme. Every word IS important in this novel. You cannot skim this book. You cannot set it aside for a few days and effortlessly pick it up where you left off. Believe me, I tried (which is why it took me four, count them, four attempts to finish this book). You have to immerse yourself in its style, bathe in the language, in order to complete the daunting task of reading this book. This book is a word fetishist's wet dream. In short, if you're looking to be intellectually... not stimulated, for "stimulated" is too mild a word. If you're looking to be intellectually BLUDGEONED, then this book is worth it's weight in gold.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
morten
I don't think a novel can be written that will surpass what Gravity's Rainbow achieved. I'v ejust finished reading it for the first time and already am thinking about a second one. An absurdist and drug induced Pirgrim's Progress that is both the funniest and most bizarre/disturbing book I've ever read. A must for anyone who is looking for life and something vital in the too often passionless literature of the last thirty odd years
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shivani sheopory
This book is just really run to read when you go with it. With all the talk of density and complication, and the counter-point of meaningless, literary smugness, I thought I'd put a quote from the actual book:

"The War has been reconfiguring time and space into its own image. The track runs in different networks now. What appears to be destruction is really the shaping of railroad spaces to other purposes, intentions he can only, riding through it for the first time, begin to feel the leading edges of..." - 257

While the human characters run across Europe in the wake of WWII trying to make sense of their lives and post-war situations, the lingering effects of the war itself make up the biggest character in the novel. The question then is how do the human characters perceive the animate qualities of the war. Has the war been moving humans around like pawns for its own sinister purposes, or are these thoughts simply the paranoia of men with too much time on their hands?

There's something secretive going on on every page of Gravity's Rainbow, and when Pynchon hides it the most it seems to creep out from the corners of the paragraphs.

Pynhcon takes men and reveals that we are but machines, chemicals, physical properties that are moved about by the wind and the laws of the universe.

"Have you ever waited for it(in italics)? wondering whether it will come from outside or inside? Finally past the futile guesses at what might happen... now and then re-erasing brain to keep it clean for the Visit... yes wasn't it close to here? remember didn't you sneak away from camp to have a moment alone with What you felt stirring across the land... it was the equinox... green spring equal nights... canyons are opening up, at the bottom are steaming fumaroles, steaming the tropical life there like greens in a pot, rank, dope-perfume, a hood of smell... human consciousness, that poor cripple, that deformed and doomed thing, is about to be born. This is the World just before men. Too violently pitched alive in constant flow ever to be seen by men directly. They are meant only to look at it dead, in still strata, transputrefied to oil or coal. Alive, it was a threat: it was Titans, was an overpeaking of life so clangorous and mad, such a green corona about Earth's body that some spolier had (in italics) to be brought in before it blew the Creations apart. So we, the crippled keepers, were sent out to multiply, to have dominion. God's spoilers. Us. Counter-revolutionaries. It is our mission to promote death (sentence in italics). The way we kill, the way we die, being unique among the Creatures. it was something we had to work on, historically and personally. To build from scratch up to its present status as reaction, nearly as strong as life, holding down the green uprising. But only nearly as strong." - 720

I just think that's great.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mahtab
This book is woefully underappreciated, in large part, I suspect, because of all the terminal 'glitz' surrounding it- in re its opaqueness, its fairly mammoth scope, its discursiveness, it's dizzying rage of reference. I dare sa, however, that if you liked or appreciated Ulysses, you can't miss this one. It is very much of a tradition in American letters going back at least as far as 'Moby Dick' and, so far as I am concerned, is every bit as noteworthy. Wade through it- go gently- you will never forget this book, and it will alter the way you look at the world.
(I wonder that the Modern Library didn't even include it in it's list of the "100 best Novels" of the 20th Century. Incidentally.)
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
bangkokian
Gravity's Rainbow is one of those novels people talk about, but few ever actually read, and for good reason. This novel is overly obtuse and dense, Pynchon really likes to use big words to show off his intellect. The book makes no sense. The Man attracts rockets when aroused? Plus he's a total creep. Ugh! People who praised this back in the 70s must have been stoned out of there minds. Pynchon always will be a poor mans William S Burroughs, who writings this book totally tries to ape.

This is why you don't try and combine William S Burroughs with Tom Clancy or Neil Stephenson, the styles just don't jell. I guess if you like your writing dense to the point of being incomprehensible then this book is for you.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
eileen kalbfus
Being a general fan of the massive novel (I just love The Sot-Weed Factor, Ulysses, and Infinite Jest) Gravity's Rainbow should have been just up my alley.

However, although this book has its moments, it seems to drag on too long without any sort of flow. There are a series of disconnected episodes between that Slothrop sort of stumbles through, and I rapidly began not to care about him. Add on to this the ramblingly unreadable sentences that drift off topic (and people say Ulysses is bad) and the constant "Hey look there's singing midgets isn't this FUNNY???" attitude throughout and the whole thing starts to feel tired. If you think people in a balloon throwing cream pies at an aircraft is hilarious, this is the book for you.

If, however, you want to read a classical densely plotted postmodern masterpiece that actually has characters the author cares at least a little about in between its pirates and sex-with-pigs humor, and where the sidetrackings of the plot are actually part of the plot instead of random boring song-and-dance/slapstick routines that propel a featureless main character from contextless joke to contextless joke...read The Sot-Weed Factor. It's oh-so-much-better (and written 13 years earlier too, if you want to dispute originality). I guess it's not as fractured and meaninglessly paranoid, but I don't consider those features a bonus in literature.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jennifer roffmann grant
I've read the book all the way through five times and certain parts of it, say, up to ten times. (So obviously I like it.) And it's true, as they say, that on each reading you find something new. And fresh perspective.
How to prepare for Gravity's Rainbow to get the most out of it? Well, if style's a problem, I suggest reading W.S. Burroughs, D. Barthelme, and early I. Reed. (Comparisons to light weights like Wallace, Vollman, Stephenson strike this reader as absurd.) Perhaps it's not discussed as much as it ought to be, but GR's style owes a lot to the famous Buroughs "cut-up" method used to great in effect in the Soft Machine trilogy. The only difference being that in GR the splices in the text are made to seem seamless. The resulting style, then, is comparable to the associations in a dream. GR is basically a *dreamscape*. Do our dreams have plots and consistent characterization? Not usually, and so it's no surprise that GR also lacks these.
Style aide, as for the content. You don't need an encyclopedia or concordance, etc. to enjoy this novel. Believe or it or not, it's true. Of course, it's also fun to treat it like a big tome of clues. . . and to follow their leads . . . somewhere. But first and foremost it's the beautiful palimpsest of a dream. It takes some practice perhaps for a first-time reader to adapt to the flow, so to speak.
How does GR compare to Pynchon's other works? IMO, it far surpasses all them. If I were to assign a second place, it would be to V., definitely not CoL 49 which Pynchon has in fact repudiated (see intro to Slow Learner), nor the rather trite Vineland, nor Manson&Dixon (if only the latter had been written entirely in the style of the opening pages). Anyhow, none of these novels can in any meaningful sense "prepare" the first time reader for GR.
It's more than a novel, it's Work. A reader should treat it that way.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lauren proux
I recommend this book to anyone. It's an extreme challenge - see for yourself. If you dare to rollerblade in traffic while solving calculus problems, you may be the type of a person who can finish this book. I'm 1/4th way through just about now and it's definitely earned entertainment, but so far so good.
Better review to come shortly (this is just a place holder reminding me and motivating me to finish this dizzying novel).
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
erika sajdak
To say this is a hard read is understatement. The amount of exposition is exhausting. The failed humor is just sad, not even cringe-worthy. Greatly over-season that with oh so much unnecessary (and un-entertaining) vulgarity and a story that is, despite the length of the novel, really very simple, and you wind up with a piece of prose that I can't even recommend raising the energy to listen to it on an audiobook.

I read this because it was recommended. I have difficulty thinking the people who recommended it ever actually read it, or, if they did, they recommended it out of perverted sadistic humor. You too may have had it recommended to you and if your relationship with the those people is influenced by also having read it so you can be in on the joke, well, I wish you well.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
erin kiyan
It does take awhile to get used to Pynchon's prose style (somewhat agrammatical). But once you get into the rhythm of his writing, you should be able to follow what's happening.
What stands out the most in GR is definitely the characters, and in a sense, that's what GR is about. Sure, ideas abound as well, but they're secondary to the people here. Confused Slothrop (who, I felt, was unfairly dismissed at the end, but that may have been the point) sad Pokler (the situation with his daughter Ilse was the most touching part of GR), taciturn Morituri, gloomy Roger Mexico...
Interesting, to say the least, but I wouldn't say great. I think Pynchon's revered prose style here is what detracted from the story. Faulkner it ain't.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
arlene
I'm ambivalent about this book. On the one hand, the richness of language and references makes it a real relief from some of the watered down pop-novels floating around these days. And it was this richness that attracted me to making a commitment to the book (at least about 450 pages worth). When I was willing to suspend some of my more common-sense expectations of a novel, at its best, this novel was an entertaining, rambling, colorful journey. However, some of the (obscure) references began to seem cobbled into the text without sufficient rhyme or reason (for example, in one instance Pynchon uses the Heisenberg uncertainty principle to make an analogy when it (1) didn't really seem to fit in the general context of what was being discussed and (2) a much simpler analogy would have been sufficient and more appropriate in the context). It's fine to write in a complicated/rich style if it fits the framework/context of the novel, but I was disappointed in that it seemed he was throwing refereces in there to artificially inflate the book's complexity.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
donna halloran
My original copy of Gravity's Rainbow is tattered, ask anyone who's tackled it and they'll know why.Now no worries, I can reread it as many times as I want without taping the pages together. This time I may even understand all of it before it falls apart.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jason hatcher
Pynchon is frustrating to read - he often requries too much effort on the part of the reader. For those who tough it out though, this book is without peer. Pynchon's prose is electric and his powers of descripiton, while maddeningly vague at times, are incredible. If you are a serious reader you should at least try to read GR. If you want to work up to it, try Pynchon's fabulous novel V.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ashley berg
This is Thomas Pynchon at his finest. Just to read the first several pages is a journey into literary perfection. It may be a tough read, so was Ulysees.
The is a book is worth reading the rest of your life. There are levels at which one exists and when something is playing at a level so far above the normal then one must give it the highest rating.
You have to be very, very well read; this is not Hemingway. If one just reads the first several pages of this book then it is easy to see what an incredible work of art this book truly is.
I have never referred to any book as being near the level of Ulysees, but this one is upon the same playing field. Take it as a challenge, there are reference books to help you. But if you are at the stage where you are thinking of buying this book then you have no choice. Good reading forever.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lea sprenger
Gravity's Rainbow.* Those two little words are enough to make even the most hardened of readers shake. There is a dullness to the eyes upon hearing Pynchon's name, an instantaneous reverie-inducing magic word of Kabbalah among the literary aware. Yet there are a few people, scattered amongst the ley lines of the world, a few here in Australia, a few more there in America, a handful in Europe, perhaps, maybe, two or three in China, I don't know: but they exist. Some people have read the book. Some people have even - gasp - re-read. And for these, Gravity's Rainbow is the Ultimate, the Absolute, the All.

Happily, as of the 23rd of January, 2005, I can count myself among the tiny but growing portion of people who have completed Gravity's Rainbow not once but twice. The first read through, it was a nightmare, a mish-mash of vivid, hyper-real images, of chaotic, disastrous encounters, of haphazard, unrealistic, unbelievable absurd and comic characters and situations, of sex, of drugs, of violence, of midgets, of plastics, of Rockets. It had everything, but I couldn't grasp the novel - what was it about? What was it trying to tell me? Why - why why why - was I forced to read countless diversions into African history, metaphysical ramblings about the sun, the Grid, the Gods, excursions into Pavlovian psychology, octopus attacks, sado-masochism, rocketry, physics, witchcraft, Nazi ideology, English sweets, American limericks, Japanese Haikus? The answer wasn't obvious, nor did I discover why, once the last page was finished. The why, the when, the where, and most importantly the how of the novel were not revealed.

But the second read through. Ahhh, wasn't that different. Familiar with the characters who were to play larger roles in the unfolding of the 00000, I was able to focus my energies to the right places, and 'merely' enjoy the rambunctious cavortings of the rest. I knew that trying to make sense of a man swimming about in a toilet looking for a harmonica wasn't integral to the story, so I could just enjoy enjoy enjoy - let the beauty of the words and the crazy wonder of the imagery fall over me. Brilliant, amazing sentences were mine to enjoy, to savour. And I did. Slothrop, Rocketman himself, I knew was to fade, and I could be with him until the Zone absorbed his ten thousand selves. Roger Mexico was mine until Jessica said goodbye. And maybe, if I was careful, I could get a glimpse of Byron the Bulb.

So. What is Gravity's Rainbow about? I suppose it is about a rocket. No, a Rocket. THE Rocket. The 00000. A-and, the Rocket is fired, an arrow to the heavens, where it falls, nobody knows. Tyrone wants to know, thought he doesn't know that just yet. Pointsman wants to know. So does Teddy Bloat, Katje, Tchitcherine, Enzian, Weissman, Duane Marvey, and of course, of COURSE They want to know. They want to know everything, They do.

Beyond that? Imagine every little scrap of history, mathematics, science, art, literature, social criticism and psychology rolled up into a little parcel, mixed about with a liberal dose of paranoid plot (see proverb 5), and sprinkled liberally - oh so liberally, five to a page, more! - amongst a 760 page book that arguable is all about a single rocket shooting into the air and falling to the ground.

(If I could, I'd insert a song here, but alas, my singing capabilities are a great deal lesser than my desire. Maybe next time through the Wheel)

The setting, ah yes, that fickle, meandering, evasive creature. WW2, sure, London, sure, the Zone, sure. But also Africa, Mauritius, Japan, Space, underground with the Titans, in the air with the custard pies, on the sea, dancing about with those midgets a-and over there, in the Grid, can't forget the Grid! We jump about, we jump here, we jump there, back and forth, around and around, in a sentence we jump, in a paragraph we jump, mid WORD we jump. But the thread is held together by the Rocket, that simple, phallic symbol we can all identify with, that we all want. It is ours, if we let it embrace us.

But really, what is it about? A Rocket, we've mentioned that. A critique on the social setting after the war? No, too superficially deep, if you catch my drift. They don't like that, no They don't. A love story between Mexico and Jessica? Can't be, that'd be silly. 500 pages between scenes hardly constitutes a love affair, but wait! the main character disappears in the Zone, so what can I say?

You like songs? So does Pynchon. You like mathematics? So does Pynchon. You like midgets, bondage, feces, sex, physics, chemistry, plastics, magic, history, psychology, mythology, foreign languages, conspiracies, Capital Letters, puns, narrator jokes, chorus lines, reefers, the word sez, recursion, coincidence, nightmares and girls? Yeah, so does Pynchon. Funny that. Open the book, pick a page, any page, doesn't matter which, you are bound to find at least half of those.

Sentences are so confident, so unbelievably aware of themselves as to strike awe. Any quote would be out of context, and thus meaningless. A .... serves to connect everything, it is all connected, all. Will Rocketman save us? He can't even save himself...

*For the more serious minded - I haven't summarised this novel. I can't, you can't, nobody can. I can't summarise Finnegans Wake, either. The novel is a journey through the idea of what literature could be if we just let ourselves go and write what is within us. Pynchon demolishes the concept of what a novel should be, he tears the towering edifice that began with Cervantes and ended with Joyce - even if only a temporary ending - and rebuilds it in his image. The modern novel owes as much to him as it does to any of the Great Authors, this novel is an amazing, incomparable epic of...of everything. Its scope is so vast, its range so sure, its breadth so detailed that...I can't even finish this sentence. An amazing achievement. A brilliant novel. A fundamentally essential author.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
gulfer
I found this novel on a give-away rack in a library on Coleman kaserne in Mannheim, Germany when I was in the Army there. It was the paperback edition with the gold cover. The story hooked me from the first hallucinatory scene of an evacaution during the London blitz. It offered a wonderful alternative reality to the one I was living. Literature as escapism: yeah, sometimes, why not?

Anyway, if I were banished to a desert island and could only take five books, this would be one of them (though I would try to rubberband it with V. and pass them off as one book).
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
anushree
Don't be afraid of this book. Bu don't buy it if you don't want to pay attention. Also, don't pick it up if you don't want to think. For all of that, the story is not nearly as complicated or boring as most people would have you believe.
The book is a classic because it explores a theme that we have always lived with, the impact of technology on our lives. As technology evolves, the way we as humans view the world we live in evolves as well. Since not everyone is at the same place at the same time in terms of the way they look at things, you have conflict.
If you enjoy reading and enjoy a challenge, you will enjoy this book. Pynchon is a master artist with words. He creates people and places that for all their oddities make you curious.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
natalie kratz
Now I'm 14 years old and with the help of Weisenburger's companion, I can read and understand this book just fine. I really don't see what the big deal is, the novel is just simply an aquired taste that you have to read for a little while and get used to. Pynchons writing style is different to say the least (I'll admit that), but after 100 or so pages you get used to his form and really start to appreciate it's poetic beauty. You're actually in these people's heads, and the narrative is broken because human thought is so all over the place. It's a brilliant Joycian technique that keeps everything interesting and fresh. Now I realize this book is long (I still have yet to finish it after 3 months, page 634), but I wouldn't want it other way. This is a desert island piece, made to serve many purposes and meanings (or none at all). There is somewhat of a plot, but I'll let you find it yourself. And true, this book is quite a marathon, and only the dedicated will ever get it done.I found the only way to do this is to develope some sort of pattern in your reading so that you can get through it. I would read a section (2-50 pages depending) at a time and never worry about getting through the whole chapter or book. This probably allowed me to keep my sanity and keep up interest in the novel. You however should create your own pace. Overall, this is without a doubt the greatest reading expieriance that I have yet to have (14 years let me remind you). This book can be long and boring yes, but on the other hand you have to remember through the bad parts how zany and entertaining most of the book is. It's fun people, fun for intelectuals, and that is what reading is about, FUN!!!! If there is something that you don't understand, move on and come back to it another day. You'll never be able to understand it all, so as I said, MOVE ON. This is an incredible work of art that with the help of a companion piece (Weisenburger's) can be 'almost' totally enjoyed by many. Give it a chance if you consider yourself a skilled reader (or just a lover of good books), and please, for all of you naysayers out there, QUIT YOUR GODDAMN WHINING, and let all of us just simply enjoy a great book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
littleshout
All the fuss is fascinating. Maybe all the academic hype has engendered an "I'm cleverer than you" backlash to get so many vituperative reviews.
I think the book is fun. I first read Gravity's Rainbow around 1973 when it came out in paperback and was blown away by the story. I re-read it a few years later and confirmed my opinion of the book as a great read. I intend to re-read it again.
It is certainly the most impressive contemporary work of fiction that I have read and deserves pride of place on the bookshelf. The characters are interesting and fun, the interconnected plot is intriguing, the imagery is profound, and the references are challenging. I recommend this to my friends and give it as gift whenever I can. Five stars do not seem enough.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
jess saxton
I read Gravity's Rainbow slowly. For the last month, it's been sitting on my nightstand and I'd give myself a section or two before going to sleep. I don't really understand all of the 5- and 1-star reviews and the love it or hate it mentality. I think the book had magnificent, page-turning stretches that would go on for a hundred pages and verbose, mind-numbing description lasting 20 pages that bordered on free form poetry. Pynchon probably meant it to be that way.

I'm giving a star for:
* The heavily layered atmosphere of post-war Europe.
* Pynchon's super-dorky one-liners sprinkled in here and there.
* It's one of the few novels I've read that I am already looking forward to re-reading someday. (There's a lot still in there for me.)

I'm leaving off stars for:
- "The Crying of Lot 49" gives many of the same benefits in a much (MUCH) crisper story.
- An overuse of song lyrics.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rachel xu
You could hate this book! Loan it, borrow it and see how you like it before you consider buying a copy.
Someone said, "To achieve the impossible, it is necessary to attempt the absurd". GR is a book that almost constantly attempts the absurd... Many times the result seems to be a horrible mess, but there is still so much beauty, humor, horror etc. to be found in the passages of greater coherence. And it helps (for me, anyways) that the allusions and references I could appreciate (mostly those about science and history) were made with some understanding, rather than just being thrown in in an ignorant fashion for 'good' literary measure.
I am very happy that somebody mentioned 'Radio Free Albemuth' by P.K.Dick. If you can tolerate sci-fi and would like a similar level of 'weirdness', but prefer a cleaner, more personal (alas, less colorful) voice, you'll find it a much better read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lynsey
About this book.
There is a whole lot of Fighting going on here in the Zone. Too many French soldiers fighting and writing... Nobody Smokes in Germany... but then again, how can Englsh folk Smoke when Their mouth is filled with Cream Pies? So I wouldn't listen to any of Them. Does anyone out there have a Light? Someone give me the directions. Of course, You Understand, now the Darkness demands a little Plot and Clark Gable and movement into the SouthWest...
Gravity's Rainbow is definately weird. I tried to mimic Pynchon's writing style so you will get a feel (ja, ja). But at times it's rather confusing. I don't think there is any kind of unity to it, other than the chaos and horrors of World War Two, which is what the book is about. But if you like to learn, then this book is definately for you. No other book will teach you more about Newton and that kind of scientific thinking.
There. So read the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
karie
This book is hard to define. I read it almost a year ago and I'm still trying to digest it. The writing is very entertaining and engaging at times; other times it is downright frustrating. I found it best to just keep plugging along without trying too hard to get at meaning (there may be none there). Part of me feels like there is something I missed in the book, but overall I enjoyed it and would recommend it to those up to the challenge.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
pat h
Let's face it. You can only accomplish so much within the fiction format. If Thomas Pychon actually had a rational and potentially useful philosophy to expound, he should have done so with clearly written non-fiction prose. As it is, all we have is a chopped-up short-story collection. There's really nothing too difficult about following the plots; most of these subplots seem to be functioning completely independently of one another and the reader should try to just digest the segments as if they were short stories. Don't get bogged down or confused because you don't have a firm grasp on who the characters are or what they're doing. It does not really matter, because Pynchon has obviously chosen to forego the idea of characterization in this novel. However, that is not always a bad thing. Samuel Beckett has proven that characterization is not essential to a novel. Pynchon also succeeds, at times.
The main bright spots in this book are the philosophical diatribes which are the most important parts of the novel, but are almost entirely disconnected with all the other occurances in the novel. One such stand-alone segment is the part on "Byron the Bulb". I really liked that section, and a few others like it. My only problem with this book is that the whole thing should have been like the Byron the Bulb segment. Many parts of the book seem almost pointless compared to other, more profound parts. Often there is a very interesting and profound segment shoehorned in amongst a bunch of filler. Why not take out the filler and write an entire book of profound social commentaries? If Pynchon had done this, it may have just ended up being a very good philosophical book.
The type of person who wants to read _Gravity's Rainbow_ obviously is looking for a challenge, and wants to "learn something". Trouble is, this book is not that challenging and is only a moderately enriching learning experience. This book is not quite the feather in the cap people think it is. If you want a real challenge read _Beezlebub's Tales to his Grandson_ by Gurdjieff, or _The World as Will and Representation_ by Shopenhauer. Go ahead and try it - I dare you. Then we'll see what you're really made of. _Gravity's Rainbow_ is light beach-reading fluff compared to those books.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tara rugg
Read it once, twice, three times. Devote a life to its study, for the story, the themes, and the literary style. My favorite book of all I've ever read. It's so much more than the story, that to tell you what it's *about* would be a misleading exercise. Except maybe to say it's about erotic paranoia, life in the zone, and the horrors of British candy
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sean k cureton
Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow" is a fascinating read; I had picked up this book some two or three years ago and had waded through about a third of it, I picked it up again this past month and finished it in about that span of time. I love this book for its sheer density and difficulty, it is a challening book with numerous and hard to tie together themes woven through it. Pynchon ties together themes of astrology as well as organic chemistry, sexual escapades (which abound), history, music and to some extent, comedy. I found myself having to consult online dictionaries as well as the OED and to that extent, it is somewhat of a vocabulary "enhancer". I found it interesting that he mentions the character name "Cherrycoke" in this novel (published in 1973) as well as in his most recent work to date,"Mason and Dixon" and I assume (without having read his other works) that he tackles some overarching themes in all of his work, including conspiracy theories but I'm digressing...
All in all, a challenging and difficult work and one which I would recommend to any reader with an interest in the comical and the historical.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
tuba khalid
Whenever I must leave a book on the shelf, not having finished it, I feel somewhat guilty. Should I have tried harder to understand, to enjoy it? But "Gravity's Rainbow" -or "Rainbow's Gravity"? (I won't even bother to check the name)- does not deserve such a feeling, because there is nothing to understand, less nothing to enjoy. I've been carrying it for two weeks, I've started it many times and have reached only page 85. I don't care about the characters (do they have names?), I am not involved in the plot (suposing there is a plot). This piece of arrogant nonsense does not deserve a book review, simply because it is not a book - supposing that a book must be something more than several hundred printed pages and paperback cover. So, I won't write a review, just a piece of good advice: SAVE YOUR MONEY. In case you have made the same mistake as I did, I hope you have a table with a short leg so you will not feel like having wasted your money.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
afua
Maybe it's the wide variety of styles and motifs used in this psychedelic hippy dippy slide show as we jump from vignette to vignette that added - intentionally, I'm sure - to the disorientation and vertigo I felt trying to slog my way through Gravity's Rainbow. But I'm not convinced my rising gorge was caused so much by brilliant exposition as by the sensation of Pynchon casting about like a man going down for the third time, grabbing at any piece of flotsam floating through his consciousness at the moment. This can lead to some creative anecdotes, I grant, but there are just too many ancillary passages that peter out into ". . . . . ." when the steam's run out that I'm quite convinced Pynchon himself lost the thread. It isn't his, ". . . Tree of Life, which must be apprehended all at once, together, in parallel" style, or the way the story bounced around in space and time that caused my eyes to glaze over but these rants of Pynchon's, which add nothing to our understanding of Tyrone Slothrop or the overall mood of the book unless that mood is one of random meaninglessness - completely antithetical to the Grand Conspiracy in which Pynchon is so insistent his characters believe they are immersed. Pynchon spews forth these digressions in an unending torrent (digressions heading off on tangents, defined by ever finer changes in the "Ecks!" and "Why?") as if he expects the reader to share the same paranoid/drug-addled state of mind as his characters ("in the zone," so to speak har-har, where, since anything can happen, it necessarily does!) so that the proper irrational conclusions will be drawn, "Oh, the complete history of Slothrop's zoot suit and Planetoid Katspiel where pinballs come from . . . a-and oh yeah! Byron, the immortal light bulb and a giant, trained octopus that - wait a minute, *immortal* light? Now, I don't want to be an alarmist here, but it's all coming clear . . . sort of . . . at least I sense it coming clear soon." That moment just before the synapses snap to! Sweet anticipation of the Big Revelation when the scales will fall and They will be named. Pynchon is a master at postponing that moment indefinitely and keeping it all lively with his fancy oh-wow-man-I-wish-I-was-high-right-now-so-I-could-appreciate-this footwork.
The humor in the book mainly derives from Pynchon's cranking up the gross-out factor which I'm sure was cutting edge in 1973 and seems to be the reason Gravity's Rainbow has been able to coast so long on it's notoriety. Burlesque denizens of the Zone soft-shoe (or sometimes foxtrot) their way across the story in droves. The effeminate soldier who is not taken in by a diversionary ploy involving buxom showgirls, and who, when confronted at gunpoint ("'. . .this is out of bounds, you big sillies.'"), fairly hikes up skirt and scampers off Stage Left is played for laughs, but such humor strikes me as being more hopelessly dated than universal, the innuendo about as subtle as Eric Idle as that Monty Python character, poking us in the ribs, "Wink wink, nudge nudge. Say no more, say no more. Eh? Eh?!"
However, while I can resent Pynchon for his self-indulgence, I can't hate him because there is some fine writing in Gravity's Rainbow, but pointing out what exactly is appealing is a task akin to pulling hair out of molasses. The problem is he oversells the lie that is supposed to contain the kernel of truth hidden within. The facade is encrusted with too many gargoyles; cherubim and succubi jostle for space, bodies pressed together obscenely; caryatids groan under the weight not only of spires, clock towers, dormers, balconies, balustrades and the crenulated eaves of the roof, but are called upon to support each other. There's graffiti over the gilded, gessoed, plastered, parqueted, mosaicked, painted, carpeted surfaces. It snakes around corners, up and over statuary and seems innocuous enough - a tooth blacked out on Priapus, Aphrodite with Groucho brows -oh look! A marble micromosaic depicting an alchemist holding aloft the Philosopher's Stone, said Stone surrounded by requisite halo of cartoony light-rays (and that's not meant to be *sun* light, if you know what I mean) - or is that a Chess piece he's holding? Made of Imipolex G? Hard to tell: it's been obscured by the words, "Rocketman was here!" But mentally unfold the surfaces: ceiling, wall, floor; lay them flat, smooth the ripples in masonry and certain areas of graffiti spread, break apart while others overlap, creating dark shadows and a form takes shape - like a Mad Magazine Fold-In but in reverse - a pictogram emerges - the back of a giant hand, fingers curled away except the middle one. But no. That's not the message we want to see and now the spell's been broken. Anything we might have seen there dissipates into the Aether, much like Slothrop himself eventually does. In the end, there isn't so much a structure standing there before us as it is an amalgamation of decorations and conceits.
Or is that exactly what They want us to believe?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kamil
I have read this book five or six times since I was a junior in high school and continue to be amazed at its depth. I was prompted to write a review after reading some of the other reviews posted. Those of you who complain of its less than open style just don't get it. This book certainly makes you work for whatever you get from it but I, for one, do not find that a problem. Let me just say that I think this book is worth it. I realize some will not feel that the rewards of this book are worth that much effort. What a pity! Those who can will find a bit of everything in this book. It begs to be read several times. After about 100 pages, I laid it down for three months before finishing it the first time, but am very glad I finished it. If you find it a bit rich for your tastes, I suggest that you try Pynchon's earlier novel "V". It is much more accessible.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
k van edesen
It took me four tries to get through Gravity's Rainbow, starting when I was 20 (I had read V and The Crying of Lot 49 in high school). The first time I got about 100 pages in, the next about 200, then 400, and then finally all the way. When I made it all the way, I remember I was reading it about midnight one night, and I got past where I had gotten the last time, and I was lost. The next thing I knew I looked up and it was starting to get light, I had just finished the book. I have now read it 5 times, and the last time it felt incredibly linear, and if anything more remarkable than ever. I told my brother the writer that it felt linear, and his response was "of course, how do you think it feels to Pynchon" which got me thinking. You just have to let go, and don't worry, it's worth it. It's a hard book (it's Pynchon's hardest, Against the Day, which is also wonderful, and WAY longer, is in most senses a much easier read) for a lot of reasons, and it certainly won't be to everyone's taste, but it will get inside of you and stay there for the rest of your life.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
anjali s
Basically, the Rocketman gets all the chicks but does not know what the hell is going on, but the light bulb has seen it all. You will enjoy banana in various forms with Pirate Prentice, partake in a hot air ballon cream pie battle and enjoy a trek across "the zone". Argenitne Anarchist and German cimema bombshells, who knew industrialization could be this much fun? I tried to read this when I was 15 years old and it did not work. Came back to it at 34 years old and proceeded to read all published pynchon without coming up for air. I plan on reading this again if I survive the next 10 years.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kate winkler dawson
There are a number of reasons one might write a review of a book. Most of these reasons aren't all that helpful when it comes to Gravity's Rainbow.
One reason is to provide potential readers with a sense of the book (plot, structure, style, characterization). The best way to get a sense of Gravity's Rainbow is to read the first page. It basically goes on like that for another seven or eight hundred more.
Another reason is to enlighten the world with your sparkling insight into the subtlties of symbolism and layers of meaning in the book. With regard to Gravity's Rainbow, you can save that stuff for your weekly book club. The symbolism and layered meaning in GR are about as subtle as a rocket attack on a movie theater. This is why GR is often compared to Finnegan's Wake. If you've ever watched Joseph Campbell explain that novel, you realize that the search for deep intellectual insight is a conceit. These novels require your best effort just to understand the LITERAL stuff.
Another reason to review a book is to provide your own subjective opinion about the overall quality of the experience. I've found that many such GR reviews fall into one of two camps: "I read 'X' pages and couldn't/didn't finish it" or "Thomas Pynchon is God". The problem with reviews like this is that they say more about the meta-experience (sorry, but that is the appropriate word) of reading the book than they do about the book itself. Those of us who finish it are subject to a kind of "Iron John" machismo which falls apart if we are forced to admit that the whole thing might be a colossal put-on. On the other hand, those who give up can't help feeling that perhaps they are missing the big IT and don't like feeling that they might be unable to appreciate genius.
So is it the Emperor's New Clothes, or Pearls Before Swine?
It doesn't matter. The question is probably meaningless anyway.
If you like incredibly obscure cultural references, if you like dense imagery, if you like chilling portrayals of paranoia and the dire consequences to humans when people with power succumb to it and if you like conspiracy theory, you'll dig this book.
I do, so I did.
On the other hand, if you're hung up on little things like narrative structure, characterization, plot, etc., I'd stay away.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
jessica graves
This is frequently listed as one of the great American novels of the latter half of the Twentieth Century and as a must-read. There is a core of genius to the book that cannot be ignored. The arbitrary and sudden death from the high tech weaponry of the German rockets in World War II is a good metaphor that captures the angst of the nuclear age. The use of sadomasochistic imagery as a metaphor for the attractions and horrors of war is also remarkable, though these dirty parts are what led to the revocation of the National Book Award.

But there is an essential meanness to the book that I find repellant. There is gratuitous sex, racist commentary, and mysogyny. Pynchon does not care for the reader, and makes no attempt to craft a coherent narrative. This is a novel, and the form of this communication does require some kind of narrative and some kind of respect for the reader. Instead, the reader must endure hundreds of digressions and is expected to just admire the brilliance of the great oracle Pynchon. And if we dare speak up about our confusion with this book, well, that just means we are stupid. Pynchon does not seem to like his characters either, nor are they likeable to the reader.

Sophomoric excess that is essentially unreadable.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
mario rui
Gravity's Rainbow is an excellent novel. Pynchon is one of the pre-eminent writers in American letters. So I encourage all who enjoyed GR to explore another novel: The Recognitions, by William Gaddis. If you still feel Pynchon is God, fair enough. But at least view the real competition, which has been concealed for far too long.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
gibran graham
Pynchon's days on earth are numbered, but GR
is here to stay. Even with all its 60's kitsch, contrived jokes, and incoherent plot, generations of swingers n' zoot-suiters find their sacred scripture in its paranoid text.
A hundred years from now, when Pynchon is long gone, Paranoiacs the world over will read, reread, disect, and dispute this most cryptic text since Finnegan's Wake. GR is our new Bible, and Pynchon's a zany Moses in America.

A hilarious book if you get all the jokes, but even an idiot can laugh at the "candy chapter," in which our hero is force-fed disgusting British toffees. But the humor only accents the kabbalah-like mysteries that demand to be researched for decades to come, the way only a truly phenominal work of literature can.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
emily eisenhauer
I read this book over the course of two months. It lived in my backpack and is now dog eared, coffee ringed, smudged, and generally *digested*. That seems to be the point of this work to me. I could have read it in a sitting or two and I probably would have felt of it like many of the other reviews posted here do. Uneven, scattered, at times inscrutable and at other times sickeningly revealing. This book got me thinking about how I relate to the world I live in. It gently traces those attitudes using a fairly simple metaphoric language and leads to some fairly hair raising implications. Read it yourself if you crave details. Part of the beauty of this book is that you will get out of it what you put into it and that seems to me to be the mark of a "great" novel.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dionne delli gatti
I love the extreme reviews this book provokes. Some people seem to get it, some just don't. It is wild and disjointed. People (hundreds, literally) come and go. Sometimes hard to figure out, but definitely logical. Sort of like real life. The definitive take on the Cold War Era. It is the Dr. Strangelove of books.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
sarah roy
The book is really good, but the narration is absolutely terrible. This reader is stilted and halting in his reading, and makes it so difficult to listen as to be almost impossible to follow the story. It is beyond distracting and downright incoherent.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
abinash das
I am reviewing this mainly because I think the three and a half star rating the books has is too low. I will not go into much detail or be very comprehensive, but I will say what I think is important. After Ulysses, I think this is an important mark in the evolution of the novel. It was written by someone who, by both comprehensive and close readings, has obviously spent much time looking at the novel as an art form and has understood where it has been and where it will go. Because of this, it is not a book to read if you want to read only for entertainment. That also does not make it a novelty only for those in a cult following. I believe that a reader who pays attention and remembers the books they have read, attempts to learn things from them and carry that knowledge progressively from novel to novel, will eventually wander away from the mainstream books (e.g. the ones you find on an airport stand) to books of greater substance. Gravity's Rainbow is a book like this.
It does have its faults though. Pynchon, though highly imaginative and having an extremely open mind, does not have a lot figured out philosophically and the parts that were the easiest for me to understand (possibly the only parts I understood) were rather simple philosophical ideas (again, if writing a better review--or writing a paper--I would cite examples). Also he is overly obsessed with bodily functions. The poems and songs the characters sing, although respectable in quality, really aren't that good and are all quite similar. Perhaps if Pynchon spent more time working on them (instead of whipping them off and calling them good) the result would have been more stellar. I don't think that could be the case, though, because I think that, at times, Pynchon got tired of his own writing and just made absurd things happen to please himself.
Regardless, this is a very important novel (most important I've read from the time period). Gravity's Rainbow is beginning to feel a little dated, so if you are looking for an important novel that is even more current I would recommend Bolanos 2666.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
offbalance
Recientemente me embarque en la lectura del libro de este libro. No me asustaba el tamaño del libro pues he leído ejemplares mucho más grandes en ingles y no me molestaba. Pero de todo esto he aprendido que no todos los libros están hechos para todos los públicos. Sé que habrá personas que se enfrascaran en la lectura de Pynchon y que les gustara, pero después de leer por segundo día consecutivo me di cuenta de que este no estaba destinado a ser uno de los libros que terminaría. Me sentía como si perdiera mi tiempo y la historia nunca fue mía. El libro trata de manera someramente, pues es grande, de un mapa que contiene las aventuras sexuales de un elemento de la armada, y que coincedencialmente, esa es la ruta de unos proyectiles. Al principio, parece desordenada pero parece que va a tomar forma, aunque por ratos me recordaba de James Joyce y su novela Ulises. El desorden y las palabras que parecen inventadas hacen que el lector pierda el interés en el relato que da muchas vueltas en el primer capitulo. Creo que las novelas largas deben atraer al lector y ser más livianas que las pequeñas, pues hay mas posibilidades de dejar el libro a la mitad si es pesado y de terminarlo si aunque sea pesado, es corto. Habrá mucha gente que le leerá y que no dejen que este comentario los desanime, pero hay escritores que no se hicieron para mí y creo que este es uno de ellos.
Luis Mendez
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
marilyn f
It's fun to read these reviews, especially the ones where the reader "didn't get it."
GR is now used to stand for all of Pynchon's writing, and is panned for being too long (poor babies, is all them words too much?), too complicated, not funny, and so on. Well, sorry, but "The Crying of Lot 49" isn't any less difficult, and "V" isn't any more enlightening.
In this book Pynchon takes the literary device of the omniscient narrator (which I imagine was considered obsolete by many people in the 60's) and uses it to show the unknowability of the whole world, in all of its technology, biology, and culture. Instead of exposing the mysteries of natural science technology has placed another world between us and the natural world, and everything looks planned - the war, the bombs (the crater patterns of which appear disturbingly designed to some of the characters), our lives and the 'accidents' we have. If you find the book difficult, hooray. It was not written to be easy. I don't think it matters if a book is easy or hard. But to say that readers have been scammed or taken in (like some of these reviews state)? Well, since those same reviewers say they don't 'understand' GR, what good is their word?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
librarylady
Gravity's Rainbow (1973) was published during the vietnam and Nixon era, a time when many americans began feeling suspicious about their government. And while GR is a historical fictional novel about Pynchon's imaginary years after WWII, the ominous tone, which permeates the entire book, is rather timely and fitting.
GR is broken down into 'episodes' that shy away from being 'chapters' because of the hyper-fragmented narration. Although entirely in 3rd person, the same 'objective' incidents are told through different subjective angles, at througout various parts of the book. While this device has been used by Faulkner and Gaddis, Pynchon manages to do it so differently, so drastically, that the sheer style resonates deeply for readers.
Like most literary masterpieces, the book isn't really about anything except abstract ideas: Association Psychology, Relative Time and Space, Parallel Dimensions, Nuclear Physics, Colonization, War, Government Conspiracies, etc. Here, Pynchon flexes his intellectual, academic, and historical muscles (an attribute which is usually very annoying, but not in this case). Pynchon admitted to using the dictionary/thesauras for esoteric words in writing GR, in the introduction of "Slow Learner", a compilation of earlier short stories. This may seem inauthentic, but such arbitraryness is fitting, as Pynchon's novels serve to implicate the Post-modern condition- semantic relativity and over saturation of semiotic input. The novel flashes around like a commercial, blinging lights and strange noises- cutting off abrupty to something entirely unrelated. There are plots, characters, dialog, etc.- but the novel moves through like a dream- where characters and certain experiences become so fragmented that the objective 'reality' of the novel ceases, and the world of Pynchon begins.
One note of advice, have a pad and pencil ready, before you even open the book. There are as many characters as there are scenes, sometimes a dozen on a single page, each one so vivid, and so unreal.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
aastha
The most brilliant piece of fiction I have ever read and re-read.
Combines the major physical and metaphysical breakthroughs of
the centry (classical vs modern physics, organic chemistry,
calculus) is a metaphysical background agains the historical
perspective of a WWII and post WWII Europe.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
heather miranda
Pynchon's work can be said to possess a breadth of perspective that is uncharacteristic of much of the established 'American cannon', allowing us a panoramic viewpoint evidenced in both 'GR' as well as shorter works such as 'Vineland' (which bridges the world of pop culture and classical culture with its use of pop references joined with high literary style) and 'Mason & Dixon' (a sprawling narrative of the demarcation of the central polarities of Americana). In 'Gravity's Rainbow', Pynchon presents a remarkable vision of the Second World War, offering through historical excavation insights into its origins and provides evidence of the historical characters at work in the scientific and military leadership of its primary combatants. Pynchon's masterful, deeply cerebral use of the ocean of source material provided by this historical epoch allows him to create a persuasive portrayal of the interconnections and paranoia which characterize Masonic and corporate power, and the conspiratorial collusions to which we as inactive spectators are accomplices which allow war.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
hannesb
No plot (in the "traditional" sense), unusual characterization and more poetry than prose, "Gravity's Rainow" is certainly worth reading. It's not the "best book I've ever read," as other reviewers seem to think, nor would I recommend it as a general practice. But I'm glad I got through it
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
hala osman
What a ride! Although mainlining absinthe is probably a ride too, one that not everyone would find appealing.

There are a lot of reasons to dislike this book. It is difficult; there are sections I suspect I will never comprehend, regardless the number of rereadings. It is very long, longer even than its 760 pages can attest; from every page there seems some new character spawned, some new minutiae dished. It is a massive jigsaw puzzle, scattered all over the rubber room floor. But many of the pieces never really fit, and somebody has peed on the rest of them.

So why read it then? Well, for one, the prose is staggering. There are sentences, clauses even, where one can only marvel at Pynchon's wordsmithery. And then there are the digressions into esoterica, be it tarot, organic chemistry, or Nazi cult-films. These are presented with such erudition, such genuine insight, that you gain confidence in Pynchon, let him take you by the hand wherever he goes, which is usually to madness.

Ah...the madness. That's what gives Gravity's Rainbow the fifth star: it is bizarre as bizarre can be. Where else do we get to hear a conversation amongst skin cells, or peek into the world's light-bulb conspiracy? Nowhere. Gravity's Rainbow is one of a kind. It makes Dr. Seuss look like a year on Walden Pond. And with the madness comes the humor, served in liberal dollops. I must've laughed aloud twenty times.

So read it if you love words. Read it if you quote Stephen Wright one-liners to your friends. Read it if you enjoy a challenge, and would like to visit places that few have the courage to visit, and none have returned from unchanged.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cris
Gravity's Rainbow is easily one of the great books of the 20th Century, if not THE great book of the 20th Century. While it is one of the most difficult things you'll ever read, I believe it to be far superior to all those books on Random House's greatest books of the 20th century list. The author's intellectual range, knowledge of so many disciplines and his writing are vastly superior to books like "The Great Gatsby" (rich 1920's people party, main guy gets shot) or "Lolita" (aging professor lusts for his stepchild and gets shot). No contest: Pynchon by TKO with these time-tested 'classics'. The only ambitious works which come close would be Joyce's "Ulysess" and Garcia Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude". But I digress...

Many of the reviewers here and elsewhere have done a credible job of explaining what happens in the book and what its about. However, the book has such breadth and depth, that even if you read every review ever written on it, you would still not have a 'complete' synopsis or understanding of it. How many books can make this claim? For some, this boast will be interpreted as a huge negative point, but if you like dense, challenging meta-fiction as I do, then you realize its a huge positive.

The companion 'notes' book by Steven Weisenberger is a good thing to have (as well as the oft mentioned dictionary and pad of paper). However, I'd read it without that first and then re-read it with SW's explanatory notes. To anyone really interested in immersing themselves in GR (and Pynchon in general), I'd recommend looking into the Pynchon Notes publications put out by the proferssor at the University of Wisconsin.

So far I have deliberately avoided describing what the novel is about, etc since, frankly, it defies description. However, some things folks have said are on target: 1) it is beautifully written, my battered Viking edition is replete with notes in the margins and markings all over the place; certain passages are spectacular; 2) you can get an interdisciplinary college education from reading it (though not the 'usual spin' on things); 3) one clear theme is the interlocking dance between technology and death; 4) it is profane and/or obscene in places (but not very offensive throughout); 5) it will change how you view the world and history. Many of the themes explored (war, corporate shenanigans, paranoia, etc) are still with us today! 6)The disorienting experience of reading the book is also meant to mimic the author's view of the contemporary world: that it too is dizzying and disorienting.

To close, if you are or fancy yourself a reader of serious, challenging fiction, this book is the pinnacle achievement. Read it once and be in awe; read it more than once and be changed.

PS: Those who think it is randomly and haphazardly organized should read the intro to SW's book wherein he details a very elaborate and precise structure to the book. He uses details from the book and other archival materials to construct exact timeframes for events depicted and a surprisingly ordered desgin to the book! Surprise! Could Pynchon be saying there is an order underneath the chaos of the world that we experience with our senses? Read it. You decide.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
summer canterbury
Many thanks to A.Reader above for recommending Weisenburger's 'Companion'- very useful indeed. Also, will anyone in future wanting to compare Gravity's Rainbow with Finnegans Wake, please note the spelling of Finnegans Wake - ie, there is no apostrophe. For reasons, see Ellman's biography, among others.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
devesh
I simply cannot believe that so many people have given this novel (or antinovel?) a 5 star rating. The rabid nature of his cultish fans is unnerving to say the very least.
"A puzzle wrapped in an enigma fried up in a conundrum with Hot Chinese Mustard dipping sauce" is about the best way I can describe this book, and I only give it two stars rather than one because of the humor and obvious intelligence (or lunacy) of the author. The text on its own is absolutely labrynthine. I was reminded of James Joyce, but found this slightly more readable.
I came across it in a random fashion...it was recommended to me by no one and was not assigned in any course. I tend to pride myself on my education; tending to know at least a little bit on a multitude of subjects, and having studied vigorously neuroscience, chemistry, genetics, philosophy, medieval history, art, literature, psychology and antrhopology as both an undergraduate and graduate student. More often than not, I "got" what he was driving at. However, the complete loss of context which occurs every few pages in a miasma of tangential dialouge is at once tiring and wholly unnecessary. Maybe I'm just lazy, but I don't want to have to slog through a book just to avoid the guilt of having bought the damn thing only to leave it sitting on my bookshelf, a testament to my lack of wit or perseverence. So, having shelled out the 18 bucks for the paperback, I read it. I usually gain something from any book I read, but from this I only take with me the masochistic and perverse sense of satisfaction which comes from doing something distasteful which most do not have the fortitude to finish. I can only say I have felt this way about one other book- Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco (although I read it when I was much younger-maybe it isn't quite so bad). If you loved GR, I encourage you to try your hand at Eco's Pendulum, but have a dictionary close by your favorite reading chair...
So, to conclude, read this book only if you enjoy that sick literature challenge of "Can I REALLY read the whole bloody thing?". Good luck to those of you who accept...consider yourself duly warned!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
lady mockingbird
"There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it."
-Bertrand Russell
_Gravity's Rainbow_ is the "other;" so if you've read it (I have!) boast about it. I admire Pynchon's extensive allusions & encyclopedic knowledge, but feel this could be mistaken for intelligence. & perhaps it is a kind/type of intelligence-not CREATIVE intelligence, though. I think many people could make a list of things they "know" using a ready supply of reference books. Albeit, Pynchon's much more clever at it than most. Still, my kind of writing (kind I'd like to write & enjoy reading) is 1 in which the author pours everything into their head & then writes with their heart. This novel lacks a visceral quality &, while entertaining, strikes me more as the entertainment 1 finds in assembling a 10,000 piece jig-saw puzzle rather than the more profound variety a great piece of art generally evokes. B+
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
hanieh
Look, if it's too demanding, go watch "The X-Files" or some other tripe that makes your paranoia warm and fuzzy. GR is one of my favorite books (others include Haruki Murakami's *The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles*, Jack O'Connell's *The Skin Palace*, and Jim Dodge's *Stone Junction*. You will find this book when the time is right for you, and when you're ready, it will open to you. It's funny, reading all these reviews, because it never occurred to me to find GR pretentious; it rolls in the gutter (or rather, the sewer, viz. Slothrop's lost harmonica), doesn't flinch at copraphilia, and stoops to describe, movingly--to me--the light coming through a philodendron and striking a woman's patent-leather shoe. I never cared much for *Lot 49* or *Vineland,* but *V* was also terrific. As for the (often unfavorable) comparisons to Neal Stephenson: I love Stephenson's work, but that's candy, kids. This here's the main course.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
bob sipes
I know this opening line makes no sense, but it does to me. THAT is what makes this book such a delightful headache. Pynchon knows what his references are suppose to mean, but doesn't seem to care if the rest of us are in on it. I kept finding myself saying to the book on my lap..."Yoo-hoo. Remember me? The reader?" The words were in English, but when put togther like that you had to surrender logic and go by complete intuition. WHICH, IRONICALLY was the main premise as to what drove Slothrop on is dreamlike quest to find his deep love - the V2 rocket. I'm glad I read it, but I don't know if I could recommend it to anyone who isn't on an eternal quest to discover what all the world has to offer.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
brennan breeland
It is. It's the only book in the last 25 years I finished and then immediately turned back to p1 and reread. Wish I had time to read it again. Sure the first 150 pages or so are tough, but personally I was completely hooked by then. Of course i didn't understand all of it, but I did enjoy reading it--a lot!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
denisa
I tried to read this the first time about a year ago. I got to 125 and stopped. It was good, but just too long. Then you get a little further into it and the comedy and weirdness draws you in. A boat taken over by vomiting chimps? There is quite a lot of stuff like that. This book got so good that it took me two days to finish the last 300 pages. It got interesting and exciting and I was drawn in by the elegant (yet confusing) writing. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with time and patience.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
chhaya
Despite its difficulty, I was deeply altered by this book, in a way that I was unable to appreciate until years later, and a series of second tries... but I still enjoyed it immensely.

Gravity's Rainbow is not only exciting, detailed, hilarious, dry, and freeing. It is a passionate plea to a despicable machine. It is a merciless exposure of the most horrifying workings of the human experience. It is a rallying call to all of civilization's victims.

I find that the more I learn, of everything, the more I appreciate what a great achievement this book is. I confess, I looked into Thomas Pynchon thinking "V" was related to that alien invasion miniseries... for once, I can be thankful for my ignorance!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rick friedberg
Far and away the best book I have ever read. Strange, quirky, funny, and, of course,
incredibly difficult to fully understand... I doubt anyone really does. But don't let
that stop you from reading it, it is pure fun on every level you can think of. Pynchon rocks.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
melissa carstens schalk
I've read most of the books on most Great Books lists. I don't mind working hard at what I read and can tolerate not understanding every sentence. I loved Pynchon's V. -- but I hated GRAVITY"S RAINBOW. I found its plot rambling and its language less than stellar -- more focused on arcane vocabulary than on artful syntax. Reviews rarely mention the proliferation of truly unappealing sex scenes. Mind you, it's quite an achievement to write so many unappealing sex scenes, and they serve a purpose: Pynchon is interested in how war reduces sex to death and money, while a privileged few on both sides of the conflict scramble to consolidate power. Fine -- but if you want to get that point in a truly artful package, watch DR. STRANGELOVE, or read Margaret Atwood. This book combines the weaknesses of a comic book (shallow characterization, a reductively paranoid view of how the world works, geeky obsessiveness and prurience run amok) with those of a turgid Novel of Ideas that takes itself too seriously and goes on way too long. I can see that it's a bold move to demystify World War II, and Pynchon's encylopedic knowledge and verbal glee can produce great moments, such as the description of Tyrone Slothrop choking down a series of increasingly disgusting British candies. But in the end, I regretted the time I devoted to reading this book, and I am surprised that it has had such staying power.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
joan onderko
Here we go again, another book that only a tenured professor can love. There isn't a single fully developed non-wooden character here. The humor is so heavy handed that the jokes all fall like a ton of bricks. The plot reads like paranoia so severe that cultists would be embarassed by it. I found it unreadable and heartless. I take great comfort in believing that this will not survive with time but will be forgotten.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
virginia reynolds
Fantastic prose, a great cast of characters, and a series of events that leave you alternately amazed, pensive, and completely pulled into the book. This book is absolutely worth reading, one of the best books of the twentieth century. The beginning feels a little slow the first time, because it's hard to get used to Pynchon's writing style if you haven't seen it before, but stick with it and the rewards will definitely be worthwhile. Like a cross between Hunter S. Thompson, James Joyce, and J.R.R. Tolkien (for the songs, you see).
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
clover
Very overblown, hard to read and all over the place. The attempts at humor fall flat, and the overall tone, style and pace are jerky and inconsistent. In a word, I think this novel is unreadable. If you like this style and want to see how it should really be done, try Philip K. Dick's VALIS or A SCANNER DARKLY. Those two books make Gravity's Rainbow look like the convoluted rantings of a rank amateur.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
stefany
1. This book is NOT IMPOSSIBLE to read. You simply read it one word at a time. Over the course of a few weeks you will have finished it.

2. This book is NOT [...], though some scenes are maybe a little explicit. It may be disturbing at times, erotic at other points, but I don't think any child is going to pick it up or understand the events.

3. This book is BIGGER THAN YOU. It's stylistically beyond almost anything you've read previously because there are exceptions.

It's strange, baffling, eccentric, and downright weird at times. It's also brilliant, funny, revolutionary, and downright entertaining throughout. It challenges your perceptions of WWII being the last Good War. It addresses many current issues about the military-industrial complex. It's a grand conspiracy that will disturb you if you think enough about it.

I think most people are put off by the lack of a transparent linear plot. Following Slothrop on his journey through war-ravaged Europe is not easy if you're not wearing comfortable shoes- OR if you're looking for a standard adventure. The originality of Pynchon's writing doesn't allow for simple digestion of the story- you need to be willing to invest time and patience in it.

The reason I give the book 4 out of 5 stars is because I know it will be a long time before I have the book "figured out". I was somewhat put off by the last 100 pages or so where I really felt left out in the cold. It caused me the same discomfort as walking into a conversation where everyone is laughing then suddenly stops when I approach and act as if nothing has happened.

Otherwise I really enjoyed this book.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
william sharpe
A dense book, with the writer throwing a lot of stuff in. Presumably meant to be a literary fancy pants type of thing, but to me, that just made it incredibly dull and a slog to get anywhere near through much of it.

Definitely not entertaining in the way Robert Anton Wilson is, for example.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tushar
What sets Gravity's Rainbow above other books, at least in my humble (but correct) opinion is that it changes your perception of how to tell a story. In this book we don't have a simple and straightforward storyline. We don't have just prose to tell it (there are many digressions in the form of songs and poems and details of the lives of inanimate objects). In the end, there is a story behind the madness, even if it's sometimes hard to see.

Also, a little tip. Tips don't work for everybody, but I think this is a good one. Re-read it. I don't think any human can read it once and get everything they can from it. Don't limit yourself to one reading and say "This is great!" or even the opposite. Do it again.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
angela becerra vidergar
GR shows what a modern novel can do for the reader who wants a transcendent experience. This is certainly not for everyone, but no project can make such a claim. The characters are familiar and complex, and the situations reach incredible lengths of both humor and tragedy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
vinayak
Can something be described by referring to everything it is *not*? Could you do such a thing with say, the answer to the Problem of Western Civilization? Maybe this makes GR a kind of Anti-Bible, the Zero to Scripture's 1, teaching with wrongs not rights. No lepers get healed, but some poor sap gets castrated. Or do I drift into hyperbole? To everyone who couldn't get past the first page, Pynchon puts his purpose right there: this book is not an unraveling, but a progressive "knotting into." Let that be your warning, or guide, and go for it. Then read Mason & Dixon: 6 out of 5 stars.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
chris hollenberger
I gave this book a good fight, but broke down 100 pages from the end. The book ceases to have any plot about 200 pages from the end -- just a series of essays it seems. It's too bad because I was interested for a while. I've heard this book described as "literary masturbation". I agree with that assessment.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
melinda garcia
This book is total crapola. Pretentious, meandering, empty. Save your time and money and stare at a wall for a couple of weeks. You will look back at the time as having been more productive than reading this screwed up exercise in bad typing.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
nandish
I am very surprised to find this on a modern book list because I attempted to read it many years ago. At the time I thought I was a pretty avant-garde sort of reader, but I couldn't quite make it through the weirdness! Maybe I should try it again? NOT
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
edith weisenbogger
It's not that you're necessarily lazy...it's not that you didn't take the time to explore all the pop/cultural/literary/scientific/dream archetype references...it's not that you didn't re-read it three times...you probably just had something better to do...I did..but I finished it anyway..please don't feel bad if you don't...you just might be less stubborn than most of the rest of us
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
ed greenwood
There is a danger in reading reviews of this book that one may be put off by the hyperbole and the general diacritical hysteria. Responses to Pynchon are often as good and chaotic as his work is, but rest assured this book is worth your time. No it is not Ulysees, let alone Finnegan's Wake, nor is it quite Gaddiss' The Recognitions. But it has an elemement that those other works contain and that is its great aesthetic quality. It is enjoyable and rewarding, but perhaps in the end not so groundbreaking as to be the totem of Modern American Fiction
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
paula valerio
I've tried three times to read this book...the farthest I've gotten is about 20 pages. As I read, my mind drifts to other things. This book is boring and overwritten. The English language is best written blunt, direct, to-the-point, in clear simple language. To sum it up: it is too much work to read this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
narita
I can't believe than anyone "understands" more than 20% of Pynchon's metaphors, references, etc...but it's really no more about "understanding" than Life is about "understanding." The power of the book rests in its ability to touch our inner selves, lost souls in a world not of our making. It's scary, upsetting, confusing. As a book, it's masterful.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
exanimis
I really enjoyed this work, having just wound my way through it again with the Companion. I find alarming, however, the cult-mystique that readers have towards writers. The weird, shifty phrases they utilize in their reviews; very irreverent towards the artist, methinks. It is dangerous to think such a way. Leave the poor man be. 'Tis only art. Please don't overintellectize it any more than it already has been. And on a side note, I'd love to speak to you sometime, Mr. Pynchon, if only as a friend.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amadi
Although, Harold Bloom has stated both publically in person and in his writings that Don Delillo, Philip Roth, Cormac McCarthy and Thomas Pynchon as the Great American Novelists (capitals for New Critical excitement and neo-Romantic German appeal), I would find that Pynchon stands alone. Even with the current (and important) multicultural infusion of identity politics in U.S. English departments, he remains, without recrimination, unstoppable. More than Norman Mailer, Pynchon understands the complexity of race and history (Gravity's Hereros versus Mailer's failed "White Negro"). And other than Toni Morrison--who is much better than her Oprah book club stamp implies--there is no one more emotional and intellectually fearless than Sir Thomas. His brilliant prose moves us with his heart and his mind. Mr. Pynchon is pure velocity. He comes to us like a 'screaming against the sky', finding no mercy that is no less than human tragedy crying from a copper cup. He can dance the Zola dance; putting down with great ease realistic moments with the warmth and perception of Elizabeth Bishop. Just watch Slothrop crawl in his pigsuit across enemy line. He can also do surrealism better than Tristan and the Dada boyz of Europe; he takes the cut-up of William Burroughs and charges it with real loss and real human meaning. His characters are both foppish acts of flat dimensionality, but they can also lift up and reveal themselves in great pain among abandoned carnival rides run by midgets and cripples. To read this book is to understand the bridges and gaps of aesthetic warfare that continues on in Art and in ourselves. What makes him unmistakably talented is that he not only understands the five ghettos of Art (realism, surrealsim, theory, history, and identity politics), but that he manages to rebuild all of these bridges for us, allowing us to walk this dark city together, wander these bridges in search of light.

Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow stands as the greatest American novel to be found in the 20th Century. I welcome you to this brilliant, dark and deep city of his keep. You will never walk so closely to him, but he will never leave you so far away.

-m.s.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cara winter
One of my all time favorites. Many people quit before page 100 - but if they could only get past that first hurdle, they might glimpse Pynchon at his best. This is a giddy and complex ride, with a lot to say about the "zero" that state between yes and no. Rich and humorous, with memorable characters and imagery. Not a book to fall asleep to - this baby needs a good deal of concentration and chunks of time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jennica masigan
I would like to focus on the parts of this book that are very funny. The song lyrics and limericks are all very good, as is the "gross-out dinner" where the boys alliterate food names with unappetizing words and make everyone vomit.
And the Kenosha Kid bit in the beginning takes the cake. So funny, this book!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ahmed hosny
Too big for some, a wee bit small for some more, and just right for Goldilocks.This is surely a majestic piece o'work, even if the message/hymn/prayer is occasionally lost in translation. Remember Kids, only you can prevent forest fires.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kerry johnson
Reading some of the reviews of this book, you get the impression it's harder to follow than quantum physics. And, folks, friends and neighbors, it just isn't so. I first read "Gravity's Rainbow" when it was released in 1973--a big read, in a few places tough, yes, but overall? Not difficult, not boring--- and it's funny beyond belief. The final section of the book is hard to follow in terms of plot--but it never becomes hard to read in and of itself. The difficulty of reading "Rainbow" is much overrated. Just calm down and look at it as entertainment, rather than as a project. You'll be pleased when you do.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
patrick song
Yes, there's a lot of gravity here - dense, intense, tyrannical and demanding gravity. It does demand. There's nothing wrong with a little work though. Some of the reviewers here had to attempt this thing a few times before actually making it - myself included.
It's a mountain and I the reader felt like a mountain climber, if you will, and when I got close to the top, even though I knew the view would not get any better I said to myself: I'll take the extra steps and finish this thing. Then I can say: I finished this thing. Was it worth it? For all the five star reasons, sure why not. There's gold in them hills.
But, too often I felt frustration knowing I have enjoyed journeys far more user-friendly that had just as good a pay off.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
courteney
I read about 30-40 books a year of all genres and this is by far the worst book I have ever read. It is the rambling of some intellectual who is just trying to impress you with obscure references or shock you with descriptions of degenerate acts. I forced myself (and it wasn't easy) to finish but it was torture. Don't waste a second of your time with even starting to try and read this paperweight.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
leia
GR was spellboinding when I first read it in 1973...and remains so through my second read in 1998. Byron Bulb's exploits to elude GE's grid (kills light bulbs folks)...Slothrop's bumbling as V2's hit the ground..is just plain briliant theater...and a superb read. OK,and it's just stange, too. What I'm saying is don't read it because someone says its a "classic"...read it because it's a trip. A brilliant one at that.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
louise jansson
Experience a continuous, dynamic stream of enthralling verbosity and unrivaled creative use of the English language. At any given moment, life may not make sense, but it changes you as a person, at every moment. Every discrete moment, if we are to take the word of Weirestrass. It tastes wonderful, like succulent creamy banana bread, or zucchini bread, ideally moist. Eating, gnawing, enzyme accelerated pre-digestion reactions and bubbles. Some physicists, of course, dedicate their entire careers to studying the mysterious, musing bubble. Pressing and pushing mandibles, and hydraulic presses, also pushing. A push, a push on pushes, dancing with a spark through a valve and along a tube, quivering like a caterpillar uncertain to move, with an integration, into a whole, a new whole. Piles and piles of sparks, as if specks of light were as real as specks of sand. Each part of the whole is, of course, the same thing, all one, at the Zero. The ultimate Zero, which somehow has evaded the ubiquitos uncertainity. Can any normal human really escape the uncertainty? Gosh, that seems, well, utterly relevant. Relevant, of course, to the schwarzgerat, which controls the Zero... And the Zero? Well, the people that know about it don't like to talk about it, because, I gather, they haven't successfully achieved the internal calm of Zero uncertainty. But we don't want to indulge in the evasive obfuscation of a talented salesman or politician, rather we want that straightforward distortion of experiences provided by a propaganda artist, visions of the ideal race, the ubermensch, why an eugenics program is inherently permitted as an institution, or so it is said, though really why such a program ever exists is only because the Rocket permits it. The Rocket, using the parabola, that beautiful curve that is an inherent structure of the Universe, perhaps more so than the rest of Mathematics..... Advertisements of the Reich: the double integral SS, integrating over the parabola. The Rocket and the parabola, and launch, and Brennschuss, and penetration... rapid death determined completely by statistics, that inhuman science, but that which no human can escape. That is how evolution works, by such dreadful numbers. Evolution is part of the whole, and it has now produced the Rocket, so many occurrences of chance and chaos, leading up to the Rocket, which pervasively clings to the mind, against all rational will, as something inevitable. They say that determinism is logically untenable, but they never talk about the Rocket, which turns death into a matter of numbers, and so the rocket controls life. Of course, Slothrop makes his own choices only when the Rocket lets him make his own choices. But we all belong to the Rocket.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
rachel piper
What can you take away from this book with any certainty? Pynchon seems to talk around and around his great "themes" (paranoia, homosexuality, drugs, decadence, etc.) a great deal, but does he ever actually say anything? It seems to me it's very easy to be "a literary master" in this way. It's much more difficult to write something very clear and simple that people can easily understand (and yet still be profound and say something new).

Pynchon likes to impress. He seems to enjoy fact dropping like a groupie dropping names at a cocktail party. (This earned him the crooning admiration on the back of my paperback edition: '...the learning of a John Barth...') But like the groupie, there is always that suspicious lack of depth, of detail... Try to pin him down and whoah! there he goes off on something entirely different again. And here he is reeling off more shallow "facts" and references, preferably in German, preferably things he doesn't expect you know much about...

GR has often been likened to Ulysses or Moby Dick. But all it really has in common with these true greats is a large number of pages and a "difficult" style. This is why it's held in such esteem. It's just so damned long and difficult. Those who don't finish it (the majority) don't feel qualified to comment. Then there's the holier-than-thou, "emperor's new clothes" attitude of those who grit it out. Would it have got the same acclaim at 250 pages? When the buzz dies down, I rather doubt GR will stand the test of time.

And then there's this issue of humor. "Desperately funny" (whatever that means) trills the back of my paperback edition. I didn't find anything in the novel even the slightest, remotest bit funny. To me 'funny' means when you laugh. A real laugh. Not an "Eh!" to indicate you "got" a complex bit of sophistry, but a prolonged "Ha ha ha ha!", preferably incapacitating you for a short period of time. Woody Allen used to be funny. Monty Python was occasionally funny. Hell, even bits of Gargantua and Pantagruel were funny. Gravity's Rainbow is *not* funny. Humor needs specificity, characterization, familiarity. Pynchon has a hard time with specificity. When he gets bored of a scene-- zip zip we're off somewhere else again. Characterization is practically non-existent. Characters are just names thrown at us that occasionally crop up again. In more than a few scenes the novel is actually embarrassing to read, where Pynchon is obviously *trying* to be funny-- such as the scenes where he does horrible boffo parodies of homosexual characters. There's an underlying meanness to GR that is antithetical to humor. The characters are often sadistic. The novel itself is mean to its readers. Humor needs an underlying generosity.

With its sidelines admiration of drugs and decadence, GR is a novel straight out of some 1970s nightmare. It uses slang (natch) to try to be hip-intellectual and then fires out frequent volleys of "facts" and "references" to cover its tracks. But ultimately I think you'd have to be pretty naive to fall for its patter. It's just "Jitterbug Perfume" or any other Tom Robbins novel with a Phd. instead of a major in auto shop, a Jaguar instead of a Camaro, and a gold card instead of a pay packet. But it still wears the same nasty cologne and has the same fulsome desires. Tell it you're not that kinda girl.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kevin tumlinson
Being a general fan of the massive novel (I just love The Sot-Weed Factor, Ulysses, and Infinite Jest) Gravity's Rainbow should have been just up my alley. But...all three of those books had interesting characters and meaningful reflections on the nature of innocence/life/love.

However, although this book has its moments, it seems to drag on too long without any sort of flow. There are a series of disconnected episodes between that Slothrop sort of stumbles through, and I rapidly began not to care about him. Add on to this the ramblingly unreadable sentences that drift off topic (and people say Ulysses is bad) and the constant "Hey look there's singing midgets isn't this FUNNY???" attitude throughout and the whole thing starts to feel tired. If you think people in a balloon throwing cream pies at an aircraft is hilarious, this is the book for you.

If, however, you want to read a classical densely plotted postmodern masterpiece that actually has characters the author cares at least a little about in between its pirates and sex-with-pigs humor, and where the sidetrackings of the plot are actually part of the plot instead of random boring song-and-dance/slapstick routines that propel a featureless main character from contextless joke to contextless joke...read The Sot-Weed Factor. It's oh-so-much-better (and written 13 years earlier too, if you want to dispute originality). I guess it's not as fractured and meaninglessly paranoid, but I don't consider those features a bonus in literature.

I give it three stars because it has its fun moments, but I personally need to care about something and have dramatic development in a book. I feel like Pyncheon should have written short stories.

As an afterthought, I think what I really missed is love. All of the other three books I mention above have love as an element of the book, even if it is sometimes runs into conflict with reality. Not a single character in GR seems to love anybody or anything, let alone life. And when Slothrop stumbles uncaring and high through an uncaring world...well, I stopped caring too.
Please comment!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
denean
When I first read this book I did so without wanting to put any effort into it. I was lazy. I didn't bother to look up any of the historical, scientific, or pop cultural references. Moreover, if a difficult word popped up I didn't bother to reach for a dictionary to find out what it meant. Often I'd think to myself, 'Who is Clausewitz?' or 'What is a narodnik?', and then I'd move on without finding out what these terms actually meant ( even though I could have found an answer right away by simply typing any of these terms into an internet search engine ). The process was arduous, painful, and frustrating. I hated this book. I simply didn't know what he was saying because I couldn't put anything into context. The second time I read Gravity's Rainbow I purchased an annotated guide, while also making an effort to find some of the more obscure references myself. Though I can't claim to understand everything he was saying, I did grow comfortable scrabbling about Pynchon's exotic little universe. I came to respect the genius of this book, both in a thematic and artistic sense. I believe that one of Pynchon's goals is to dare the reader into reading this book. Simply put, he wants us to work. Kierkegaard said that being a Christian should not be an easy task. The same is true, I think, in literature. For, the safer literature gets, the more it comes to resemble TV. Yes, on the surface this book is difficult, even pretentious. But if you work at it, that is, actually make an effort to understand Pynchon's somewhat obscure references and his abstruse vocabulary, the results are most rewarding. Simply put, he's not going to spoonfeed literature to his audience. Nor, as a reader, should you want to be spoonfed.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
richard willis
Ok, this is only a review of the first 47 pages, as that is all I can stomach for now. I really want to finish, and I will try, but it's like having my teeth pulled.
I have to preface this by saying that I love, I WORSHIP Crying of Lot 49. I've read it 5 times, and it was pure joy every time. Maybe because Pynchon was writing in a 'genre' (a detective story) he exercised some very welcome discipline and gave some attention to structure. And it is his briefest novel as well. In any case, it is complex yes, but utterly clear.
I read V, which I finished, but may as well have been in Urdu. I loved sections, and there was some stuff about the mechanization of the human as being the ultimate decadance, or something, and I remember being wowed and wishing I understood it more fully.
Slow Learner--what the hell?
Vineland was like a root canal. Embarrassing and awful. Mason and Dixon just looks like it would give me carpel tunnel to carry around.
So now "Rainbow." I'm sorry, but I just don't buy the idea of books that need to be 'decoded.' All great works are accessible on a very basic level, even though there are deeper levels (shakespeare, mozart). My issue with Gravity's Rainbow is that in isn't accessible on that initial, basic level. Pynchon achieves this effect by seeming to leave out every other sentence.
As I said, page 47 here, and no narrative thread has emerged nor any character that is distinguishable from any other, or that I care about in the least. I know it's a long book, but by page 47, I would hope to know something, anything.
Mr Pynchon is very clever. He is clearly a genius, and he writes passages that are often stunning in their virtuosity. But these are not enough. Why should I keep reading? Pynchon (like his spawn David Foster Wallace) can't tell a story. And brilliant masturbation is simply not good enough. In this regard, Pynchon, Wallace et. al. are not even at the level of Stephen King when it comes to basic writing skill (say what you want, he knows how to tell a story).
Will keep plugging away, and I hope to eat all these words when and if this book takes some shape.
Michael Manley
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
morsy
I have read GR over twenty times, first, at age 8 in German. I enjoyed it most in French, however, the language in which I prefer to write my own novels, though the Chinese translation is not without its charm. I have also read Pynchon in Finnish, Swahili, and a monocle. The general reader will have a tough time following the convoluted visceral hynogogia of GR, which is more brash than Pynchon's Mason-Dixon, and less exuberant than his work as Balki on Perfect Strangers.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rasmus
Pynchon's magnum opus is one of the greatest works of fiction ever written. It is simply a tour de force of literary brilliance and an exploration of the human condition from birth to death. As Pynchon asserts, we all live under the threat of the rocket and the mass insanity which controls it. You must read this book if you consider yourself a student of American fiction.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bridget burke
Since there are already 250 reviews of this book, I am just going to say that the earlier portion of the book may contain the very best English-language prose style ever written--even better than Joyce and Nabokov! Oh, and also, Pynchon was not only robbed of a Pulitzer Prize, but also (so far) of a highly deserved Nobel Prize (also true of John Ashbery).
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kelsey robinson
I don't know whether to laugh or cry or both! This book did to my literary brain what Coltrane did to my idea about music, or even, maybe, what that album, "Confield" by Autechre did too. Good luck to any one curious/brave enough to climb this mountain of syllables. Here's a hint, two, in fact: Get the companion-you'll need it, and two, don't think about it too hard-if you find yourself getting lost, just keep going. Let go and you'll get it! Why force the world when it'll knock on your door freely?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
aidah bakri
Ever since I discovered Thomas Pynchon, in college in 1982, I have fought the battle between the two camps on this book ("greatest ever written" vs. "fraud") on the side of Pynchon, where I still stand today. Many of my friends, having heard me talk about this novel, have attempted it and given up. Not necessarily because of its difficulty, but more because of what they want in a book, or don't want, or because they were not interested in what Gravity's Rainbow does, offers, and succeeds at. I don't disparage anyone who does not like Pynchon, but you must conceed the notion that just because you don't like something doesn't mean it is bad. I can't stand rap music, but I would never tell anyone it has no validity for them, and I freely admit that I don't know what makes rap good. Therefore, we all need to be careful in judging Pynchon, and especially Gravity's Rainbow as bad when we just don't like it. For those it speaks to, it has no peer.

As a fiction writer myself, this book first served as an inspiration to me. Few writers since Shakespeare have Pynchon's vocabulary and word craftsmanship. He can write a sentence that you can read over and over and marvel at in its genius. Put a lot of those sentences together and you get a tome of genius. The most important moment for me when reading this novel for the first time was when I was reading along, and I stopped and actually said to myself "wow, I didn't know a novel could do that." This declaration was repeated many times before I reached the end, and it is that amazing realization that makes this novel so great, and so important to human letters. Even the naysayers, those who attempt to find flaw with this novel, those who hate it and find it unreadable, would be unable to point to another novel like it. No other novel takes you where Gravity's Rainbow does, no other novel challenges you in the way this one does. For me, a challenge is what makes a novel special. I don't mean a challenge to understand it, but a challenge to imagine the world it describes. A challenge to look into yourself and find the things that this novel thrives on, and the challenge of letting your mind float across language that the brilliance of which could not have been imagined before you read it. Gravity's Rainbow takes you to places and inspires thoughts that no other novels do.

Now, that being said, let's have a caveat. Gravity's Rainbow was written by a man with a wide range of knowledge, a large vocabulary, and a prodigious thought process. You'll need a dictionary close at hand and you should use it without shame. You might want to read one of Pynchon's shorter books to work your way up to this one, just to get the feel of how he operates. Lots of players spend time in the minors before they are ready for the major leagues. When I first read this novel I had read V and The Crying of Lot 49 before attempting it. I also had a literature class in which we discussed Pynchon and his themes (paranoia, conspiracy, what lies beneath the surface) Most of all, don't take anyone's word for anything about this book. Just read it and let the words do their work. Make of it whatever you want, and if you don't like what's happening to you as you read it, just stop. You're no less a person, no less a reader, no less an intellectual, it just wasn't for you, and this novel is not for everyone. That's one comforting thing about it, it makes no bones about the fact that it just isn't for everyone. Few things of quality are. For me this has always been the greatest novel I've ever read, but that may not be true for everyone. To those who tread the Pynchonian path and, like me, find a home there, I welcome you.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tarra
Experience the thrill and the rush--and also the sheer satisfaction of a book that will leave you grappling with the fundamental questions--questions concerning literature and narrative--life, why and how we live--this is not easy, perhaps even harder than the infamous Ulysses and yet I feel that once you travel through it's caverns you will arrive fuller and in some ways more complete for the journey...I plan on making that trip again soon.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
minakshi
It's been said that there are two reasons to read literature:

1. For the enjoyment of reading

2. To say that you have read literature

If you fall into the latter, then this book is for you. If you happen to fall into the first category, then there are a multitude of books other than Gravity's Rainbow which are more worthwhile to read. Throughout the majority of this novel, I found my attention wandering as I sludged my way through Pynchon's sublime yet mind numbingly unfathomable prose. To be fair, I wouldn't call Gravity's Rainbow a bad book. It is simply a chore rather than a joy to read. If you are interested in Pynchon I strongly recommend The Crying of Lot 49 or V over this.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
lisa didien
I agree with the 1 star people. As a member of IEEE, I get the monthly magazine Spectrum and in one issue, some scientists gave a list of their favorite books. I had read most of them, but one scientist/engineer recommended Gravity's Rainbow. So I tried reading it. Got half-way through, enormously boring, put it down for awhile. I just finished reading Neal Stephenson's Crytonomicon, which was compared to GR, so I thought I would try GR again. So now I am 3/4 through and am determined to finish it this time. But it is one boring book. I think Pynchon is trying to pull the wool over people's eyes, especially the elitist snobs, and apparently it is working. Reminds me of John Coltrane's Ascension album, which for the entire album sounds like the band is warming up but never gets to play, but the elitist snobs just adore it. But I think Coltrane was making fun of them too.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
denise koh
After reading over one hundred fifty pages, all I could believe was the story set during WWII, but I wasn't sure. The location was England, but I wasn't sure. I finally threw it against a wall in disgust. I've been told the nominating committee (made up mostly of book reviewers) nominated this for the Pulitzer Prize as best fiction. The awards committee (mostly book editors) rejected it as an unreadable piece of crap. I agree with the editors.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
david hartman
I love this book and was very excited to have it in an audio format, but there appears something went wrong with the cd. They glitch and skip in many places. The CDs look fine, no scratches or dings. I returned the first set and got another only to get the same crap audio. very disappointing.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
lawrence
I read this incredibly convoluted, interesting piece of bricolage, and enjoyed the play of color and symbolism, but there is just not enough order within the novel to make the departures from order seem meaningful or contrasting. There is not enough true play or dynamism, just talk.
A lot is also made of Pynchon importing scientific and engineering discussions into the realm of aesthetics; however, he does not make them poetic. Colorful, perhaps, and layered with bias, but not poetic.
I don't require a linear narrative, but Pynchon's structure falls short of meaningful parallelism and degenerates into never-ending allusions and references.
I want more from a "novel" than a convoluted, surprisingly static set of dialectic pointers. No one said it was easy to write a great Postmodern novel, so we shouldn't be too surprised to see Pynchon fail with Gravity's Rainbow.
ARS
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
dilara
I think reviewing this novel would be more difficult than reading it was, so I'm not going to bother. Here's my bottom line opinion: It is evident from the novel that Pynchon is unquestionably a smart man and more knowledgable about most things than I could ever hope to be, but Gravity's Rainbow is on the whole pretty bad.

If extracted, the mediocre main plot would occupy all of perhaps 200 pages. It might have been somewhat interesting standing on its own. But the other 650+ (!!!) pages of non value adding digression utterly ruins this novel. Occasionally humorous but mostly a tiresome chore to get through. I'm not even sure how I did it. I read it during lunch hour perhaps twice a week, over a period of maybe five or six months. Never got engrossed and only enjoyed what I was reading maybe 5%-10% of the time. But I persevered for two reasons:

1. I'd heard it was the most difficult fiction novel ever and challenging to finish. I wanted to see if I could do it.

2. I'd hoped the plot would improve further in as Slothrop neared his goal.

Ok, so I finished it but was the time spent worth it? Absolutely not, without question. And no, the plot doesn't really improve towards the end.

Don't bother.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
bram kox
This is a very long book entirely in the stream-of-consciousness style. I read it because some call it a classic. I found it to be a classic example of diarrhea of a sick mind. The imagery on almost every page made me want to puke. After months of reading this book to he very end, I still can't tell you what the plot is or even what the book is really about. It seems to be set in Europe near the end of WW2 and everybody in it appears to be insane.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kevin wolfe hughes
There are two types of people in the world: Those who've finished Gravity's Rainbow and those who haven't. I am proud to be among the former. This book changed literature -- forever and for the better.

Pairs well with: Banana Daiquiri
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
katherine pittman
Gravity's Rainbow was written by a genius at the height of his powers--unfortunately it was also the height of his lunacy.
He has erased virtually all traces of his existence to protect his privacy--why not just use a pen name? I could go on, but I think that pretty much proves my point--Pynchon has serious issues to resolve, if he has to make his life that complicated.
I'm not writing to review "Gravity's Rainbow" as I am to dissuade people from reading anything by him. I've read Gravity's Rainbow and can only pity the poor, alienated, intellectual who would actually read it five times. There is more to life than believing you are one of the 1% of the population that actually "gets" Pynchon. Please, go to a coffee shop, make eye contact with a cute girl, and try to form a meaningful relationship with at least one person in your life. Put the book down, and stop living your Slothropian fantasies.
For anyone who hasn't read any Pynchon, please don't read him until after he dies. When that happens, there will be a flood of books from the few people who know him detailing just how crazy he really was. After we know that, then you can read his work, fully enjoying the beauty of "GR", while at the same time realizing that that this is not guy who you should not be taking advice from.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
katherine chou
That said, I'll refrain from personal insults to the folks out there who enjoyed his book. I made it about 100 pages into the novel before I gave up. This was mostly due to a lack of faith- I don't believe it will be worth it to struggle through the next 800 pages.
This is a shame, because some of the passages really sparkled. I didn't find it "too hard", but I resented the demands Pynchon makes of his readers. I have very few requirements for the authors I choose to read- I don't need my literature spoonfed to me, but at the same time, I'm suspicious of any novel that requires a doctoral disseration as a companion.
I'm also suspicious of a novel that is called a "masterpiece" because it isn't understood by the masses. My idea of a great novel is not one that hides gems in deliberately obfuscated prose. I give this book one star because I don't like the way Pynchon presents his ideas, not because I think he's a bad writer. I'm taking my copy of GR to a used bookstore in hopes that someone else will get more out of it than I have.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
radha
Yes--keep Google by your side and look up allusions --you thereby participate more fully in the felt of the text and can follow the rhapsody flights better--reread is the key--try writing a sentence like Pynchon and that helps too
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
veronika
Is there any magic blacker than the Bomb? Is there any humor any blacker than this book? Both as a revisionist---and very accurate--- history of the last great war and a surreal---and very cinematic---fantasy of power and paranoia, a great novel.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
teri bryant
The greatest novel ever written, hands down. I have no idea how a single human being could have written such a thing. It is so gigantic in scope, so powerful in conception, so dense and brilliant, that it seems to have been written by a thousand brains. The chapter on Barney the Bulb and the German s--it boat are laugh out loud funny.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
andrew martinez fonts
The majority of this book consists of sentence after sentence and paragraph after paragraph that don't have any apparent correlation to each other. Even when a few coherent pages rise out of the sea of gibberish neither the characters physical location nor their goals/motivation are clarified, and every time a character recurrs their previous backstory seems to have been forgotten and replaced with a new one.
You'd have to be undeterably invested in liking this book before you started reading it to enjoy it. Even then I can't imagine how you'd manage it but apparently some people have. If you're reading out of casual interest, waiting for the book to hook you in, or even make sense, it's not going to happen.
I could tell pretty early on I wasn't going to enjoy Gravity's Rainbow. The only reason I felt compelled to persevere with it was to try to understand the comparisons to my fave writer David Foster Wallace, but beyond a few obvious homages I can't see anything I like about DFW's writing in Pynchon.
The bit with the dude eating all these gross sweets an old lady is giving him because he wants to be polite was pretty good, part of the 5% of the book that seems to suggest that Pynchon could actually write something engaging if he wanted to. The bit about the Schwarzkommando, a supernatural soldier created by a spell which the casters think failed, who go to Africa and take over colonies, presumably as the sinister beginnings of some world domination, sounds like a great outline for a sci-fi film/novel, but this concept is talked about for like one page and then disappears.
The bit about the light bulb companies and electricity companies in competition and cahoots was interesting too and relevant to DFW's style. Another part of the 5%.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
sedge
I threw in the towel on all this chronic word salad at about page 75 when I saw the story was not going to be clarified anytime soon. I made a real effort but in the end couldn't contain my anger at being (what I felt was) jerked around by the author. I just didn't see how I was going to get through 800 pages of this treatment.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
baykal
I was excited upon purchasing this book because of all the hype surrounding it, but soon found myself in well over my head. I was only able to get through the first 70 pages and despite concentrating had no clue to what was going on. I did have vivid dreams the nights I read the book, however, so on some level it was working on my subconsious state. I fail to see how this is considered a literary gem.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kaycee ingram
I read a lot of books, and have been for a long time.

This is the worst book I've ever read.

Technically, that's a lie. I quit after about 50 pages, and I rarely quit on books.

I don't know what to say, other than the following:

1. It literally makes no sense whatsoever.
2. Yet somehow, the writer's extreme hubris manages to shine through the written garbage.
3. Please remember that the good reviews you see are only from those insane enough to actually finish the book. I would bet 95% of people never actually finish it.
4. Read the reviews. Even the good ones don't exactly consist of glowing praise. "Read one of his other books first, then you'll understand him a little better." "Just ignore the fact that you won't understand a lot of things and it will be better." "I have no idea what the hell that was about but I feel so special for having read it."

I could go on and on, but let me just say that of the hundreds of books I've read, this is easily and without a doubt the worst of them all.

If I wanted the experience of reading this book, I would eat 4 hashish brownies and hang out with demented senior citizens with WWII PTSD. Those conversations would probably make much more sense, and be more entertaining.

0/10.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
natalie gaskarth
If you aren't familiar with Pynchon,this may seem like James Joyce to you at the beginning...but stay with it, and you will see the mind of the genius within, and then everything will make sense, I promise! One of the funniest, most thought provoking books I've read in a very long time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
darwish
To what classics are you referring in your review? I only ask because you seem to be dismissing this novel all together without once providing a counter-point to it's greatness. If the novel is, in fact, meaningless, prove it. Show us something thats is "meaningful." If only because you won't then sound like a complete idiot.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
lucy harney
When approaching this element of literature, one has to take into consideration the usability, durability and of course, contextial ability of the author. Though sometimes cold and calculating, Gravity's Rainbow is never deep nor contrived. Perhaps, it is better to call this book a "text painting". Images fliiter by. A dragonfly dances in the night. It really is emotional and uplifting; sort of a caterwaul between DMT psychosis and bi-polar fits. I enjoyed every second of this book, though the last half was very dull.

Have fun and don't get lost out there. lol
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
courtney reads a lot
Thomas Pynchon has duped the entire literary world with this 800 page assortment of random words and phrases that at times come together in complete thoughts, most likely unintentionally. I can honestly say that I looked at each word, but I came away with no sense of having read a book here. My best assessment of this book's success is that there are a good handful of insecure literati-types who convinced themselves that any book too confusing to understand must be brilliant.
The only reason I can give to read this book is to able to say that you have read this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kahlil
if you head to reviews 11-20 of GR on the store and look around thereabouts you'll find a review titled 'doorstop.' read it because it is as funny if not funnier than the novel itself and that is saying something. i think i had that person for intro to brit-lit freshman year. way to be born 'smarter' than me you douchebag.

oh, and the book is pretty boring and pretty rad.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
amar
Possibly the worst book I have ever read. Definitely the worst " highly acclaim " book I have ever read.

Literally hundreds of characters with idiotic names that are introduced thoughout the book and a freakin convoluted twisted plot add to the torture of trying to make some sense of the novel. Add a star if you enjoy constant reference to penises and vulva and all kinds of deviant sex acts.

Shrug..I'm just not into eating shit for sexual pleasure. That scene still makes me Ill when I think about it.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
phillip dite
Every sentence (every, single sentence) of this novel attempts grandiose, complex profundity, so much so that it feels like being flayed alive by words alone. I wanted to stab myself in the head just to relieve the pain.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
rebecca huenink
Awful. Tiresome, circuitous, tedious, pointless, chaotic, without plot or storyline narrated with all the enthusiasm of a funeral director giving school tours of a crematorium. Save your money. More importantly save that precious time of your life you could have wasted on this opioid excursion into nothingness.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
owleyes
This book was a thoroughly juvenile jumble totally lacking in cohesiveness, or -- if you are desperately (and pretentiously) trying to impress someone that you know deep down inside is smarter than you -- it is edgy and groundbreaking (profound and accomplished, if you write reviews for the National Review).

The prose was dense and stumbling. And "dense and stumbling" does not translate into "my mental genius was only able to attain the mystical Pynchon epiphany after purchasing an annotated guide" -- it means that the writing was clumsy, halting, poorly structured, and a royal pain.

"Dense" seems to come up as a compliment in many of the reviews here -- as some sort of self-congratulatory pat on the back for the fact that the reviewer is discerning enough (and lonely enough) to read this book cover to cover multiple times. Oddly enough, I think that "inability to express oneself clearly in writing" is not an overwhelming reference for an author.

The schizophrenic non-linear method of laying the story out is not clever and was not by any means new or groundbreaking when this book came out -- it had been done before, and it had been done well. It was done badly here. In this case, the literary gimmick seemed like an attempt to cover for a shoddy story.

An overwhelming fascination with genitalia does not make a book "edgy". A good fistful of drug references do not make a book "transcendent". If you are unable to derive intense meaning from the randomly strung-together thoughts (being generous here) don't think of it as a personal failing, you've just not been properly hoodwinked into rejecting a belief that good literature ought to be well-written and meaningful.

If you do choose to make the effort to attain the Gravity Rainbow epiphany, you will no doubt be thoroughly rewarded since you could read anything into this load of garbage that you might desire. I fail to see how your time couldn't be better spent reading a good book.

Next time I want to hear a string of profanity-laced nonsense, I'll just tape record a group of intoxicated adolescents.

Kudos to the reviewer who referenced Joyce -- an appropriate shout-out to the trailblazing author who pioneered the technique of using general incoherency to give the finger to pretentious English majors everywhere.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
gwen cummings
Thomas Pynchon's 1973 novel GRAVITY'S RAINBOW is often looked upon as the author's magnum opus, a 900-page monster that, in constructing its fairly straightforward story, plunders all the riches of history and many of the sciences that its author found fascinating.

The plot is simple: in the last days of World War II British intelligence notices that a map American lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop has made of his sexual conquests in London corresponds exactly to where German rockets subsequently hit. An obscure branch of the British military specializing in all manner of ESP, voodoo, and Pavlovian crackpottery--Pynchon is playfully referring to how much money was thrown at all kinds of war-winning proposals--tries to discover how exactly Slothrop can predict the rocket, but Slothrop breaks away from his handlers and heads off to discover his destiny. Pynchon digresses from the main plot extremely frequently. From a 5-page tour of the awful English candies of yesterday to the creation of a new alphabet for Turkic speakers in the Soviet Union, from the tropes of Westerns to Herero religion, references abound to all manner of obscure subjects.

The novel has a reputation for being "difficult" and full of obscure references, but this is largely exaggeration. The reading public shouldn't have trouble following a long main plot of wartime intrigue and shifting between a wide cast of characters--after all, Neal Stephenson's similar and similarly huge novel Cryptonomicon was a best-seller. Most of the digressions are understandable for anyone with a solid university education.

In the end I found the novel disappointing. I did, indeed, read the thing, Pynchon fans, so don't accuse me of not having what it takes to make it through there. My reasons for not liking GRAVITY'S RAINBOW are somewhat similar to those of Pulitzer board members that overturned the 1973 award, calling the novel "unreadable," "turgid," "overwritten," and "obscene". Unreadable it's not, I got through it as have many. However, the problematic parts of the novel are turgid, overwritten, and obscene at once. Most digressions are entertaining, but often Pynchon throws in long passages of foecal humour or unusual sexual fetishes in a transparent attempt to be shocking and boundary-pushing. Unlike a William S. Burroughs, who wrote could sincerely write out-there stuff, Pynchon's risque writing is calculated and lame.

Much of the novel is impressive--and I especially like the surprise ending and the Finnegans Wake-like circle the book makes--but its failings were pretty big for me. I wouldn't warn all readers away from GRAVITY'S RAINBOW, as evidentally many do like it as a whole, but one can risk disappointment with Pynchon's work.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
frangipani
That's all.

I read Pynchon's "Inherent Vice" with relish (I lived in LA near the time frame of that book and I'm also a noir fan). So I thought I'd give Gravity's Rainbow a try because of the hype. I got about 45 pages into it before I gave up. I just didn't get it.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
sansan
I read about 600 pages of this book before deciding on giving up. I could have finished it, but I realized that I had no desire to do so. In fact, I had no desire to do so long before reaching the 600-page mark, but I'll admit that most of the reason that I continued was because this book was so highly regarded by others.

There is no question in my mind that Pynchon could be a great stylist if he chose to be. To be more precise: he has the ability to be a great stylist, but in this book, he often seems to make a conscious effort not to be a great stylist. There are lots of "teases"; small dollops of beautiful prose or riotously funny dialogue, but they are separated by monotonous, fractured description. The other element which keeps things interesting at time are the passages which stay on the cusp of meaning, and thus could mean many things. I think that Pynchon's intention here is to show us the deep ambiguity that often permeates modern life, no matter how much we rely on precise technologies. While I appreciate this truth, and am a big advocate of making it more evident to the naysayers, I quite frankly think that Pynchon goes overboard with this. There's just not enough story to buttress these excursions into abstraction and ambiguity. I say this because I'm a very patient person, and this book made me run out of patience quite quickly. It took me the better part of three years to reach the 600-page mark, reading lots of other books in between.

I tend to lump this book in with the rest of the general malaise surrounding the innate nihilism of Postmodernism. While I could see how someone could subscribe to the tenets of Postmodernism, that doesn't mean that I agree with them. I think that there are bedrock values that exist, and that these values are agglomerated around our emotional states. There are few, if any, people in the world, who don't want to be happy. Even those who commit suicide are in some way seeking relief from suffering. All this is to say that if you are a person who subscribes to the tenets of Postmodernism, then maybe this book will appeal to you. But I also think that it would require a tremendous amount of patience to work through it for the vast majority of people, simply because there are very few people who have Pynchon's encyclopedic capacities as well as having a mind that works like his. This book makes me a little sad, because I think that Pynchon, had he not gone over to the dark side, could have been a brilliant prose stylist, if not anything else.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
angeleah
Three Novels Not To Read: The Sadistic, the Obese and the Blood-Thirsty.

I believe I have read as many books as anyone. I am not a glutton in reading, though, as there are books I will not read, and regret reading a few that I did. I will advise you of three novels not to read, as they are bad for your mind and emotions. People often know the bad effects of food they eat, but are less knowledgeable about the possible bad effects of what they put into their minds. Of course, I would not stop anyone from reading (as I would not stop an adult from eating, but I tend to avoid people who are obese who do not have a medical reason for it, and people of poor reading habits), but knowing what is undesirable will help counter the bad effects, ---as perhaps exercise helps counter the bad effects of fried foods, fat, salt, sugar, processed food and bad carbohydrates.
1- The Sadistic: The Bridge on the Drina, by Ivo Andric.
Andric's book had been on my list to read since adolescence. I was not enthusiastic to read him because I had been informed of the sadism displayed in his book, the first of his historical trilogy of Bosnia,--- oh, dear!
One time at a library book sale I discovered a copy, and bought it for a dollar. I was reluctant to begin reading it, but then I thought I owed it to my education to do so. I lasted not much further than one hundred pages, maybe to 120 or so. At that point, Andric was describing in excruciating detail the impalement of an opponent of the regime by the brutal rulers of it and in loving detail, as I perceived. I put down the book, and thought about it for a few days, and then tossed it into the garbage. I did not and do not want to know what being impaled means in its entirety. (It is not a simple pounding of a stake through the heart, but is crueler than that. It is more torturous than crucifixion. Christ would have welcomed crucifixion rather than impalement. )
A number of years later, I found another copy of Andric's book at a yard sale, and this time for a quarter. I bought it, brought it home, thought about it overnight, and then tossed it into the trash. I am perfectly educated without having read that book.
Ivo Andric won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1975. Good luck to all who read him.
*(I have thought for a number of years that the Nobel Committee is an organization that is very much overdue for a thorough investigation and savage cleaning, especially for its decisions in literature and politics. It now gives the peace prize for presumption of good works, as in the recent award (2009), and maybe soon for presumption for a literary work yet to be written. All of Western society was affected by brutal violence, once the Indian killing and the Civil War in America cleared the way for it, and the prize for Andric is the result. The Nobel Committee needs a cleansing like Hercules at the Augean stables.)

2- The Obese - Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon.
I had purchased Pynchon's first book, V, back in the 1960s, and found it worth reading. I also read The Crying of Lot 49, and accepted it as par for the course for novels that were published at the time. I will admit that I have not retained a great deal from these fashionable novels, though I meant to keep up with Pynchon's work.
About fifteen years ago, I picked up Gravity's Rainbow. I dutifully began reading it, and thought I was getting into it, ---though I could not see where it was going, but then I reacted. It is a huge book, well over 700 pages in small print. I had far too many things to do and other books to read than to continue with this fat slob of a book. It must contain more words than all the rest of the works in the western tradition from Homer, both Testaments, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Whitman and all the books in the American literary tradition. I could not and cannot bear the ponderings of the fatso literary mind as displayed in the book. (It appeared to me that Pynchon had got hold of a word processor, a novelty at the time he started to write his book, I assume, and could not let go.)
There are at least two ways to hit a target. One way is to load a double-barreled shotgun with buckshot, stand about five feet from the bull's-eye, and blast away. Of course the bull's-eye will be hit, and even blown to bits along with the rest of the target and the fence on which it was fastened. Another way is to use a high-powered rifle, stand three miles away, aim carefully, and---Zoooooook!---send a single bullet directly into the center of the bull's-eye. I would prefer the second way, in target shooting and in literary composition, as it is more skillful and satisfying in style. It indicates a disciplined mind.
Gustave Flaubert, the great 19th century French novelist and the writer who established the modern idiom of the novel, was an advocate of finding the exact word (le mot juste) to describe his compositions, and thus preferred the high-powered rifle style. Pynchon, in Gravity's Rainbow, took the shotgun approach and used every word he ever learned and many thousands of times. He can thus, in his novel, be described as the ultimate anti-Flaubertian (Flaubertesque?) writer. Of course, modern fiction is given much latitude in narrative form, but I do not care to lard my mind with such lard as did Pynchon. But again, if everything possible is said then I guess a writer gets to say what he wants to say, or mean, eventually, whatever it is. If you say everything then eventually you will say something significant, ---I suppose. If you could disentangle what he might have meant from what he wrote, you might have something. But that is the le mot juste style. Have fun when you read the book.
Pynchon has written other novels since Gravity's Rainbow, but I lost interest in him, as I have for most modern fiction because I find it narrow-minded, specious and contingent.

3- The Bloodthirsty - Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy.
First of all, this book cannot be called a novel because it does not have character development. The main characters, though I am being kind in calling them so, the Judge and "the Kid" remain throughout the novel exactly the same, evil incarnate and stupidity incarnate. Modern fiction is given much latitude in format, but this book needs another genre. I suggest it be classified as Horror Fiction for Intellectuals, because in McCarthy's book the hero (or whatever) dies; in Horror Fiction for adolescents, the hero lives and triumphs. This is the only literary difference between the two genres. (It is a male companion piece to the romance novel genre, but in a studly way. Whereas the romance novel has "romantic rape" at its core, Blood Meridian has actual rape, torture and murder, the "shoot `em up" style of writing.)
Another first of all is that I read the book on the advice of Harold Bloom. It was the worse literary advice I ever got. (Unlike Bloom, I was unable - and thankfully - to overcome my repugnance of the book. The problem with Bloom is that he has read so much that he could take the advertising blurb on a tube of toothpaste and write a critical thesis of American intellectual history based on it.) The book is a monolithic, monomaniac working out of the critical thesis assumed by Bloom that America is an absolutely bloodthirsty place with its heroes (a la Billy Budd) reticent, even mute, sacrificial and barely even interactive with their environment. Such a hero is indistinguishable from a stupid and naïve bystander. In fact, McCarthy's so-called ur-hero (or whatever), "the Kid" is totally non-comprehending to the point of not even understanding the context of his life. He is a mute and a neuter, stupid and unheroic and is qualitatively different than Melville's Billy Budd. He deserves to get killed in a toilet by the Judge. The book represents the dumbing-down of American literature, a cynical view of the author. It seems that the crude, primitive, adolescent development of America has found its nadir in McCarthy's work. It derives from the belief that the source or truth of things is "down- diggety-deep" in the psychic life of man, derived from Freud and company. Such belief is a metaphor and no more true or false than the view that all things good, true, beautiful and rational are from the "above" and beyond. (There is the possibility that McCarthy wrote his book in belief and to the life, alas if so.)
As Bloom taught, so McCarthy wrote, though they may have never met, and maybe all the worse for it. While it is true that a new novel takes some of its power from novels written previously, it still has to stand on its own, --- and Blood Meridian does not. All the books in Bloom's head have filled the gaps of McCarthy's novel. You have heard that America is one long bloody fight. McCarthy's book is a working out of that thesis in mangled, dying flesh. No one needs to tell me that, though, and so the book is redundant. The book, further, is to be comprehended by sociology, and not by literature, a deadly error. It is a derivative work of literature, and not a novel.
The worst thing about McCarthy's book, however, is that he wasted my time in reading it, as all his percepts and brutalities can be picked up elsewhere. There is nothing new in it: slaughter in the West; a superhuman (and perverted) villain; a moronic hero; hatred of the other (Native Americans). It may be the full working out of Manifest Destiny in the American West, an ideology made of bloody flesh.
Blood Meridian represents the end of the novel in America in what may be called The Literature of the Republic. (Now it is time to consider a canon for The Literature of the American Empire.)
*
I am perfectly cognizant that my advice will not put off anyone from reading the books but may whet their appetite for them. Consider that I intended it.

[I may write a separate review of Blood Meridian in a new format for review literature. It will have as its title: Blood Redundant: The Novel of the American Bloodlust. Or, perhaps I will call it Manifest Destiny: The Book of Indian-Killing.]

(TRC Final Revision 12-03-09)
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
juliane frank
I'm sorry, I gave this book my ALL, since I am an independent bookseller,in my lifetime I've read many many MANY books,and this one was IMPOSSIBLE. It reminded me of James Joyce's babble, I couldn't keep my attention on it because of the babbling style of Jame's Joyce, but PLEASE do not DARE compare this nonsensical drivel the majestic prose of Dan DeLillo or my favorite author, David Foster Wallace. "Gravity's Rainbow" was a waste of my time, and I would NOT recommend this dreck to ANYONE!I would rather learn Mandarin Chinese.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
samantha peterson
I read 100 pages and was unable to discover any story or interesting character to enable me to continue reading. Pynchon use lots of big words to show off, but does not produce anything gripping enough for me to want to continue reading. I cannot summarize the story, because I couldnt find one.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
vikki
Who put it into Pynchon's head that he could write? I mean, even the first page of this book offends my sensibilities. I don't care about the supposed "ideas" he has, where he went to college, where he worked after the navy--the bottom line is, the man can't write. I think he knows this, and he feeds off of it. Hence the style of his book. Or lack thereof. His art is heartless. Can there be any debate about that? In college, the few people who liked Pynchon were all science fiction readers and, yes, heartless people. With a bone to pick. (Go outside and toss the ball, fellas. You'll perk up in no time.)
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kiara
I don't make a habit of stopping a book once I get into it. This book was just not worth my time; was only drawn into it by its great reviews. It was obviously written by some self-loving, over-indulged, hippie.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
zulfa
Maybe it's entertaining if you take huge quantities of lsd, otherwise it's a nightmare. Pynchon forces offensive, sexist, nonsensical free-associations at the reader for hundreds of pages. As an author he comes over like a sad juvenile craving attention. It might have been different and unique in the 70's, but there are better examples of this kind of writing available now. All I wanted a well-written, cool story (sort of sci-fi/literature), unique characters, good setting and thought this might be the book, boy was I wrong. You suffer reading this "book", but that doesn't make it worthwhile. Miss this one. Repeat - miss this one. It is terrible.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
liz pratt
I truly feel sorry for Pynchon, knowing that writing this atrocity of a novel probably cost him many months of life. By all means, if you want to read it, get it from the library as I strongly advise against laying out cold cash for this mockery. Does anyone really care that a man's sexual episodes predict German V rockets falling on England? Is it really important to World Literature that a man dreams he is being sucked down a toilet surrounded by crap and toilet paper and can even smell which race the crap came from? The so-called Intellectuals who praise this claptrap are the same Great Thinkers that believe Ulysses by James Joyce is the best novel of all time. I would rather read the worse writing of de Balzac than waste one more second perusing either of these novels. Both these "novels" are truly "sound and fury .... signifying nothing."
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
bhaskar
I lived in Germany a few years ago and found this book in a train station. Someone had just walked off and left it. After about ten pages, realizing that Pynchon was an intellectual rip-off artist, I secured it a trash can where no one could find it. I like to think I protect the public from pollution.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
abclin
Rarely is pretentious drivel so profoundly trite. Perfectly exemplifies the great post-modern con. A chaotic assemblage of random terms to which meaning is later ascribed, so much like a certain nostradomus.

There are two principle types of literay work:

1. That which is to be read. and of course

2. That which is to be carted about, the title clearly visible, with a look of supreme smugness upon the owner's face.

Gravity's Rainbow is quite obviously a work of the latter category.

You see, I've come to the think of myself as something of an amateur post-modern poet; here is an example of my work:

Ball, Kite, wolf, sky, space, heart, moon, expand, window, flowing, profound, pompous, gravity's rainbow.

You see i'm quite the literary genius, somebody give me an award!!!

What you fools fail to realize is that the post-modern style is simply a tool enabling those of simple mind to veil their lack of true artistry behind absurdity.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
drewbacca
An entire novel centered on the unrealistic, flimsy idea that a man getting erections will attract missiles? Some missiles may be heat seaking but the temperature of blood found in the groin during erections is no longer near the degree it takes to attract heat seaking weaponry. Get your facts right, Pynchon. A scientist you ain't. As for the books social commentary on a whole, I can say this: I have not read the book, but I watched the film, and to be blunt, I've seen better film on teeth. Pick up a classic Steven King novel like IT instead of this pretentious crud.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
monique gerken
Full disclosure - I haven't read this, nor do I intend to. My first exposure to this pretentious dreck was a friend in my college years who left this book on the dashboard of his car - presumably to show everyone just how sophisticated and 'cutting edge' he was. He also carried a dictionary with him, which I've heard is necessary when reading GR (I'll pass...).

I now keep a worn, sun-faded version on my dashboard as tribute to my old friend. Occasionally, I'll throw a Sunday New York Times up there as a perfect companion of pseudo-intellectual pretentiousness...
Please Rate [ Gravity's Rainbow (Penguin Classics Deluxe) By Pynchon
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