so i started gravity's rainbow the other day

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i'm sorry i'm way too fucked up to discuss this right now but have you ever read any ts eliot? i promise to talk more later.

John (jdahlem), Thursday, 6 January 2005 22:37 (eighteen years ago) link

OK, now I know what smoke.

Ken L (Ken L), Thursday, 6 January 2005 23:08 (eighteen years ago) link

Overdoing the Hate, C/D?

Ken L (Ken L), Friday, 7 January 2005 03:34 (eighteen years ago) link

just read the great interior-pointsman chapter (circa p140) and it occurred to me i'm not actually sure what the _point_ of his dog experiments was...what was he trying to get out of them?

John (jdahlem), Saturday, 8 January 2005 19:45 (eighteen years ago) link

You will find out as Slothrop's special ability becomes more obvious. Stick with this novel. You sound well-suited for it. The style's the thing, really, in the same way it is with Ulysses. Once you surrender yourself to the lushness of the language it's like being a child again learning to speak. At least it was for me. And to answer your original question, though it no longer needs answering, I suspect, around page 200, when Slothrop's at the Frnech beach with his girl and his tutor, that's when it began to come together for me. It all unravels toward the end--wait till Benny the Bulb!--but by then I suspect you'll be so far into it that won't matter.

Post-modern lit in general yes is obnoxious but do not discount Donald Barthelme or early John Barth (through Chimera) if you are enjoying Gravity's Rainbow this much.

There's one other thing I just remembered about the style/plot split. The National Book Award selection committee chose Gravity's Rainbow under some kind of protest about its supposed unreadability. Pynchon sent a clown to accept the award.

anonymous poster, Sunday, 9 January 2005 01:35 (eighteen years ago) link

i'm also loving the zinnish history "at best a colnspiracy, not always among gentlemenm, to defraud" + "terrible structure behind the apperances of diversity and enterprise" + "what is the real nature of control?" etc in leni's (intro/only?) chapter (why couldn't he just number the fucking things?). i hope there's a lot more of that, yes i do.

John (jdahlem), Sunday, 9 January 2005 02:25 (eighteen years ago) link

Do me a favor (or not--it's kind of annoying) and pay attention to the transitions between the sections to see if they're at all dreamlike, ie the very end of one twists into the very beginning of the next cartoonishly. I remember having that impression while reading it and since have been unable to go back and verify.

anonymous poster, Sunday, 9 January 2005 02:38 (eighteen years ago) link

that passage above is followed by a literally LOL scene where slothrop is gorged by each with the most unspeakably vile candies known to man

That and the banana nausea thing early on were the two bits I enjoyed.

Casuistry (Chris P), Sunday, 9 January 2005 04:18 (eighteen years ago) link

Thanks, John, for typing bits out, with enthusiasm.

I think it may be slightly unhelpful to talk about GR as PoMo lit. I guess I would call it post-Beat, post-hippy, post-'permissive-age' / The 1960s / whatever US Romantic espionage fiction. But possibly for some that means PoMo.

The scene with Slothrop and the English girl I found offensive, or at least annoying. I have said often before, and seem to be saying again: the book is oversexed, sexually obsessed, crammed with promiscuity and rampant (male) infidelity, to an extent that to me was odious.

the bellefox, Monday, 10 January 2005 14:25 (eighteen years ago) link

the shiteating ALMOST made me puke

John (jdahlem), Thursday, 13 January 2005 16:13 (eighteen years ago) link

Oh right, and then Trainspotting. I forgot about that.

Casuistry (Chris P), Thursday, 13 January 2005 18:41 (eighteen years ago) link

yes, but not quite so much.

i haven't read this, at all, over the past three days. but tonight i will probably read some.

John (jdahlem), Sunday, 16 January 2005 21:16 (eighteen years ago) link

I was just thinking of starting this book, which is why I wandered over to ILB. And there's a thread. Any more tips before I get started here?

mcd (mcd), Thursday, 20 January 2005 19:59 (eighteen years ago) link

my only tip wd be don't buy the companion. i did and i haven't opened it yet, for real. 20 bucks down the drain. not that i won't eventually but...just don't.

John (jdahlem), Thursday, 20 January 2005 20:14 (eighteen years ago) link

That's good advice, I was going to buy that. Figured it might help me through the more esoteric parts.

mcd (mcd), Thursday, 20 January 2005 20:32 (eighteen years ago) link

don't forget your hazmat suit and protective eyewear.

esotericness wasn't what got me, rather the bloated boringness. my eyes glazed over at the banana roll-call, and i skipped and skimmed around for several years running.

lauren (laurenp), Friday, 21 January 2005 14:40 (eighteen years ago) link

Yeah, I'm almost going into it with the idea that it may take years. Which is probably stupid, it's like admitting failure before trying. I should be doing push-ups and getting all courageous, positive and optimistic. This impending snow storm is gonna make some reading time: perfect.

mcd (mcd), Friday, 21 January 2005 15:05 (eighteen years ago) link

i read the first 200 pages in like 2 days and over the past, i dunno, since whenever i started this thread i've read about a hundred. but then it's been kind of an odd time.

John (jdahlem), Friday, 21 January 2005 18:40 (eighteen years ago) link

It is odd when people (John, JtN, and notoriously T Ewing) read the book fast. When I read it 'fast', as fast as I could, it still took me ages.

I don't know what 'hazmat' means.

the bellefox, Saturday, 22 January 2005 14:05 (eighteen years ago) link

I'm about 60 in. It's entertaining. Reminds me of Catch-22. We'll see though.

(Haz - Hazardous Mat - Materials)

mcd (mcd), Saturday, 22 January 2005 23:54 (eighteen years ago) link

I've read it twice, I think both times during college summer breaks. Yes, it was rough sledding at times, but the challenge of it only made me keep trying harder. Sometimes pages would go by just as words with little comprehension on my part, but there are always little images and phrases that might stick in one's mind, even when the overall point or even narrative flow is hard to discern. It does start to break up towards the end. But some of my favorite parts are the little stories like "Byron the Bulb" and that chapter about the German scientist working on the rocket at that secluded camp and being visited by his daughter. There's some weird underage/incest sort of fetish with Pynchon. It's kind of creepy at times. I don't know if it's pure Nabokov imitation or something deeper. I'm not sure what it was about "Gravity's Rainbow" that hooked me, and made me want to keep reading. Somehow it seemed like the logical culmination of my path from Science Fiction through Vonnegut and on to Heller and Nabokov. Pynchon is this almost God-like writer - just in terms of how he writes - you get the feeling that he can do anything and that he knows everything. Wheels within wheels. I think it's a very addictive style to someone at a certain stage in life. Either it's all bullshit or everything else is. It's like he's driving this motorcycle and your hanging onto his leather jacket, and if you don't hang on for dear life, you'll get thrown to the ground. I've also read "V" twice and "Crying of Lot 49" twice. I've read "Vineland" once and "Mason & Dixon" not at all. I think if I was going to read more Pynchon I would either try "Vineland" again or "M&D".

o. nate (onate), Sunday, 23 January 2005 00:31 (eighteen years ago) link

Reminds me of Catch-22. We'll see though.

ugh. i hated catch 22. i think i have a problem with the late-modernist masculine canon.

lauren (laurenp), Monday, 24 January 2005 11:11 (eighteen years ago) link

I don't really agree with O. Nate, but his prose in that post momentarily reminds me of Dylan's in Chronicles.

the bellefox, Tuesday, 25 January 2005 19:29 (eighteen years ago) link

Well, tell me what you disagree about then, and we can argue. :-) (But I'll take the Dylan thing as a compliment.)

o. nate (onate), Wednesday, 26 January 2005 03:28 (eighteen years ago) link

I've read GR twice, and both times it took about six weeks - which seems like a long time, but isn't compared to Infinite Jest which took several months.

Got much less bogged down the second time around - the first time there was definitely too much to take in all at once.

I've read Vineland twice too, and considering rereading M&D pretty soon - again, the sheer density means I probably missed a lot of the nuances first time around.

Mog, Wednesday, 26 January 2005 10:38 (eighteen years ago) link

read it over the summer and now everything else feels kind of lightweight i didn't really try and make sense of it just munched on the imagery and ideas

elwisty (elwisty), Wednesday, 26 January 2005 11:32 (eighteen years ago) link

O. Nate: yes, Dylan was a compliment - I love his book.

When I said 'I don't really agree', that meant, largely: 'you like the book and I don't'. I don't think I had very specific points in mind. But I will look and think, about that.

the bluefox, Thursday, 27 January 2005 14:11 (eighteen years ago) link

four months pass...
An appreciation of Gravity's Rainbow from Bookforum:

The long Gerald Howard piece is pretty interesting.

o. nate (onate), Monday, 20 June 2005 17:17 (eighteen years ago) link

Ugh that long article is lousy. "Life is a haunting thing." Too true, Gerald. I enjoyed Lorrie's sidebar, though.

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Tuesday, 21 June 2005 09:05 (eighteen years ago) link

Didn't like it? I thought it was an interesting personal narrative, I didn't give as much thought to his critique of the book itself, but it was a readable account with some interesting tidbits I didn't know about Pynchon & his publisher.

o. nate (onate), Tuesday, 21 June 2005 12:43 (eighteen years ago) link

alhtough i know some people on here might not agree, i thought that the reader's companion helped a lot (although i just kind of discounted the more interpretive addendums). it's nice to have something providing at least some clues of the source texts referenced (starting w/ the opening quote)

Suzy Creemcheese (SuzyCreemcheese), Tuesday, 21 June 2005 23:42 (eighteen years ago) link

It is nice of Lorrie Moore to be so generous about Pynchon - and in her brief piece she reminds us how neat a writer she herself is - but she neglects to mention his woeful flaws and the great many appalling wasted pages he has typed.

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 June 2005 09:29 (eighteen years ago) link

No writer is perfect, Pinefox. Pynchon's one of the best we have, though. Why would Lorrie Moore contravene an appreciation with adverse criticism that would sort of amount to what your post does, ie, just bitching about nothing?

tippecanoe, Thursday, 23 June 2005 20:09 (eighteen years ago) link

I think serious professional fiction writers find something to admire about him, if only his far-reaching ambition in creating great complex systems of information and recreating entire eras in his great big books- his cojones if you will, but as a lay reader I tend to discount this as a deformation professionelle.

k/l (Ken L), Thursday, 23 June 2005 20:25 (eighteen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
Just finished this last night; took the better part of 5 weeks to do it. I'm sure all of the comparisons to Joyce/Ulysses are pretty old by now, but I don't think I could have enjoyed GR as much as I did if I hadn't already read Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake. (Could be that I'm just used to plowing through the sections where I have absolutely no idea what's going on).

I loved all of the little anecdotes sprinkled throughout, like the alliterative restaurant dishes (pubic parfait and whatnot), Benny the Bulb, the boat that magically missed the torpedos, Roger Mexico pissing all over the boardroom and then crawling out under the table, etc. I like how Pynchon maintains a jovial/fantastical feel through most of the book, I don't think it'd be near as great if he was writing a realistic narrative. And has there ever been a more musical book? There was a song every ten pages it seemed

I have to say though that the pedophilia, poop-eating, toilet-diving, etc. made me squirm while I read it and grew somewhat tiresome by the end. I'll probably pick up the commentary book at some point and re-read GR with it, but before I read any more Pynchon, I need a few years off. Phew!

jedidiah (jedidiah), Friday, 8 July 2005 17:04 (eighteen years ago) link

i've read about 50 pages of this book and haven't been able to get much further. i guess i'll probably try again soon, since i liked crying of lot 49 a lot (tho i read about a third of v and hated it), but my problem with pynchon is that i just don't find him all that funny. maybe that's not the point, but it seems like it's a big part of his surface appeal - silly names, wacky hi-jinx, super-advanced math/science jokes, back cover blurb comparing GR to duck soup as well as ulysses - and i think you have to enjoy that stuff to have the patience to get into the 'rewarding' aspects of GR - its vast awesome complexity, blah blah blah - and i don't! it just seems so lame and forced to me, like a nerdy science major cracking up at his own jokes.

J.D. (Justyn Dillingham), Friday, 8 July 2005 22:45 (eighteen years ago) link

Yup. To me, Pynchon's humor is embarrassing, at the level of the minstrel show on the last episode of The Prisoner. And just look at this thread- the guy who started it lived in his parents' basement, took lots of drugs, freaked out, started spamming the board like crazy, all the while talking about how he was living in his parents' basement, taking lots of drugs, and freaking out, and was banned. I realize that is circumstantial evidence, but still.

k/l (Ken L), Friday, 8 July 2005 23:47 (eighteen years ago) link

C/D: People who read Finnegans Wake and yet don't notice the lack of apostrophe in the title?

Casuistry (Chris P), Saturday, 9 July 2005 03:44 (eighteen years ago) link

well if they read the whole thing the title is a relatively minor fraction of all the words!

j., though there are places that made me laugh i think of it as closer to, i dunno, reading comic books; most of the gags aim for amusement or wonder, instead of laffs.

Josh (Josh), Saturday, 9 July 2005 05:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Yeah, but it something that's pointed out on in the first page of every commentary, and much as we don't like to rely too heavily on such things, surely it's nice to crack one open now and then, especially for such notoriously difficult books as U and FW.

k/l (Ken L), Saturday, 9 July 2005 10:50 (eighteen years ago) link

"Out on in" on, till the break of dawn.

k/l (Ken L), Saturday, 9 July 2005 10:51 (eighteen years ago) link

i would recommend giving up for good on Gravity's Rainbow if you don't find it funny, since Pynchon's carnival humor is what in large part fuels the narrative.

a respectable citizen, Saturday, 9 July 2005 17:24 (eighteen years ago) link

well, there's also the deal where Part 1 is the hardest part.

Josh (Josh), Saturday, 9 July 2005 18:50 (eighteen years ago) link

Carnival? Maybe if he worked in a Bossa Nova theme I would be more interested. No, probably not.

k/l (Ken L), Saturday, 9 July 2005 18:51 (eighteen years ago) link

uh, more a Rabelaisian thing than bossa nova is what I meant

a respectable citizen, Saturday, 9 July 2005 20:27 (eighteen years ago) link

also it takes a knack to get the humor like in the opening sequence. i totally love it now, but it took me some time to understand how to approach. i generally don't do a whole lot of visualization when i read -- if authors leave something to the imagination, i just let it sit there. but there's actual LOCATIONS and PHYSICS involved in pynchon's descriptions -- i have to imagine lots of how he writes as it would play on a movie screen or in a tv show or stage, and translate what he's describing into that sort of slapstick. (i imagine, btw, that nabokov's lectures at cornell probably influenced the physicality of pynchon's prose quite a bit -- what with the maps and all)

the chase scene in the mountain, btw, is where pynchon totally excels at this in GR. by Vineland, it's increasingly how he's doing EVERYTHING.

i like it that pynchon sort of forces me into a sense-driven reading mode precisely b/c it cuts across how i (& probably lots of foax) learned to "appreciate" literature in school.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Sunday, 10 July 2005 00:31 (eighteen years ago) link

"C/D: People who read Finnegans Wake and yet don't notice the lack of apostrophe in the title?"

Wow that's embarassing. I think I've always spelled it like that too. *hangs head in shame*

jedidiah (jedidiah), Monday, 11 July 2005 15:37 (eighteen years ago) link

Now you have to read it again!

Casuistry (Chris P), Monday, 11 July 2005 16:05 (eighteen years ago) link

and think the whole time one the things he's doing is narrating the muddled dreams of "finnegans" as they wake up from their sloughs of inertia

a respectable citizen, Monday, 11 July 2005 16:09 (eighteen years ago) link

I actually started to re-read it about a year and a half ago, and didn't make it past page 120 or so. How's that for doing things backwards?

jedidiah (jedidiah), Monday, 11 July 2005 16:14 (eighteen years ago) link

i loved that the tchitcherine/enzian conflict built to an anticlimax, one of the strongest passages in the book

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Sunday, 6 May 2018 20:47 (five years ago) link

oh wait, i know, i knew i was gonna finish this in part four when thanatz gets on the boat with the dude who really wants to get struck by lightning, and that section’s transition into the immortal messianic lightbulb stuff is so good

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Sunday, 6 May 2018 20:53 (five years ago) link

i think the disintegrated last part is the hardest and most alienating section by far. but by then yr pretty, as it were, locked in.

difficult listening hour, Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:09 (five years ago) link

like, the nixon bit-- hard to think of another book i'd tolerate that in.

difficult listening hour, Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:11 (five years ago) link

byron tho a major work of short american prose fiction prob. u can read it alone as a lil borges thing even (but you shouldn't).

difficult listening hour, Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:12 (five years ago) link


the story behind the nixon epigraph is so hilarious imo

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:12 (five years ago) link

oh, the epigraph is great. meant the, is it "zhlubb"? part.

difficult listening hour, Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:15 (five years ago) link

yeah that’s what i thought u meant

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:16 (five years ago) link

it took me a minute to realize that section was a flash forward to the ‘70s

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:22 (five years ago) link

otm that that old imago post is otm (followup about against the day also pretty convincing imo)-- i mean the book is literally a musical, not just with songs but with numbers; plus in certain places (all over but most brutally w the camp/daughter story + most universally w The Integral) the fake? unity of infinitely subdivided time that movies work by is both technique+theme, but yes, maybe only animation accustoms the audience to surreality+discontinuity in the way the book's treatment of this stuff requires?

still think laurie anderson should have called his bluff.

difficult listening hour, Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:26 (five years ago) link


honestly i think pynchon earnestly wanted that to happen

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:27 (five years ago) link

the taffy skyscraper bit (is that the same bit?) is a crazed flash forward as well

i basically considered all the action plausible right up until the oneurine torpedo, at which point i realised none of it was. but all really happened obv ;)

imago, Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:28 (five years ago) link

*oneirine idk

imago, Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:28 (five years ago) link

honestly i think pynchon earnestly wanted that to happen


difficult listening hour, Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:29 (five years ago) link

think it’s reasonable to assume slothrop didn’t have all that sex

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:39 (five years ago) link

only blicero gets his orgasm :(

(nah there are other orgasms in this book)

difficult listening hour, Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:44 (five years ago) link


flamenco drop (BradNelson), Sunday, 6 May 2018 21:45 (five years ago) link

btw this is such a rich thread, v thankful for ilx in times like these

flamenco drop (BradNelson), Sunday, 6 May 2018 22:01 (five years ago) link

Infinite jest slays GR in terms of readability

calstars, Sunday, 6 May 2018 22:03 (five years ago) link

unfortunately gravity's rainbow has put me in the mood to attack both mason & dixon and against the day but i might hold off for at least another year

i would totally read w/ u, brad

i would much rather read (finish) m&d but i'd do my part for atd too

j., Monday, 7 May 2018 21:00 (five years ago) link

i'd be down for a group read tbh. too long since i've read pynchon. idk why i even bother to read anything else tbh.

carles danger mous (s.clover), Wednesday, 9 May 2018 04:15 (five years ago) link

miseducated prolly

j., Wednesday, 9 May 2018 04:50 (five years ago) link

I'm jumping into this, but we'll see how far I get. I read V. a few years ago, it had its moments, but didn't make tons of sense to me. So far this is more comprehensible, but I'm sure it won't last.

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Thursday, 10 May 2018 03:01 (five years ago) link

There are some great, heavily researched guides and supplements online for GR that follow basically page by page. Totally worth it. Really illuminated my reading experience.

One thing I have to say is, at least in my experience, you might be picking up more than you realize. Take those hallucinogenic detours for what they are. Pynchon shoots into space sometimes and you just have to ride it but it always comes back to the ground. Mostly.

two cool rock chicks pounding la croix (circa1916), Thursday, 10 May 2018 03:45 (five years ago) link

Trickiest part for me was remembering the 2,000 or whatever characters. That’s where the guides come in handy.

two cool rock chicks pounding la croix (circa1916), Thursday, 10 May 2018 03:47 (five years ago) link

four years pass...

The first appreciation I've read for Gravity's Rainbow in its 50th anniversary year – many more to come I'm sure. Arguing for Pynchon's relevance but asking – if reality has become as absurd as Pynchon, does that constitute an obstacle to reading him?

— James B (@piercepenniless) February 17, 2023

xyzzzz__, Friday, 17 February 2023 12:35 (seven months ago) link

There are some great, heavily researched guides and supplements online for GR that follow basically page by page. Totally worth it. Really illuminated my reading experience.

I should try that. I've read the book twice, have been contemplating a third read. I think a guide might add something. It did with Ulysses.

immodesty blaise (jimbeaux), Friday, 17 February 2023 19:12 (seven months ago) link

Happy 50th birthday!

Piedie Gimbel, Tuesday, 28 February 2023 10:48 (six months ago) link

hb you amazing fucked-up freak :)

imago, Tuesday, 28 February 2023 10:49 (six months ago) link

"tussodyne" is a 2023 meme just waiting to unfurl

mark s, Tuesday, 28 February 2023 10:57 (six months ago) link

nice to see Nestlé's original brand name before they went woke

satori enabler (Noodle Vague), Tuesday, 28 February 2023 11:17 (six months ago) link


having read three copies of this to pieces (original trade paperback w swollen red sun, frank miller penguin classic ew, 70s mass market paperback w rainbow contrails-- this one in many pieces) maybe today is the day to find a copy of that nice earlier penguin w the rocket blueprints on it

difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 28 February 2023 17:06 (six months ago) link

...keep hearing thread title in Letterkenny voice...

m0stly clean (Slowsquatch), Tuesday, 28 February 2023 20:35 (six months ago) link

FIrst read that as "in Lemmy's voice"

Wile E. Galore (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 28 February 2023 21:12 (six months ago) link

Maggot Bairn (Tom D.), Tuesday, 28 February 2023 22:17 (six months ago) link

(6'53" if you don't want to sit through the whole thing)

Maggot Bairn (Tom D.), Tuesday, 28 February 2023 22:19 (six months ago) link

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