Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Review: "Gravity's Rainbow" by Thomas Pynchon
I have deliberately waited a few days before I pounded out this review of Thomas Pynchon’s most famous novel and one of the most famous “hard novels” of all time, Gravity’s Rainbow: a book, like Infinite Jest and War and Peace that is doomed to sit on the shelf of bibliophiles across the world and collect dust. I have skated around this book for a few years, even reading and enjoying his longest novel last year, Against the Day, which gave me the confidence to try this one. And I must say, that I enjoyed the experience overall, even though there is a wealth, probably much more than 50% (a generous number to be honest), that I don’t get. After discussing this book with a new friend a few weeks before I read it, I understand the importance of rereading a book like this and Infinite Jest. There is simply too much to take in on the first reading, and if you want to know a book like this, you have to read it multiple times, as said friend did. It is impossible to explain the sexual and wartime adventures of Tyrone Slothrop across Europe in the amount of space I allotted here, so I will simply talk about parts of the book I liked. This book, like other Pynchon novels, is riotously funny, a trait that I noticed as I became a more astute and patient reader, with many musical interludes and turns of phrase (I found myself saying “hashish in the hollandaise” under my breath in public a lot), but one argument I lobbed Pynchon’s way was his lack of humanity, a trait that is given a surprisingly large amount of room to breathe in the side story between Roger Mexico and Jessica Swanlake and one scene, easily the one I will remember the most, where a side-side character named Franz Pokler, whose manipulation at the hands of arguably the book’s only villain ends with his realization of the horrors of war and an act of astounding emotional depth involving his wedding ring. I have not given this book a lick of justice, and in writing this review, my urge to read this again, maybe on the other side of 35, is growing and will probably keep doing so.