I’ve just finished Gravity’s Rainbow after “reading” it for over a year. Here are some thoughts…
Gravity’s rainbow. I tried to sum it up in 3 words: Awesome. Epic. Confusing.
I’ll start with confusing. The novel jumps around from person to person, place to place, time to time without any warning. I started off by finding this all immensely baffling and tried to go back a page to re-read (being notoriously bad at concentrating on anything approaching a complex text). After rereading I still found that, no, it didn’t really make sense. So after a while I gave up and just let it wash by me, even if it made no sense.
If it makes no sense, one might ask why did I read it, let alone finish it? Frankly, I almost didn’t. It took me a year on and off to finish. I’d read for a week then read a few more books then start again. It was over 900 pages long, and for the record my preferred length for a book is around 100 pages. So: epic. The scope of the book is mind-blowingly vast; I couldn’t possibly list all the plots and characters in the book let alone the themes (even if I actually understood them). The novel is very, very loosely based around the hunt for the V-2 rocket in World War 2 Europe, but takes in a man who inhabits other people’s dreams, quasi-paedophilia, a sentient eternal lightbulb, a pig festival, an orgy, a man who’s every erection predicts a rocket strike and sex. Lots and lots of sex. In fact, if I had to say what the book was about I’d say it was a bizarre Freudian analysis of war. But not really. Actually don’t quote me on that.
And finally to awesome. I read the book for over a year. I’ve a terrible attention span. It’s confusing. But it has some of the finest writing I’ve ever encountered and is full of more ideas, history, pseudo history, science, pseudo science, mysticism, pseudo mysticism (is that a thing?) than I’ve ever encountered before. It’s as if Pynchon decided that it wasn’t good enough to cram a thousand short stories’ worth of ideas into a novel, ensuring each one is beautifully rendered with bizarre slang and songs, but that he had to completely rewrite – possibly even destroy – the novel as well.
Anyways, part of me wishes he’d written it in a linear, more coherent fashion, Dan Brown style. But I suspect that mystery and a search for the unfindable is the essence of the book. And if I can’t find the meaning of the book properly, really, hasn’t Pynchon done his job?