I’m exhausted. But I FINISHED IT! Yay! This was a monster read; a brute of a book, all 900 pages . It took me three weeks to stagger through this epic American novel. On 31 December 2014 I hauled it out of my To be read pile and told myself: The time has come. This novel has lurked in your cupboard for a whole year. You bought it because you wanted to read it. Now read the damn thing!
So I opened Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, and started to read. The opening pages were crazy mad, but I pressed on. And on. And on. AND ON.
The back book cover warned me that “it is impossible to do justice to the novel” , meaning that in the restricted space, they could not provide a nifty little précis of the plot. (Plot? What plot? Which plot? So many to choose from …). They were not wrong! Truly, the novel defies description.
Mid-point, when I despaired of (a) ever making any sense out of it or (b) finishing the wretched thing, I consulted that treasure trove, known as Wikipedia, which told me – among other things – that Gravity has been variously described as ‘Pynchon’s masterpiece’; ‘the Great American Novel’; and that numerous students have written dissertations based on the book. If you are thinking of tackling any of Pynchon’s novels, I urge you to read the Wikipedia article first. It gave perspective, and (some) clarity to what I was struggling through.
I can tell you with confidence that the story is set in WWII Europe, and that Rockets feature largely in the story. Other than that, I’m not prepared to commit myself. I will however, chuck around a few descriptive adjectives: crazy, comic, paranoid, obscene, phallocentric, disgusting, baffling, confusing, erotic, cynical, sad, weird, arcane, …. oh and a whole lot more besides. Not forgetting the funny limericks and bawdy ballads that pop up periodically. I get the feeling that TP was – at that point in his life, the early 1970s – a wannabe writer of musical shows. Who knows? With his dazzling prose and lyrical descriptive passages, I reckon he could write in any genre that appealed to him.
Did I enjoy the book? Umm … some of it; the lyrical descriptions of place, for example. Other parts: definitely not!
Will I ever read another Thomas Pynchon novel? Maybe – once I’ve recovered from reading Gravity’s Rainbow. I might take a Stab at ‘V’. But not now.
I wonder if any of my readers are Pynchon fans? Would love to hear from you, if you are.
Lastly: I’d like to exchange /swop the book. I will not be re-reading it – once is all I can manage! I’m looking for Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire which is neither in the Cape Town library system, nor in local bookshops. I can buy a hardback copy on line, at vast expense. Any offers?