I discovered Philip K. Dick in college and Robert Anton Wilson after graduation. Ever since I’ve harbored a little obsession with psychedelic/metaphysical literature. Like any sort of “fringe” art there’s a good deal of crap to wade through, but the gems I’ve found make it worth it.
Someone recommended Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon and I jumped right in. This one is… a challenge, however. I’m torn between loving it and hating it at times. Are all his works like this, or did he happen to be taking mescaline at the time he wrote it?
Gravity’s Rainbow is the least accessible of his books. It might be better to read them in chronological order, starting with V. and The Crying of Lot 49. But the best starting place is a good overview, and the Wikipedia article is quite good: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Pynchon
Pynchon is dense but also rewarding. He’s got a long historical view, a sharp eye for postmodern complexities, and a wholly original prose style. Some critics have called him the Faulkner for our age.
Gravity’s Rainbow is one of my favourite books, the first one of Pynchon’s that I read. I admit it did take me quite a while to really get into it, in the beginning I had no idea what on earth was supposed to be happening, but after a while something just clicked and I got through the rest of the book quite quickly and loved it.
Much the same experience I had with Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace - my favourite book of all time. The first third took me almost 9 months (off and on - mostly off) to read, then it clicked and I read the rest in under a week. Then started at the beginning again
The problem is, anything non-Pynchon I’ve read since has immediately been compared with his amazing elaborate prose and come up wanting… I’m ruined I tell you!
Oh, btw… this is my first post here… hello everyone… be gentle
Gentle as the SchwarzgerÃ¤t we’ll be …
LOL. I should send my husband over here. He did his doctorate on Gravity’s Rainbow–well, Pynchon and Menippean satire. I can probably converse intelligently about Pynchon better than anyone else who hasn’t actually read the entire book.
Crying of Lot 49 is a little gem, and yes, much more accessible. V is dense and compelling. But GR is truly a masterpiece. Pychon has since published a couple of other works, a collection and something about the Mason/Dixon line, neither of which I have read, but my husband (and now daughter) are quite conversant with.
GR was nominated for the Pulitzer, which it was denied on the grounds that it was “turgid, overwritten, obscene, and unreadable.” As my husband was fond of saying in its defense, it IS “turgid, overwritten, obscene and unreadable,” but nonetheless a work of genius.
Pynchon himself is an odd character, very much a recluse, of encyclopedic knowledge. Married his agent, apparently has a son. My daughter, following in her father’s footsteps, did her honors senior thesis on his work, and lately found herself in his apartment building in the City. Absolutely overwhelmed with idolatry, she took a picture of his front door with her cell phone and immediately texted it to my husband. They haven’t been the same since.
I did so love Slothrop though, and there is a quote I believe from GR that I had over my desk for years about the only truly acceptable form of government being one that allows people to spend their lives alone in dusty corners of their own making. Or something to that effect.
One of these days I’ll actually finish reading Gravity’s Rainbow. My wife gave me a copy for Christmas a couple of years ago, along with Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. I finished the Eco a year ago, but I still can’t get more than two hundred pages into Gravity’s Rainbow. It’s embarrassing, to be honest.