Gravity's Rainbow: Thomas Pynchon

Have any of you ever attempted this…book/thing? Have any of you ever finished it? Honestly?

I realize that people consider it a work of brilliance, and maybe that makes me a moron, but Chapter One kicked my ass. That was a week ago. I am still on Chapter Two and feeling like I am on acid. That leaves over 700 pages to go.

Does this thing…start to make sense at some point?

Not really. With Pynchon, you have to learn to love where you are, not where you think you’re going.

I finally finished it earlier this year after making at least 2 false starts on it in years past. I found it had a semblance of a story sometime in the middle of the book, and then I lost it again at multiple parts. I made my way through, and think I got some of it, but who knows about the rest.

This and Infinite Jest had/have been mocking me on my “to read” shelf for years. My New Years resolution was to finish one of them. So now it looks like I’m waiting till 2008 for Infinite Jest, and I’ll be printing out the bookmark that helps identify the different years so you can keep track better.

Hmm. I think probably the best answer is “Yes, but…” As in, “Yes, it starts to make sense but then scatters that sense to the clouds…”

I’m with madkevin here–I only made it through the book (both times I read it) by having to give up on trying to follow the plot and just being enthralled by the language. Eventually, I got my bearings again…and then lost those not long after. And each read took me something like three months.

It’s still the most rewarding book I’ve ever read, I think. If you’re digging the writing, keep with it.

I had much the same experience - it took two aborted runs before I could finally finish the book on the third attempt, and we’re talking years in between each attempt. It paid off; I did enjoy the book once completed though I know I didn’t get all the details. To answer your question, it never made complete sense to me, but I think I got enough of it to get the point. Kind of like Mulholland Drive, if that makes any sense.

Might I make a suggestion in the meantime: if you’re keen to start reading Pynchon, in my opinion jumping right into Gravity’s Rainbow is trying to run before you can walk. There are other books that are easier to get into but still good reads, for example The Crying of Lot 49 and Vineland.

I’ve bought three Pynchon–Mason & Dixon, Gravity’s Rainbow, and just recently Against the Day–but have yet to read any. I’ve had Gravity’s on my “to read next” list for months now but always keep putting it off… as if it’s some sort of homework assignment I’m too intimidated to begin.

I’m with Mahone, The Crying of Lot 49 is definitely the place to start.

I made it through Infinite Jest on my first try, but only about 70 pages into Gravity’s Rainbow before setting it down long enough that I know I’ll need to start over if I want to read the rest of it.

Which I gather he wrote when he was a teenager…

I do love the prose and the awesome way he takes the language, mangles it and then makes it incredibly by doing so thus far.

I read Infinite Jest no problem, but this took me years. I would read for a while, get stalled, put it aside, and when I came back I would have to start over because I remembered nothing. Eventually I stopped starting over and finished it.

It’s worth it though. And I’m currently reading Against the Day and while the story is meandering, the writing makes the whole thing worth it. Each sentence is like a little present to me. It doesn’t feel like a chore at all.

Edit: Did I mention that Infinite Jest is amazing? A modern classic. Anyone who considers themselves literary must read it.

Hmmm… I’ve given one serious crack at Gravity’s Rainbow. That was about six years ago. Got bogged down when the dogs started talking and everything went absolutely weird.

The last few months I’ve been bracing myself for another crack at it. I’ve been thinking of picking up the Gravity’s Rainbow companion, which is like a cliffs notes-like aid to help you get through it.

Really? I thought he was in his late 20s.

I stopped when the twelve year old got spanked with the ruler then ate the protagonist’s shit. I thought “life’s too short”.

Agreed. There’s also “V” which I give a big thumbs up. Gravity’s Rainbow was of course his epic, and its a wonderful wonderful read, but a lot of people compare it to Finnegan’s Wake–you read it not for the end, but for the journey.

GR is a book that’s a good choice to take with you on a trip as your only reading material because if you don’t have any distractions you’re more likely to continue to work at it. It’s definitely worth the time, in the end. I’d second Crying of Lot 49 as a good appetizer, too; it can kind of orient you to where Pynchon’s head is at.

I have tried to read this book three times… It’s sitting on the shelf next to Mason & Dixon, forgotten like unwanted children.

Considering your username, I would hope so!

I’ve had bad luck turning my friends on to Pynchon generally, but I think I’ve had particularly bad luck with The Crying of Lot 49–I think the point it may be trying to make about people’s innate ability to see patterns and the paranoia to which it can lead just ends up frustrating readers.

I’m sure it’s because it was the first Pynchon novel I read, but I’d think V would be a great first novel to read–not only are there huge chunks of daffy storytelling and compelling prose but there’s a plot, the theme is spelled out, and Pynchon goes on to refine many of his thematic obsessions in later novels.

Usually I meet people and the only Pynchon they’ve read is Vineland and I’m like, “Aghh! No!”

For a lurker, I’m getting a lot of love here. ;)

I’m not a huge Pynchon fan; if I want to work hard I prefer DFW or Gaddis or Beckett, all of whose senses of humor line up better with my own. That said, I liked V and Crying a lot better than GR. Neither of those two smaller books are in the same league as GR but both give you a pretty good sense of what to expect in Pynchon–the humor, the lack of closure, the repeated patterns, the paranoia.

I’ve found with these difficult, large books you got to just keep plugging along, enjoying where you are and enjoying the uncertainty. It might take 200 pages before things start to gel. It took about that long in Infinite Jest before everything started coming together. So my advice is keep with it; also the Gravity’s Rainbow Companion can be helpful if you want certain references glossed.

I thought the atmosphere of London in the first part was superb, and I can kind of see what he’s getting at with the search for the rocket. But a lot of the book didn’t make any sense.