Names

I'm finding the names in this book fascinating and amusing. Plus, the names are the only thing that I can reliably find in the companion book. Every name gets an entry, unlike some things that I'm totally confused on and then try to look up, to no avail...

Anyway, the concept of naming as an indicator of the character's personality is pretty interesting. It reminds me of the Bible, where naming itself is imbued with significance. Naming is a form of power, and through this I suppose Pynchon is asserting power over his multitudinous characters, if only just to keep them straight in his mind. It probably helps a lot to go through one's list of people and get a clue as to who they were when they were last mentioned 500 pages ago just by reading their name. I know I wouldn't be able to figure out who they all were otherwise.

excellent wording and R&J

I find myself, like many of you, enjoying this book despite the density of every paragraph. Pynchon has done an amazing amount of research and frankly I'm a little embarrassed at the effort it takes me to read his book: I can't even imagine writing it.

One of the most rewarding things about reading this are the simple descriptions Pynchon provides. Often he couples a noun with an adjective that fits so perfectly that you wonder why the two words aren't used together more often. "A cold smear of sun", "slate shadows", "a silly bleeding smile".....they sound so natural and describe something so perfectly that I sometimes have to stop and think if I've heard them before.

Yum... food.

I second (third and fourth--) everyone's opinions on the density and chaos of this book. I did thoroughly enjoy the first 150 pages, though several times I felt like I was wading through dense rainforest with a machete. The changing POVs, stream of consciousness descriptions and ridiculous number of characters bogged me down. But, we managed to survive.

One of the things I enjoy most about this book is the huge amount of knowledge Pynchon hides in the book. It switches from fact to fiction in a heartbeat, and dabbles in history, art, science, economics, sex, love, war and comedy. Trying to read Gravity's Rainbow is hard enough, imagine trying to write it! Pynchon is truly an artist- he's weaving all these abstract descriptions together that will hopefully blend into an understandable tapestry.

There is a Light at the End of the Tunnel

As others have said before me, reading Gravity's Rainbow can be quite the chore. I too spent the first 150 pages chained to wikipedia looking up obscure references. At the same time, while I read the book, I feel as if I am watching an artist starting with a blank canvas painstakingly paint small little details as I try to guess how they contribute to the greater whole. Pynchon has a maddening habit of introducing seemlingly unrelated ideas and characters or breaks into a scene only to explain them pages down the road. For example, Pynchon explains the section where Slothrop flashes back to the Roseland Ballroom right after being injected with barbiturates (starting on p62) on page 74, where he notes that Slthrop was "willing to co under likght narcosis to help illuminate racial problems in his own country." While incredibly frustrating, the eventual explanations give me hope that slowly but surely, the novel is converging towards some level of coherence.

Start from the top...

When starting a new book, I tend to judge it immediately based entirely on the first few pages. This probably isn't the best habit, but it's just the way I read. And so it is with Gravity's Rainbow. When launching into this monstrous novel, I first noticed the wealth of imagery, presented in the form of stream-of-conscious, abstract details. I was especially struck by the repetition of light/darkness imagery. On the first page alone, Pynchon describes "glass somewhere far above that would let the light of day through", "total blackout, without one glint of light", and "velveteen darkness". I was impressed by the poetic, if somewhat sporadic, way in which Pynchon presents his ideas.

Telling Romance and a Lingering Question

Upon reading the first 150 pages of this lengthy and multi-faceted novel, I have come upon a quick realization. At first, I was a little ashamed, feeling as if I was acting frivolous and shallow, but now I see a few pertinent reasons behind my discovery. I have discovered that my favorite parts of this novel thus far are the romantic scenes, preferably the ones with Roger and Jessica. This is not because I have a soft spot for relationships and bonding or because I like to read Pynchon's rather graphic descriptions of budoir activities, but rather because I feel like these scenes are the most telling to me. They are a little easier for me to read and they are absolutely full of interesting, poignant statements and symbolism.

first confused musings

"He's wasted gallons of paint thinner striking his faithful Zippo...just to see what's happening with her face. Each new flame, a new face(39)". What I found really interesting about this first chunk of the novel were the changes of perspective and how Pynchon went about it. Even after acclimating to the dense prose and overriding bewilderment, I felt that reading the novel was an experience close to Roger Mexico's in the quote above only that Pynchon rationed the character development of his entire cast instead of just one person.

One theme I thought I kept seeing was that for all its glorification in the mind of the average 20th century character, science and cold reason does not do much to improve the characters' lives, but ironically contributes to the overall dreariness of it. We know something is off about Pointsman from start, but his "creepy" quality is really instilled and gradually built up with elaboration on his Pavlovian beliefs. Even with a real-life situation that matches exactly a textbook statistical model, Roger can agonize, but can't do anything to predict the direction of a given night's blitzkrieg.

surrendering to confusion

One of the biggest challenges for me so far has been reconciling the fact that I will not understand everything I read in Gravity's Rainbow. I started off with the companion in hand, looking up every term or cultural reference I did not recognize, but it was taking me forever to get through it. I finally set the companion down, let myself get caught up in the convoluted prose, and began to really enjoy it. One of my favorite passages was in the tenth section, pages 61-72, which described Slothrop's vision of his journey into the sewer: "...noise growing like a tidal wave, a jamp-packed wavefront of shit, vomit, toilet paper and dingleberries in mind-boggling mosaic..." (67). I love how disturbing Pynchon can get. I find myself most interested in the Roger/Jessica relationship, my favorite quote being "They are in love. Fuck the war" (42).

Chaos, Fantasy, and Other Enigmas

Tagged:

One rather broad theme/idea that I stumbled upon rather consistently (even in stream-of-consciousness passages that we agree were somewhat baffling), was the idea of chaos and reversal of order.

The line between reality and fantasy is pretty blurred (Pirate having a "strange talent for getting inside the fantasies of others" (12), the giant Adenoid taking over London (14), the dog who talks to Jessica and Mexico (44)... etc.). This fantasy element actually made me think about the film Pan's Labrynth. The movie is set during wartime in pre-facist Spain, and weaves elements of fantasy and violence in order to highlight the absurd, surrealist aspect of war. Everyone seems to be trying to create a pattern within in the chaos, an explanation for the madness and disarray of war. The best example for this, I think, is the continuous work to find connections between Slothrop's sexual climaxes and the bombings (and not even just a regular bombing, but when the explosion happens in reverse). As professor Rozsavolgyi explains to Mr. Pointsman: "When given an unstructured stimulus, some shapelss blob of experience, the subject, will seek to impose structure on it." (81)

Gravity's Rainbow and Pisces

Did anyone else notice that there seemed to be a lot of water-related images in this section of the book? As I was reading, I noticed that water and fish seemed to turn up relatively often.

Some of these are coincidental. The Poisson equation is named after a real person, and is an actual equation that one might find in a book. The weather is often described as wet, but since the book is set in England, I suppose that is to be expected. However, some instances must be intentional. The PISCES group, for example, is not a real historical entity, so Pynchon must have chosen the name. Along with dogs, Pointsman conditions a giant octopus named Grigori, who was caught somewhere off of the Ick Regis jetty. Weisenburger says that Grigori will reappear in the narrative farther into the book. In a scene that begins on page 74, Reg Le Froyd jumps from a cliff and into the ocean, after claiming that he is "related, by blood, to the sea." On page 157, Franz Pokler is described as a "Piscean husband, swimming in his seas of fantasy," and on page 177, two goldfish are described as "making a Pisces sign." It seems like fish are coming up far too many times for it to be unintentional.

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