Gravity's Rainbow

wrap up

So we're wrapping up in class tomorrow, and I'm trying to anticipate how we might pull all the books together. I think that the whole idea of World War II as a focal point for post modern novels is a cool one to discuss, but what I really want to know is what is POST post modern? Is Cryptonomicon post post modern in its linearity? And why are the critical texts of post modernism all so long?

another link

I've just thought of another way in which all four of these novels are connected. There seems to be a running motif of murder and violent attack, but the kind of attack that's unexpected and unprovoked. Reading about the Digibomber (and the Finn That Got Blown Up) reminded me of the Texas Highway Killer, which made me think of the A.F.R. and other Quebecois terrorists, and, to a lesser extent, the random and violent nature of the V2. Since all of these novels also deal in some way with war, I find all these instances of violence occurring close to home and without warning terribly fascinati

Gravity's Rainbow haunts us all

Did page 404 make anyone else think of Gravity's Rainbow? DeLillo talks about "Bombheads" but says they don't walk around with "megadeath hardons", and are not all pro-bomb. I think the term "megadeath hardon" sort of sums of Gravity's Rainbow.

I also am interested in how DeLillo deals with one of Gravity's Rainbow's favorite themes, paranoia. I am thinking about how Matt gets paranoid when he gets high. I feel that scene is part of DeLillo's commentary on paranoia and how so much of our terror is self-imposed. It seems degraded when Matt's fears are caused by drugs. It seems very silly.

Just thought this was interesting: Video Cameras

I loved the first part of Part 2: Elegy for Left Hand Alone. I thought it was both funny and poignant.

"You know how children with cameras learn to work the exposed moments that define the family cluster. They break every trust...It is not a joke. They will shoot you sitting on teh pot if they can manage a suitable vantage." (155-156)

I think DeLillo's description of film contrasts well with the movies in Gravity's Rainbow. In Underworld, DeLillo writes about the "home video," that possesses a "crude power." It captures candid scenes with brutal honesty. There is no airbrushing and fantasy is not the aim. It seems more real, even "superreal," more true to life than anything else. The author seems to play with the concept of something that is predestined, "The world is lurking in the camera, already framed." Film is only the material manifestation, or the proof, that these moments exist. In GR, as we've discussed in class, movies and films do not portray reality, but do seem to CREATE it.

back to the rockets

I'm almost sorry to return to Gravity's Rainbow after reading Underworld, but I wanted to follow up on something we were discussing in class. Could the collective search for the rocket be a universal quest for agency or an analogy for the arms race? Support for this hinges somewhat on the Herero situation. The most significant decision in their history is their determination to end the continuation of a history altogether, part of this is searching for the rocket, to bring the opposing sides together. I interpreted the suicide as a final and last-resort method of regaining agency, finding the rocket then, is part of attempting to find agency.

Why so many aliases?

One thing I've been wondering about is why most of the characters have multiple names. Traditionally, an author will introduce a character using both first and last names, and then use just one throughout the novel, usually the last name. Pynchon instead uses many names for each character. Slopthrop, Tyrone, Rocketman, Raketenmensch, etc. Greta, Margherita, Mrs. Erddman. Enzian, Oberst, (that name that starts with an n that I cannot remember). At the end of the novel there is a lot of commentary about the fragmentation of Slothrop. On page 752 it says, "He is being broken down instead, and scattered.

Ascent and Descent, Beyond the Zero

Gravitation is a force human kind encounters everywhere, one which remained unconquered for the vast part of human existence.
When physicists look at gravitational fields, they consider all objects within a given field to have negative energy to indicate their captivity in that gravitational field. If an object has exactly enough energy to escape that field, it has 0 energy. In essence when it goes beyond that 0, it becomes free from the gravitational system. This bit describing the rocket's ascent at the very end made me think of a possible explanation for what constitutes going "beyond the zero":


This is partly in response to the "Dialectics" post below, but I think this theme is prevalent enough in Gravity's Rainbow to merit its own post. Essentially, I think Pynchon exhibits a vehemently anti-dialectical sensibility. The word "dialectic" has become associated most readily with Hegel, a 19th century German philosopher who posited that History (with a notably capital "H") progresses according to a play of opposites: the "thesis" (an idea/structure/entity) meets its "antithesis" (something that opposes it) and the two come together, according to a dual logic of negation and elevation, as the "synthesis" (the resulting higher truth that is able to comprehend both as a unified totality). Science supposedly works like this: the theory of the times holds that the earth is the center of the universe (thesis), astronomical evidence contradicts the the theory (antithesis), and a higher-level explantion results. So according to Hegel, History is explicable by way of an analogous scientific process: two opposing ideas about how to structure the world come together, wrestle in the public arena, and ultimately are subsumed by something of a higher order - a more enlightened idea of how to structure the world that takes the good aspects of both initial ideas into account.

Religion and Death

"'The basic problem,' he proposes, 'has always been getting other people to die for you. What's worth enough for a man to give up his life? That's where religion had the edge, for centuries. Religion was always about death. It was not used as an opiate so much as a technique--it got people to die for one particular set of beliefs about death'" (715).

I thought this passage was really interesting, especially considering its proximity to the end of the novel. First, the notion of religion being about death really struck me. I guess I've always considered religion to be about life--the conduct of people and that type of thing. Some religions are even focus on the lives of certain figures. But religions do tend to emphasize what happens after life too, I guess. And many religions do celebrate martyrdom. The last part of the passage, I think, is quite accurate and well-written.


It's FINISHED. I guess I still don't really know what to make of it, and nothing was really tied together for me in the end, which I was secretly hoping for but didn't expect. My enjoyment and understanding of the book was very parabola-like: I slogged miserably through the first and last readings, but really enjoyed the middle sections.

One thing that did really bother me was the Gottfreid being launched in the rocket scenes- I had no idea what to make of this, what Gottfried might symbolize in his Impoplex G shroud, etc.

Did anyone have any thoughts on this? I was *SO* confused, but r

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