To me, it feels more like a cross between "Ulysses" and psychedelic seventies conspiracy fiction, like the "Illuminatus" trilogy. Like, he does with imagery what Joyce does with language, and what (as I was just saying on another one of these book threads) Thomas Mann does with ideas in "The Magic Mountain"--smears 'em around, makes 'em into a palimpsest (ewww, "pinworm preserves" just came back to me). Some of the sexual-superhero stuff has aged a bit badly, but I love that sort of post-apocalyptic dancing-bear minigenre, especially when displaced into the past (see the second half of "The Tin Drum"), and it makes the sex encounters a little less self-conscious and self-congratulatory than in, say "Naked Lunch", or if Pynchon had set the book in 1971. But only a little, and while we've all been over that cultural-Tourettes aspect of the Sixties that just had to happen, honestly, I challenge any of you to name me one whip- or shit-based sex scene that still seems vital in 2009.
I like Roger Mexico and Jessica and I'm glad they came back before the end. In fact, Slothrop is the lamest of all the major characters and I would have liked to see him pop in as a caricature the way Texas Major Marvy does, and maybe make Pirate Prentice or Tchitcherine or Der Springer or Enzian the protagonist, or try to strike a balance between four or five of them, with machinations. I guess that "America: We fight harder and fuck longer" stuff just bores me (but of course, getting yer dudgeon up about that is sort of the Canadian disease). And actually, since writing the above (in a Facebook comment, shamelessly copied and pasted for this review), I have seen Slothrop disappear again in the last section, read Pynchon's cristalline rendering of his decoalescence, and 'scool--he's no two-fisted maverick, but neither is he a caricature, or a tragedy--he's got aspects of 'em all. Ascend into myth in your rocketman hat, Tyrone, and let me hear about someone else's encounters with everwilling Eurocunt, and we're cool.
One thing I've seen elsewhere but which Pynchon really overboards on is what I'm gonna call "serial autoecholalia": halfway through a book, a word appears, and it's unusual or being used in a notable way, and then all of a sudden you're deluged with it because the author is all "hey! this word exists!" and just as you''re like "fuck off with "that Pointsman" and "that Baltimore" and that this and that that out of Slothrop's mouth, you get into "preterite", and dude, using grammatical terms for evocation is just--you have to be nine Shakespeares; and that gives way to a flirtation with "usw.", and then there's something else, and on the last page you get one more "preterite" just to twist the knife. Compulsive! Annoying!But hey, rocket, rainbow, freaky shit, Peenemunde, the Kirghiz Light, this book has texture, and the World War II angle is kind of rad--it's like, the world is already falling apart, so you're cool with the text falling apart, and the anachronisms are cute rather than offputting (funny how there was a tradition, however attenuated, of bohemianism and zoot suits and shit for the more lettered elements Sixties/Seventies counterculture to fall back on, but then Philistinism wins at a crawl and modern man has to put up with the long tail of that "the world began with rock 'n' roll" shit.
Here is something lovely:
"She's still with you, though, harder to see these days, nearly invisible as a glass of gray lemonade in a twilit room . . . still she is there, cool and acid and sweet, waiting to be swallowed down to touch your deepest cells, to work among your saddest dreams."
"When something real is about to happen to you, you go toward it with a transparent surface parallel to your own front that hums and bisects both your ears, making eyes very alert. The light bends toward chalky blue. Your skin aches. At last: something real."
And, "The object of life is to make sure you die a weird death. To make sure that however it finds you, it will find you under very weird circumstances." Heady stuff. In summation, Gravity's Rainbow reminds me of lots of other books I like and am enjoying it very much.read more
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