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gravitys rainbow Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. New York. 1973. Viking Press. 760 pages. Jacket design by Marc Getter. 0670348325.

 

There is no denying that reading GRAVITY'S RAINBOW is an undertaking and I don't pretend to understand everything that Pynchon is up to in the novel. One thing is for sure though, it is a novel like no other. Parts of the book will stay with you long after you have finished it. Not for the faint of heart, but well worth the effort.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

 

   GRAVITY'S RAINBOW is an epic postmodern novel written by Thomas Pynchon and first published on February 28, 1973. The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers around the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest undertaken by several of the characters to uncover the secret of a mysterious device named the 'Schwarzgerat,' or '00000. ' Frequently digressive and often playfully self-conscious, the novel subverts many of the traditional elements of plot and character development, traverses detailed, specialist knowledge drawn from a wide range of disciplines, and has earned a reputation as a 'difficult' book. In 1974, the three-member Pulitzer Prize jury on fiction supported GRAVITY'S RAINBOW for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. However, the other eleven members of the board overturned this decision, branding the book 'unreadable, turgid, overwritten, and obscene. ' The novel was nominated for the 1973 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and won the National Book Award in 1974. Since its publication, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW has spawned an enormous amount of literary criticism and commentary, including two reader's guides and several online concordances, and is widely regarded as Pynchon's magnum opus. GRAVITY'S RAINBOW is composed of four parts, each of these comprising a number of episodes whose divisions are marked by a graphical depiction of a series of squares. It has been suggested that these represent sprocket holes as in a reel of film, although they may also bear some relation to the engineer's graph paper on which the first draft of the novel was written. One of the book's editors has been quoted as saying that the aforementioned squares relate to censored correspondence sent between soldiers and their loved ones during the war. When family and friends received edited letters, the removed sections would be cut out in squared or rectangular sections. The squares that start each of the four parts would therefore be indicative of what is not written, or what is removed by an external editor or censor. The number of episodes in each part carries with it a numerological significance which is in keeping with the use of numerology and Tarot symbolism throughout the novel. Many facts in the novel are based on technical documents relating to the V-2 rockets. Equations featured in the text are correct. References to the works of Pavlov, Ouspensky, and Jung are based on Pynchon's actual research. The firing command sequence in German that is recited at the end of the novel is also correct and is probably copied in verbatim from the technical report produced by Operation Backfire. The novel is regarded by some as the greatest postmodern work of 20th century literature, while others have declared it unreadable. The three-member Pulitzer Prize jury on fiction unanimously supported GRAVITY'S RAINBOW for the 1974 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. However, the other eleven members of the fourteen-member Pulitzer board overturned this decision, calling the book 'unreadable', 'turgid', 'overwritten', and 'obscene', with at least one member confessing to having gotten only a third of the way through the book. The novel inspired the 1984 song 'Gravity's Angel' by Laurie Anderson. In her 2004 autobiographical performance 'The End of the Moon', Anderson said she once contacted Pynchon asking permission to adapt GRAVITY'S RAINBOW as an opera. Pynchon replied that he would allow her to do so with one condition: the opera had to be written for a single instrument: the banjo. Anderson said she took that as a polite 'no.'

 

 

Pynchon Thomas Thomas Pynchon is the author of V., THE CRYING OF LOT 49, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW, SLOW LEARNER, a collection of short stories, VINELAND and, MASON & DIXON. He received the national book award for Gravity's Rainbow in 1974.

 

 

 

 


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