A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare to it now.

It is too late. The Evacuation still proceeds, but it’s all theatre. There are no lights inside the cars. No light anywhere. Above him lift girders old as an iron queen, and glass somewhere far above that would let the light of day through. But it’s night. He’s afraid of the way the glass will fall– soon– it will be a spectacle: the fall of a crystal palace. But coming down in total blackout, without one glint of light, only great invisible crashing.

General Information

Title: Gravity’s Rainbow

Author: Thomas Pynchon

Original Publication Date: 1973

ISBN: 0-14-01-0661-8

Buy from: Amazon.com or
Amazon.ca

You can also scroll down the page and find the “Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics” Edition at Amazon.com.

Premise:

As an infant, Tyrone Slothrop had been the subject of a stimulus-response experiment. As an adult in the U.S. Army, during the final months of World War II, his sexual encounters coincide with sites in London struck by German rockets. This draws the attention of military intelligence, including a secret corps of psychics. Eventually he goes AWOL– or, at least Pynchon’s novel does– as Slothrop seeks the 00000, an enigmatic missile, and others seek Slothrop. Gravity’s Rainbow draws no distinctions among the realities, dreams, and layered fantasies of its army of characters. Paranoiac delusion coexists with reason; historical details live alongside the incredible. The Tale of Byron the Immortal Light Bulb, a quest down a toilet, the political implications of sadomasochism, the religious beliefs of attack dogs, rocket physics via African tribal lore, \”Hansel and Gretel\” as a type of the Holocaust, Slothrop as a super-hero, and an orgiastic ship all make their appearances in this, the postmodern Ulysses.

Can you do the Kenosha, Kid?

High Points

\”Nasty cough,\” Mrs. Quoad offering a tin of that least believable of English coughdrops, the Meggezone. \”Darlene, the tea is lovely, I can feel my scurvy going away, really I can.\”

The Meggezone is like being belted in the head with a Swiss Alp. Menthol icicles immediately begin to grow from the roof of Slothrop\’s mouth. Polar bears seek toenail-holds up the freezing frosty-grape alveolar clusters in his lungs. It hurts his teeth to breathe, even through his nose, even, necktie loosened, with his nose down inside the neck of his olive-drab T-shirt. Benzoin vapors seep into his brain. His head floats in a halo of ice.

Even an hour later, the Meggezone still lingers, a mint ghost in the air.

This book delivers many high points. The tale of how Lyle Bland joined the Masons and achieved a kind of enlightenment, all due to his involvement in the Great Pinball Difficulty is one of the great mind-fucking prose pieces of the 1900s.

The Disgusting English Candy Drill made me laugh out loud, but it also contains a reflection on those places where the Fire of Paradise, \”that famous confection of high price and protean taste\” can still be found, \”nearly hidden in the ambient tourmalines in German gold, carved ebony finger-stalls from the last century, pegs, valve-pieces, threaded hardware from obscure musical instruments, electronic components of resin and copper that the War, in its glutton, ever-nibbling intake, has not yet found and licked back into darkness…. Places where the motors never came close enough to be loud, and there are trees outside along the street.\”

Low Points:

The fact that, even after multiple readings, I remain uncertain that I know what I’m talking about when I’m talking about this book.

The Scores

Originality: 6/6 You’re kidding, right?

Story: 4/6. Uh…. This book deals with the experience of this book. Many stories appear, but you’ll have more luck trying to summarize the plot of the Internet.

The rocket rises and then returns to earth on a parabolic course: gravity’s rainbow.

Characterization: 6/6. Don’t expect conventional characterization, though that is not entirely absent. Pynchon provides layers of perceptions, fantasies, and dreams that create a more accurate sense of how the human mind functions than more traditional fiction.

Imagery: 6/6 A Golden Age of SF-style superhero fantasy. Ancestral memory of the annihilation of the dodos. A masochistic/cropophiliac Brigadier. The eroticization of child abuse– and other forms of destruction. Pynchon creates many, many images that you will never be able to expunge from your mind.

Emotional Response: 6/6 Admittedly, the response may at times be one of confusion. For any number of reasons, this book will not suit all tastes.

Editing: 6/6.

Overall Score: 6/6.

In total, Gravity’s Rainbow receives 40/42