Gravity's Rainbow, 200-350pp., Matt's Take

Yay, we’re back on with this! Ben said he was gonna post an essay he’d been working on, but I guess he got waylaid by work or something, so he didn’t. But the fact remains that he TOTALLY SOLD ME OUT in terms of posting something for this last week, so to make up for it, I’m going to not only catch up to where I should be, but also do an extra fifty pages! So there! (Since Dave‘s reading along too, and is at 440, that should be OK.)


It’s a little funny re-reading the last post, as it seems like it was forever ago in the narrative. Right now, I’m on page 408 of my reading — so, about 200 pages on. Dang! In the last one, we JUST finished Book I and just started Book II. And now, with this post, we’re finished with II, and a decent way into Book III! (Admittedly, Book III is way longer than Book II is, so it’s not quite as impressive as it sounds.)


The thing I find most interesting about this chunk is that it’s really drifted away from being a “war novel” per se — Book II takes place near the end of the war, but is mostly about Slothrop in France at the Hermann Goering Casino, escaping to Nice, and then Book III is at the end of the war completely, and follows Slothrop’s journey through post-war Europe. In Book II, there’re some throwbacks to the other characters — we find out how Pointsman’s using Katje and (gulp) Brigadier Pudding, and it ends with Pointsman going a little daffy with his delusions of grandeur. But, really — the main focus is all on Slothrop, and, well, his Paranoia, which is almost a character unto itself.

One interesting bit in Book II, is that it’s revealed that Slothrop’s affairs in Book I (y’know, the ones that predicted rocket strikes) are possibly made up. The spooks Pointsman hires to find out All About Slothrop(tm) can’t find any record of them, and when they visit Mrs. Quoad, she of the terrible candies, she has no idea of Darlene NOR Slothrop. However, a bit later in Book II, Slothrop mentions to himself in his internal monologue that of COURSE he wouldn’t use real names on the board — but given that, you’d think, say, Mrs. Quoad would remember Slothrop or SOMEONE. So that’s interesting. And we also find out what the original Infant Tyrone stimulus was — the odor of Laszlo Jamf’s then-new plastic, Imipolex G… which also happens to be used in the construction of the V-2.

Slothrop’s paranoia is particularly interesting — after all, he’s usually RIGHT. At least to some degree — he clearly has reason TO be paranoid. And, honestly, we only know just a bit more than Slothrop at any given time, and not typically in an omniscient narrator sort of way, but rather just in knowing more backstory and given the luxury to be introduced to characters before Slothrop is. The scene where he discovers how he was able to go to Harvard even when the rest of his family was struggling in the Depression is a quiet-disturbing; the scene itself may not be particularly disturbing, after all, Slothrop’s just going through documents, but to think of finding something like that out about yourself and having to wonder how deep it goes would be terrifying. And yet, Slothrop isn’t TOO awfully disturbed by it — not because it’s not disturbing, but it does fit more-or-less into his current paranoid world-view. That, and he’s not too unfamiliar with disturbing things in general. (Though he doesn’t know about Katje/Pudding. Ick.)

In the comments for the last one, there was a bit of back-and-forth about Infinite Jest, mostly led by me, I think, as it’s one of my favorite novels — and, this is an aside, but it’s still struck me as interesting. It seems that both Wallace and Pynchon do interesting things with commas. Both authors (as do most people) know that the comma is a pause in a sentence — and use it as such, though in opposite ways. Where Wallace typically strips out commas because they’re not USED in speech even if they’re normal in text, like in surrounding the word “like” when used as a pause (So like you’d see a sentence like this without any like commas here because if you were hearing me like say this you’d just hear a like stream of verbiage where normally if you’d like see this sentence in print, you’d like see commas around each and every instance of “like”.), Pynchon adds them where there ARE pauses in speech you wouldn’t see in print. For example, “One, little, fox!” — which IS how you would say such a phrase, even if it’d normally be written “One… little… fox!” or even “One! Little! Fox!” or I don’t know “one — little — fox!” if someone happens to have an emdash fetish. Both the Wallace method and the Pynchon method take a little bit of getting used to, even if I think they’re more fundamentally CORRECT, though some style guides might say differently. I guess in a way it’s the prescriptivist versus descriptivist language wars…

And but so anyway that’s pretty much irrelevant to Gravity’s Rainbow — just something I was thinking about and wanted to get in one of these posts and come hell or high water I was, regardless of whether or not it made sense.

So, yes! I guess basically I’m beginning to run out of things to say — I fear a lot of this (commas aside) is just narrating what HAPPENS in the novel rather than thinking about it and whatnot. I think at this point, I’ve hit the part where I’m getting so caught up in it, I’m remembering things better and don’t need the help of going back over stuff. I’m not going to stop doing these, of course — but hopefully they’ll turn into more of a discussion and such rather than just “here is a list of things that happened”, which… yeah. Might as well just read the book for that, since I hear rumors that Pynchon’s a better writer than I am…

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