Gravity’s Rainbow, 500p-END, Matt’s Take

Gravity's Rainbow

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So, I have finished Gravity’s Rainbow! I’m not sure if this has messed with anyone the way I ended up doing the read-along, where the first four or so are 50 pages per, and then the last ones were about 150 pages per? Though I guess if it did, it’s easy enough to just hold off on reading the others until you’ve caught up with each. I’m also throwing out the call that if anyone:
a) Was reading
and b) Is interested,
that if you’d like to post your own wrap-up type thoughts as a main article at Kittysneezes, I’d enjoy seeing it. (And given that everyone reads at a different rate, this is open for here on out, not just an immediate thing.)

So, anyway. THE BOOK. (and not Pointsman’s.)

It’s strange — I rarely feel a sense of accomplishment or whatever when reading a book, even if it’s a book that’s Well-Known And Whatnot, but after closing the back cover, I had this weird thought of “WOW, I just finished Gravity’s Rainbow I have read it!” And this is despite liking it quite a bit — it wasn’t for a class or anything, or just a slog to “better myself” or whatever. If there was any chore-like aspect, it was that I had to take all the pop music off my iPod and replace it with ambient-type stuff, as I couldn’t read GR with any real distractions. (But the stuff I put on — which includes the non-ambient Stereolab and Kraftwerk — I really liked, so even that wasn’t a Punishment or anything.) I never felt that when reading, say, Infinite Jest, though — when I was done with that, I was actually a little sad. Then immediately turned back to the beginning of the book to re-read the first 20 or so pages. And then was sad again.

Still, regardless of how I felt upon finishing it — it’s a real good book and I’m glad I finished it. The novel’s fragmentation in Book IV is pretty deftly handled; for one, I like how the Counterforce isn’t… terribly… useful? Like, they go to save Slothrop, except they end up deciding he’s not really worth it and besides it’s really hard, so let’s just do other stuff instead, OK? And there’s the matter of Slothrop hisself, the way he sort of wills himself to not be a character anymore by lying down in the crossroads.

My idea — which might be kinda crazy/wacky/wrong — is that Slothrop finds a way to do what Lyle Bland did, only without leaving his body per se. That’s how he’s able to split all across Europe and the comments from folks like Bodine that he can’t seem to keep himself together; I think that’s probably meant in a more literal sense; I got the picture of Slothrop-as-wraith at that point, and I think the text bears that out a bit. The idea that follows from that (and, again, I could be totally whacked out here) is that Slothrop himself is narrating the novel. He’s not only gone all over Europe but all throughout time as well — which explains the disconnectedness-at-times of the narrative, the time jumps, the omnipotence of the narrator but using Slothropian ticks like “a-and” or “sez”, even in parts that don’t have Slothrop in there. (Of course, I think the one piece of evidence you might use to refute this is in the opening of the section in which Pirate and Katje go to hell — the “Dear Mom, I put a couple of people in Hell today…” quote from the Gospel of Thomas, which I’m certain is pretty clearly a metafictional joke with the Gospel writer being Pynchon himself, seeing as in the episode that follows, he puts a couple of people in Hell.)

The fragmentation of Book IV has lots of cool bits, including the story of Byron The Bulb (whose schemes of Bulb Liberation do seem to at least have an active underground element) told surrounded by the murder of a Colonel from Kenosha, WI by a amphetamine-added army barber. Or the sitcom involving Takeshi and Ichizo, The Komical Kamikazes — which references Roger Mexico’s tirade against Rózsavölgyi seemingly protecting Pointsman, possible more support for my Slothrop-as-narrator theory, as T&I are pretty clearly made up by Slothrop’s blitzed brain. (And forgive me if the Slothrop-narrator theory is all considered a big ol’ DUH; I haven’t really read much ABOUT Gravity’s Rainbow yet — most of the stuff I’ve seen ends up tracking all the references that Pynchon makes to stuff and explaining what the stuff is rather than really analyzing the text or anything. Which is kinda neat, as Pynchon references some obscure stuff, but still, I was kinda hoping for more along the lines of “Is Jamf real or not?” or “What’s the deal with Nixon showing up?” rather than “Submariner is a comic book put out by Atlas/Timely/Marvel. And it’s subMARiner, not SUBMARINEr.”)

So, anyway — may as well now. IS Jamf real? I’m thinking that, though it’s a minor thing, that Wuxtry-Wuxtry is not to be trusted; while his explanation makes sense, it seems that for Jamf to not be real, the rest of the novel would have to not be real, considering that Jamf interacted with so many other characters. But then again, Jamf was a Jive-Ass Mother Fucker, so… But still. And what IS the deal with Nixon showing up anyway? It’s a funny bit, but seems a little jammed in; sort of as if he had it lying around and didn’t think it’d be published otherwise, and it’s not exactly like Gravity’s Rainbow is the most straight-forward of novels anyway, so who’s gonna notice another bizarre digression?

The identity of the Schwarzgerät is a bit of an interesting shock, although it’s one that I could kinda see being put together — not in a predictable sort of way, but more like “ah, yep, poor Gottfried” way. Sorta like you knew he had to come back, and the whole Kinderoven thing too, though it was twisted around from what was set up. I really dug it though — but I disagree with some folks who think Gottfried was actually a child/teenager himself; I never got that vibe at all, and I’m thinking the text doesn’t support it — there’s references to back hair, and there’s reference that he was conscripted into the army — so he’s obviously YOUNG and younger than Blicero (who is seemingly pretty ancient by this point anyway), but probably around 18, 19 years old, an adult, not a kid. That’s Slothrop’s bag anyway.

So, anyway — there’s a few things I’m not hitting on — I think some of the Herero stuff with the text-of-the-rocket and whatnot went a little over my head — but that way opens up stuff for conversation and whatnot. Basically what I am getting at is WHAT DID YOU THINK!?


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  1. Dave

    finished it mid-vacation.. confused and it’s been awhile… not sure i felt the same level of satisfaction.

    I feel I almost need to re-read it.. and really think about it. The first time through is just to not be intimidated to get an overall feel..

    but, at the same time I think.. what kind of arrogant person writes something that you have to read more than once (and research tons of little isignificant stuff)… at least david foster wallace footnoted..


  2. Rev. Syung Myung Me

    As you gathered, I DID like it quite a bit — the only part I’m not sure if I really found satisfying is the Nixon bit. I think I just don’t get why it’s in there. Like, I can see the need to comment on Watergate, but I’m not sure if at the end of GR is the right place to do so?

    I AM really looking forward to _Inherent Vice_ — his new one, which is apparently only half as long as his doorstops usually are! Which perhaps means it’ll have to be re-read four times to fully get it…8)

    I don’t quite have the drive/compulsion to instantly re-read GR the way I did Infinite Jest, but then again, that was kinda the point of IJ, in that the book was kind of the movie of the same name — something that completely absorbs you and makes you forget everything else in life… speaking of which, it HAS been a while since I last read IJ…. hmm…..

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