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Gravity's Rainbow (Classic, 20th-Century, Penguin) Paperback – June 1, 1995
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Tyrone Slothrop, a GI in London in 1944, has a big problem. Whenever he gets an erection, a Blitz bomb hits. Slothrop gets excited, and then (as Thomas Pynchon puts it in his sinister, insinuatingly sibilant opening sentence), "a screaming comes across the sky," heralding an angel of death, a V-2 rocket. The novel's title, Gravity's Rainbow, refers to the rocket's vapor arc, a cruel dark parody of what God sent Noah to symbolize his promise never to destroy humanity again. History has been a big trick: the plan is to switch from floods to obliterating fire from the sky.
Slothrop's father was an unwitting part of the cosmic doublecross. To provide for the boy's future Harvard education, he took cash from the mad German scientist Laszlo Jamf, who performed Pavlovian experiments on the infant Tyrone. Laszlo invented Imipolex G, a new plastic useful in rocket insulation, and conditioned Tyrone's privates to respond to its presence. Now the grown-up Tyrone helplessly senses the Imipolex G in incoming V-2s, and his military superiors are investigating him. Soon he is on the run from legions of bizarre enemies through the phantasmagoric horrors of Germany.
That's just the Imipolex G tip of the shrieking vehicle that is Pynchon's book. It's pretty much impossible to follow a standard plot; one must have faith that each manic episode is connected with the great plot to blow up the world with the ultimate rocket. There is not one story, but a proliferation of characters (Pirate Prentice, Teddy Bloat, Tantivy Mucker-Maffick, Saure Bummer, and more) and events that tantalize the reader with suggestions of vast patterns only just past our comprehension. You will enjoy Pynchon's cartoon inferno far more if you consult Steven Weisenburger's brief companion to the novel, which sorts out Pynchon's blizzard of references to science, history, high culture, and the lowest of jokes. Rest easy: there really is a simple reason why Kekulé von Stradonitz's dream about a serpent biting its tail (which solved the structure of the benzene molecule) belongs in the same novel as the comic-book-hero Plastic Man.
Pynchon doesn't want you to rest easy with solved mysteries, though. Gravity's Rainbow uses beautiful prose to induce an altered state of consciousness, a buzz. It's a trip, and it will last. --Tim Appelo
Novel by Thomas Pynchon, published in 1973. The sprawling narrative comprises numerous threads having to do either directly or tangentially with the secret development and deployment of a rocket by the Nazis near the end of World War II. Lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop is an American working for Allied Intelligence in London. Agents of the Firm, a clandestine military organization, are investigating an apparent connection between Slothrop's erections and the targeting of incoming V-2 rockets. As a child, Slothrop was the subject of experiments conducted by a Harvard professor who is now a Nazi rocket scientist. Slothrop's quest for the truth behind these implications leads him on a nightmarish journey of either historic discovery or profound paranoia, depending on his own and the reader's interpretation. The novel won the National Book Award for fiction in 1974. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
GRAVITY'S RAINBOW doesn't read like any other book, literally. Post-modern to the max. Therefore, no reader should take lodging in its universe without really accepting the fact that this is not an easy read. There are hundreds of characters, myriads of subplots, lots of German and French that appears randomly without an asterisk to note its translation. This novel moves beyond encouraging the reader to sit and gaze through it - it begs of you to hear its every note of its multivalent song. To take the journey with its main character, Tyrone Slothrop, and to compassionately question the material presented in front of you.
Many people will likely give up before getting 20 pages in, which is very sad. The book has so much to offer to its reader. It talks of very unique topics, teaches several eerie facts, answers a handful of hard questions, and even asks harder questions, questions that outstrip life itself!
My first Pynchon book was THE CRYING OF LOT 49, and I absolutely loved it. But, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW, has become a close friend to me. Its more than a book. SO worth the $20-something you pay for it!
Starting GR I realized I wasn't getting the full story (even though this is Pynchon), so I borrowed a 1973 edition and started comparing it to my Penguin "Deluxe Edition". Within the first 100 pages I found at least a dozen typos, rewordings, and just plain deletions.
An example, pp. 139-140, last sentence:
...Your task, in the dreams, is often to [cross under the trees through the shadows before something hap] pens.
The portion in the brackets is totally absent in this copy. Deletions like this make for a completely incomprehensible novel and ruin the author's work.
Note that my rating doesn't reflect my opinion of GR, just the "Deluxe Edition" Penguin has put forth (2006 ed.). Frankly, Penguin's QA/proofing department should be ashamed for putting out such a turd.
For the love of the Mistress of the Night, please, avoid this edition!!!
Woven into the novel are the evil machinations of Captain Blicero (who is really SS officer Weissman, from "V"), who trains his sex slave Gottfried to sacrifice himself in a sadomasochistic fantasy of Blicero's: to man the Rocket 00000, and to die on impact.
At the climax of the novel, Slothrop meets the pre-teen Bianca, whom he seduces...and falls in love with. Shortly after the seduction, Bianca is murdered by the mysterious forces following him...and he loses interest in life, and hence literally falls out of the story, to be forever lost in the Zone.
The novel is full of references to science (physics, organic chemistry) as well as to serious philosophy and poetry...yet manages to maintain a sense of surrealism and absurdity. Profoundly disturbing and sad, the book describes how easily one can become unhinged from reality, from all connections to life as we know it...