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A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel, 2nd Edition Paperback – November 1, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Astute detective work . . . The Companion offers a wealth of information that makes it indispensable reading for Pynchon scholars. It is a remarkable achievement, representing untold hours of research into the flotsam and jetsam that constitutes the surface of Pynchon's preterite text.

(Pynchon Notes)

Pavlov, Grimm, Poisson's equation, I.G. Farben, the Kabbalah, the Tarot, the Hereros; science, history, myth, and popular culture: almost everything is here. For those not content to take Pynchon's references simply on faith, this is an absolutely invaluable work. It points up dramatically the paradox of creating so encyclopedic a work for an a-historical, a-literate work.

(Journal of Modern Literature)

Weisenburger has exorcised the spectre of the loose baggy monster, the thesis that Gravity's Rainbow is a rambling and haphazard work. . . . A stunningly comprehensive and revelatory study that should be required reading for hard core fans, for the mushier core of people who have started the book but couldn't find anything to hold on to, and perhaps even for the anti-Pynchonites among us: for Them. It may be the means by which the most important novel of the second half of the century gains academic respectability.

(Modern Fiction Studies)

No serious reader of Pynchon's novel will want to read it without this volume's rare combination of criticism, annotation, and reference at hand.

(Choice)

An excellent guide to a terrifically complex work. If, like a palimpsest, Pynchon's work eludes us, Weisenburger's work provides us with a sub-text which fills in the crucial missing blanks.

(Canadian Review of American Studies)

Weisenburger not only cares enough to follow Pynchon's narrative almost line by line through its massings of detail but convinces the reader of Pynchon's own care in assuring that everything from weather and moon phases to movies playing in London holds together, all so that Gravity's Rainbow can function as a chronometics when necessary.

(American Literary Scholarship)

A veritable guidebook to the novel, glossing countless references to popular culture, philosophy, science, etc. It also explains the novel's chronology section by section and for all these reasons will be essential reading on Pynchon.

(Year's Work in English Studies)

About the Author

Steven C. Weisenburger is Mossiker Chair in Humanities and chair of the English Department at Southern Methodist University. His books include "Fables of Subversion: Satire and the American Novel," "A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel " (both Georgia) and "Modern Medea."
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: The University of Georgia Press; 2 edition (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820328073
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820328072
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #338,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Walter O. Koenig on May 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
I agree with the previous review that this book is not as comprehensive as Gifford and Seidman "Ulysses Annotated" (see my review), but it is better than Douglas Fowler's "A Reader's Guide to Gravity's Rainbow", the only other usable sourcebook to "Gravity's Rainbow" I am aware of.
This book has a most helpful introduction in which the scope and instructions for use are discussed. The section "For Further Study" contains some insightful information regarding the patterns of Pynchon's borrowings, the chronology of the novel and its structure as a "Bildungsroman", which is according to Weisenburger as follows: "(1) the disclosure of the hero's miraculous gifts (2) his education (3) his testing during a course of travels, and (4) the confirmation of his powers, a revelation." (p.7) I wish this subject would have been developed further. It certainly offers another avenue for reading the novel and analyzing its structure.
The "Companion" Section itself gives helpful intoductions to each episode and somewhat brief descriptions of the many allusions and references. The vast majority seem to be included, though further information about them, will in many cases require the reader to do some work.
At the time I read this novel, I was conducting research at the Library of Congress, so I decided to check around fifty of the references listed in the Bibliography. I checked verything from the "History of South-West Aftrica" to "Ballistics of the Future", and Stendhal's "Life of Rossini" to Pavlov's "Conditioned Reflexes", and found that both Pynchon and Wiesenburger did the their work well.
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Format: Paperback
This is an invaluable companion to a reading of Gravity's Rainbow. Without it, not only would a goodly portion of the novel be incomprehensible (especially, I might add, to those of us under the age of 40- there are a ton of references that those of us in this age bracket will not relate to or even comprehend), but the mastery of Pynchon's work would be less than fully grasped. For sheer research and grasp of subject matter I can't conceive of a companion volume that would best this one. In short, without this companion I would have recognized Pynchon's novel as creative if a bit befuddling. With this companion I learned to recognize it as brilliant and much more comprehensible (to the extent that any of it was meant to be comprehended in the first place). One final point, I take a different view than some of the other reviewers. I read 1/2 of the novel before I learned of and bought the companion volume. Reading the novel with the companion the first time was much more rewarding for me than struggling through the novel without the companion for the first time.
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An extremely useful and interesting companion to GR. Perhaps not essential, but certainly helpful in getting much more out of this fantastic novel. There are different ways to use the Companion - I ended up reading an episode in GR and then reading the accompanying pages in the Companion, which worked pretty well though it obviously breaks the natural flow of the novel. I like the fact that Weisenburger generally does not attempt to provide detailed interpretations - the sheer length of the novel fortunately prevents the flood of over-interpretation and academic nonsense that, for example, sometimes fills companion books for shorter novels (e.g., The Crying of Lot 49). Weisenburger's thoughts on timelines and the overall structure are enlightening.

I do have one major complaint: for reasons I'm sure Weisenburger would try to defend but that I don't understand at all, he "gives away" rather early in the Companion the events described in the very last episodes in GR. We're talking major spoiler here! Although there are numerous hints throughout GR leading up to this, the picture doesn't become clear until the very end. Unfortunately, Weisenburger blows the surprise very early on and personally I really resented this.

A minor complaint: As mentioned in other reviews, Weisenburger commits a number of errors when explaining some of the science and math. Often, these explanations just weren't necessary and in some cases work only to deflate the book's magic. As one of a number of possible examples, consider the extraordinary balloon ride episode, in which Slothrop witnesses the earth's shadow moving across the land.
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Format: Paperback
Why does Weisenburger decide to randomly drop spoiler after spoiler into his annotations? The companion was extremely helpful but the first time I read GR I realized I had to hide this companion about halfway through the novel. I cannot figure out why when describing a simple German phrase (adequately and with illuminating context to the specific situation, mind you) Weisenburger surrenders plot points that don't surface until the last part of the novel. It ended up happening almost every other episode. It was infuriating. So beware. Probably wait until your second time through to use this useful but endlessly frustrating companion.
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