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A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel, 2nd Edition Paperback – November 1, 2006
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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)
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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. If you really want to understand the allusons in this novel, you may want to check some of these out.
The Book ends with a helpful, but not comprehensive Index. I think this book is a most usable and reliable guide to the Novel. The Novel can be read without it, as has been pointed out, but half the fun is, at least to me, checking on the allusions, and coming across their often hidden and surprising meanings. Interested readers should buy this book. It is not only well-done as a Guide, but the Bibliography contains a mixture of references that can be found nowhere else.
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. Weisenburger chimes in with a discussion as to whether or not the cited speed of the shadow is realistic, and also informs us that of course shadows can't break the speed of sound! Useless over-analysis of the type that explains why generation after generation of students are turned off to literature when forced by professors with too much brain and not enough heart to dissect great books in the classroom.