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Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow Paperback – December 30, 2006

4.1 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The end result of his endeavor is less an illustrated novel than a series of eerie, high art interpretations." Marcela Valdes, Washington Post
 
"The drawings are surprisingly detailed, colorful and contemplative, adding new layers to the text and potentially earning Pynchon some new fans." -Whitney Matheson, USA Today
 
"[Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow] can be enjoyed on its own or read simultaneously with the 1973 novel, putting smith's art next to those discursive, intricate, elusive, overwritten sentences." -Jeff Baker, The Oregonian


"He draws a lurid and intoxicating netherworld, complete in its own right…an illuminating companion to the novel." Emily Barton, Los Angeles Times

From the Publisher

Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (1973), set in an alternative-universe version of World War II, has been called a modern Finnegan's Wake for its challenging language, wild anachronisms, hallucinatory happenings, and fever-dream imagery. With Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow, artist Zak Smith at once eases and expands readers' experience of the book. A leading exponent of punk-based, DIY art, Smith here presents his most ambitious project to date -- an art book exactly as long as the work it's interpreting: 760 drawings, paintings, photos, and less definable images in 760 pages. Extraordinary tableaux of the detritus of war -- a burned-out Königstiger tank, a melted machine gun -- coexist alongside such phantasmagoric Pynchon inventions as the "stumbling bird" and "Girgori the octopus." Smith has stated his aim to be "as literal as possible" in interpreting Gravity's Rainbow, but his images are as imaginative and powerfully unique as the prose they honor.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Tin House Books (December 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0977312798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977312795
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #584,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gregory Parrish on June 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
My two sons (Zachary and Alexander) have been saving their allowance and doing extra chores to save money for a Nintendo DS (they save half, my wife & I pay half). This has been a huge deal for them because they each really want one.

Yesterday, my wife took the boys to a bookstore, and 7 1/2 year old Zach saw Zak Smith's book based on Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow". He could not, would not put it down; he was mesmerized. He's not one to want, want, want, but this, he had to have. He looked at various and sundry art-related books for at least a half hour, and kept coming back to this book. Which was $40. After much discussion and pondering, Zach was resolute: My wife had a $16 credit at the store which she let him use and he kicked in $20 of his $27 to get the book. The point is, he gave up his Gameboy money for an art book. A big deal. He said "You know how interested I am in art, Mom!"

I've read a bit of Pynchon ("Vineland") but when I've leafed through "Granvity's Rainbow" in the past, I've thought it challenging, circular, dense. Very much like, though not so much as, the uber-interpretive "Finegan's Wake" by James Joyce (referenced, coincidentally, by Zak Smith's book). So at once I was impressed; thumbing through Zach's Zak book, even more so. It IS mesmerizing; page after page of fascinating, provoking, stirring beauty. You can get lost in there.

Not only do I now have a renewed vigor to tackle "Gravity's Rainbow", but am inspired to have (with Zach's permission) Zak Smith's profoundly astonishing book along for the cerebral roller coaster, a benevolent guide to provide dazzling clues as I navigate the former's intellectually demanding jungle.

Whether $26.37 or $39.95, worth every penny...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read Thomas Pynchon’s brilliant novel “Gravity’s Rainbow” (Gravity's Rainbow (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)) three times. The last time I read it, I also read A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel, 2nd Edition, which revealed meanings I had previously missed.

The title of Smith’s 760-page book claims to show “what happens on each page of Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravity Rainbow.” This title is very misleading. Call me artistically-challenged, but there are only weak connections between the illustrations and the novel. (I would read one or two dozen pages of the novel then view Smith's illustrations.) While some of the sketches are interesting (I particularly like the sketches of people), I did not like most of sketches. I bought this book based on the five-star reviews here; I am now honestly puzzled by the statements made in those reviews. I regret purchasing the book.

An aside: In 1974, the Pulitzer Prize fiction judges unanimously voted to give the prize to “Gravity’s Rainbow.” The Pulitzer’s advisory board refused to award the prize to Pynchon (for various reasons) and the fiction judges refused to submit an alternate. Therefore, no prize was awarded that year.
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It's an ambitious concept, but the title is misleading. If Smith's intent is to "show what happens on each page" of Gravity's Rainbow, it only succeeds sporadically. His artwork is interesting but not clear. I bought this to see if it would help me through an already difficult text, and it was at times just as unclear, and at other times even more unclear. Some of his illustrations capture the humor and strangeness of it's inspiration in a way that seemed intentional. Others don't indicate much at all.
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Format: Paperback
Zak Smith is probably one of the only people who could have sincerely undertaken this project and done something both unique and interesting with it.

After a few false starts I finally read Gravity's Rainbow from start to finish over the summer and well- it's weird. It's an exercise in maximalism to the highest degree that rides on a wave of zany humor and so many references (and cross references) that it's necessary to admit one's ignorance in reading the thing. You won't understand it unless you have a guide and while I think this is a questionable move in terms of fiction, it certainly makes for material worth interpreting.

What Smith did was was take Pynchon's work and avoid symbolism by making literal illustrations from lines within the text (which he states in the preface). A literal interpretation of Pynchon is bizarre enough in and of itself, but Zak Smith is also a damn good artist with a bunch of talent *and* a very serious approach to visual art which stems out of his work ethic. These factors all make the book an interesting standalone collection of drawings- and paired with the text it makes for completely deserving turn down the path of Pynchon's magnum opus.
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I became familiar with Zak's work through D&D - and this really piqued my interest. Consider my interest well rewarded. This is a masterwork in a lot of ways. The sheer volume of the work cannot be denied - the rendering and artistic style just gives the original work a new voice a new entry into the modern consciousness.

Even if you were to leave Pynchon's novel out of it - the art itself - page after page after page after page.... it's a volume you'll come back to for idle perusing for years to come.
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