The hand of Providence creeps among the stars, giving Slothrop the finger.
This week I finished Gravity’s Rainbow, one of the most difficult books I have ever read voluntarily. Pynchon has a distinct writing style where he inserts thousands of characters and includes a labyrinth plot. In order to track everything and everyone down I used a postcard as a bookmark and wrote down anything I thought could be relevant.
The book is basically a Second World War novel centring itself on the design, production and dispatch of v-2 rockets by the German military. However it breaks convention as it focuses on areas the typical books and tv shows about WWII don’t dwell on. Rather than focus on military battles it focuses on military latrines. When it narrows in on the holocaust it does so from the perspective of the systems built up next to the camps. The threat of death plays a larger role than death itself. The plot isn’t moved by the big players and the big events. The people who move the plot are a mixture of obscure oddballs running around Europe on their own errands. Even Wernher von Braun, the inventor of the V2 rockets doesn’t play a major role.
The best way to think about the book is that it is a series of interesting vignettes and beat poetry. I enjoyed elements of the book, and I was not able to grasp every reference. Some passages were beyond me and Pynchon purposely writes in a very disorientating style to reflect the breaking and fragmentation of the main character/world. It feels like Pynchon is walking with you around a maze, showing you weird things you don’t want to see. And then. Just when you feel like you have a sense of direction. Pynchon grabs you by the shoulder and then he throws you down the hill. Gravity’ Rainbow is the post-modern novel.
My favourite parts (spoilers):
- How Franz Pökler, a scientist, is manipulated by the villain to work on the rockets.
- Slothrop rescuing Katje from an octopus
- Pynchon writing a short story about a lightbulb cartel of corporations engineering shorter-lived lightbulbs for profit (that actually happened) from the perspective of Byron the immortal lightbulb
- Vomit vichyssoise, snot soup, pus pudding, menstrual marmalade