Sunday, May 6, 2012

Book 28-Gravity's Rainbow (42 book of 1001)

Book 28 was Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. I wasn't sure going into this book what to expect but I knew that Thomas Pynchon was a weird writer and I wasn't disappointed there!! The book was filled with drugged out hallucinations, communications with the dead, immortal light bulbs, and whole lot of graphic sexual content.

I am not a fan of war, so I probably had it out for this book before I even began. One thing that it did teach me though was how horrific it would have been to be in London during the Blitz. I have always had a  trauma response to anything from the First World War. I can cry at a drop of hat when someone starts whispering to me about Legend's of the  Fall, for instance! I just think it would be so horrible to be stuck in  trench, covered in mud, half starved and running into bodily harm  knowing half of you aren't going to make it. This book showed me that it would be equally horrifying to always have to look over head during the Second World War. The book centres around a rocket, the V2, which hits and then makes a sound. If you hear it you are still alive. The reversal of the sound first, then hit principle makes a backdrop for an interesting discussion about cause and effect. "You will want cause and effect". This is followed up by a discussion of Pavlov both with some experimental dogs that they training as well as Slothrop, one of the main characters who's penis seems to predict where bombs are going to hit. The book calls into question how much of our behaviour is actually in our control and how much of it is based on outside influences.

"You had dispensed with God. But you had taken on a greater, more  harmful, illusion. The illusion of control".

"all in his life of what has looked free or random, is discovered  to've been under some Control"

Slothrop, the character whose penis is believed to predict where a bomb will hit, becomes extremely paranoid and thinks that everything in his life is under someone else's control. He has a frightened reaction when he walks into a casino because it is a place were you would expect pure chance however he feels that everything is staged for his benefit.

"When They chose number, red, black, odd, even what did They mean by it?"

The book has a lot of repeated phrases and ideas that it plays with. They/we, Preterite/Elect, Life/Death. The novel seems to state that for every part there is a counterpart and one cannot survive without the other. The book also makes several references to the Zero. It seems to hold this out as one of the ultimate goals of life to reach the Zero, to be completely nothing, to die. Half of the book is a quest for the 00000 rocket which everyone knows to be in existence but no one knows where it hit.

"Preterite, the many God passes over when he chooses a few for salvation"

This book is just plain weird. Characters frequently burst into random lewd songs. There are immortal light bulbs named Byron, a several page long description of various ways to eat bananas and a lot characters running all over the "Zone" frequently crossing paths. That should have been funny and made the book interesting to read, but I just wasn't feeling it. Maybe it was the timing, since I read it during a busy month and felt the time crunch to return it to the library. Maybe it was the fact it was set during a war which I hate. Maybe it was the lewd content, which didn't really seem to have a point in the story. Either way, I did not enjoy the process of reading this novel....although I did have a few giggles, and head shakes at the stuff I was reading.

One thing I did like about the book was the feeling of being on a quest that occurs during the last half of the book. As several characters traipse around the Zone in search of the illusive Schwarzkommando and the 00000 you feel like you are on a quest from a fairytale. Despite that fact I still wouldn't rate this novel very highly. It wasn't the worst book I have ever read, and it certainly wasn't the best. I would love to read another  Thomas Pynchon novel though to see if it was just the topic that threw me. I will hopefully pick up another one from the 1001 books to Read Before You Die as I know there are several of his books included in the list.