Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow

Gravity’s Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

I read it. Cover to cover. I was 19 and people said it was a work of genius, so I gave it a go.

Did I understand it? No.

Was it pure hubris to think I could understand one of the pivotal works of this difficult author with no background what so ever? Yeah, possibly.

But I was a kid, so I said fuck it and plowed along. Much of it went over my head, even the plot (such as it is) was difficult to grasp. I knew the writing was beautiful, and some of the jokes amusing, but more than that — it’s hard to say.

Seems silly to even write a review of a book I have to admit I didn’t really understand, but these reviews are about more than the books themselves. They’re about me and where I was when I encountered them.

So there I was, a nineteen year old kid living in Brooklyn, working in a bookstore with fellow bookstore clerks who ran the gambit from barely functioning junkies to PhD in English from Brown. I was desperate to pile as much knowledge and “culture” into my life as I could… and multiple people kept name dropping Pynchon. So I struggled through, on the train, in cafes all in isolation, too embarrassed to admit to anyone that I didn’t really understand much of what I was reading. Laughing occasionally at a joke, but generally just riding along, taking what I could.

When I finished the book some co-workers were eager to discuss it, but I demurred. I’d change the subject, embarrassed by how little I got out of it. It was a silly exercise, from start to finish, and not the last time I’d read something I didn’t understand.

But that was young Sean, eager, often grasping beyond his means. I’ve tempered that as the years have gone on, and I’ve learned (and read) a lot more. I should probably read this one again.

Recommended for the enthusiast.


About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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