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.

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