The Book: Okay, I'm reading Gravity's Rainbow. I had of course heard of the book and I even had started his newer book, Mason & Dixon. But, I picked it up during the summer, and it was simply too big to transport to the beach. I regretfully stopped about 100 pages in. However, as hard as I thought that book was...holy mind fu*k Batman, G.R. is in a league of its own.
I purposely avoided the companion book because I figured I was man enough for the job of slogging through on my own. Well, I'm 2/3 of the way done, and it's quite clear, I'm going to have to go back in again, this time armed with the companion.
Is it the (claimed) 400 characters (who can count?)? Is it the complete absence of traditional narrative structure? Is it the mind-boggling historical/artistic/musical/philosophical allusions that riddle the book like chopped nuts riddle pecan pie? I don't know, but my head hurts, man. It hurts for real. I've given up going back and re-reading sections now. I'm just moving ahead and through. In pulp, I can read 100 pages an hour, no sweat. With this, we're talking 30-40 tops. Most of the time I feel like I'm on LSD (rumor has it Pynchon was a bit abuzz when he wrote the thing as well).
The most rudimentary plot synopsis goes like this: An American GI stationed in London as WWII is all but done is having his way with the English birds. Funny thing though. Usually within 24 hours of his snogging with a young thing, a German V-2 rocket lands where he was just doing his own rocket work. This uncanny coincidence is not going un-noticed by the Brass who soon see fit to send him on his way to see if he can't find out more about the rockets. Along the way, well.... It's hard to tell you much more than that because that would require so much more than I can offer you.
You have to read this book on faith that everything your crazed eyes pass over is all connected somehow. There's talking lightbulbs, an orgy ship that roams the seas, musician chimpanzees, S&M-crazed nazi actresses, and rockets, rockets, rockets - rocket parts, plans and practioneers. Chemicals, explosives, wires, metals. Oh, and the sex! There's no shortage of that - even without the orgy ship.
It's one of those mind-altering experiences that you usually can only share with someone who has been likewise afflicted because, as you can see, after only a few minutes, it makes no sense to anyone who hasn't read it (to the extent it makes sense to those who have).
You know, I avidly read the new darlings of post-modernism (DFW, Eggers, etc.) and Eno knows all-too-well my affections for them. But Pynchon is their grand-daddy. The guy who broke all the rules so the rest could even get a publisher. Whether he's brilliant or not, I will refrain from saying until I finish, but the mind needed to create this book cannot be of this Earth.
Mostly I just hurt.