For National Novel Reading Month, I've chosen Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Why?

In an article I read last year ("The Stockholm Syndrome Theory of Long Novels" by Mark O'Connell), I saw this book described as one of those long and difficult books that scares people off, the kind that lots of people have heard of or even have on the shelf but have never cracked open. I've heard the same about some other books I've read and enjoyed.

O'Connell says he avoided long and difficult books, because in the same time his friends would take to read one long novel, he could get through a string of shorter, easier works and still get the same "intellectual cache".
And then, three or four years ago, something changed. For some reason I can’t recall (probably a longish lapse in productivity on my thesis) I set myself the task of reading a Great Big Important Novel. For another reason I can’t recall (probably the fact that it had been sitting on a shelf for years, its pages turning the sullen yellow of neglected great books), I settled on Gravity’s Rainbow. I can’t say that I enjoyed every minute of it, or even that I enjoyed all that much of it at all, but I can say that by the time I got to the end of it I was glad to have read it. Not just glad that I had finally finished it, but that I had started it and seen it through. I felt as though I had been through something major, as though I had not merely experienced something but done something, and that the doing and the experiencing were inseparable in the way that is peculiar to the act of reading. And I’ve had that same feeling, I realize, with almost every very long novel I’ve read before or since.
Coincidentally, a week or two after I read this article, I came across Gravity's Rainbow in a used bookstore, the paperback first printing with this same cover.I read the first page, then the second and third. It was beautiful prose, so I plunked down my $2 and added it to the TBR shelf.

I moved it to the front of the queue for NaNoReMo. Now, 60 pages into this 760 page book, I'm enjoying it. Digressive and recursive, humorous and shocking, it's a demonstration of mastery. I'll post bits and pieces on my reading of it during this month.

p.s. While I've read other people's accounts of what it's like to read Gravity's Rainbow, I've avoided book reports, since I didn't want to read any spoilers. For example, I didn't read the entire Wikipedia article linked above, nor have I read any of the in-depth "reader's guides" that Google presents when you search on this book. I want to preserve the experience of coming at it fresh.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

1 comment:

  1. Tony, you piqued my interest. I hopped over to Goodreads and read some hysterical reviews about this novel. Also, checked out the challenge. It sounds like great fun. Wondering if I could squeeze in Grapes of Wrath in January (never read)? Wishing you late nights of engrossed reading. : )


Thank you for leaving a comment. The staff at Landless will treat it with the same care that we would bestow on a newly hatched chick. By the way, no pressure or anything, but have you ever considered subscribing to Landless via RSS?