A screaming comes across the sky

A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.
It is too late. The Evacuation still proceeds, but it’s all theatre. There are no lights inside the cars. No light anywhere. Above him lift girders old as an iron queen, and glass somewhere far above that would let the light of day through. But it’s night. He’s afraid of the way the glass will fall soon it will be a spectacle: the fall of a crystal palace. But coming down in total blackout, without one glint of light, only great invisible crashing.

So begins Thomas Pynchon’s massive, brilliant, hilarious, insufferable, great, postmodern American novel Gravity’s Rainbow. This week marks the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication. Pynchon’s huge (760 pages) novel was issued in both hardcover and paperback versions simultaneously because the publisher feared that the target audience of readers under 30 would hesitate to pay the $15 cover price for the hardbound edition.

There is rarely a middle ground when it comes to this Pulitzer Prize winning novel; it’s a book that you either love or hate. I suspect that next to Moby Dick it’s the most begun and abandoned American novel of all time. Even the Pulitzer Prize Board, which awarded Pynchon the 1973 fiction prize, called the book “unreadable”, “turgid”, “overwritten” and “obscene.”

As an enormous fan of Pynchon’s earlier book The Crying of Lot 49, I eagerly snatched-up my local library’s copy of Gravity’s Rainbow as soon as it became available. And although I’m usually a fast reader, I remember incurring so significant library fines when I finally finished and returned the book. Comprised of four main parts and seventy-three episode, with over four hundred named characters, over 760 pages, the novel requires concentration and commitment.

If you are an adventurous and broad-minded reader, and you are up for the challenge, the 50th anniversary is a good time to dive into Pynchon’s masterpiece. Before accepting the challenge it is worth reading this excellent appreciation of the novel by Professor Julian Murphet on the Conversation website.


This entry was posted in Books, USA, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A screaming comes across the sky

  1. Shaharee says:

    The most stunning aspect of this book is the obvious amount of research that has been interwoven with the narrative. Regrettably it’s also the aspect that makes the book difficult to access. Think for example of his use of the Monaco Fallacy as one of the driving themes in this novel.

  2. I studied The Crying of Lot 49 in France when I was preparing for a major Entrance Exam (École Normal Supérieure), loved it, wrote several essays.
    I decided to reread it a few years ago, and I was totally puzzled at what on earth I had found so good in it when I was 19!
    I have never read Gravity’s Rainbow, but still want to give it a chance!

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