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A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  819 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Adding some 20 percent to the original content, this is a completely updated edition of Steven Weisenburger's indispensable guide to Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Weisenburger takes the reader page by page, often line by line, through the welter of historical references, scientific data, cultural fragments, anthropological research, jokes, and puns around which Pynch ...more
Paperback, 424 pages
Published November 1st 2006 by University of Georgia Press (first published August 30th 1988)
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May 24, 2012 s.penkevich rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: All readers of Gravity's Rainbow
Shelves: guides
This Companion was extremely beneficial in reading Pynchon's novel, especially giving reference to the social context and pop culture allusions that appear on nearly every page. However, I had to often set it aside, only referring back to it every so often since there was so much information that it impeded my forward progress in the actual book. I would recommend it to all readers, but it will come in handy the most on a second read. It should be noted that a first time reader may want to skip ...more
Nick Black
Apr 15, 2011 Nick Black rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
a really wonderful sourcebook, on par with Ulysses Annotated and a good bit better than Elegant Complexity. loses a star due to muddled mathematical exposition (to be expected, sigh). i was irritated by the absence of cites in a great many annotations; it is explained at the end that uncited notes reference the Times of 1944--1945, but this remains unsatisfying. whence, for instance, explanation of "crystal ship" as iv drug use? i never gathered that from the first Doors album. anyway, a joy to ...more
Geoff Sebesta
Dec 17, 2010 Geoff Sebesta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So goddamn useful. Your first trip through GR is supposed to be a hellacious slog so maybe it's cheating to give readers a road map, but I tell you, I never would have figured out the beginning of the book or the Kirghiz light or the hellacious "For DeMille, Fur Henchmen can't be rowing!" joke if not for this guide.

True story: I called Professor Weisenburger once on the phone because I said I wanted to interview him about a book he wrote. When he found out that I wanted to interview him about Gr
Leo Robertson
Okay I get the point with this one, I wannit off my shelf!
A handy reference guide but nothing more. Doesn't offer much literary analysis or decent chapter summaries in the same way that Elegant Complexity did.
All it really does is serve to show the extensive research that Pynchon did, and it is meticulous at that, but it does not make terribly interesting reading by itself.
All such books begin by saying "Why don't you read a chapter and come back, or read this page then the chapter then this pag
Daniel Chaikin
Apr 01, 2016 Daniel Chaikin rated it really liked it
27. A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon's Novel, 2nd Edition by Steven Weisenburger
published: originally 1988, 2nd edition is from 2006
format: 400 page paperback
acquired: March 20 to help with GR
read: Apr 1 - May 22
rating: **** stars

There are other sources for help with GR, but I liked this one because it was crazy detailed, translated almost every foreign language bit and tried to decipher the meaning under every name and it just made me feel more comfortable. It a
Jun 20, 2009 Judson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I do is read each Episode synopsis before reading each episode in GR, then refer to Weisenberger's notes as I go. Helps a ton to just get questions of who/what/where out of the way so I can enjoy what Pynchon's actually writing in a more immediate, less lost way. Even now, on my 3rd read of GR, this is not a book I'd want to be without, despite its own litany of mistakes and overstrainings....Heck, there's a Pynchon wiki for getting at those.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is really only a useful companion to Gravity's Rainbow on one level - if you are going to want every mythological, pop culture, and Kabbalistic reference explained as you read the novel. I was hoping for a broader, more connected commentary on the characters, plot, and themes; deeper understanding, not minutia. Ah well. I learned a lot more about German mythology.
Jodi Lu
Dec 29, 2010 Jodi Lu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the intimidated, thorough reader. or historian.
This book was probably the only reason I finished Gravity's Rainbow (with my general feeble resolve) when so many others have failed. Reading the corresponding section in this after each chapter in GR helped formulate everything and reveal the deeper, more cryptic (and certainly historical) merits of the text that one might miss while they romp through interesting characters and complex (this is a kind, vague word choice as it's very easy to lose yourself throughout, which is sometimes fine but ...more
May 20, 2008 Erik rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
GR companion is a valuable resource for those who have already read GR once or twice. I wouldn't use it the first time through. There are good points about the timescheme of GR and details like April Fool's Day falling on Easter Sunday in 1945, which implies the whole book may be a joke, like Melville's Confidence Man--the work that GR most resembles. The detail work on Pynchon;s sources is of course excellent, but I am not learning as much as I expected about the characters. What would have hel ...more
Very interesting, but difficult to use as a "companion." You can't read it alongside GR, not only because they're about eight pounds each but because the companion is so comprehensive that you'd almost literally be confined to reading one sentence (in GR) at a time and then consulting the companion for meanings/references/etc. But it's also difficult to read one entire section of GR followed by the corresponding section of the companion, because with Pynchon's dense, wordy, long and circular sty ...more
Mar 25, 2008 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For readers who do not get Pynchon’s references to the The I Ching, to Tarot, to mythology, films, comic books, operas, novels, scientific concepts and historic events at the end of World War Two, Weisenburger has put together this book that supplies information about IG Farben, King Kong, Hop Harrigan, Malcolm X and the V-2 rocket. In addition, Weisenburger discusses the structure of the novel in his introduction, and supplies a short plot summary of each of the sections in the book.
Chris Packham
Jun 19, 2012 Chris Packham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, I spent the summer of 1992 in bars in Boston, with Gravity's Rainbow and this book. It put little training wheels on Gravity's Rainbow so that I could ride it into a social life in Iowa City, where knowing about Thomas Pynchon actually has some social utility.
Jun 07, 2011 Darwin8u rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
Probably wouldn't have finished it (and definitely wouldn't have appreciated it as much) without Weisenburger's help. You were a fanastic Sherpa for Mt. Pynchon Weisenburger.
Dec 15, 2014 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, I have mixed thoughts about using guides. I've read books filled with end notes and/or footnotes, which tend to both enhance the reader's understanding and appreciation of a given work, but at the same time slow down the pace of the reading and distract the reader from the flow of the narrative. This was the first time that I've purchased a separate reader's guide for a work. I read the first 200 pages or so of Pynchon's novel without Weisenburger's 300+ page guide, but when one participant ...more
Ethan Miller
Oct 05, 2012 Ethan Miller rated it really liked it
There are multiple companions out there and I think even a companion's companion which is fitting in dealing with Pynchon that in referencing GR's rabbit holes this companion sometimes references the companion's companion inside of those references. I haven't compared companions, I just picked this one out because of solid customer reviews. Weisenburger's companion is easy to use and works with the Viking, Bantam or Penguin editions of GR.
One of the most helpful starting points is that each e
Feb 09, 2016 Chris rated it really liked it
Let's not mince words: Weisenburger's Companion is utterly essential for any trip through Pynchon's megaton novel. Large swathes of the book which I would have woozily drifted past with 0% comprehension were opened up brilliantly -- it really does help the scope of the entire book to know about business collusions during WWII, as well as the basics of the Kabbalah, Teutonic mythology, the Tarot, Herero folklore, and elementary ballistic physics. These aren't just look-how-clever-I-am cul de sacs ...more
Razvan Zamfirescu
If you really want to feel and understand Thomas Pynchon Gravity Rainbow novel, you'll need this companion as you need air.
It was very though for me while I was reading it but, fortunately, I've found the Companion and everything was getting clearer.
You may read the novel without any help and you would not need help if you are an encyclopedic person, but if you are not and you have gaps in your knowledge, like me, for example (sic!) and you find very hard to understand the links occurring in Py
Jun 09, 2013 Paul rated it really liked it
Circling back for a second lap of GR...we'll see if this illuminates things a bit!

I would definitely recommend this as an aid to comprehension of GR. It provides vast detail on the sources and background for references a casual reader would probably gloss right over. In fact, it made me appreciate just how rich and dense Gravity's Rainbow really is. (Everybody knows it's a monster, but I wonder how many are aware of its real depth.) Companion is especially helpful with the chronology of events,
Matěj Bregant
Jul 21, 2016 Matěj Bregant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pynchon-related
Weisenburger's effort has to be saluted, especially due to the year of publication - nowadays the many little deatils and facts can be verified in seconds, whereas then it was probably much more difficult. So we can pardon the omissions or errors (the Phoebus cartel was indeed real) and let this companion be what it really is - the basis for a lot of Gravity's Rainbow research, such as the GR page on Pynchonwiki, which is based on this book with significant work by Don Larsson and other fan or s ...more
Mar 11, 2015 Dan rated it liked it
Five pages or so into Gravity's Rainbow, I had no idea what was going on. This companion was essential to making any kind of sense of Pynchon's... what's the word... masterpiece? At times, this book provided crucial insight or context to illuminate an otherwise incomprehensible passage in GR. At other times, though, the book seemed bloated. Do I really need an annotation for every reference in GR to weather, telling me whether or not it really rained on such-and-such a day in England in 1945? I ...more
Dean C. Moore
A not half bad guide to Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. Though, be forewarned that this guide just makes the book slightly less impenetrable. Without a history degree (with the associated specialties), and perhaps a minimum 160 IQ, and even a fairly high mathematical acumen, all I can say is, Go with God. Just to be clear, I have none of the above qualifications, which probably explains my frustrations. While it’s always a good idea to try and stretch oneself from time to time, probably a m ...more
Indispensabile come supporto alla lettura del mostro... un piccolo neo: GR companion si limita a fornire dettagli sulle fonti e sugli eterogenei riferimenti extratestuali di Pynchon, mancando completamente ogni spunto esegetico per penetrare -anche solo superficialmente- alcuni dei misteriosi strati semantici del testo... Dommage (ovvero /que sorte!/), la soma dell'interpretazione rimane interamente sulle spalle del lettore.
míol mór
Edited here:
"A Companion's Companion:
Illustrated Additions and Corrections to Steven Weisenburger���s
A Gravity���s Rainbow Companion"

by Donald F. Larsson
Dept. of English, Minnesota State University, Mankato

See also:
Jul 11, 2008 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For anyone wanting to enjoy Thomas Pynchon's masterpiece, GRavity's Rainbow, you may need a map to understand the great number of obscure references to many topics: the Brothers Grimm, rocket technology, occultism, war profiteering, plastics, etc. I have read GR three times and can attest to the usefulness of this book. It will be a key to one of the most wondrous reading experiences available.
Jason McKinney
Jun 18, 2012 Jason McKinney rated it it was amazing
Essential to take along on your trip through "The Zone". To paraphrase American Express, "If reading Gravity's Rainbow, don't leave home without it." It's a pain in the ass to lug both books around, but you'll be glad you did.
Sep 30, 2009 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read Gravity's Rainbow twice now - once without this guide, and once with. The first time was a mind rape, the second was actually fun. If you ever plan on taking the journey, consider this your seat belt, and for the love of a nonexistent God, please use it.
Apr 30, 2012 Ingo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Clearly written before the times of the internet ...

I lost all faith here:

V71.11, B81.35: ,,,,, "tyrosine" (an unknown and doubtless fictional substance...) ...

How much can one trust the rest of the book ... :-)
Jan 01, 2015 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got a lot out of this book, while reading GR for the second time. I found the synopses to be the weak link. For all the detailed minutiae in the line analysis, there could have been a more elaborate section summary, as well as a character map.
Feb 01, 2011 Djll rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pynchon
I found it useful. Skipped around through it after having gone thru GR a good half-dozen or more times.

Reading through it now, without GR to refer to. An interesting way to read a novel, through its references. It's a hell of a lot of scholarly work.
Mike Talley Jr
Oct 15, 2009 Mike Talley Jr rated it really liked it
A great companion to have while reading the text of GR. You learn so much more and gain alot with this handy book. It made reading GR actually fun :)
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Steven Weisenburger works in American literary and cultural history, especially the cultural history of race, from 1800 forward. His research and teaching interests include United States history and fictions, narrative theory, African American literature, and the cultural history of racism and white supremacy in the United States, but he has also published and taught extensively on contemporary fi ...more
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