Ian Heidin[+]Fisch's Reviews > Gravity's Rainbow

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Jun 01, 12

bookshelves: exert-yourself, read-2012, reviews, reviews-5-stars, pynchon
Read from May 08 to 26, 2012


"A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now."


In the beginning was the earth, and above the earth was the sky.

The earth consisted of land and water. The sky consisted of air, the moon, the sun and the stars in the heavens.

The land consisted of rock. Water was everywhere, but still precious.

The sky was light by day and dark by night. By day, the light came from the sun and sometimes the moon. At night, a lesser light came from the stars and the moon.

On the land, things were still, but then they began to change.

The sun made rock hot by day and the night made it cold, and the rock became stone, and the stone soon became soil.

The Creation of Life

In time, the soil and the water came together with the air and the sunlight to form life.

The life was green and did cling to the soil.

The air and the heavens were the realm of gravity.

Everything on earth was made to fall and to disperse and to dissipate as time goes by.

To rise was to challenge the laws of nature. Nothing could rise, except one thing, invisibly, vapors.

Water mixed with the heat of the sun and became a vapor, and the vapor ascended to the sky and became clouds. At night and sometimes by day, the clouds became rain, and the rain fell and spilled water onto the earth.

Some water remained on the land in rivers and streams and lakes. Other water, sliding and falling and dropping across the land, found its way to the oceans.

The Life of Fruit

In time, life conspired to defy gravity little by little.

Life combined with the soil and the water and the air and the light to make trees and shrubs (some bearing bananas or mangoes or pawpaws), and these plants reached skyward to the sun.

But these plants could not be severed from the soil, because their roots sought nourishment there. Any plant severed from the soil would fall to the earth, obedient to gravity.

In time, many plants were severed from the earth and covered by soil and water and became hard and part of the rock. Beneath the surface of the earth, dead plants formed coal, and sometimes oil and gas.

The Origin of Man

After much time, other forms of life were born, including animals that did grow heads and arms and legs and tails and eat the plants.

Some animals became humans, some male, some female, all of whom wished to walk on two legs and become higher than other animals and plants.

Men were not always bigger and stronger than other animals and so sought refuge in holes in the ground and caves.

The caves were darker than night and men grew frightened of the dark, not knowing what was out there, until they discovered fire, which they used for light and heat.

Sometimes, men used fire to warm the flesh of other beasts and they grew stronger.

Life was good, and men tended to live within and surrounded by nature as one.

Man on the Move

Men began to move across the earth in search of food and learned how to construct homes of rock and stone and bricks made of soil and water.

Their homes grew taller than trees and animals and began to defy gravity.

Then men learned how to make machines that could move across the land and water at speeds faster than men or horses could walk or run.

And they consumed coal and oil and gas, so that they were not dependent on horse power.

Man Turns the Power Switch On

Men learned how to make electricity and switches that would turn the power on and off.

Men made glass bulbs that turned darkness into light.

Men had finally become enlightened.

Men looked at the sky for beauty and meaning and portents of the future.

They wondered what lived in the heavens and whether they had been created by gods.

They made drawings and pictures of what surrounded them. One day they would make photographs and moving pictures and shiny silver discs.

Men observed what occurred in nature and, over a great duration, started to learn about cause and effect.

Man Dominates Himself

Then men created gods in their own image.

They invented religions and superstitions and sometimes it was difficult to tell them apart, men and their gods, religions and superstitions.

Men used their religions to explain what they could and couldn’t do.

Then they created churches and holy men and scriptures to dictate to them what they must and must not do, and the holy men and their gods punished them if they did not do what they must do, or did what they must not do.

Man Discovers Matters of Life and Death

Men observed decay and destruction and death around them, and wondered whether they too would die one day.

Men didn’t like this prospect and decided that they alone amongst the plants and animals had a soul and, after death, would live in eternity.

Except that, if they disobeyed the commandments of their holy men and gods and scriptures, they would be punished by eternal damnation and made to live in hell. Which was not meant to be a good thing.

Some scientists conducted experiments and tests on dogs and other animals and learned how they were governed by stimulus and response.

Men wondered whether their souls and their capacity for reason elevated them above the animals.

They did not recognise that, even with their gods, men would do evil things to each other that animals would never do.

Man Engages in Some Empire State Building

Men built their homes in cities and formed nations. They conquered other cities and nations and established empires.

They established workforces and armies.

They organised men and their possessions into rows and columns, and they made men and women wear uniforms, so that they might look and think and do alike.

They developed systems to punish those who would dissent and they used force to hold their empires together.

They looked down upon any man or woman who would not conform or wear a uniform.

Those that they did not incarcerate or hang or inject with life-sapping solutions or electricity, they cast off into the wilderness, where they would disperse or die of thirst.

We Men are Scientists

So men acquired knowledge and wisdom, and accumulated science and technology beyond the wildest dreams of their predecessors.

They converted their knowledge and wisdom into zeroes and ones, so that they might store them on silver discs.

Some men wondered whether there was more to life than zeroes and ones, and was there anything beyond zero or between zero and one, and they were scorned.

Man Defies Gravity

Slowly, man’s dreams became more ambitious.

Some men dreamed about how they might fly like a bird, and one day men learned how to make flying machines.

Men did not always live happily with other men, and they made tools and machines that would maim and kill their enemies.

Men used their aeroplanes to drop bombs on other men, and the planes and the bombs grew bigger, and the maiming and the killing grew more widespread and efficient.

At the same time, men learned how to make bigger and taller buildings that reached higher and appeared to touch the sky.

Many men lived and worked in these skyscrapers.

In Case of War

Then there were two wars between many nations of the world.

In the first war, many men died in trenches dug into the soil of their farms.

In the second war, it was not necessary to get into a trench to die. Many people died in their homes and their buildings. It was easier to kill more quickly in the cities that housed large numbers of people.

Men made new bombs that were meant to end the wars, but when they continued, men invented rockets that could maim and kill even greater numbers of people.

Some rockets made a sound that warned people that they were coming.

If you heard the sound, you might be able to escape to safety.

When they did not end the war, scientists invented more and better ways to kill more and better people. They built rockets that made no noise and could kill you before you heard them coming.

They were the perfect machinery of death, because nowhere was safe and you could not escape them.

These rockets defied both gravity and the imagination.

While nobody had been looking or thinking about it, man’s buildings and vehicles and aeroplanes and rockets and bombs had made the earth dark again.

A Voice in the Wilderness

Well, maybe not nobody. A man called Slothrop had been watching.

Every time a rocket was launched, Slothrop was blessed with a hard-on, an erection.

He would look at the rockets and he would be turned off.

At the same time, he would look at the rockets and he would be turned on.

Slothrop’s hard on was a hard one for the scientists to explain.

What the Fuck?

Somewhere in Europe, scientists were erecting buildings, platforms, rockets that could bring death to people like Slothrop.

Slothrop suspected that the best use of an erection was not to build an edifice, but to fill an orifice.

Slothrop wondered, why had men become obsessed by Death, when they should have been preoccupied with Life?

Surely, there is no life without sex, no progress without congress, no creation without procreation?

“Make love, fuck the war.”

“Fuck war, fuck each other.”

How do you convince everybody else that this is the solution?

“Fucked if I know,” sez Slothrop.

The Prophet Debunked

Slothrop is cast out of the mainstream and sets out across Europe in pursuit of love, sex, and rockets (and those who would launch any one or more of them at him).

Still, even equipped with his hard on, Slothrop prefers bananas to buildings and rockets, he is bent but never straight.

He is the ultimate non-conformist, hedonist and sybarite, who gives pleasure to himself and to many women, Katje, Margherita, Bianca, three of the foremost amongst them.

Slothrop’s skepticism and excess threaten the System, Religion and Culture. He is an anarchist Counter-Force to Binary Code, Mono-theism, Uniformity and Over-the-Counter Culture.

He is the unwitting counter-cultural Prophet who threatens the methodical, ordered and conformist backbone of Mainstream Society.

He is a spanner in the works. He is a virus that must be eliminated. Like Trotsky, he is a Prophet that must be netted.

They, the powers that be, with their uniforms and their weapons and their switches, chase Slothrop through Europe, but he remains free.


In time, people came to doubt whether Slothrop ever actually existed at all.

Some would ask, “Slothrop? What kind of name for a prophet is that?”

Still They did not stop their pursuit, even when They were certain that he must be dead. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

If you can’t see him or hear him, deprive him of oxygen. Wipe out his disciples. Stifle his message. Prevent it from reaching any children. If the medium is the message, remove his medium. That way the prophet and his prophecy will cease to exist.

Revelations? What Revelations?

Was Slothrop a fabrication? A ghost in the machine? A shadow in the light of day? A figment of someone’s imagination? A fiction? Just a character in a novel? Just a story in a holy book?

As Slothrop would say, “I’m fucked if I know.”

Outside the novel, the world continues as before, only more so. Buildings reach higher. Rockets and aeroplanes fly further. Wars drone on. Civilians die. Men line up in rows and columns and uniforms. Power perpetuates itself eternally. Evil perpetrates itself on people via people. Darkness masquerades as light.

The sky is silent. We can no longer hear the screaming. It’s all theatre, even within our homes.

Group Read

I re-read this as part of a group read started by Stephen M:


Reading Notes

I kept my reading notes in My Writings:


A Letter from Vlad the Impaler of Butterflies Dated April, 1973

Dear Tom,

Vera and I very much appreciated your gift of a signed first edition of your novel.

It actually caused a little friction in the Nabokov household.

I don't mean to be ungrateful or vulgar, but we both wished you had given us one copy each. (I guess we could purchase one, but we were too keen to read it.)

Naturally, I started it first, immediately it arrived, but quickly found I couldn't put it down.

The reason being that, every time I did, Vera picked it up and commenced reading.

Initially, our respective lepidopteran bookmarks were quite far apart, but when she passed my place, she asserted her right to be the dominant reader, and I had to wait until she had devoured the entire offering, which she did by the time of Maundy Thursday.

Fortunately, this left me Easter to finish it, so we were able to compare notes by Easter Monday, appropriately with a sense of renewed faith in literature.

I am convinced "Gravity's Rainbow" is one of the finest works of modern fiction.

It is very much an artistic and logical extension of "V.", which as you know we also enjoyed greatly.

If your first novel was a pursuit of "V", then "Gravity's Rainbow" is a pursuit of V, too.

In fact, it is a pursuit of both V1 and V2.

Vera was bold enough to suggest that V1 and V2 might connote Vlad and Vera, though we were unable to reach consensus on who might be noisy and who might be silent.

We did, however, hypothesise that Slothrop could be a reversal of Humbert.

To put it bluntly (these are Vera's words, not mine), Humbert, European in origin, fucks his way around the New World, more or less.

Slothrop, on the other hand, American to his bootstraps, fucks his way around the Old World.

I admire the way you, even more so than Slothrop, carried off Bianca.

It is some of the most delicious erotic writing I have read.

Bianca echoes Dolores nicely.

Even the sound of her name...Bi-an-ca.

The way it rolls off your tongue, it reminds me of, forgive me for citing myself, "Lo-lee-ta".

It's also close enough to the German acronym B.N.K. (which even a faint-hearted German reader or patient would appreciate stands for the "Bundesverband Niedergelassener Kardiologen", cross my heart and hope not to die).

Vera was the first to detect how you reversed the reader's response to this relationship.

Humbert knew damned well how old Lolita was. It was crucial to his enterprise.

On the other hand, Slothrop "believed" Bianca was a minor of barely 11 or 12, but when you work through the arithmetic of your puzzle, you realise that in reality (and therefore fiction) she was 16 (or was it 17?) and consequently of age.

So, what Slothrop did was legitimate, but what the reader (who was as yet unaware of this detail) did was not.

In "Lolita", I allowed readers to believe they were jurors with a legitimate interest in the proceedings, whereas in "Gravity's Rainbow" they are complicit in a crime that the protagonist did not actually commit.

The reader's voyeurism comes at a cost, at least metaphorically.

Only time will tell whether America and the world is ready to be confronted with their culpability.

Even if they are not, I hope your novel receives the acclaim it deserves.

So, well done, Tom, Richard would have been proud.

I would have been proud to call you my pupil, too (Pupil 2?), if only you had enrolled in one of my classes.

Perhaps you learned more and better from my example?

In the hope that you might continue to do so, I have asked my Publisher to send you a copy of my "Strong Opinions".

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed expressing them.

Yours, with all my admiration,


Slothropod De-Feets Cephalopod, Dutch Girl Almost Pops Her Clogs

Slothrop, octopus
And Katje Borgesius
We were meant to meet.

The Thoughts of An Erotic Clausewitz

Fuck Death, Fuck Rockets,
Says Erotic Clausewitz,
Make Love, Fuck the War.

Jim Carroll Watches the Earth Recede

How can I propel
My missile 'gainst the pull of
Wicked Gravity?

Slothrop's Dewy Glans

Slothrop's cock, un-cropped
Slots into sweet spot, then, spent,
Flops soft in wet spot.

Summit Meeting

Who knows what worldly wisdom I might find
When I discover myself at the peak,
Gravity-defiant, all nickels spent,
Trying to work out what it could have meant,
And you're already there, reposed, asleep,
Your trousers down and crimson phallus bent,
And scattered on the snow are streaks
Of your rocket-powered ejaculate
That have fallen moist, arc-like to the earth,
Still rainbow-coloured and immaculate.

So I read 200 sullen words worth
Of the dry wit and onanistic mirth
That appeal so much to the daisy chain
Of acolytes standing at your rear.
As one who's usually come before,
They call you a poet and a seer.
It's sad we only see your back side,
Though we're the ones forever left behind
By all your avant garde sorcery and
The flaccid disquisitions of your mind.


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Babe You Turn Me On

60 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Gravity's Rainbow.
sign in »

Reading Progress

05/09/2012 page 34
4.0% "I don't remember all of these bananas."
05/20/2012 page 486
63.0% 4 comments
05/22/2012 page 590
76.0% 2 comments
05/24/2012 page 600
77.0% "I'm really getting my rockets off on this book."
show 7 hidden updates…

Comments (showing 1-50 of 60) (60 new)

message 1: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Awaiting your completed review. I'll keep the 'like' for now as a formality. "P

message 2: by Ian (last edited May 13, 2012 01:40AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Traveller wrote: "Awaiting your completed review. I'll keep the 'like' for now as a formality. "P"

Anything else would be premature. Besides, being the gentleman that I am, I would withdraw if you didn't like it ;)

message 3: by Traveller (last edited May 13, 2012 07:24AM) (new) - added it

Traveller Oh, LOL, are we continuing with that here? Well, in that case.. er..
I shall wait until you have propelled all
your missiles 'gainst the pull of
Wicked Gravity.

I'm a bit jealous of that book club of yours btw...

Oh well, nevermind, I can't even keep up with my other groups...

message 4: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Moonbutterfly wrote: "I had to bail on Stephen's group since I'm so far behind with The Recognitions. So you guys can go first. Looking forward to your reivew."

I find you've got to be obsessive about finishing some of these larger books. I don't know whether it's worse to let them take over your life for an intense fortnight or a month, or to let them take over your life for longer, while you read ten pages a night and are constantly frustrated.

message 5: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch I' glad you're enjoying it. I really enjoyed his mind at work. I'd like to re-read it as well, but not in the foreseeable future.

Stephen M Ian, you are just blowing us away with your prolific reading and reviewing. I can't wait to see your thoughts on this one!

message 7: by Gail (new)

Gail Moonbutterfly wrote: "This is sad. I now have an Ian TBR list. :)"

Yes yes yes!!!! Where is the like button for comments? :)

message 8: by Gail (last edited May 29, 2012 02:44PM) (new)

Gail Brilliant review as always Ian! Since I read Lolita, I feel I should read this as well. Not just now though, I am currently dog paddling my way through Ulysses. I am looking forward to reading your notes on that so I have some idea of what I am missing!

message 9: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Thanks, MBF/Gail, while your most recent review is always your favourite, I like this one the most because it is both sacred and profane.

message 10: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch You can probably tell I'm listening to Leonard Cohen on my walk.

message 11: by Traveller (last edited May 30, 2012 07:19AM) (new) - added it

Traveller Oh. my. goodness.
This is like reading a book within a book within... Ian, I'm not going to say it again (ok, I might say this again) but I hate that you're spending so much talent and effort on Goodreads alone! (..and I've said this before)

Not that I don't appreciate the effort, and the talent, but that's the point - it's needs something like it's own blog in addition to Goodreads. ..and that goes for your work on The Recognitions, and other reviews/notes/writings of yours that I might have missed before I befriended you, as well.

message 12: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Thanks, Trav, but honestly I'm happy to write for 16 likes. It's more than I ever got by blogging.

message 13: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Ian wrote: "Thanks, Trav, but honestly I'm happy to write for 16 likes. It's more than I ever got by blogging."

Well, you hang on to your writings, you never know when they might come in handy! :)

message 14: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller PS. I can't decide whether to tackle this or The Recognitions first. Is this quicker to get through at least ? I want to tackle the quickest one to get through first, I guess.. :P

message 15: by Bennet (new) - added it

Bennet I believe I am speaking for all 54-year-old women when I say gravity's a bitch. Which perhaps somewhat explains my persistent aversion to reading this book, despite the best of intentions. Your review, however, is delightful. I can imagine fascinated web scholars in the thick of virtual anthropology uncovering your online archives and marveling:

Was Ian Graye a fabrication? A ghost in the machine? A shadow in the light of day? A figment of someone’s imagination? A fiction? Just a character in a novel? Just a story in a holy book?

Definitely a fucking genius.

message 16: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Oh, wait, it's going to be this - I see it's coming up for a June group read of mine.

message 17: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Bennet wrote: "Was Ian Graye a fabrication?"

Ian Graye does not exist. He is the fabrication of someone who used to be an interesting dinner party guest in the 80's and now flirts with OPW's (other people's wives) at netball and online.

message 18: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Bennet wrote: "I believe I am speaking for all 54-year-old women when I say gravity's a bitch. "

I'd still love to hang out with you, JB.

message 19: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Traveller wrote: "PS. I can't decide whether to tackle this or The Recognitions first."


Steve My plan is to finish the book first, then use your review to help me understand it. I was going to say that GR would be the main course, and this would be the dessert. But as meaty as your reviews tend to be, I'm thinking it's more like Pynchon's as Primi and yours as Secondi at a fine Italian restaurant.

message 21: by Ian (last edited Jun 01, 2012 03:11PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Thanks, Steve, you're very generous.

I wrote this at a time when I was feeling self-conscious and embarrassed by the length of some of the reviews I've done of the books on my "exert yourself" shelf.

I like to wrestle with the ideas and the meaning of these books, and it's reassuring to know that other people like to as well.

It would be nice to know that the future consists of more than civilisation as we tweet it.

Somehow (I forget how), I hit upon the idea of writing this review as an allegory.

Superficially, there might be less meat in it than otherwise might have been the case. It depends on how much you're prepared to read into an allegory, which in my case is usually a lot.

There's still a lot of meat left over to be cooked by other chefs, so that's one good outcome of my choice.

It's too flattering to call it Secondi next to Pynchon.

What about Insalata or Minestra or Zuppa?

I like the fact that Zuppa is a type of broth (brothrop?).

Even more whimsical or fancy are sfizi. I like the sound of that!

So, despite all the exertion, it's no more than a little sfizio!

Sfizio therapy. Yum!

message 22: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller The prob is that I need to read the book first to appreciate the review fully.

Hey I still owe you a few knicknacks Ian! I'll contact you regarding our exchange.

message 23: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch You'd better hurry up. I've already booked the apartment.

message 24: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Wait, um.. I thought you were going to send me semi-naked pics of yourself by mail, posing with your potted plants, and er..(have i been reading too many of your erotica reviews)? ..and then I was going to mail you some 20th century mannequins..

Ian wrote: "Sea shells would be fine. Also, trinkets, souvenir spoons, blankets, little square pillows, fat candles, potpourri, dried figs, cointreau, ornate bird cages, freshly ironed doona covers, early 20th century mannequins, berets, lavender, slippers, vanilla beans, silk dressing gowns, dragon motif shirts, white chocolate, fresh rosemary, the time to enjoy it all, ...

Not sure what doona covers are. Is it something like this? http://www.globaltextiles.com/html/im...

..and 20th century mannequins? description

Like these?

message 25: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Ornate bird cage then?

[image error]

message 26: by Ian (last edited Jun 01, 2012 06:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Here are some more ideas:


Katje, Margherita, Bianca (Sirendeluxe)


Self Disguised as Potted Plant (Robert Mapplethrop)


I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (Spoonfed)


Mannequin with a Bird Cage Over Her Head (Man Graye)


Advertisements for My Shelf (Ian Graye)


Pond Lily Scarf, Anthropologie (Anslothropologie?)

Because I like the first image so much, here are links to the source and the artist's site:



Surely, one of these images could also suffice as a semi-naked pic of me in my current state.

message 27: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch You might know a doona cover as a quilt cover?

message 28: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Ian wrote: "You might know a doona cover as a quilt cover?"

Ah, so I was almost right. I thought I'd be my meanie self and spam you with kitch, though.

Your images are far too classy except for the "Mannequin with a Bird Cage Over Her Head " That one is creepy beyond creepy.

message 29: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Traveller wrote: "That one is creepy beyond creepy."

She was kidnapped from the windows of the Grands Magasins.

Jenn(ifer) you're awesome. this was awesome!
(hi Ian)

message 31: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch (Jenn)ifer wrote: "you're awesome. this was awesome!
(hi Ian)"

Hi, (Jenn), why thank you, U2 are awesome and nothing compares 2 U.

Would you mind doing me a little favour, because I know you love music, would you listen to the soundtrack and see how much it relates to GR.

Also, listen to it and think of me ;)

Jenn(ifer) ha ha! it's a great match!

message 34: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie Men, this, man that. I wonder if I can join the club. It needs a crazier song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcJGal...

message 35: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch B0nnie wrote: "Men, this, man that. I wonder if I can join the club.

Sorry, Bonnie, it's males only ;) I'm normally quite pedantic about gender language, but I got into a quasi-Biblical tone and couldn't help myself (though I did mention man as including both male and female at one point). I hope you will forgive me.

I'm impressed by your familiarity with the Nickster. Nocturama, hey?

message 36: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie Man, I'm not all that careful myself. Being in the gender and all. I do love Nick Cave and his bad seeds. Nocturama, hey yeah - I went through that stage around 2005 - still listen to it now and then.

Rayroy All I have left to read by Thomas Pynchon is Against the Day, I hope he has at least one more book left in him, one that takes place during the last 25 years would be interesting

Christine Palau You kill me, Ian. I laughed; I cried; I am culpable.

message 39: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch You are writing?

Stephen M Amazing as always Ian.

Matthew I am so culpable Ian. You do a great job at explaining how the reader has to come to terms with their own actions with reading a novel, and this one in particular. It's one of the reasons why reading Edward Said after reading Gravity's Rainbow kind of hurt my brain, because Said is all about the culpability of the reader.

message 42: by Ian (last edited Oct 16, 2012 04:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Thanks, Matthew. I don't want to come across as too harsh on the reader. After all, I am one.

When I used the word "culpability" in my review, I was writing as Nabokov about their shared experience of almost manipulating readers.

Both authors invite readers into a complete world for the purposes of play. If we do our bit right, we are not passive, we are active players, and that, I think, is our responsibility.

A book isn't deposited on this earth as a static 2001-style monolith. It's a toy that is designed to be played with. Like a child, it might take us a while to work out the right way to play with it.

We can leave the toy in the toybox or on the shelf, but if we do our duty as a reader, we bring it alive a second time by our play and our reaction.

The type of culpability I was talking about is on the very fringe of the reader's reading and moral experience.

However, it's part of the reason that literature is a really important part of the experience of thinking about morality and why I think there should be minimal censorship of literature.

I've typed this while icing a swollen knee, so apologies if it doesn't make sense or address the implications in your post.

If it doesn't, I'd love you to elaborate, because I really enjoyed your review and thinking about the issues you raised.

Matthew I elaborate somewhat in the longer essay on Gravity's Rainbow (which you can find in my writing folder and please do, I would like to know if the essay is going in any kind of direction and need some feedback).

I believe I understand what you mean by culpability though. Although I use the idea displacement as an example more so, culpability is also important. We are the ones witness to the Queen of the Night, and every other horror on display, and we are just as guilty as anyone. But Pynchon's multiple styles make us also more aware of it I felt during my reading
and perhaps because of that culpability is more easily seen?

When I speak of displacement, I speak of political displacement, which I use Edward Said to explain. In the longer essay I also try to show how Pynchon's novel is very much concerned about multiple displacements caused by war/society that basically calls into question what it means to be American.

Books outside their covers certainly have weird lives of their own in our heads. And when different books intersect and new ideas synthesize, watch out! I would have finished the damn review much sooner had I not picked up The Said Reader. Literature is more important to me now then at any other point in my life.

Said is not an easy read, but I honestly feel that it greatly informed my reading of Gravity's Rainbow. I highly recommend.

Hope the knee is feeling better. I need to pause the discussion for real life to intercede but am enjoying the conversation.

message 44: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch The purported letter from Nabokov to Pynchon in my review is a work of fiction.

It is a bogus letter, but I wanted to make the point that there was a resemblance between some aspects of the writing of Nabokov and Pynchon in Gravity's Rainbow.

message 45: by Ian (last edited Feb 24, 2013 05:58PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Thanks, J. I'm a bit rusty on the detail, but I think that when I researched the back story for the bogus letter, I learned that Pynchon had sat in on some Nabokov lectures, without being formally enrolled. Hence, my comment "I would have been proud to call you my pupil, too (Pupil 2?), if only you had enrolled in one of my classes."

s.penkevich Ian wrote: "Thanks, J. I'm a bit rusty on the detail, but I think that when I researched the back story for the bogus letter, I learned that Pynchon had sat in on some Nabokov lectures, without being formally ..."

I remember reading somewhere that Nabokov's wife recalled Pynchon's unique style and handwriting from when she would help grade papers for her husband, which is funny then that he would turn in work without actually getting credit for it.

message 47: by Ian (last edited Feb 25, 2013 02:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch s.penkevich wrote: "I remember reading somewhere that Nabokov's wife recalled Pynchon's unique style and handwriting from when she would help grade papers for her husband, which is funny then that he would turn in work without actually getting credit for it."

That was here, at least:


"Pynchon also reportedly attended lectures given by Vladimir Nabokov, who then taught literature at Cornell. While Nabokov later said that he had no memory of Pynchon (although Nabokov's wife, Vera, who graded her husband's class papers, commented that she remembered his distinctive handwriting; his later handwriting appears unexceptional), other teachers at Cornell, like the novelist James McConkey, recall him as being a gifted and exceptional student."

I read it at the time I wrote the letter, but can't recall whether I found other information. It's possible somebody looked up Pynchon's enrolment details at Cornell. It could be apocryphal, too.

s.penkevich We need to make a Where's Waldo parody of 'Where's Pynchon', with scenes of busy New York streets and depictions of senes from his book. The last page could be a Nabokov classroom where he may or may not even be in the image.

message 49: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch s.penkevich wrote: "We need to make a Where's Waldo parody of 'Where's Pynchon', with scenes of busy New York streets and depictions of senes from his book. The last page could be a Nabokov classroom where he may or m..."

You could review The Crying of Lot 49 while you're at it.

s.penkevich Eh, read that for a class pre-Goodreads, so I'll have to re-read it first. I've been meaning to, I loved that book and so much happens in the last dozen pages to write about!

« previous 1
back to top