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Gravity's Rainbow

by Thomas Pynchon

I have read Gravity's Rainbow many times; and yet I still do not fully understand it. Currently (since the middle of 1999) I am participating in a group read (GRGR) over the internet, via the Thomas Pynchon mailing list server. If you're interested in joining the list, browse over to W.A.S.T.E. for info. And look in the list archive for GRGR messages; you will find much of interest.

Something I want to say about GR: the first several times I read it, I would sometimes be reading along and realize that I had lost track of what was going on. In such situations I would just continue reading, intoxicated by the beauty of the language, and generally within a page or two I would get back on track. This time through I have finally learned to go back when I realize I am lost, and pick up from terra cognita. This strategy is serving me well in terms of understanding the thing.

I must admit, though, that in my most recent reading of it (the only time I got through to the end), I spent almost the entire last 200 pages in that intoxicated non-understanding state, and never did pick back up the thread. I can only hope this time will be different... The GRGR should help a lot; I am hoping we do not lose steam.

How I read the book

It took me 10 years and at least 5 attempts to read GR in full. Every couple of years I would pick the book up from my "to read" shelf and plunge into it; each time I would get about 100 to 200 pages further along than I had previously. The book gets difficult very quickly, because you are expected when reading it to keep juggling in your mind many different plots and subplots -- when the book is at its simplest there are about 5 separate plots, each involving its own characters; interplot relationships are revealed very sparingly where they exist, and mostly left up to the reader's imagination.

The solution that worked for me is to just put the book down when it gets too confusing; wait a year and start over from the beginning. Through repetition you begin to know by heart the first chapters of the book -- this makes it much easier to get the permutations and interconnections later on, plus you start getting the jokes (which are really the heart of Gravity's Rainbow).

So this time through I'm hoping I'll finally start understanding some of the bizarrery that makes up Part 4, "The Counterforce". (Right now I only have an inadvertent hint to go on.)

GRGR sections 18-19

I am hosting sections 18 - 19 of the Gravity's Rainbow Group Read; today, December 15, 1999, I am starting to compose my notes for the section.

March 31, 2000

I have been thinking a lot, today and yesterday, about Mondaugen's Law.