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Thomas Pynchon: Gravity’s Rainbow

This novel is impossible to summarise (though many have tried) and that, indeed, is the beauty of it. Many people have claimed that it is quite unreadable. Others have hailed it as one of the greatest novels of the second half of the twentieth century. For what it is worth, I am in the latter camp but I am still not going to either summarise it or explain it, neither of which, I believe, are really possible. The book, set towards the end of 1944, has over four hundred characters, many of whom may or may not exist (in the context of the book). The main one, if we have to pick one, is Tyrone Slothrop, a lieutenant in the US army. He has a map on the wall of his office, to show the places where he slept with various women. By an extraordinary coincidence, this map correlates with the places where the V-2 rockets have fallen. Moreover, as a rocket approaches, Slothrop has an erection. Much of the book is spent in finding out what is the causal link between these events. Death culture, the nature of evil, the nature of time, paranoia, conspiracies on a massive scale, entropy, numerology and who knows what else permeate this novel in a way that leaves you both lost but exhilarated and amazed at how one man can produce such a complex world. This is one of those novels that you need to read several times and you will won’t understand but it will be worth while.

Publishing history

First published 1973 by Viking