Monday, October 05, 2009

Gravity's Rainbow Read-Along: Week 3 (p 141-210)

Woohoo, whippin' right through here--approaching 1/3 finished!

Thoughts/feelings/impressions welcome!


Linda said...

I'm still back in the second installment, reading slow because of all the fabu prose. And I just don't get some details, like how certain people are related to each other - or not. But I am finding Pynchon slowly reveals his ah-ha's.

I love this book. The names of the characters, their dialogues, the research. As a number cruncher, I totally dig the stats and Roger Mexico, all the science. His details are superb and spot-on.

I douobt I'll catch up with the rest of you. I find after 10-15 pages I need to rest, to breathe; the stuff's so heavy, so evocative I feel my brain will explode.

Peace, Linda

moonrat said...

That's all right, Linda! My impulse is to read too quickly, as though it's straight narrative, and then kind of realize belatedly I haven't digested very well.

But I had heard--and can now officially say--that the reading gets magically easier/more narrative after page 200. I've found the last pieces flying by.

But to celebrate the 2nd chunk, which I never got around to doing last week, I wanted to include my favorite quote:

"Advent blows from the sea, which at sunset tonight shone green and smooth as iron-rich glass: blows daily upon us, all the sky above pregnant with saints and slender herald's trumpets. Another year of wedding dresses abandoned in the heart of winter, never called for, hanging in quiet satin ranks now, their white-cumppled veils begun to yellow, rippling slightly only at your passing, spectator..."

(p 134 in the new Penguin edition)

The connection of milestones and failed milestones during wartime really struck me strongly. For me, it's his most abiding theme: the random (statistically unpredictable) and meaningless destruction of war, and the panic/pall/boredom of everyday life under constant threat.

John said...

I agree with the sentiment about the narrative getting easier to follow past page 200. Well, in my edition, past page 180. The second section, at the Casino, is really funny and quickly moves from Slothrop's paranoia into what he believes is an escape. There's a lot less to keep track of (well, since this is Pynchon, there is still plenty going on) and the structure seems to take on a more linear structure. We still jump over to see what other characters are doing, but it is at least at the same time in the narrative. I never thought I'd say this, but this section is actually fun.

Lisa said...

I've been trying to find a way to express how I feel about reading this book and it's not easy. The closest I can come is skiing.

The first time or two you ski, it sucks. It's humiliating, painful and it's zero fun. You look around at all of the graceful people zipping past and enjoying themselves and you wonder how it can be so hard for you.

I was never an awesome skier. I learned too late in life (I think I was 27), but I do live in Colorado and for several years I always had season passes and got in about 30 days a year -- which is quite a bit.

I was decent enough and I loved it.

I could ski black diamonds and double black diamonds, but when I skied them, it was rarely fun. I could do it, but I had to concentrate so hard on technique and what was coming next that it was rarely fun for me.

Gravity's Rainbow feels like that. I'm at the double black diamond place. I am following the narrative and I stop frequently to admire chunks of brilliant prose. I refer back to The Gravity's Rainbow Companion and I appreciate all of the obscure references: the rocket science, the chemistry, the mystical bits of trivia about Kaballah and astrology. I admire the fidelity to time, all the way down to weather or not the weather in London on a particular day was indeed cold and rainy (apparently, Pynchon referenced newspapers constantly and these details are, in fact, accurate).

I am admiring parts and appreciating lots and because my ego won't allow me to stop reading something that so many people think so highly of, I will read it until I'm finished. It is, though, quite like reality television or televised sporting events to me. I know that millions of people love it (well, probably not millions in the case of Gravity's Rainbow), and I try to see what they see in it, but it escapes me.

I don't hate it, but I don't love it either. It's made me wonder what the trade-off is between level of difficulty and some modicum of enjoyment.

Keep your fingers crossed -- I'm trying to make it all the way down the mountain without a head injury.

moonrat said...

Lisa, I love your comment.

Lydia Sharp said...

Sorry I missed out on the discussion here yesterday. Awesome comments. :)

I'm still a little behind in the reading, and will probably be a full week behind by next Monday since I'll be out of town the rest of this week. *sigh*

Anyway...I'm really getting a good feel for the story and the characters now. I think I've gotten used to the style of writing enough that I can read much faster than I was at first, and still understand the flow of things. This past Saturday, I read about thirty pages in one sitting. The first week, it had taken me three days to read that same amount.

I agree with moonrat's statement here: For me, it's his most abiding theme: the random (statistically unpredictable) and meaningless destruction of war, and the panic/pall/boredom of everyday life under constant threat.
I'm getting that same feeling. I have notes all over the margins in my copy now, and most of the "ah ha!" comments about the theme have something to do with death, predictability, UNpredictability, and how basic human nature/emotion is all the same no matter what the circumstance or time period.

I've found that Pynchon also has a good sense of humor, and that's important to me in any novel. If you can't, as a reader, laugh a few times, even when soaking up subject matter as serious as this is, then the author really doesn't understand what good literature is made of. Just my thoughts. ;)

moonrat said...

never too late, Lydia! (I, for one, am ALWAYS here!)

Jane Steen said...

I alternate between feeling bogged down, overwhelmed and confused, and feeling that I'm finally getting a handle on the story. Figuring out where Slothrop's reality starts and ends can distract me sometimes.

The Brigadier Pudding episode REALLY grossed me out, and I've stopped reading books (and authors, notably Stephen King, altogether) for less than that, but I was able to push that into a war-as-an-obscenity/war-as-a-stimulant analytical space in my mind and keep going.

I am not using a companion or any kind of notes, because I wanted to approach the novel as a reading experience rather than as a study opportunity, but I can see how they might help. It's a book that really deserves a second reading.