Synopses & Reviews
Winner of the 1973 National Book Award, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW is a postmodern epic, a work as exhaustively significant to the second half of the twentieth century as Joyce's Ulysses was to the first. Its complex and richly layered narrative begins a few months after the German's secret V-2 rocket bombs start falling on London. British intelligence discovers that a map of the city pinpointing the sexual conquests of one Lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop, U.S. Army, corresponds identically to a map showing the V-2 impact sites. The implications of this discovery will launch Slothrop on an amazing journey across war-torn Europe, fleeing an international cabal of military-industrial superpowers, in search of the mysterious Rocket 00000.
The sprawling, encyclopedic narrative of Gravity's Rainbow -- with its countless subsidiary plots, more than 400 characters, shifting literary styles, and allusions ranging from classical music theory, literature, and military science to comic strips and film -- and the novel's penetrating analysis of the impact of technology on society make it an intellectual tour de force.
"[H]e is searching for the same complex imitations of complexity that Joyce, Proust, Faulkner, and now William Gass use so beautifully. There is no reason to think that he will not soon succeed. The man is only 35 years old, and the language of each of his novels is more interesting than the last." Earl Shorris, Harper's
"I've been turning pages day and night, watching my fingers go ink black, I've been bleeding from paper cuts, reading Gravity's Rainbow. Forests have gone to the blade for this novel. Don't mourn the trees; read the book. Gravity's Rainbow will be compared with Ulysses and with Duck Soup." Geoffrey Wolff, San Francisco Examiner
"We're accustomed to circular and linear stories, but [Pynchon's] is structured in the shape of Poisson's ratio--a bunch of unrelated fragments come together, form a cohesive arc, then scatter as they descend. Pynchon blends all manner of fact, fiction, characters, relationships, and metaphors into this metastructure." Lisa Goldman
"At thirty six, Pynchon has established himself as a novelist of major historical importance. More than any other living writer, including Norman Mailer, he has caught the inward movements of our time in outward manifestations of art and technology so that in being historical he must also be marvelously exorbitant." Richard Poirier, Saturday Review
"An immense synthesis of modern literature and modern science it is equally adept with Rilke and organic chemistry and it interprets beautifully both modern history and the process of historical thought. Few books of this century have achieved the range and depth of this one, and even fewer have held so large a vision of the world in a structure so skillfully and elaborately conceived." Edward Mendelson, Yale Review
"An event...Gravity's Rainbow is bonecrushingly dense, compulsively elaborate, silly, obscene, funny, tragic, pastoral, historical, philosophical, poetic, grindingly dull, inspired, horrific, cold, bloated, beached, and blasted.... an exceedingly complex work of art." Richard Locke, New York Times Book Review
In the mid-1960s, the publication of Pynchon's V and The Crying of Lot 49 introduced a brilliant new voice to American literature. Gravity's Rainbow, his convoluted, allusive novel about a metaphysical quest, published in 1973, further confirmed Pynchon's reputation as one of the greatest writers of the century.
Tyrone Slothrop is an archetypal innocent abroad, but in the worst possible circumstances: he's an American on a mission to locate V-2 rocket-launching sites in war-torn Europe. On a larger level, the novel illustrates the struggle between those who perceive and rebel against the war, seeing it as an overt movement toward the obliteration of the individual, and those who suppress individual identity to serve the war machine controlled by "Them." Which side Slothrop is on remains highly ambiguous. An encyclopedic work much like Joyce's Ulysses
, this is perhaps one of the two or three most critically acclaimed and pondered novels of the 20th century.
Gravity's Rainbow is dedicated to Richard Farina, a young writer Pynchon met at Cornell whose promising literary career was cut short by a fatal motorcycle accident. In 1974, the Pulitzer Prize Committee recommended this novel unanimously, but the Pulitzer Prize Board rejected it as "obscene" and "unreadable." As a result, there was no prize awarded that year.
About the Author
Pynchon received the National Book Award for Gravity's Rainbow in 1974.