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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gravity Rainbow

Thomas Pynchon. Probably the intellectually most renowned American writer still alive. Salingeresque in his lack of media interaction, yet much more prolific in his - published at least - output. I had shied away from him for the longest time, simply because his stature seemed to be overpowering and almost impossible to live up to. Gravity Rainbow is his third novel. An 800-page, convoluted, complicated, technical, fantastic absurd tale set in London during the blitz and then chaotic post-war France and - especially - Germany, specifically the Zone.

I will not try to give a recount of the characters in the novel or even its plot as both are at once too many, too complicated and too absurd to make much sense to anyone not having read the book. When thinking about the novel I came up with an allegory that I intend to stick by, simply because of its (vainly maybe) perceived originality: Try to compare books and stories to waterways. There are tiny, little streams that almost sparkle in the sunlight, then there are dark sombre romantic mountain streams, well build-up, clean and effective canals, rivers that pass by dirty and fast without one even noticing them, long, winding ones that never seem to find an end and so on and forth. You get my point. Well, Gravity Rainbow is the Mississippi (or make it the Amazon if you want less US-centrism), the father of rivers, he who calls his own small bayous, wild dangerous spots, and simmers out into the delta, who stands for life itself (you don't want to be sold down the river, take my word), who feeds and nourishes but who also takes (see Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi, ask Huck's father). The Mississippi is everything at once, it is dominating and wild, hard to understand and follow, yet you get swept up into it and come out with a feeling of elation without being able to pinpoint where exactly it came from or how it developed even while you know it is there. A great fuckin book.

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