Sunday, March 11

Initial Thoughts on Re-entering Gravity's Rainbow

Back in the early 80s, a friend presented me with a copy of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow saying something to the effect that all the lamentation over the death of the novel since Joyce is now appeased by this book. Read it.

I must confess that I, like many others, waded in to about page 100 and set it down. That gold Bantam paperback sat there on my shelf for many years, occasionally catching my eye like a lost lover. But I never picked it back up. Over that time, I did read V, The Crying of Lot 49 and Slow Learner. Gravity's Rainbow hovered: still unread.

A few months ago, I found myself combing through the bookshelves for my copy. It seemed to have disappeared. No matter. I figured that I would easily find a copy at a used bookstore. After several stores in several states, I came to understand that used copies of GR were not so easy to find. So I bit the bullet and biked over to the nearest chain to buy a new one.

Entirely unrelated was my interest in the film 300. I wanted to read Miller's graphic novel before seeing the film. I found 300, a beautiful Penguin Deluxe Edition of GR, and A Gravity's Rainbow Companion: Sources And Contexts for Pynchon's Novel.

Later that evening, after finishing Miller's 300. I picked up GR and the Companion and started in again. As often happens with me these days, it was suddenly a new book. I wondered at the idiot who set it down so long ago. Who was that person? The prose style was stunning, immediately accessible and entertaining. I quickly forgot about my concurrent reading in the Companion and sailed past page 100 finding it difficult to put down. Closing the book, I studied the cover, a sort of splatter abstraction with an outline of falling rocket, turned to the back flap to see if, perhaps, it was a Jackson Pollock. Lo and behold, it was Frank Miller - of the 300. A happy synchronicity.

I then decided to catch up to where I was with the Companion and not but a few pages into that found the author quoting Chaplin's Look Up, Hannah! speech from The Great Dictator. The same speech I posted on the Laughing Bone a short time ago.

I don't think there is anything terribly meaningful about these coincidences. But you sense a part of your self being rung when they occur. When they happen within the pages of a book, it is a beautiful thing. There is laughter in the room. Time outside the book fades. It seems you are reading yourself, that your blood, your innermost self, burns through the letters of the words. And it may be damning, but some of the most important moments of my life have occurred in such a manner, between the covers, inside the pages and deep within the words.