Some theatre each day keeps the doctor away…

Gravity’s Rainbow

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So.  Finished Gravity’s Rainbow tonight.  Masterpiece.  I like Infinite Jest better.  Ulysses was better too.  But I can’t think of any other modern novels that I find better.  Then again, I haven’t really read any other modern novels (big ones, anyway).

At least it was nice to read a book where I understood the plot, for the most part.  I know I didn’t understand it all, mainly because keeping track of all the characters was a tad impossible, and so I missed certain connections that I didn’t chase down.  (Having seen a familiar name, but not being able to remember why it was familiar, I wouldn’t bother to work it out.)  Thankfully the novel would often give a hint to the past scenes the mysterious character was involved in, so it wasn’t too bad.

I probably laughed around five to ten times during my reading of it, as per my usual taking-things-too-seriously approach to literature, I suppose.  There was a scene of mistaken identity where Major Marvy was wrongly castrated – he, being caught unawares and undressed, ‘borrows’ a pig suit from a lockerroom, only to discover, much to his horror, that the ruckus he is trying to escape from (military police raiding the joint) is for the purpose of finding a man (Slothrop) in a pig suit.  Major Marvy is painted to be somewhat evil – or, if not evil, then nothing more than a fat arrogant American.  I think most people would probably find the scene comic, and there was a slight comic tinge to it when I was reading it, but mostly I was horrified, empathising as I was with Marvy.

In Infinite Jest there was a scene where Don Gately burgles a house, but the homeowner is home.  (Or maybe he knew he was at home – I can’t remember.)  Anyway, the man is tied up by Gately and his partner (I think there was a partner – the non-essential characters get lost in my mind, I find), but he has a terrible head cold.  His problems are further exacerbated when Gately gags him, so that he can’t cry for help, leaving him only his nose to breathe through.  Mucus comes and clogs his nasal passages, and he suffocates to death.  Again, surely a humorous way to die, but yet, to me, utterly horrific, and so I wasn’t laughing.  I wonder if this is the normal response – being horrified – or if I’m too serious about such things.  Hmm…

Wallace loved Pynchon, but thought there was something ‘shallow’ about him, and I tend to agree.  I think Infinite Jest had more feeling to it, more consolation, as it were.  (‘Consolation’ is a bad word to use.  Previously I’ve used it to mean that all art should console, as in all art should make us forget the void of existence, etc, etc.  Here I use it to mean that Infinite Jest was somewhat of a self-help/roadmap to coping with existence.)  Not that I think all literature should be self-help oriented, or ‘improving’, as it were.

I don’t think the shallowness of Pynchon comes from a fault of Pynchon’s though – I don’t think he was aiming to be deep in the way Wallace seemed to expect him to be.  It’s a preoccupation with ideas at the expense of emotion.  (Then again, if someone accused Travesties of that, I’d deny it…)  The Blicero storyline was probably one of the most deep in the book – weird and depraved as it was – because there was devotion involved, to some extent, whereas the rest of the sexual relationships were either entirely physical or flash-in-the-pan.  It also helps, I suppose, that the Blicero story ended the book (an act that always gives something more importance, much like, I suppose, Wallace’s suicide has taken on more importance than it probably should).  Katje and Slothrop’s liaisons at the casino were saturated with paranoia, so the reader never got to feel it particularly deeply, I think.

(Though there were a few relationships that are coming back to me now…  But a lot of the normality in the world was glossed over in the narrative.)

Hmm.  What else…

It’s a novel I want to read again.  I almost wanted to reread it straight away, in fact.  But literature’s too vast a territory to smell the roses so close to the start.

But why does it need to be deep?  (Going back to the previous point.)  But I’m tired, and don’t have the energy to open that can of wriggling quills.  (Wriggling quills?  Not exactly the best phrase I’ve ever come up with…)

Haven’t decided what I’m going to read next, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s going to be Clarissa.  God help me and my wrist.


Written by epistemysics

December 4, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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