Difficulty

I keep my eye on tweets mentioning Gravity’s Rainbow and today saw one asking if GR was readable and worth it. The person also asked if his followers had read Infinite Jest, and which of the two books was better. Well, that judgment is awfully hard to make, but it sent me off to think about which was more difficult, since I tend to think Pynchon’s book is a lot harder to read than Wallace’s and so in some ways is less pleasurable and by extension not as good.

As evidence of GR‘s difficulty, I cite the fact that I read IJ for the first time in a 10-day marathon of 15-hour days over a Christmas holiday while in college. I pretty much couldn’t put the book down. As further evidence, I cite the probably half dozen times I read the first half dozen pages of GR before putting it aside. I believe I once read significantly more of the book but put it down again.

So, why was GR so much harder a book for me than IJ was? Part of it has to do, I suppose, with the fact that Pynchon writes about a lot of more or less factual things, and when confronted with so much real-world information that I didn’t know, or knew only very shallowly, I felt stupid and inadequate and didn’t want to feel that way anymore, so I quit. Wallace, on the other hand, writes less with history in mind and about experiences that aren’t so terribly different from my own. I never attended a tennis academy, but I have been a young man in locker rooms, and I’ve been to summer camps and eaten in cafeterias. I’ve never been addicted to drugs or spent time in a halfway house, but the experiences as Wallace presents them are very human experiences, whereas Pynchon so often writes at a greater distance from the people whose trials he’s documenting, and with a much greater emphasis (generally) on the technology and the argot of the fields and histories he writes about.

But there’s something else, too. (Well, there’s lots else, but one something else I’ll write about for now.) For all the guff Wallace took about writing a too-long book, being self-indulgent with the end notes,  needing an editor, etc., it occurred to me tonight that IJ is actually very user friendly in a way that certain important books we’ve read here (or may yet read here) are not.

It all starts with Ulysses, of course. Joyce gave us pretty much unfettered access to the inside of Leopold Bloom’s head and wrote often without much in the way of transition or explicit stage direction. It’s really hard to get oriented within the book, and by the time you settle in to the style of one episode, Joyce goes off and changes the game on you by writing in another mode altogether. In 1973 and 1975 we got Gravity’s Rainbow and Gaddis’s JR. Gaddis too puts you inside the heads of his characters with precious little in the way of landmarks to help you navigate the prose. Written almost wholly in unattributed dialogue, JR requires that you learn how to read it before you can really begin to understand what it’s even saying. It’s fun, but capital-D Difficult. Pynchon’s not as freewheeling as Gaddis, since Pynchon at least breaks his book down into sections and provides exposition. But he also makes those crazy leaps. Miss a “. . . .” in the text as he jumps from one time or place to another and you’ll find yourself suddenly lost. Wait, when the fuck did I start reading about dodo birds? I thought this was a story about Hansel and Gretel.

Infinite Jest covers a lot of people over a period of time that’s kind of hard to pin down as you’re reading. Like Pynchon, Wallace provides landmarks in the form of clear section breaks. But unlike Pynchon, he tends to stay within the boundaries of a defined section. If he’s writing about Mario, you don’t suddenly find an unmarked leap over to Marathe and Steeply at another time and place within the same section. Further, Wallace conveniently puts a lot of the extra, technical, information in end notes. He’s been accused, on the basis of the 100 pages of notes, of being antagonistic to the reader, but it occurs to me that maybe putting the tangential information in end notes is his attempt at something like mercy. Where his forebears just dump the info on you inline, Wallace gives you a little break, slows down the information intake just a touch.

It’s as if Joyce came to the conclusion that he could lay on his readers everything in a character’s head and the postmodernists extended that idea, trying to give their readers not just the contents of their characters’ heads but everything under the sun and doing so in a way that sort of mimicked the awful burden of information-influx after the rise of radio and television and billboards. Wallace, then, says “too much,” or, if not “too much,” something like “slow down; let’s take this in pieces.”

And for me, I think that’s part of what makes Infinite Jest a much easier book than Gravity’s Rainbow. For all the information Wallace’s book contains, its information flow is more modulated than these earlier books, and it’s a relief. One reads that Wallace was also a proponent of a new sincerity, that he rejected the postmodern tendency toward irony as ultimately a non-productive (if not outright toxic) mode to write in. It’s interesting to me to suggest, then, that he sought to throttle information overload as he hoped to throttle irony, that he was pulling back from his smirking, hyper-intelligent forebears in a couple of ways, an après-garde all his own.

And the WTFs Come Rolling In!

A couple of WTFs have come in today, which was nice, as I wasn’t sure the whole WTF thing would be of interest to anybody. I think what I’d like to try doing with these is maybe a weekly roundup in which I post or summarize the WTFs, provide any answers I may have, and of course let the conversation take its course in the comments. I’ll figure tentatively on posting these on Thursdays. This gives people time to wrap up the week’s reading if they’re a little behind, to digest any posts that come early in the week, and then to track any discussion through the end of the week. So, if you’ve got any WTFs, send ’em in and look for a roundup this Thursday.

Temptation

I may be dim, but both times I’ve read this far into Gravity’s Rainbow, I’ve been puzzled by the scene in which, chasing tail after his discharge from the abreaction ward, Slothrop lands himself in an old lady’s flat eating nasty candy. It’s a funny enough scene, but it always seemed sort of out of place amid the pretty serious stuff surrounding it.

It took a return to exercise after a lapse and the subsequent temptation of a box of Girl Scout cookies to open my eyes to what’s going on here. There it lay on the dresser, not even my favorite kind (Samoas win that title), but open, by gar, and all but leaping into my mouth as I dismounted the exercise machine and wiped away my sweat. Heart still pounding from exertion, I casually inspected the nutritional information printed on the box of cookies. Seven grams of fat and 170 calories in a serving; one cookie would cost me 2.3 grams of fat and 57 calories. As I did a little cost-benefit analysis, the connection struck me.

Blicero and Katje and Gottfried enact over and over again a fetishized game of Hansel and Gretel, and just a few pages later, Slothrop finds himself invited into an old crone’s house to feast on candy. Slothrop’s little confectionary adventure is a light-hearted callback to and dramatization of the folktale that Blicero appropriates. And the lesson in that folktale (bad parenting exemplum aside) and in Pynchon’s dual retelling of it has to do with temptation and its payoffs.

Blicero succumbs to the temptation of bedding a woman he suspects may be working for the British. Although he knows he’ll finally be given a push from behind into some oven or another, he’s certain it won’t come in the form of an air raid thanks to betrayal by Katje. But then she does leave, and he prepares for the worst, paying for his temptation in two, somewhat paradoxical, ways — he is, first, convinced that he was wrong to trust Katje after all and, second, denied the consummation of the betrayal he fears. Accustomed to controlling his playthings, he is now stripped altogether of control, and even of the illusion of making of his fate a sort of gift (a form of control in its own right, if what one reads about the rules in a sadomasochistic partnership is accurate — ie, that control of a situation is always just a single safe word away for the person being subjugated).

Slothrop’s temptation too comes at a cost, for we learn in 1.17 that the abreaction ward from which he has just been discharged has been bombed, and with it poor Spectro, who back in 1.8 shared a tense moment with Pointsman in which he tried to steer the behaviorist away from the temptation to try to experiment on Slothrop. Dipping his wick after entering that candy-strewn apartment costs lives, including that of a rare ally. (Of course, it’s not at all clear whether coitus is the cause or the effect here; still, I think the point is worth considering.)

Pointsman too confronts a great temptation. He’s tired of collecting the spit of dogs and isn’t terribly interested in studying the octopus Grigori, no matter how big and smart he is. He wants a man to poke and prod, and he wants in particular the man whose secret all the scientists paranormal and otherwise also covet. As 1.17 closes, we find Pointsman constructing rationalizations for designing an experiment around Slothrop, suffering be damned (“the man will suffer — perhaps, in some clinical way, be destroyed”), and he has his eye on the Nobel. It’s not just the shiny trophy he has his eye on, though; there’s something Faustian about Pointsman, and the connection Pynchon makes between his quest for knowledge and Theseus’s triumph in the labyrinth seems telling, for like Theseus, in order to win, Pointsman must destroy the creature that lies at the center of the labyrinth once he’s wended his way through it. Pointsman’s fall to temptation comes at the ultimate cost, in other words, of what scrap of humanity he may have left.

(It also occurs to me that like Theseus with his yarn, Hansel and Gretel leave breadcrumbs behind to help find their way out of their peril.)

Candy. Quim. Fame. Knowledge. Girl Scout cookies seem pretty insignificant as I ladder up that list, but it’s still hard not to feel a little satisfaction at having resisted.

The Kenosha Kid

As episode ten of part one of Gravity’s Rainbow opens, Tyrone Slothrop — injected with sodium amytal to induce a sort of trance wherein his psyche will be probed — is chewing on the line “Bet you never did the Kenosha Kid” in much the same way that I remember trying many years ago as a would-be poet to bend the repeating lines of a villanelle to my will by hanging on them different meanings and syntax. Is the Kenosha a dance? Or is the Kenosha Kid a person? If so, is he from the town Kenosha? And what does all this tomfoolery mean anyway? Weisenburger calls this interlude “one of the outstanding enigmas of GR,” and I certainly remember being baffled by it when I first read the book a few years ago.

But this time through, with the syntactic chicanery involved in the obsessive construction of a villanelle on my mind and tromping through the prose a bit better oriented than last time, I began to make a strange sort of sense of the Kenosha Kid bit.

Episode 1.10 is in some ways about discovering the pure. Consider for example Slothrop’s race anxiety, which certainly calls to mind period concerns with matters of miscegenation, race inequality, and so on. The appearance of Malcolm X (and particularly the fact that he appears pre-enlightenment) seems telling enough. The reference to the song “Cherokee” and Pynchon’s line “one more lie about white crimes” and several other references to Indians made me think of America’s treatment of its aborigines, which may resonate with certain other grisly race marginalization that World War II reeks of.

Weisenburger posits that this episode introduces some of the most important opposites in the novel (e.g. north/south, black/white). He also mentions the at first (to me) unintelligible pairing of “shit” and “the word.” Well, the episode is surely full of shit. But what’s this business about “the word?” Maybe it’s a typographical error in my older edition of the companion. Thinking of Slothrop’s descent into the sewer, I remembered that episode 1.4 dealt pretty extensively with another pairing: sky vs. earth. And flipping back, I reencountered the following: “Shit, money, and the Word, the three American truths, powering the American mobility, claimed the Slothrops, clasped them for good to the country’s fate.”

That capital W makes a big difference. Slothrop’s turpitude generally and our trip through the sewer of his uncomfortably unfettered subsconscious looks back to his family’s history and its granite-chiseled concern for squaring matters with that hand reaching down from the sky. Near the end of 1.10, we even return briefly to a churchyard scene:

Then for another moment it seems that all the Christmas bells in the creation are about to join in chorus — that all their random pealing will be, tis one time, coordinated, in harmony, present with tidings of explicit comfort, feasible joy.

But then we go right back to Slothrop’s fantasy of the Roxbury slum, sine-waving from relief, hope, and redemption back to the gutter and his fear of all those black folk with their prying fingers, and back to those ehisshehwle Hahvaad boys who ought to know better than to think the sorts of things we encounter while rummaging through Slothrop’s mind. All this back and forth, from grime to righteousness and so on, begins to seem to correspond roughly with that pesky pairing that big books tend to touch on: right and wrong.

In 2005, a Pynchon reader discovered a pulp western story titled “The Kenosha Kid” that itself takes up moral ambiguities. The eponymous hero is described early on as a sort of Robin Hood. A gambler who makes his living taking other people’s money but who has a large capacity for both guilt and generosity, the Kenosha Kid struggles over the course of the story with how he can best reason which of the people he encounters are and are not scoundrels and how he should conduct himself. For example, he cheats at cards to beat a man he believes had pulled a prior stick-up, but then he begins to feel sympathy for the character. When the stick-up-artist lands in jail due to circumstances resulting directly from the loss of his money, the Kid endures something of a moral crisis. He feels bad for the bad guy. Published in 1931, the story is of about the right vintage for Slothrop to have read as a youngster. And of course we all know that we dredge up the weirdest things in dreams, presumably also when in drug-induced trances.

So to me, the Kenosha Kid bits that frame 1.10 begin to make sense as snatches from Slothrop’s memory that bubble up as he works through matters of judging people based not on the color of their skin but on the content of their character (reasoned judgment of character being something the Kid prides himself on). It’s especially relevant given the content of Slothrop’s hallucination and our discovery in 1.12 that the whole point of his participation in these experiments is “to help illuminate racial problems in his own country.” In other words, maybe all this poking at Slothrop ostensibly to get at racial issues in America is pushing buttons in his head that make him ping-pong back and forth between reprehensible racist thoughts and a more noble and enlightened impulse he’ll recall from having read “The Kenosha Kid.” None of this is to say that I think Pynchon is trying to show us a man fighting a morality war with himself; but it does seem as if he’s maybe showing us a way in which he thinks the brain might operate when left untended.

Slothrop’s wordplay, then, becomes for me a sort of emblem of his subconscious brain at work. In the same way that I twiddled lo these many years ago with the syntax and enjambment of my repeating lines of doggerel until I felt like I had worked out a scheme that felt right, Slothrop’s tranced-out brain here is trying to piece together a coherent sense of the moral right, and as so often happens in dreams, a minor detail becomes the focus of a riff, is imbued with greater significance than it really merits on its own.

An Interview with Zak Smith

In a post outlining my approach to reading Gravity’s Rainbow this time around, I mentioned artist Zak Smith’s picture book, Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Zak has published a couple of other books, Pictures of Girls and We Did Porn, a memoir interspersed with several bundles of drawings and paintings. He’s got a web site at zaxart.com, he tweets as zaksmithsabbath, and he also has an online sketchbook here. He’s also done some work on a project with six other artists to illustrate Blood Meridian and did some drawings for a neat game/art project called Road of Knives. His story is pretty interesting. The GR illustration project led oddly enough to his introduction to the world of alt-porn, in which he performs under the name Zak Sabbath. When I asked if he’d be willing to do an interview, he was game and lightning-fast with (and gracious in) his response.

Infinite Zombies: In the introduction to Pictures Showing…, you write that you worked on the project over nine months of 14-hour days. Can you say a little something about your process, if you had a more or less standard process? Ie, did you read a few pages and meditate on them, then narrow down to an image and begin doing drafts of the work? Or something else altogether?

Zak Smith: Well I’d already read the book twice, then I started doing them in order, but after about 20 pages I decided it wasn’t working, so instead I just started sketching and whenever I started getting something I knew was in the book like “Hey, this looks kind of like a hog!” then I’d look up “hog” in the on-line index and re-read those passages and either start from scratch using what I already sketched as a guide or just finished the drawing so it fit the passage.

Then when I had done like 600 of those I went and finished the rest.

IZ: Pynchon was writing his WWII book at around the time (presumably) of the Vietnam War. You’re drawing pictures of the book during the war in Iraq, just a few years after the World Trade Center came down. Can you comment on art and war, Pynchon’s art and war, and your art and war, and what, if anything, it was like to be making art depicting (in part) a vulnerable city in wartime while living in a newly vulnerable city in a different wartime?

ZS: I know it’s terribly gauche to say this, but I didn’t feel particularly scared or vulnerable after 9/11 and neither did anybody I knew personally who wasn’t already some sort of neurotic. We were like “Ok, that sucked, but life goes on, y’know, more people die of the flu every year.” Anyone in Europe will tell you that terrorists don’t like make one successful attack and then suddenly go “Holy hell, it worked! Now we can do the same thing every day!!”

I did notice we had an oil war, a transparently criminal president and everybody was terrified and listening to extremely bad dance music so, for all intents and purposes it was 1972.

IZ: I believe I’ve read in an interview that you don’t think art ought to just be for rich people to hang on their walls. That you’ve made your illustrations available for free online and in a mass-produced book would seem to support such a position. Another author who comes up often alongside Pynchon is WIlliam Gaddis (whose JR we may take up at Infinite Zombies sometime), and one of his central concerns was mechanization and art, and reproduction of art. I wonder, tangentially, if you’ve read Gaddis or would care to articulate any thoughts about art as a mass-produced and populist concern vs. art as the domain of its privileged owners.

ZS: I read Gaddis’ The Recognitions. It was ok.

The non-populist way art is sold is the reason the art world is so conservative–in film or music or even literature you can make money and live by producing a movie for people who don’t like all the other movies out there, or music for the people who don’t like the other music out there, etc. But the art world is about selling one piece to one collector. But it has to be a “good” collector or your prices never go up to a living wage. And a “good” collector is defined as someone who liked the old art–like you become a good collector by having Felix Gonzales Torreses or Andy Warhols. So it’s very hard to make something new and make money selling it. And of course these good collectors are kinda not exactly young people, so it’s often you’re trying to sell a cultural product to someone who likes terrible old people things like jazz and West Side Story.

In like 1949 Sartre was bemoaning the fact that avant-garde music was not for the masses, not too long after that, Alan Freed had his radio show and now pretty much our whole culture has been bathed in the power of avant garde popular music thanks to the magic of mechanical reproduction and it would be so nice if art could finally advance to the point music’s been at for 60 years where the people get exposed to the new stuff and it’s all available and it all costs the same.

IZ: I know you had been involved in a project with several other artists to illustrate Blood Meridian (essentially another war book, by the way). As far as I can tell, it appears to be stalled. Is it in fact stalled or do you think it’ll pick back up?

ZS: Hard to be sure, we all had shows and things right after it went up so it kinda got back-burnered.

IZ: Although they’re both very morbid, dark books, GR and Blood Meridian are also very different stylistically. Does that influence the way you approach the books differently as a visual artist?

ZS: Yeah, I mean Pynchon–I only realized this after I was done–was well-suited to the project I did. His work is full of these hallucinatory hard-to-pin-down sentences. Try that with other authors? What are you going to draw–Humbert talking to Charlotte for the ninth page in a row? It’d look like a storyboard.

So when I got to Blood Meridian I didn’t want to just endlessly do Cowboy In Landscape, so unlike GR–which I did as literally as possible–I did a kind of did a time change and sex change–I made all the marauders female space pirates. Each of the 6 people on that project did it in a different way. Some went literal, some went abstract, some went surreal.

IZ: Thinking of GR and Blood Meridian and also of much of the porn you describe in We Did Porn, it seems pretty clear that artistically, you’re drawn to grit. Have you done or considered doing work that wasn’t so full of grit, and if not, why? Too easy? Too hard? Just not interesting? Can we look forward to a Zak Smith rendering of The Velveteen Rabbit?

ZS: I like cute things. But grit just…it’s just real to me, I guess. I make pictures the way I do because they’re realer, visceral.

I mean, if you have kids, your house is a fucking mess. If you are heterosexual and male and single, your house is a fucking mess. But if you turn on Full House, it’s immaculate. Things which feel faked have less impact–and they seem condescending. Like we know life isn’t like that. Turn on a Wong-Kar Wai movie and you see all the actual chaos of human life there and it’s extremely affecting.

IZ: Can you comment on the relationship between porn and art? You write a bit in We Did Porn about good, innovative art and bad art that makes people hate art, and you draw a line connecting bad art and bad porn. Like you, I bristle at the sort of bad art you describe (e.g. a quote written in ketchup across a photo of a starlet), but I also don’t know enough about porn (pretty vanilla over here) to understand what makes, say, a movie in which people have sex on the hood of a car non-art porn and a similar movie but with goat’s blood and tattoos art-porn. You get a triple gold star if you can relate this back to Gravity’s Rainbow, quadruple if you can do it without introducing any plot spoilers. (This is a serious question. I worry that it sounds like trolling, but I’m not in any way trolling; I just don’t grok the distinction.)

ZS: I can’t. I don’t think there is “good porn”–it’s subjective.  Incidentally, I never claimed any of the movies I am in are any good. Though sometimes the directors are ambitious–and that means the same in porn as any other medium–they were trying hard to get a specific thing. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. I don’t care, I don’t watch much porn. I just like having sex.

IZ: Many who will participate in the GR read first became acquainted with the site through a group read of Infinite Jest a few years ago. You’ve expressed admiration for Wallace. In We Did Porn, you wrote a bit about the Adult Video News awards. What’s your take on Wallace’s essay on the event and the broader topic?

ZS: One of the reasons I got inspired to write We Did Porn is because two of my favorite authors–Martin Amis and DFW–had written about it and seemed to completely ignore the central issues. Martin Amis because–bless him–his fiction-writer modus operandi is to make very simple characters but then explore their simplicity in depth and he kinda transfers that to his nonfiction (which I loooooove reading but I don’t trust for a second), Wallace because he has this sort of creepy, probably religious, possibly midwestern lacuna about sex. (Made pretty clear in his Kenyon College speech). Like in one review he calls John Updike out:

It’s that he persists in the bizarre, adolescent belief that getting to have sex with whomever one wants whenever one wants to is a cure for human despair.

And I think: Whomever–and put that “ever” in italics. Whenever? That is completely a cure for human despair. Entirely. All the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders right now. Then after that Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield at the same time and then Helen of Troy and every SI swimsuit issue model and anyone not cured of human despair after that is just being a spoiled brat.

So these are my favorite writers in English–aside from Pynchon–and they have taken on this subject and they each made a witty weekend of it without talking about the grit: the fact that fucking is really good and, at least for most male heterosexuals, it is pretty much the gravitational center of our entire lives (something Amis is usually not so timid about) and how really porn is not just a terrible, funny, sad, frightening industry but also this place full of women who actually do act exactly the way you always wished women acted, sometimes, often when the cameras aren’t even running. And how that is unbelievably strange. So I had to write it.

An Approach to Reading Gravity’s Rainbow

I picked up Gravity’s Rainbow many times and never got past the first handful of pages before finally plowing through the whole thing a few years ago. As has always been the case when reading Pynchon, much of it was a horrible slog for me. I’ve read all the novels except for Mason & Dixon, and I’ve read a fair amount of that one. I’ve felt about nearly all of them pretty much the way I feel about going out of my way to do exercise, which is that I really sort of hate it the whole way through, but afterward I feel as if I’ve done something that was good for me.

When I brute-forced my way through Gravity’s Rainbow last time, I did so with no reading aids, and I know that a lot of the historical specificity and cultural texture of the book were lost on me. So for this read, I’ve equipped myself with Steven C. Weisenburger’s A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion: Sources and Contexts for Pynchon’s Novel. For those who participated in the Infinite Jest read, Weisenburger’s book does for Gravity’s Rainbow essentially what Greg Carlisle’s Elegant Complexity does for Wallace’s novel (but perhaps not as obsessively — which I mean as a compliment to Carlisle and not as an affront to Weisenburger).

My approach to reading Pynchon’s book this time around is to read Weisenburger’s notes for a section before reading the section itself. I mark up the companion book to note things that interest me or that seem especially important given what I remember from my last time through GR. Then I read the section of the novel, referring back to the notes where needed (my memory is a sieve), taking my own copious notes in the margins and, the margins in my copy of the book being pretty small, in a notebook. Then I glance over Weisenburger’s notes one more time, paying particular attention to the things I’ve circled and added my own notes to.

Of particular interest in the Companion are the explanations of the book’s structure, which is loosely outlined at the outset and which I presume we’ll find ongoing notes about as we push forward in the book. If you want to do a serious, deep read of GR, I think Weisenburger’s book is a must.

I’ve picked up another hitchhiker for this read as well. Several years ago, artist Zak Smith took on the huge project of drawing an illustration for every page of GR. I’m a big fan of art that accompanies big novels (if you were with us for Moby-Dick, you’ll surely remember Matt Kish’s work, and if you joined in for Ulysses, you’ll recall Ulysses Seen), so I’m excited to be turning the pages of Smith’s Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow. You can see the pictures online here, but to me, there’s nothing like holding the fat brick of a book in my hand and seeing the art on the page. The intro is also a good read, and you miss out on that if you settle for the online version. Although I’ve casually flipped through the book, I’m taking my time and moving through it as I move through Pynchon’s novel, savoring the images alongside the text.

I’ve added a few links in the sidebar that may be of interest to those wanting supplemental material. Especially interesting to me were the character concordance (an .ods file) and back issues of Pynchon Notes, both of which I hope to find time to dip into. If I recall correctly, the wallace-l discussion list spun off of the pynchon-l list, which may be more relevant for this read (though I’m personally too intimidated to chime in there). And finally, there’s ThomasPynchon.com, which looks as if, with some digging, it might contain some pretty interesting stuff.

So, that’s my approach. If you’re new to Gravity’s Rainbow, you should very strongly consider picking up Weisenburger’s book. Smith’s is a nice bonus if you’re into art, and a deep dive into some of these other links might be of use if you’ve got  more time than I do.

Dividing and Conquering Gravity’s Rainbow

Date Part.Section
Feb. 27 1.12
March 5 1.18
March 12 2.3
March 19 2.8
March 26 3.5
April 2 3.10
April 9 3.15
April 16 3.24
April 23 3.32
April 30 4.6
May 7 4.12

I’ve added to the sidebar the schedule for the Gravity’s Rainbow read, which I’ll post here for posterity too.

The novel is divided up into four large parts or books, and each book is composed of several sections, which in my edition (and I suspect most editions) are separated by a series of seven squares in a row, somewhat reminiscent of the edge of a reel of film (which for the whippersnappers among us is what they used to put the moving pictures on). The schedule notation lists the large part and the smaller section, separated by a dot. This keeps us from having to wrangle page numbers. In my edition, at this pace, I’ll be reading 80 – 90 pages a week, which seems entirely doable, though I can tell you from past experience that getting through the nightly slate of on average 12 pages at a time is occasionally a real chore.

When working out when to have a batch of pages read, look at the date and make sure you’ve read through the listed section by that date, as spoilers may ensue. Look for the first post about the text itself sometime during the week of the 27th.

Update: Any who have managed to get a copy of Gravity’s Rainbow on the Kindle may find this useful.

Gravity’s Rainbow

A little over a year ago, I posted a call for interest to see if anybody was interested in doing a group read of Gravity’s Rainbow. There was a fair amount of interest, but life got pretty crazy for me shortly thereafter, and I called off the group read. I’ve been doing my own quiet reading and writing ever since but am suddenly taken once again with the urge to read the book. I’ve started the thing a half a dozen times or so and finally made my way through the whole thing in fits and starts and with varying degrees of comprehension (tending toward “limited”) a few years ago. So for me, this would be a revisit of the book.

I’ve got in mind a nice slow pace of 80 – 90 pages per week spanning about 11 weeks. As noted above, my prior reading was pretty slipshod, and I’m not a very informed reader of the work. I’ll be following along in a reader’s guide as I go, but I’d still be really pleased if someone with real knowledge of the book were to join me in blogging the thing. If you are such a person, or know such a person, please speak up (infinitezombies at gmail if you’re shy). Else you’ll be stuck with me and any other amateurs who sign up  to blog along with me. We’ve usually had three to five bloggers total, so if you’d like to play, speak up about that too.

Barring crazy life interference in the mean time, figure on having the first twelve sections of Gravity’s Rainbow under your belt by February 27. I’ll try to post a few things in advance to get us started.