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Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
#24
Gravity's Rainbow represents, in my view, one of the most impressive novels of the twentieth century. It's a book that probably very few young people today, with their ever shortening attention spans, could possibly read. If you think James Joyce or Kurt Vonnegut liked varying plots and seemingly unconnected transitions, Pychon is in a league of his own in this regard.

Reading this book today, one realizes just how puritanized our culture has become. Pynchon has a long scene in Gravity's Rainbow, which features an underage girl (I believe she's 11) as a knowing temptress who is spanked in front of the entire ship, who are so turned on by it that an impromptu orgy ensues. She is later raped and killed on board. I don't think a major publisher would permit such a scenario in today's America, much as the 1978 movie Pretty Baby would be considered child pornography now. Whether that means we've regressed in our views towards sexuality, or merely adopted a more sensible, moral approach, it can't be denied that a startling change has taken place on this subject in the past 25 years or so.

My favorite scene in Gravity's Rainbow is when Slothrop goes literally down the toilet and meets a military officer in the sewer. Here's a snippet of their conversation:

"Look on it as an optimization problem. The country can best support only one of each.
Q: Then what about all the others? Boston. London. The ones who live in cities. Are those people real, or what?
A: Some are real, and some aren't.
Q: Well are the real ones necessary? or unnecessary?
A: It depends what you have in mind.
Q: Shit, I don't have anything in mind.
A: We do."

I was so impressed with this that I was later inspired to title my 2007 novel The Unreals.

Btw, Pynchon was considered one of the most notorious shut-ins the literary world has ever produced. Has he ever been photographed? Supposedly, he provided a voice for one of the Simpsons episodes, but I'm not sure it was ever verified to have been him.
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Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon - by Don Jeffries - 26-01-2013, 05:16 PM

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