“A Screaming Comes Across the Sky…” My First Experience with Thomas Pynchon

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I have suppressed my love of fiction for far too long. In high school and through my first two years at college I tore through novels like a rocket through air. Yes, that simile was excruciatingly forced. So upon embarking my quest known as a year off of school, I decided to rekindle my long lost love of fiction. Only this time simply reading a novel would not work. Spoiled on philosophical and religious texts, I was not going to simply return to mindless fiction that has nothing to say within its words. I read differently now than I did then.

So I will soon post thoughts on some of the books I read at the end of 2014, but for now I start with the ones that remain fresh in my mind.

Gravity’s Rainbow is Thomas Pynchon’s masterpiece, so sayeth the Lord and critics since its release. With over 400 characters within its dense 760 pages, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. The book opens with a rocket falling across the sky, his infamous opening line being the title of this post. It reads like the apocalypse. That meaning chaos and confusion splatter the pages. When I say that, I mean it. Pynchon’s prose is evasive and indirect. One must not simply own an encyclopedia, one must be an encyclopedia to understand the gaudy amount of references Pynchon makes.

That is not to say, though, that it is impossible to read, but rather to say this: One does not simply read Thomas Pynchon for the plot.

The book digresses into  numerous passages that have absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the story. At one point it became quite obvious to me that that Pynchon’s “aside” from 200 pages ago, which took at least 25 pages, all of them a joy to read but undoubtedly tedious, was simply to set up a joke about one character’s death from e-coli.

However, Pynchon is a joy to read. GR is as much a holy book as it is a novel. From Pynchon’s wonderful jokes, to his absurd renderings of characters, one can get lost in the madness; and that is really the book’s only flaw. It is a wonderful manifesto demanding a questioning of everything from authority to cause-and-effect. The characters flowing from Pynchon’s fingertips are ones that cannot be forgotten, each with their own mark upon the novel and question to be laid upon the reader’s mind. You won’t understand all of what Pynchon has to say, but that is the point at times. If we are to learn anything from Pynchon it is that you can’t and won’t ever know everything the world has to offer. So buckle in, try new things, and challenge every notion you have ever held.

Recommended to: Those with a touch of insanity, those who will be spending time locked away from society for a time, and those who think fiction isn’t written with a purpose behind it.

Avoid as if it were a live honey badger: Those who demand a thick plot that never strays, those who cannot enjoy a book with over 25 characters, and those who easily find things pretentious (such as this blog).


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