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Gravity's Rainbow [Paperback]

Thomas Pynchon
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 July 1995

Tyrone Slothrop, a GI in London in 1944, has a big problem. Whenever he gets an erection, a Blitz bomb hits. Slothrop gets excited, and then, as Thomas Pynchon puts it in his sibilant opening sentence, 'a screaming comes across the sky', heralding an angel of death, a V-2 rocket. Soon Tyrone is on the run from legions of bizarre enemies through the phantasmagoric horrors of Germany.

Gravity's Rainbow is never a single story, but a proliferation of characters - Pirate Prentice, Teddy Bloat, Tantivy Mucker-Maffick, Saure Bummer, and more - and events that tantalize the reader with suggestions of vast patterns only just past our comprehension. It is a blizzard of references to science, history, high culture, and the lowest of jokes and among the most important novels of our time.

Winner of the National Book Award.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 912 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (20 July 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099533219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099533214
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 117,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Thomas Pynchon is the author of V., The Crying of Lot 49, Gravity's Rainbow, Slow Learner, a collection of short stories, Vineland, Mason and Dixon and, most recently, Against the Day. He received the National Book Award for Gravity's Rainbow in 1974.

Product Description


"The best seller described as the kind of Ulysses which Joyce might have written if he had been a Boeing engineer with a fetish for quadrille paper" (Irish Examiner)

"This stunner is already classed with Moby Dick and Ulysses. Set in Europe at the end of WWII, with the V2 as the White Whale, the novel's central characters race each other through a treasure hunt of false clues, disguises, distractions, horrific plots and comic counterplots to arrive at the formula which will launch the Super Rocket... Impossible here to convey the vastness of Pynchton's range, the brilliance of his imagery, the virtuosity of his style and his supreme ability to incorporate the cultural miasma of modern life" (Vogue)

"Pynchon leaves the rest of the American lierary establishment at the starting gate...the range over which he moves is extraordinary, not simply in terms of ideas explored but also in the range of emotions he takes you through" (Time Out)

"Entering this enormous novel is like buying a ticket for the ghost train and plunging into a world of metaphysical illusion, where you must forget earlier notions about life and letters and even the Novel" (Financial Times)

Book Description

Thomas Pynchon's opus magnus, a post-modern masterpiece and a dark satire of twentieth century culture and civilisation from one of the all-time greats of American literature.

Winner of the National Book Award.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
132 of 133 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 10 Reasons to Read Gravity's Rainbow 27 July 2012
1) It's about rocket science. Therefore, it allows for a hypothetical situation in which, hearing you complain about what a long, hard read it is, some passer-by rolls his eyes and mutters, "it's not rocket science." To which you can reply that actually, it is.

2) It has rude bits. Very rude bits. Frankly just plain wrong bits. So, while others see you reading a classic of post-modern literature, you'll know you're actually reading about extreme fetish sex that makes 50 Shades of Gray look like The Jane Austen Guide to Better Intimate Relations.

3) When it's not baffling or scatological, it's funny. For instance: Pynchon's description of the full horrors of traditional British confectionary is hilarious, and will be utterly familiar to anyone that remembers having cough candy forced onto them by sadistic grandparents.

4) You will get fit reading it. If you're the kind of person who is even contemplating reading this book, chances are that sport was not your best subject at school. A couple of weeks of holding this breezeblock while continually scratching your head and stroking your chin will leave you with arms like a stevedore's.

5) You will get stuff done around the house. That fence panel that needs fixing, that leak in the roof, that room you've been meaning to tidy; once Gravity's Rainbow makes your leisure time harder work than your chores, your normal prevarication routines will be completely turned on their head. Friends and family will wonder how your scruffy dusty book filled slum has been transformed into a gleaming futurist show home, and you'll be able to recommend them some reading material that does the job better than any bottle of Mr Muscle.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Most seem to agree that this is THE Pynchon book. Definitely not a quick,light read, but there IS a plot which picks up pace after a while. And what a plot! The most prominent theme centres on one Tyrone Slothrop, an American in England, who was raised in Germany in the decades before WWII, and was exposed in some sort of Pavlovian conditioning experiment (conducted by one Laszlo Jamf) which left him with a sensitivity to a compound which turns out to be present in the V2 rockets raining down on London. 'Pavlovian conditioning' refers (and this is very crude, I realise) to the pioneering work of Behaviourist Psychologist Pavlov(funnily enough) who studied the effect, probably long known to dog and horse trainers, whereby the subject is given a reward for some 'thing', then eventually the subject will perform the 'thing' in anticipation of the reward. It is noted by British boffins and secret service types that every time Slothrop has a sexual encounter a V2 lands not long afterwards, and he is held in a 'facility' sort of like a a Bletchley Park (where Turing et al worked to break the nazi Enigma code), dedicated to occult and psychological warfare, to determine whether he is actually anticipating the stimulus, and therefore predicting V2 strikes. For the first half, or even two thirds, of the book the focus shifts between different characters and locations who, at first, seem to have no connection but WWII, and whose relation to the main plot isn't made clear, but they all start coming together in the most entertaining way as the location shifts to newly, partly,liberated Europe, when Slothrop escapes and heads to Germany to find Jamf (I can't remember why, to be honest), and a 'team' is sent after him to castrate him. Read more ›
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
The book is certainly a challenge, but enjoyable if you follow it on its own terms. My advice: start on page 1, and keep reading until the end - do not skip sections no matter how much you may be tempted!

The writing is very entertaining, engaging and hilarious at times; on other occasions it is incredibly frustrating. I found it best to just keep plugging along without trying too hard to always get the meaning.

Some of the stranger sections probably require a few readings before you get a sense of what Pynchon is saying. Don't let it bother you, however. I found that repeated readings of a particularly hard section will often bring great rewards as the piece begins to take shape as a whole, even when individual sentences are completely un-intelligible.

It is not worth getting into the plot too much in a short review, but what I will say is that this book is absolutely vast. It contains layers upon layers of detailed imagery, tangents, tangents upon tangents, and a vast amount of cultural and social references. It does require some effort to complete.

For these reasons, I fully expected that this book would be a very love/it hate affair, and the reviews so far seem to bear this out. If you are up for a bit of more challenging read than the norm, however, I think reading this novel is as good a way as any to spend (admittedly huge amounts of!) your time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lot to admire, but... 3 Sep 2012
I was looking forward to this book but as I turned the final page, despite the many things I'd liked about it, I was somewhat disappointed.

First off the good: this is a hugely ambitious and in parts wildly entertaining march across war-torn and post-war Europe. Truly there is a great deal of joy to be had in watching Pynchon's imagination unfold. It's brilliantly written (some of the passages are like prose poetry) and frequently laugh-out loud funny. The characters are memorable and alive, the set pieces expertly handled and there are many images throughout which are large and thought provoking and will stay with me for a long time. What's more, it comes close to creating a new and seemingly impossible form - the novel which is also a musical. Throughout there are lyrics and rhymes punctuating the action (indeed, often commentating on it) and the whole book has the loose feel of free-form jazz.

There's a lot to admire about `Gravity's Rainbow'.

However, because the focus changes between different characters and different locations (and sometimes different realities), it's sometimes hard for the reader to keep up. The narrative's constant digressions can be wonderfully entertaining, but they can also be fruitless and frustrating. I often felt that Pynchon was just heading off in a particular direction on a mere whim, and - as I'm sure I've stated before - the whimsical is not a quality I particularly like in a novel. Even though it is often entertaining and very funny, the reader sometimes has to tread through treacle to get to those moments. It's frequently worthwhile when he or she arrives, but the trip can be quite plodding.

As such this is a book I'm torn over.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars The emperor has no clothes on (I think)
I am not proud of the fact that I have given one star to a piece of work that dominated one mans life for a decade, sitting as I am in my pants having achieved nothing myself of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Streetbard
5.0 out of 5 stars Good.
Excellent edition. Binding is good. Would recommend purchasing for any Pynchon fan. The cover is also attractive and colorful. Thanks.
Published 2 months ago by Gracie
5.0 out of 5 stars Rocket art
Somebody once said something like: you don't need to understand a poem in order to appreciate it. And I think that's true of books like Gravity's Rainbow, which is complex and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Scott Zodiac
5.0 out of 5 stars You won't get this
Gravity is the literary equivalent of a large splash of Jackson Pollack and mescalin - if you don't get either - you won't get it. Sublime - schizophrenic - solecism. Wonderful.
Published 5 months ago by Harry sutcliffe
5.0 out of 5 stars Iconic cultural masterpiece
Ulysses meets Dylan. Someone once said this book makes anything else you read seem simple-minded by comparison; that may be true but it doesn't suggest how much fun you'll have... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Frank 9
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read book by a major author
Pynchon pushes language hard- it's not an easy read- but it's immensely rewarding. The style is laugh-out-loud funny, hauntingly poetic, teasingly erotic: the action, brilliantly... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Enty
2.0 out of 5 stars A Parabolic Course Through Life
There are pieces of this work that are riveting, relevant, and highly cognizant of aspects of the human condition that are rarely explored. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Patrick Shepherd
5.0 out of 5 stars 40th Anniversary!
A vastly improved edition of Pynchon's classic, with much improved page layout and bigger text. This 902 page edition is superior to the previous Vintage editions. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mr. J. W. Dickson
5.0 out of 5 stars Phew!
Having finally finished Gravity's Rainbow, I feel entitled to write a review, despite S James having already said so brilliantly practically everything that needed saying. Read more
Published 16 months ago by vfhackenbacker
5.0 out of 5 stars Staggering
I'm going to keep this short as you'll need all the reading time possible for the actual book. My first impressions were: It's massive, it's confusing, it's hard work. Read more
Published on 4 Nov 2011 by Simon
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