Why do I read Gravity’s Rainbow?

by Jake McPherson

I’m thinking about me today. As I mentioned in the previous post, I have read Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon over the last thirty years or so too many times to count. Last night as I lay in bed drifting into sleep, I began to question why.

The book has been a companion to me. It’s been with me everywhere. I’ve read it in bed, in easy chairs, in trains and planes, and on the beach. It’s frustrated me and comforted me. It has assailed me with riddles, and it has spoken clear words of encouragement.

I’m rereading it now, and its message seems so distinctly simple.

Yes, there is a lot we don’t control about our world. Yes, there are powerful forces who exert control over vast amounts of energy, and They are not friendly. However, those elites do not hold quite as much control as They imagine. They are not omniscient.

Resistance is real, and it works. We can play the part of double agents, living in Their systems and simultaneously sabotaging them.

Connection is key. The elite divide us. We must come together. We can touch each other, and They can’t stop us. Through small acts, we can thwart Them, and we win when we do.

Their systems – the rocket – crave sacrifice. They destroy. But even that technology of death connects. The launcher and the dying are one in the flight of the rocket.

What can we preterite do in the face of such radical destruction? Look to our hero Slothrop. We can narrow our Delta-t band. Live as much now, leaving the past and the future to Them. Live! It’s the thing that scares Them most.

* * *

Why do I read Gravity’s Rainbow?

My relationship with the book is about my relationship with myself. I can see myself maturing as I have read it over and over. I discovered me in its pages.

I have read passages that utterly confused me. They were times I did not know my own way through the world. I have read dream sequences with tangled words, and I have felt peace. These were times I was grateful for the turmoil around me. I saw the path through the rubble of my life.

I have no illusions before me as I read it now. I am one with myself, and the pages dissolve as I turn them. The words register and leave their impressions, and I smile.

The book is complex, but so is the world They have made for us to pick our ways through. We must each bring our dead as we join the resistance, and we must touch each other. We must bare our skin and open to our lashes we lay on ourselves. We must own our selves. We must touch.

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