Looking at a rainbow through a dirty window

7.37  ·  1,622 ratings  ·  723 reviews
looking at a rainbow through a dirty window

Gravitys Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

Advice for a first time reader of Gravitys Rainbow:

Gravitys Rainbow is a book you either love or hate, and if you hate it its probably because you couldnt finish the damn thing. Though by no means impenetrable, the novel is daunting enough to merit a list of tips for those wishing to tackle it for the first time. Below is my advice on how new readers can get over the hump. Trust me, its a small hump, and the masterpiece that lies on the other side is worth the effort.

1. Read V first ... Pynchons V is shorter and more accessible than Gravitys Rainbow, but addresses the same themes in a similar style. If you enjoyed V, you will have built up a reserve of goodwill for Pynchon that will carry you through the initial rough patches of Gravitys Rainbow. This advice was given to me years ago, and Im glad I took it.

2. Accept that you wont understand everything...Dont be concerned if you cant follow the many digressions or keep track of every minor character that pops up. As with other famously difficult novels, Gravitys Rainbows real payoff comes in the rereading, so you shouldnt feel obliged to linger over each passage until it makes sense. Pynchon isnt trying to lord it over you by writing a book this dense; its just his way of giving you your moneys worth. Just follow what you can the first time through, which fortunately is a lot.

3. Accentuate the accessible...Gravitys Rainbows unreadability is over-hyped. Yes, there are many jarring digressions, but threading through them is a fairly conventional detective story. Sure there are lyrical passages that take off for the stratosphere, but they are grace notes in a melody of otherwise breezy narrative prose. So on your first time through, its enough to follow the main plot (will Slothrop find the mysterious Rocket 00000?) and enjoy Pynchons jokes, which are laugh-out-loud funny.

4. Dont give up too early...I dont want to say that Gravitys Rainbow gets off to a slow start, but it has a lot of scene-setting to do, and the engine that really drives the book along only gets revved up in part 2. Part 1 is a well-executed minor key portrait of wartime London, but part 2 is where the drugs kick in, so stick with the novel at least that far.
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Published 03.05.2019

Rachel Hair & Ron Jappy - Looking at a Rainbow Through a Dirty Window

More by Calum Stewart

In , I had the good fortune to visit San Francisco a few weeks before Pride. It was like a rainbow cannon had exploded, covering the entire city in pro-gay paraphernalia. The last time I saw that many rainbows, I was seven years old and cracking open a box of Lucky Charms. Banks, supermarkets, clothing stores and sandwich shops were decked out in flags, balloons and banners proclaiming their love and support for Pride. Walking down the street, it felt like the parade had already started.

Your window is trying to tell you: The house is not adequately ventilated, or there is a high moisture level in the home. This is less of a window problem and more of a moisture issue, but your window provides the telltale sign.
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5 COMMENTS

  1. Oriel B. says:

    Rainbow was a defining part of '70s and '80s childhoods, but sometimes there was something not quite right about it.

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