It’s been a prevalent notion. Fallen sparks. Fragments of vessels broken at the Creation. And someday, somehow, before the end, a gathering back to home. A messenger from the Kingdom, arriving at the last moment. But I tell you there is no such message, no such home — only the millions of last moments . . . nothing more. Our history is an aggregate of last moments.
-from Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, page 148.
But it is a curve each of them feels, unmistakably. It is the parabola. They must have guessed, once or twice — guessed and refused to believe — that everything, always, collectively, had been moving toward that purified shape latent in the sky, that shape of no surprise, no second chance, no return. Yet they do move forever under it, reserved for its own black-and-white bad news certainly as if it were the rainbow, and they its children. . .
-from page 209.
But out at the horizon, out near the burnished edge of the world, who are these visitors standing . . . these robed figures — perhaps, at this distance, hundreds of miles tall — their faces, serene, unattached, like the Buddha’s, bending over the sea, impassive, indeed, as the Angel that stood over Lübeck during the Palm Sunday raid, come that day neither to destroy nor to protect, but to bear witness to a game of seduction . . . What have the watchmen of the world’s edge come tonight to look for? Deepening on now, monumental beings stoical, on toward slag, toward ash the colour the night will stabilize at, tonight . . . what is there grandiose enough to witness?
-from page 214.
He lies on top of her, sweating, taking great breaths, watching her face turned 3/4 away, not even a profile, but the terrible Face That is No Face, gone too abstract, unreachable: the notch of the eye socket, but never the labile eye, only the anonymous curve of cheek, convexity of mouth, a noseless mask of the Other Order of Being, of Katje’s being — the lifeless non-face that is the only face of hers he really knows, or will ever remember.
-from page 222.
It’s been almost ten years since I sat down one day with the firm decision in my tiny head that I was not only going to start but also finish Thomas Pynchon’s hyper novel, Gravity’s Rainbow. The infamous 1973 book, which is only a little bit more readable than Joyce’s Ulysses, was originally slated to win the 1974 Pulitzer prize for fiction until the other 11 members on the prize picking committee overturned the 3 person fiction panel’s pick, calling the novel “unreadable, turgid, overwritten, and obscene.” I don’t know about you, but that’s just a few of my favorite things.
This is the cover to the most recent paperback edition of the novel I’m aware of, which a cover by Frank Miller.
Sadly, I never did finish the novel way back then, but to my pleasant surprise a few years ago, my comrade Benjamin Light did start the novel and through a steady face of wading through it’s sometimes complex, sometimes naughty, and sometimes just insane prose, actually finished. An all too rare feat these days. I don’t want to speak for him here (and it’s not out of the question that one’s thoughts on this novel could be complex, to say the least), but I think he enjoyed it. In fact, I think he was inspired enough by an element or two of the book to go start a blog of some sort out there in the fringe wastelands of the internet.
Which leads me to this morning when I discovered – bizarrely, amazingly, happily, wonderfully – that the notorously reclusive Pynchon, who is 71 years old and released a novel, Against The Day, three years ago to many a surprised fan’s delight, is releasing another novel. This year, in fact. It’s due out in August and is entitled Inherent Vice. Where’s the plot description:
It’s been awhile since Doc Sportello has seen his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly out of nowhere she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. Easy for her to say. It’s the tail end of the psychedelic sixties in L.A., and Doc knows that “love” is another of those words going around at the moment, like “trip” or “groovy,” except that this one usually leads to trouble. Despite which he soon finds himself drawn into a bizarre tangle of motives and passions whose cast of characters includes surfers, hustlers, dopers and rockers, a murderous loan shark, a tenor sax player working undercover, an ex-con with a swastika tattoo and a fondness for Ethel Merman, and a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may only be a tax dodge set up by some dentists.
In this lively yarn, Thomas Pynchon, working in an unaccustomed genre, provides a classic illustration of the principle that if you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there … or … if you were there, then you … or, wait, is it … Part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon — private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog.
Kind of new with Pynchon seemingly tackling the mystery/private detective genre straight on, but also very reminiscent sounding of his older stuff like V and The Crying Of Lot 49. All of that sounds good to me and I think you could classify me as excited.
I’m proud to say that I’m friends on Facebook (which, I know, really doesn’t mean shit) with Tristan Taormino, whom Wikipedia describes as an “award-winning author, columnist, editor, pornographic film director (and occasional actress) and self-styled ‘anal sexpert.’” With a resume like that, why wouldn’t I want to be her friend? She also happens to be the niece of Thomas Pynchon.
There was no difference between the behavior of a god and the operations of pure chance.
-from page 323.
What are the stars but points in the body of God where we insert the healing needles of our terror and longing?
-from page 699.
Illustration of page 222 by Zak Smith from his illustrations of every page from the novel.
“I want to break out — to leave this cycle of infection and death. I want to be taken in love: so taken that you and I, and death, and life, will be gathered inseparable, into the radiance of what we would become. . . .”
-from page 724.