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Sunday Stories: Gravity’s Rainbow (1)

A book club it is! I guess this would imply more than 2 members, and preferably more than 4. But I’ll ignore that, as I don’t have any prior first-hand knowledge of book clubs anyway and ignorance can be bliss.

I once read a dissertation of a friend of mine. It was about how art always preempted scientific discovery & philosophical insights. At least that’s what I think it is about; neither he nor I ever discussed it, mostly because neither of us were willing to risk to discuss it and disagree. Our children are friends, you see. And that’s just one good reason. Whatever it is about, it is the reason I read Gadamer and on that basis I gladly forgive all the references to Kuhn. I also had, by the way, a friend who was called Kuhn. He spoke a lot about paradigm-shifts in the context of technology. Stuff about how the type of communication that was at that time underground (literally!) would evolve to over-the-air, and vice versa. I am sure he got it from somebody else but that somebody else wasn’t even called Kuhn.

Giving I know nothing about Gravity’s Rainbow, let alone about how it should be read, I will read it as preempting some scientific or societal advance that is – as of yet – not permitting to be fully articulated. I will take it to be a detective story written by a detective who figured it all out  only to be struck with a memory loss starting the instant before he figured it out. Not only was he struck with said memory loss but he also lost the capability to re-figure it out. So he opted for just writing down all of the clues, hoping somebody else could figure it out.  He started this only to find out that he couldn’t discriminate clues from non-clues. This was a logical state of affairs but the logic escaped him so he needed to experience it to know it. The detective was not one to give up. As all writers he had staying power. So he just went ahead writing everything down that came to him in the period in which he was busy trying to figure it out.

Whatever other virtue the above may have, it has had the virtue of allowing me to read beyond page 42 which was a page on which I abandoned reading it a previous time. I am now on page 53!

Following is the first set of clues that I think I have been able to isolate:

- “a million of bureaucrats are diligently plotting death and some of them even know it”, I mean what if you went through the day sucking up mints as an alternative to dental hygiene? Most of them don’t know it. Nothing wrong with them. At the very least they have their diligence going for them. It’s a merit and they should be rewarded for it. Get a bonus for it or an incentive in kind, the bigger picture is only for some. Trust and faith are of the essence.

- “A market needed no longer be run by the Invisible Hand, but now could create itself – its own logic, momentum, style, from inside. Putting the control inside was ratifying what de facto had happened – that you had dispensed with God. But you had taken on a greater, and more harmful, illusion. The illusion of control. That A could do B. But that was false. Completely. No one can do. Things only happen, A and B are unreal, are names for parts that ought to be inseparable ..”, yeah! groovy! Who didn’t hate free jazz? There has to be order to the universe. A recipe. Discrete steps to be followed, and a predictable outcome. Before everything else: a predictable outcome; an Armageddon or something. It is unavoidable; it is the struggle that counts.

- “That, indeed, the Home Front is something of a fiction and lie, designed, not too subtly, to draw them apart, to subvert love in favor of work, abstraction, required pain, bitter death.”, leisure time is non-cooperation re-defined, it is an evil to dedicate one’s free time to being free from the constraints of time which are: to finish something in order for somebody  else to start something else. And so on. I mean that’s gravity for you: to live up to expectations, to feel that no moment should be an idle moment. At all times we feel responsibility; it is what keeps us together.

- “you weaken this idea of the opposite, and here all at once is the paranoid patient who would be master, yet now feels himself a slave … who would be loved, but suffers his world’s indifference.”, that would be me.

- “You feel her exhaustion, feel the impossible vastness of all the sleeping countryside at her back, and for the moment you really are selfless, sexless … considering only to shelter her, you are the Traveler’s Aid.”, nothing like sexless, selfless sons of a bitches who are itching to help ‘her’s'; out of a sense of responsibility no doubt. They are like some who even know it, always a story at hand to explain why it came to this and had to come to this and only could have come to this. It is a always a slippery slope for those who have well oiled themselves in bona fide reasons.

So that’s that. I am not keeping track of the characters. I tried to do that on a previous occasion and failed. I am not Albert Einstein. If A is B and B is C then A is C as well. A helper construction of sorts: “I only wonder if you’d feel the same way without all those dogs about. If your subjects all along had been human.”, if only it would have been so simple.

I too believe in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. But there is more to it than your continuity, or mine; maybe those continuities are not even part of it.

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August 14, 2011 - Posted by | life of the mind, Sunday Stories | ,


  1. i confess i read _gravity rainbow_ a few years ago and don’t remember much of it except about kyrgyzs’ part which i found, i remember, like as if it was pretty simplistic
    must be mr. pynchon is not much of a sufferer, though i would hate to sound as if i’m a kind of like ‘sadist’ to enjoy only the products of human suffering

    Comment by read | August 14, 2011

  2. oh, it’s with ‘s, anyway, maybe i’ll reread it again following others’ analyses must be i just didn’t get it at that time and this time it could be different perception

    Comment by read | August 14, 2011

  3. I only remember the bananas part. Banana syrup would be pretty good. I like banana ketchup, but the brand I last bought was thickened excessively by cornstarch.

    Comment by jms | August 14, 2011

  4. I read GR somewhere 75-85, perhaps a little earlier and remember quite a bit of it.. I was very impressed, having read Coover and Gaddis Gass etc and thinking that finally here is a post-modern writer with something newly interesting and important to say. Not that I can remember what that was. Just the central metaphor (v2 sounds) of history becoming clear only after it is too late to use as prediction and objectless paranoia as true perception. (Krassner) Science as bureaucratic divination. It is a very 60s book. I was offended by what I saw as a lot of outrageous crudity and offensiveness for its own sake. The end felt dead on as a metaphor for post-60s survival.

    I got four books going now, but I’ll think about it.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | August 14, 2011

  5. “must be mr. pynchon is not much of a sufferer” actually makes a lot of sense to me. Especially after recently a) reading Infinite Jest, which was written by a pretty championship-level sufferer, and b) deciding to be a writer when I grow up, as I am someone who is, to a disadvantage, not much of a sufferer.

    Comment by Josh K-sky | August 15, 2011

  6. A long time ago we tried to make banana shit. It was fun. I don’t know whether it was successful though as we ended up mixing the banana shit with some Dutch shit (and isn’t anything Dutch shit?). Boy – did I come close to being cool once! One of my friends graduated in coolness and suffering. I lost track of him. Maybe he wound up writing? I suppose not – it was just not like him to mirror his suffering onto the world then to write a book about the mirror image. Dead in the water more like it.

    I do hope none of this is a metaphor for something. Let alone symbolizes a historical event. What I do know for a feeling is that the only thing I have really suffered is myself. I’m glad that some of you join me in this suffering.

    Comment by Guido Nius | August 15, 2011

  7. not everybody who suffered creates i think, there maybe it works the ‘socialist’ principle to each according to one’s talent, ambitions and suffering, if to think just about that, posthumous fame
    so reading Emily Dickinson or Kafka or anybody else who were discovered after their time, feels like different, they were just talking to themselves or their imaginary friends in their heads, not needing any immediate judgement and validation
    if no ambitions at all one would just end up a hobo-virtuoso in suffering i guess, or a regular hermit, not needing any fame, alive or posthumous, if no talent one wouldn’t think about creating anything at all, if no suffering the result of one’s labors is not very that, surviving time
    and sure people are just divided generally into creative people and consuming people, have no idea what makes them that, something fundamental maybe, the genes, and after all that division again there are the mean and not mean by their nature maybe, so in the end like precious few are left who would understand each other or more like sense cz there are of course too many other external visible divisions like race, class, money etc which are maybe secondary to one’s essence

    Comment by read | August 15, 2011

  8. I thought about that for some time, read, and I have come to the conclusion I am in one aspect very similar to Kafka but probably not in another. Still, it should be possible to have no ambitions at all, a small modicum of talent and not a great deal of suffering. At least I hope it is so, because I certainly have no ambitions nor can I claim to have suffered greatly.

    Comment by Guido Nius | August 18, 2011

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