Riff on the end/beginning of Gravity’s Rainbow

Well: “A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before [—]”

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So. Okay. So I finished Gravity’s Rainbow on Friday night, and reread the opening section (and more than the opening section) on Saturday morning, resisting a compulsion to immediately return to the beginning.

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So: Okay: Right?

The ending of Gravity’s Rainbow cycles back to the beginning (like Finnegans Wake): Blicero’s rocket, screaming across the sky—yes? no?—to invade the dreams (?) of psychic Pirate Prentice? The book: a loop, a Möbius strip, a film, its reels discombobulated, jostled, scattered

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“…it’s all theatre,” we learn on the book’s first page (page 3); the book ends in a theater—the Orpheus Theater!—where maybe scattered Slothrop is the leading man, scattered, we find ourselves in him, parts of him—where the audience demands, on the book’s last page: “Start-the-show!”

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“You’re putting response before stimulus,” Spectro shakes his head at Pointsman, early in “Beyond the Zero,” the first section of Gravity’s Rainbow—does this describe the beginning/end of the novel? (“It has happened before”).

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Or, a bit earlier even, at the seance, (page 32), Gloaming describes one kind of plot: “…we should get something like a straight line” — but then gives us another kind of plot — “…however we’ve data that suggest the curves for certain —conditions, well they’re actually quite different—schizophrenics for example tend to run a bit flatter in the upper part then progressively steeper—a sort of bow shape … classical paranoiac—” Is this the shape of Gravity’s Rainbow?

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—but right this moment it’s that final dash that intrigues me—this in a novel full of dashes, this in a novel that name-checks Emily Dickinson, Eternal Empress of Dashes—the fragmented conclusion is full of dashes, lines obliterated by more perfect, straight lines, simultaneously connecting and disconnecting—like the novel’s final line:

“Now everybody—“

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Or just the “Now—” of the little fragment before the final fragment “Descent.”

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Or the second-person address a few pages previous (757), when Pynchon assassinates us (“you”), complicit with Richard Milhous Nixon: “Your guts in a spasm, you reach for the knob of the AM radio. ‘I don’t think—‘

(I don’t think therefore I am not).

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(Or is this just the death-fantasy Zhlubb/Nixon admits to: All theater?)

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(Oh and hell Zhlubb’s adenoid?!)

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Where was I—?

Okay: So: Well:

That dash at the end—an invitation back to the beginning?

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The questions I have are many, and many of the questions I have might result from attending to sections of the plot (Slothrop, Roger and Jessica, Pointsman’s complaints) at the expense of attending to other sections of the plot (Blicero, Enzian).

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But the rhetorical technique hides the plot, like Slothrop’s desk buried under mounds of detritus. (And this is the aesthetic pleasure of reading Gravity’s Rainbow).

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Aesthetics though: Light and sound: This is a major element of the plot that I need to attend to in my rereading.

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So: I put a lot of question marks in this riff (and I threaten to write more as I reread)—so I’ll end with a question:

Good books/essays (preferably not-too-academic-in-tone) about Gravity’s Rainbow, dear readers?

4 thoughts on “Riff on the end/beginning of Gravity’s Rainbow”

  1. Try “A Gravity’s Rainbow Companion” (by Stephen Weisenburger). I think of the book as an enormous, obsessive, mathematical proof: every symbol/idea has an opposite, which undercuts/cancels it out at some future point in the narrative. Excellent novel.


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