Monday, March 29, 2010
I'm quite certain every reader has that That One Book. And no matter the reader, The Book usually has some commonalities. It's considered a classic. It's really long. And a general reader would consider it dull, difficult or all-but-impenetrable. Books like War and Peace, Infinite Jest, The Satanic Verses and Ulysses are oft-cited examples of That One Book.
For me, The Book is Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon. I've had it on my shelf for more than five years, ever since I read somewhere that my favorite writer David Foster Wallace counted Pynchon and his opus as huge influences. I even purchased a reading guide that's faithfully kept the novel company on the shelf, waiting for the day I'll take them both down together.
If you're not familiar, Gravity's Rainbow takes place during the Blitz of London in 1944 and 1945. The novel clocks in at 784 postmodern pages, and is often considered Pynchon's seminal work. It's also considered one the most inaccessible books published in the English language, due to near-constant time and narrative shifts and obscure references that would make even Dennis Miller lose his mind. My friend Brad says he's started Gravity's Rainbow three separate times, giving up each time and literally burning the book after his third attempt. Despite its relative inaccessibility, it's also considered one of the best novels ever published, winning the National Book Award in 1974 and finding its way onto just about every Best of the 20th Century lists, including Time's.
So you know what? I'm going to start it now. I've read two Vince Flynn thrillers in the last month, so I definitely need to do some penance for my literary "sins." Besides, reading Gravity's Rainbow is my one and only literary goal for 2010. But I'm going to read it slowly (and in the background of this blog, so don't worry about having to slog through dozens of Gravity's Rainbow posts) and try my absolute best to understand as much of it as I can. I've heard people sometimes read books like War and Peace in 10-page-per-day chunks, just to make sure they're staying disciplined and keeping at it. That sounds like a good plan to me. So, without further ado, "A screaming comes across the sky...."
Wish me luck!
So, what is your Book? Why haven't you read It? Are you going to anytime soon, you uncultured dolt? ;)
Also, anyone who has conquered Gravity's Rainbow, and can offer any tips or advice, I'd be eternally grateful!
Finally, one last heads-up that if you're interested in winning a copy of Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs, details on the giveaway are here. Deadline for entry is this Wednesday, March 31.
Posted by Greg Zimmerman at 3:47 PM