How I became infatuated with Thomas Pynchon's novels
So yes, it was true: Pynchon’s novel was going nowhere. And this wasn’t only the case with Gravity’s Rainbow, but also with the other novels of his I’ve now read. The plots are thin, and they tend to deteriorate in a muddle of quirky descriptions always verging on the absurd. And, yes again, the characters are vague and they pullulate madly, which also interferes with an honest-to-God plot. Some characters (notably Pig Bodyne) crop up here and there, from one novel to another, and one can even list off the main characters in a single novel. You can also describe the contours of what happens in a Pynchon novel (particularly in The Crying of Lot 49). But that’s not getting too far on the kinds of resources one is used to in fiction.
If Beckett was an artist of the paring down, of the minimal, Pynchon is the opposite: an artist of surfeit, of excess, of blowing prose up explosively. I mentioned it as yet another of my most ardent objections to Gravity’s Rainbow during that first 400-page run. But one ends up developing new reading habits: so yes, here’s a half-page song in German followed by a calculus-ridden formula for the trajectory of a missile. And so what? Must one really fully absorb, doctorally, every detail in a novel? Why not read on, and enjoy the frenzy, and get a sense of the rhythm? And I did. And the rhythm became a pet obsession of mine. I have found nothing like it in the wild world of fiction. The use of wide-ranging knowledge is not at all unabashed, either: my own native Cali, Colombia, shows up in Pynchon’s first novel, V., as do the very particular Colombian curanderos in Gravity’s Rainbow. This, of course, on top of facts about Malta, and Cairo expeditions, and entropy, and. You get my drift.
This confession is not meant to goad anyone into reading Pynchon. Chances are you’ll end up cursing me and two or three generations of my family if you do. If you are curious, though, do one thing and one thing only: read the most slender of his novels, The Crying of Lot 49. If you feel inexplicably intrigued and entertained, if you find his pedantry funny and if in the mired plot you find yourself entranced by the language and the wordplay and the rhythm, well then, you’re welcome to this peculiar Pynchon feeling. And V. is a good place to go next. You’ll find, among other things, this strange place called Vheissu.