Gravity's Rainbow

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Novel by Thomas Pynchon, published in 1973.

Lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop, toward the end of World War II, is stationed in London as part of the intelligence unit ACHTUNG (Allied Clearing House, Technical Units) to monitor V-2 rocket attacks. He is also under surveillance by the PISCES (Psychological Intelligence Schemes for Expediting Surrender) section of the Firm, a mysterious shadow government within the military, since Teddy Bloat and Pirate Prentice of the Firm have discovered that the sites of Slothrop's numerous romantic liaisons in London correspond exactly to the locations subsequently hit by rockets. Ned Pointsman of PISCES is convinced that the relationship is associated with the experiments with Imipolex G that were inflicted upon Slothrop as a child by a German scientist, Laszlo Jamf, once at Harvard, now a developer of the V-2. Slothrop himself, always victimized by others, quests for the meaning of such matters, naïvely believing there is a way to understand events, past and present. Therefore he determines to learn about Jamf, and while engaged in an ever-shifting but phantasmagorically related search Slothrop is caught up in great power struggles that, among other affairs, involve a mysterious Captain Blicero (the Nazi officer Weissman) and some Herero tribesmen from Africa who have been trained as German rocket technicians. Slothrop also encounters Major Marvey of U.S. Army Ordnance, a black marketeer named Schnorp, some hashish runners, the director of a pornographic horror film, and diverse other strange men and women. They all appear to be involved somehow in a great conspiratorial cartel. As Oberst Enzian, a leader of the Herero command, says, the “War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted … secretly, it was being dictated instead by the needs of technology.” The rocket takes on metaphoric and mythic significance, answering “to a number of different shapes in the dreams of those who touch it—in combat, in tunnel, on paper” for “each Rocket will know its intended and hunt him … shining and pointed in the sky at his back … rushing in, rushing closer …” like a rainbow arched downward, as if by a force of gravity that is dragging mankind to death.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Thomas Pynchon (b. 1937) American novelist

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