The Quest for “Gravity’s Rainbow”

For a long time I thought about “Gravity’s Rainbow,” then I read it. I thought about it more. Now, I still think about it. It’s rooted deep in my psyche, like how a streaker ran across the stage as Ralph Ellison presented the National Book Award’s ceremony in Fiction “…but to Mr. Pynchon.”

An army-surplus jacket I own is like what Pynchon wore as he wrote the book and smoked grass. I smoked grass in that jacket, too. It was my grandfather’s jacket once. I found it in the foyer closet after he had died, years before, some time around reading the book. It made sense to honor fate and take it.

The Vietnam War correlations to the Iraq War that raged developed while reading the book; history of America traced in my mind, Rome’s demise and America’s possible end, too. It was a storm in time. I was young, with long hair, nineteen. Bush was President. Though raised on internet, dial-up to DSL, I could remember a world before it. It was still a small internet, but contained those things that young people could find that shocked. But a book in which a woman suddenly defecates into a man’s mouth could still induce as much, more, shock.

I look at bananas and think of banana pancakes, and they are good. Graph paper is used when not working on a computer. 13th Floor Elevators is still in rotation. Even wrote on this in my personal take on the film for ‘Inherent Vice.’ I love “Gravity’s Rainbow.” Like many others, it is one of my favorite books, if not my favorite.

One thing that I remember now, though, is my mission to find the book itself. I went on a quixotic, Moby Dick, fool’s quest for a book about finding a mythologized rocket. I was eighteen at the time. The closest city was thirty-minutes away. A Barnes & Noble was there, along w/ a Books-A-Million. Neither store had “Gravity’s Rainbow,” which seemed odd to me then. I still wanted the book, and so time passed. (It may be wrong, but I tried Square Books in Oxford, MS, next to no avail, I believe.) Finally, on a trip to Memphis (two-hours away) I went to a bookstore there. They, too, did not have “Gravity’s Rainbow.” This book, a strange tome, fascinated me in my Platonic readings, and I still wanted it more than anything else. Finally, after some months, I ordered it from this budding store called Amazon. (Still long before they said, “We can order that for you,” in a book-store.) I still hate that, but don’t regret it b/c I finally had my copy, a Penguin’s Classic so large I eventually cut it into two-halves.

All of this came back to me just now, and I stayed up to pen it.