Day 34 - completion

Posted on June 3, 2007 by Chris Lumens in .

This morning, I woke up early and finished Gravity’s Rainbow. The rest of the book left me confused, amazed, and bewildered. In contrast, the ending left me feeling empty and disappointed. The story just ends, with the main character vanished (dead? insane? dissolved into the universe?) and a chapter from hundreds of pages prior retold from a different perspective to its conclusion. Other characters who seemed extremely important in the first part of the book only to disappear for 400 pages reappear, then also mysteriously vanish with no real conclusion. Then there’s the story of the Schwartzcommando who are preparing to fire their rocket but are never heard from again. Characters just disappear from the story entirely. Whole subplots that seemed so important never come to a conclusion. Then, the ending itself describes events that happened chronologically before lots of other parts in the book. Slothrop (more or less the main character), from interacting with other characters, must have known that the thing he was looking for had already happened. So what is he really looking for?

I know that I am looking for some meaning out of this incredibly dense book. At its core, it can be condensed down to an extremely simple story: Slothrop is looking for the rocket 00000 and why he is connected to the substance Imipolex G. But there are dozens or even hundreds of side stories, hidden meanings, and themes. I don’t think Gravity’s Rainbow disguises its main themes very hard. Obviously, there are the themes of paranoia and conspiracy, the Elect vs. everyone else, notions of fate and free will, and the ever-present sexual metaphor. It’d be too easy to call the whole book a sexual metaphor when it describes all manner of fetish, and I think the fact that it’s so blatant means that’s not the true meaning of the book.

So what is the true meaning? I haven’t figured that out. I don’t think a first reading is enough to really get to the bottom of such a complex book. It may not even scratch the surface. I know that I am intrigued by some of the characters, by the appearance of structure to the story. It’s easy to dismiss the rambling prose as just crap thrown in for the sake of making a thick book, but so much of it ties back in later on that there must be an underlying structure and meaning. I think everything must have been included for a reason. I’m still thinking about it… reading things other people have written to discern what’s going on. There’s lots of debate as to the structure having mystical connections. I don’t think I am quite ready to understand yet.

For now, I am mentally exhausted. My mind is still running around and around trying to understand but the rest of me is trying to resist opening it back up and looking for more. I need a break from it. I think that even after several other books, I’ll need to continue being on a break from it. I may not be ready to dig back into Gravity’s Rainbow for several years. The next book I read needs to be much more straightforward. I’m not ready to tackle anything too complicated for quite some time.

I think I’m the fifth person in the Death Pact to finish.