When I first started seriously thinking about coming to India in December of 2007 I knew that I would be coming here for the primary purpose of finishing the work of fiction that I have been writing for the last 10 years. It’s an epic adventure story about FM Radio and the people that made it, and made it great.
Like I said it’s been in the making for ten long years and I knew that coming to a place where I didn’t speak the language and all I had to do was travel, read and write was the only way that I would be able to direct my focus enough to finish this incredible story that so deserves to be told. So to keep my baggage to a minimum I figured I would have to bring along the one book in my life that has haunted and inspired me more than any other work of literature that I’ve ever read, Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon.
Gravity’s Rainbow- A musical Novel about a guy who can see the future when he gets a hardon (among many other things…) was published in 1973 when Pynchon was 36 years old and the lies and folklore around the creation of that incredible work of fiction are almost as funny and interesting as the book it’s self, ok maybe not, but there are some very funny things about the life of Thomas Pynchon in the 10 years that it took him to write GR. During the writing of Gravity’s Rainbow Pynchon went to Cornell University in up-state New York and studied engineering but dropped out after his second year and the death of his best friend Richard Ferina to join the U.S. Navy, after that but still during the writing of GR he wrote and published two works of fiction called V and The Crying of Lot-49. Both books were well received by a critical elite but Pynchon was himself relatively unnoticed at the time by most readers of English fiction. Also during this time (late ‘50’s and throughout the ‘60’s) he was a writer of technical-manuals for the Boeing Aircraft corporation, which to me explains allot about the quirky technical bullshit aspects of his writing. I know very little about the guy Thomas Pynchon with the exception of the written words above and a few other od’s-n-in’s
For example; He has an intense aversion to the mainstream media, he won’t do interviews and nobody seems to know where the fucker lives! I toured with a guy in 1990 that told me he performed Pynchon’s 3 wedding ceremonies but that dude, “The Reverend Chumly” lied about everything else that came out of his mouth so I’d never believe such crap from the likes of him. Pynchon’s managed to foil some pretty dedicated stalkers as well; like Lew Barlow a dude that spent 20 years compiling all known information about Pynchon only to discover on his death bed that he was living across the street from Pynchon’s parents in Glen Cove, NY. What an asshole! He (Pynchon) is also a MacArthur fellow which partially explains how he can afford to remain so elusive. He’s been on the Simpsons 3 times and he and Salmon Rushdie are supposed to be friends and correspondents.
Me, I’ve read Gravity’s Rainbow 6 times over the last 25 years and to this day it remains my favorite work of 20th century American fiction! It is an incredible (Heavy-Ass’d) Tome that not only won some of the most prestigious awards in the field of literary fiction like the National Book Award in 1973 but In the same year, the Pulitzer fiction jury unanimously recommended Gravity’s Rainbow for the Pulitzer Prize however, the Pulitzer board vetoed the jury’s recommendation, describing the novel as “unreadable”, “turgid”, “overwritten”, and in parts “obscene”, and no prize was awarded. But for me the most important aspect of this book is the fact that it inspires me to write whatever it is that’s on my mind in whatever way I feel like writing it, essentially, that book taught me how to write.
Shit, the first time I read Gravity’s Rainbow was 1982/83 (all of the sudden a very long time ago) and it took me almost exactly a year to read! It busted my balls to no end and by the time I finished it in August of 1983 I had quite literally forgotten what the fucking thing was about. Every other time sense then that I’ve read The Tome (as it’s become known on my most recent India travels, mainly because the sheer weight of the large print version of the book) I’ve read it in conjunction with two or three other works of fiction so really I think I missed one of the main points of the very way it was written. This time though, I opened it up to the first page as soon as my plane left the ground on my way to India and I finished it five weeks and 3 days later in Trivandrum, Kerala, India 12,000 miles and 776 pages from where I began! All of the other times that I’ve read The Tome have been in a state of distraction that quite thoroughly took my attention away from way that it was written! What do I mean by ‘The Way’ that it was written? Well, even though it took Pynchon over ten years to write I now believe it was written to be read in one sitting… I know, I know 776 pages is a fuck-load of sitting but if you decide to pick up Gravity’s Rainbow after reading this please do yourself the favor of sticking to it to the very end, it’s so worth it.
…As for me and my 6th reading of The Tome I now believe that I am ready to take on a project of the magnitude of the book I’m writing. It’s called !RADIO! Vol-1 and it’s about the insanity of the inventor of FM radio and his dreams of the future of his invention (Among many other things…).
I always felt that that Navy photo was a fake–it’s just a bit “too” Pynchonian, especially with its “hat at jaunty angle” and “smart-ass grin” elements. But it does give me pride that he and I were fellow enlisted sailors. Think about it: the greatest American genius of the twentieth century scrubbing toilets aboard whatever rust bucket he was sentenced to! Certainly underlines the Pig-Bodine and Toilet-Ship-John-E-Badass sequences from his work.