I hear it’s the “fun” Pynchon. This is a bit like saying “You’re going to love Killing of a Chinese Bookie. It’s the fast-paced Cassavetes.” At first, I wasn’t sure why this analogy popped into my head, but the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. A Cassavetes film requires a bit more work on the part of the viewer than the typical movie, and the same is true of Pynchon. When I read Gravity’s Rainbow, I hated it. Flat out didn’t enjoy it and felt nothing but relief when I finished it. It was a struggle from page one, and every time something fun would happen (and there are some very fun things in GR), Pynchon would follow it with something baffling. The effect was unpleasant.
When I opened my Goodreads account a few years ago, I went out of my way to give it one star. Admittedly, this was in part to piss off die hard Pynchonites, the sort of people who claim GR as their favorite book (What does it say about me that I also gave one star to One Hundred Years of Solitude, another oft-named favorite book?). And yet I still think about Gravity’s Rainbow seven or eight years later. I wouldn’t consider it a favorite of mine, but to deny that it made an impression would be wrong.
Most of the time, I read for leisure. If I don’t think I’ll enjoy a book, I won’t read it; life’s too short. But at the same time, it’s good to remember that wrestling with difficult prose and navigating an unconventional narrative has its rewards. Tomorrow, when Pynchon’s new book comes out, use it as an opportunity to take a moment to think about the last work of art that actually challenged you. What was it? Did it upset you? Did it piss you off? How have your feelings about it changed over the years?