I feel as if I’ve been carrying Gravity’s Rainbow around in my head for months, which makes sense because I have.
It’s a difficult book, I know, and I’ve probably made it more difficult by not giving it the uninterrupted reading time it really deserves. By the time my mind catches up to the language and settles back into the story each night, I’m already half falling asleep.
I had the same complicated relationship with Ulysses. What I realized after awhile was that it was challenging not because of the stylized language or the countless allusions (most of which I was going to miss anyway), but because it demanded to be read in a different way than I was used to reading. It demanded an active reading, which sounds silly because we’re always told that reading is active (in a way that, for example, television is not). But that isn’t quite true. Reading doesn’t always demand that much of us. When the plots are linear and the metaphors are too easy to digest, it feels a little like empty calories. Which can be delicious, but they’re still empty calories.
The funny thing is that I really love the book. I don’t think Slothrop will ever take Doc’s place among my favorite fictional characters, but the language and the imaginative power are crazy beautiful.