Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Zach Smith & Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow

I started reading Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow about ten years ago and gave up a third of the way through. That wasn't because I didn't like it - I loved it - but I knew that if I carried on reading, my head would've exploded. It's such a mind-boggling book that I would guess most people who've started it didn't finish. I'd also guess that many of those readers were cut short due to their heads exploding.

As an alternative to actually reading the novel, every now and then I'll pull it off the shelf, select a page at random and read until I'm mildly dizzy. There's no harm in doing this, because the passages make as much sense out of context as would if I'd read the whole thing. There aren't any real characters, or plot, or anything you can tangibly grab hold of. For me, Gravity's Rainbow is all about Pynchon's extraordinary use of language.

I've never done this with any other book, but Gravity's Rainbow is a unique experience, and for me, it can only be treated in this particular way. It's possible that I've read the whole thing by now, and somewhere in the depths of my subconscious it's all been pieced together into something that makes sense. Or not.

Among the small elite of geniuses who've read the book from cover to cover is Zach Smith, who a few years ago, took it upon himself to illustrate every single one of Pynchon's 760-pages. Excitingly, every single one of these pictures is archived online.

You don't need to have read the book to appreciate this work, and if you haven't read it, Smith's work will make you want to.

I'd suggest treating this collection in the same way as I treat the book: through a process of random selection. Here, for example, is one I just clicked on: picture number 314:

Caption: "... Zwitter: stocky, dark hair parted down the middle, eyeglass lenses thick as the windows of a bathysphere..."

View the whole collection online here.

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