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Gravity's Rainbow

Gravity's Rainbow, Moby-Dick, Finnegans Wake

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Francis Edward Grainger Biography to Thomas Anstey Guthrie Biography

a novel by Thomas Pynchon, published in 1973. The novel is generally considered one of the most important works of post-war American fiction. Like Pynchon's other works its value as a work of art lies in its intellectual, linguistic, and philosophical complexity rather than its use of the conventional resources of realistic fiction. The principal metaphor is the German V-2 rocket, and its gravity-defined arc of aspiration and destruction. The novel is ‘set’ in London in the last days of the Second World War and its ostensible ‘subject’ is the German bombing of London by V-2 rockets, but it encompasses an immense intellectual landscape that incorporates much of twentieth-century scientific and technological history, its style ranging from philosophical discursiveness to linguistic and literary parody. As with Pynchon's other novels, Gravity's Rainbow is structured by assumptions about the ultimate impenetrability of what we take to be ‘reality’ and the conspiratorial nature of much social and scientific organization. Much has been made of Pynchon's use in the novel of cinematographic techniques but the novel is notable, chiefly, for its use of the full range of fictional devices; in this respect, it has been compared with both Melville's Moby-Dick and Joyce's Finnegans Wake.

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